By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated November 21, 2003 01:40 PM

BERRY FUNNY: Halle Berry got “Punk’d” this week when the Oscar winner, 37, was barred from the Los Angeles premiere of her new movie, “Gothika.” Berry initially began arguing with doormen at the event before she discovered she was being duped by MTV’s prank show. Host Ashton Kutcher, 25, was seen grinning in the background as Berry, wearing an elegant tangerine dress, tried to talk her way in. Also at the premiere: costars Penelope Cruz and Robert Downey Jr., as well as Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

KIDMAN KUDOS: Nicole Kidman jumpstarted the Hollywood awards season last weekend when she accepted the 18th annual American Cinematheque Award during a fund-raiser for the movie preservation group at the Beverly Hilton, said the Hollywood Reporter. “I am proud of one thing,” said Kidman, 36. “It is that I have searched out or I have been searched out by visionaries, and I’ve surrendered whatever I have to them.” When a sexually charged film clip was shown from “Eyes Wide Shut,” costarring Kidman’s ex Tom Cruise, the actress’s two children, Isabella and Connor (who had been seated beside her), were quickly escorted out of the ballroom.

AMA AWAY: Ailing R&B veteran Luther Vandross and gritty rap newcomer 50 Cent were both double winners at Sunday’s American Music Awards, setting the tone for an eclectic group of honorees that ranged from Kid Rock and Ricky Martin to Missy Elliott and Alabama. Vandross, 52, recovering from a debilitating stroke he suffered in April, was honored with best male R&B performer and favorite soul-R&B album for his most recent CD, “Dance with My Father,” which was completed shortly before his stroke. His mother, Mary Vandross, accepted both awards on his behalf.

BRITNEY BATTERED: Britney Spears’s new CD, “In the Zone,” landed in record stores Tuesday and was not embraced by critics. The Associated Press called it insipid. USA Today, awarding it two stars out of four, said the attempt to present Spears, 21, as a more mature woman was forced and unconvincing, and she still sounds like a little girl trying to turn on little boys. Rolling Stone said the music was brittle, adding that her voice was too processed.

TIMBERLAKE TOSSED: Justin Timberlake won’t be part of NBC’s November ratings sweeps after all, the network has announced, after execs reportedly decided his TV special was “too intimate.” The Nov. 25 special, “Down Home in Memphis,” has now been moved to sometime around Christmas. Meanwhile, his “Stripped & Justified” concert collaborator, Christina Aguilera, will have her time on the WB come Nov. 30, with the hourlong “Stripped … Live in the U.K.,” taped earlier this month at London’s Wembley Arena.