It's Ciao Time
Lured by lire, A-list stars turn to Italy for commercial success

Focus

The cast is stellar: Marlon Brando, Woody Allen, Nelson Mandela—yes, that Nelson Mandela—directed by, respectively, Tony (Top Gun) Scott, Allen, and Spike Lee. The catch? It'll cost you plane fare to Italy to see the results of their work, a series of 60-to 90-second TV commercials for Telecom Italia. While you're there you can also catch Brad Pitt (selling Damiani jewelry), Richard Gere (Ferrero Rocher chocolates), Harrison Ford (Lancia cars), Robert De Niro (Beghelli light fittings) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Alfa Romeos). Italy has become the destination of choice for stars looking to make some quick change doing commercials, both print and television, that won't be seen in the U.S.A.

How much quick change? "Obviously," says advertising agent Gavino Sanna, "the stars earn what their foreign value is." Just as a for instance, industry talk puts a nearly $2 million price tag on Ford's work. Not all of the money goes into the celebrities' pockets. Gere, reported to have earned $1.4 million for the candy ad, is said to have donated his fees to Tibetan relief charities. The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund benefitted from the South African leader's TV spot.

And while most of the commercials are strictly business, one has a personal touch. According to Women's Wear Daily, Brad Pitt became friends with jeweler Silvia Damiani after she agreed to design a ring for his girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston. So when Damiani asked Pitt to star in her campaign, he obliged. Damiani expects big results. "Hollywood," she told the paper, "has an enormous pull on people."

So She Really Did Want to Be Alone
For decades speculation flourished about Greta Garbo's relationship with socialite Mercedes de Acosta, whose lovers supposedly included Marlene Dietrich and Isadora Duncan. A stack of Garbo's letters to Acosta, written during their 29-year friendship and kept sealed in Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum and Library, were made public April 17. The verdict? Garbo did not return Acosta's affections. Says Garbo's grandniece Gray Horan: "It was sort of an unrequited love for Mercedes."

They Want to Know Moore

Rest easy, Tim Russert. The next generation of journalists won't shy away from those tough Meet the Press-type questions, if the grilling Julianne Moore received April 13 at the hands of fledgling elementary school reporters at the School of Performing Arts in Brooklyn is any indication. The Oscar-nominated actress, a volunteer at the school's Principal-for-a-Day program, engaged in a lively give-and-take.

Youth wanted to know: Have you met Brandy? "No, but I've met Mick Jagger." (The students had no idea who Jagger was. But they were excited to hear that Moore once rode an elevator with *N Sync.) Do you live in a mansion? "No." Have a limousine? "I have a Volvo." Ever been stalked? "No." Disappointed you lost the Oscar? "No. Only five people got nominated in that category, and that's not very many people. So I did all right." Ever hung with Leonardo DiCaprio? "No, but I met Kate Winslet." Who? "The girl in the film [Titanic]." Like Hollywood? "It's sunny. It's like any other town." Ever spend time in the principal's office? "I was a goody-goody. I was one of those kids who played by the rules. I used to have to take people [to the principal's office]. Isn't that awful?"

POP QUIZ

with Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins became a U.S. citizen April 12 in a quiet Los Angeles courtroom. Reaction was far from quiet in Great Britain, where Sir Anthony, a Welshman best known as the carnivorous Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, was knighted in 1993. "Hannibal Defector" blared Britain's Sun, even though Hopkins, 62, will also retain his British citizenship. Scoop caught up with Hopkins at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre, which honored his past work with the Bard.

Why become an American citizen now?

I love Wales, where I was born, but I came here to America in 1974, and I've spent so many years working here, living here. America has been very generous to me, magnanimous really. I thought it would be good to give something back. It was a decision of the heart.

And the reaction back in the United Kingdom?

There's been a bit of a up there. I expected it.

They still identify you with Hannibal.

I enjoyed playing him in the original film with Jodie [Foster]. I remember in 1989, I was called up by my agent and told that there was a script coming out called Silence of the Lambs. I thought it was a children's story.

Were you awaiting a sequel?

I wasn't in any great angst about it. [I thought] if it happens, it happens.

And it's happening without Foster?

Of course, I was naturally disappointed that Jodie decided not to do it, but that in no way clouds my enthusiasm for Julianne [Moore, Foster's replacement in the role of FBI agent Clarice Starling]. Jodie has her reasons, and I had a hint that she didn't want to go back to that place.

Shall we prepare the fava beans and chianti?

Three weeks to go and I start filming in Florence.

Taxman Chases Unlucky Luciano

There's no more amore between Luciano Pavarotti and his native land. On April 12 an appeals court ruled that he owes the Italian government about $5 million in back taxes. Not so, blasts the top tenor. "I am living in Monte Carlo. But the judge won't accept that," Pavarotti told Scoop during a Washington, D.C., visit to promote a tour. "They say I'm living in Italy. Am I living in Italy now? Will I be in Italy tomorrow? When am I in Italy? I'm not in that country." Meanwhile his lawyers will appeal the decision—in Italy.

ON THE BLOCK

COUNTRY CASTLE

Country music legends Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams Sr. never recorded a duet—but they do have one Nashville title in common. They owned, at different times, a house where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino all dropped by to visit. According to real estate agent Lura Bainbridge, the home—now 12,000 sq. ft. with seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms—includes a beauty parlor, installed by Wynette, and an oversize sunken marble bathtub. The new owner, a Nashville book publisher, paid $1.2 million for the pedigreed property.

  • Contributors:
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  • Liza Hamm,
  • Betsey Kittenplan,
  • Matt Birkbeck,
  • Susan Gray,
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  • Pete Norman.