How You Doin'?

Some Italian-Americans carp, but The Sopranos still pleases its fans

Focus
HBO's mobster hit The Sopranos got roughed up twice this month—first in New York, where pollsters for 2002 gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo asked voters how they feel about the way Italian-Americans are portrayed on the series (Cuomo's dad, former governor Mario Cuomo, once expressed concerns about The Godfather). The second hit took place in Chicago, where a group of lawyers and other professionals filed a lawsuit against the makers of the television drama, claiming the wildly popular show insults their ethnicity. "For people who don't know Italian-Americans, they think, 'That's what Italians do—they cheat on their wives, they kill people, they cut them up with saws,' " says Enrico J. Mirabelli, one of the attorneys, who is asking only for a declaration that Sopranos violates an "individual dignity" clause in the Illinois state constitution. (AOL Time Warner, which owns HBO, is also the parent company of PEOPLE. HBO defended the series, calling it "an extraordinary artistic achievement.")

Others don't seem to mind being married to the fictional Mob. New Jersey's Rutgers University has tapped class of '83 alum and Sopranos kingpin James Gandolfini to tout its struggling football team in a spot that will air on local cable stations beginning April 16. "I told him to come down for a game, we'll put him on the sideline, in our box, wherever he wants to go," said the school's gridiron coach Greg Schiano, who acted in the commercial with Gandolfini and several of the actor's classmates. "But it's not easy for him to get out. He gets mobbed."

Eminem's Rap Sheet

After pleading guilty to a concealed-weapons charge, Grammy-winning rapper Eminem was sentenced to two years' probation by a Macomb County, Mich., court last week. (The charge stemmed from a June 4 incident outside a Michigan nightclub.) Said Eminem, who will undergo drug testing and counseling: "The judge treated me fair, like any other human being."

Costume Jewelry

You can't put a price on the swan-like curve of Nicole Kidman's creamy-white nape. But Christie's has put a price—an estimated $1 million—on the dazzling (1,308 diamonds) "necklace crafted especially for her character in Moulin Rouge, due next month. Bidding takes place Oct. 22 and 23 at Christie's New York City auction.

Our Man in Havana

Talk about a tough crowd. Topping the list of moviegoers at a special showing in Cuba of Kevin Costner's Thirteen Days: President Fidel Castro, without whom neither the 2000 film—nor the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis on which it is based—would have been possible. Costner, his girlfriend, Christine Baumgartner, Christopher Lawford (a Kennedy nephew who plays an American pilot in the film) and two producers, among others, joined Castro and other Cuban dignitaries for an April 9 screening at the Palace of the Revolution. Afterwards, says Costner's rep Stephen Rivers, the actor and Castro engaged in a "lively and convivial conversation" about the movie until 2 a.m. "The president was quite animated," Rivers adds. "He kept identifying scenes and people, especially the American officials, during the entire film."

Because of the U.S. ban on tourism on the Communist island, Costner, who has screened the film at the White House, and his entourage were part of a cultural-exchange program with Cuba. The American import made a favorable impression on the locals. "Imagine having such a famous actor here," enthused one fan. "It's so exciting!"

Bravo for Anderson

From the X-File marked "Good Deeds": After learning about a children's orchestra in South Africa, actress Gillian Anderson (Agent Scully to you) tracked down Rosemary Nalden, director of the Buskaid Soweto String Project, and offered to help cover U.S. touring expenses of the 20-member group. Nalden accepted, but not before she found out just who was this Gillian Anderson. "I thought, 'Is this fair to expect of a struggling actress?' " The truth, of course, was out there—her students filled her in.

It's a Plaid, Plaid World

Sean Connery took his kilt to Capitol Hill April 5 to receive the William Wallace (a.k.a. Braveheart) Award for outstanding f contributions to Scotland-and to show a little national humility. "We Scots like to think we I invented anything worth I inventing," said Connery, 70, who actively supports Scottish independence, "from the TV to golf to Dolly the sheep." He also took the opportunity to boost Scottish tourism to the National Press Club the next day. "People believe Scotland is full of mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease, which is not true at all," he said. "It's a disaster."

Read Me...Baby One More Time!

Can Britney Spears make the leap from midriff-baring pop princess to soul-baring teen author? Scoop asked writer Pat Booth (Palm Beach) to review A Mother's Gift, the debut novel cowritten by Spears, 19, and her mom, Lynne. While Booth praises "the interplay between mother and daughter" she notes it could be "more realistic." And up against the linguistic stylings of, say, Danielle Steel? "The writing can't compete."

Under Siege 3: Music

What's a high-kicking action hero like Steven Seagal doing with a hip-hopping guru like Wyclef Jean? Making—they hope—beautiful music together. Seagal (Exit Wounds) and Jean (The Edeftic) holed up in a Jamaica studio in early April to record, among other things, a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" for an album they hope to complete this year. Though Seagal is "primarily a movie actor," notes his rep, "this is something he enjoys doing." And apparently has for years. According to his official Web site, www.stevenseagal.com, the actor plays guitar, writes his own material and has jammed with everyone from Vince Gill to Richie Sambora.

POP QUIZ

with Colin Firth

Author Helen Fielding named one of Bridget Jones's suitors Mark Darcy because she fancied actor Colin Firth's romantic portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the BBC 1995 costume drama Pride and Prejudice. So who better to play Darcy in the new movie Bridget Jones's Diary than the London-based Firth, 40?

Keep any of those puffy Pride and Prejudice shirts?

No, but I certainly wish that I did. They actually auctioned a shirt for charity.

Your characters in Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones are both pretty aloof. It worked for them with women; has it for you?

I've been happily married for a number of years, so I'm no longer thinking about how to woo people. But, dare I say, it was probably part of my repertoire.

How's costar Renée Zellweger's British accent?

Perfect. I thought she sounded like she was from a London suburb.

In the film, you fight Hugh Grant. Can you take him on in real life?

There's no question. Actually, we both deliberately pursued the least possible macho fight I've ever seen in any film. It's certainly a contrast to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

ON THE BLOCK: SHIFTING GERES

Apparently Richard Gere and Carey Lowell enjoy a good game of musical houses. Not only are the couple selling their 4,000-sq.-ft. apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue through Realtor Michele Kleier ($11.9 million buys you four bedrooms and Central Park views), but Lowell also has her renovated barn in the Hamptons for sale for $1.6 million. (Gere still owns a Greenwich Village townhouse.)

  • Contributors:
  • Ting Yu,
  • Liza Hamm,
  • Susan Davis,
  • LeAnne Gendreau,
  • Susan Christian Goulding,
  • Lorna Grisby,
  • Maureen Harrington,
  • Amy Mindell,
  • Abby Roedei,
  • Aaron T. Smith,
  • Jennifer Weil.