Scoop

updated 02/26/2001 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/2001 01:00AM

Oscar: Show Me the Money
How many ways can Gladiator crush Chocolat? About 187 million

Focus

Who wouldn't expect a big, tough gladiator to smite a sweet little chocolate-shop owner? Movie history tells us that's likely what will happen March 25 when they open the envelope revealing the Academy Award for Best Picture. Every year Academy voters, in an act of earnest self-congratulation, nominate an outsider, a picture that, for all practical purposes, few have actually seen. It seems like a bold move, except the outsider almost never wins. Last year it was Cider House Rules (which only grossed $22 million by nomination time). Before that came Life Is Beautiful ($21 million), The Full Monty ($39 million), Secrets & Lies ($8 million) and Il Postino ($11 million).

This year the least-seen award goes to...Miramax's Chocolat, which has taken in a mere $27 million, compared to Gladiator's whopping $187 million take. So why did it nab a nomination? Miramax's mighty promotion machine helped (as it did with Cider House, Life and Postino). Another reason? "You can call this year's contest the politically correct Oscars," says critic Emanuel Levy, author of Oscar Fever. "Who can disagree with the message of Chocolat?" (For those who haven't seen it, that message is: tolerance good, intolerance bad.) "Politically speaking," he adds, "Hollywood is centrist. Chocolat is at the center. In fact it's exactly the same kind of movie as Cider House Rules."

But once the nominations are in, the Academy members ignore the underdog. In four of the past five years the Best Picture winner was the first or second highest-grossing nominee (the exception being 1999's American Beauty). In other words, when it comes to office pools the safe money's on DreamWorks's Gladiator or Universal's Erin Brockovich ($126 million). As for Chocolat, expect Oscar night to be, well, bittersweet.

Fur Fluff Bops Puff

Among the wonders of American jurisprudence: Where else, in the same week, could a man stand trial for illegal gun possession and bribery and run a fashion show? And then take more heat for the show than for the criminal rap?

Such is the world of hip-hop impresario Sean "Puffy" Combs, 31, who showcased his Sean John menswear collection Feb. 10 before a Manhattan crowd that included singers Bobby Brown and Busta Rhymes, as well as Combs's defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. The runway was filled with men in fur—a fashion felony to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which a few days before had sent Combs an orchid plant and a note of thanks ("Puffy, thank you so much for your compassion. The animals need you.") after confirming with his reps that his line would be fur-free. Once Combs changed his mind, PETA changed its tune, organizing a Puffy protest outside the courthouse where his trial is expected to run through early March.

And what of Combs's lady love, Jennifer Lopez? Her photo was featured in the show, but J. Lo laid low, preferring to host Saturday Night Live instead.

One for the Road

O.J. Simpson says he didn't do it—again. Florida motorist Jeffrey Pattinson claims that on Dec. 4 the former football great (and former murder defendant), in a fit of road rage following a near collision, reached into Pattinson's car, ripped off his glasses and scratched him. But Simpson pleaded not guilty Feb. 9 to charges of misdemeanor battery and felony burglary of an occupied vehicle. Released on $9,000 bond, Simpson, 53, spoke with reporters outside the Miami, Fla., police station. "I know it's a story if I'm arrested," he said, "but I don't think this qualifies with other things that have happened in my life." He faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted.

POP QUIZ

with Drew Barrymore

Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the country's oldest undergraduate drama organization, honored Drew Barrymore Feb. 8 with a roast and a parade in Cambridge, Mass. The Charlie's Angels star, in turn, sang a version of "Happy Birthday" that the group had written to commemorate her turning the big two-six on. Feb. 22: "Happy Birthday to me/Happy Birthday to me/I should have never filmed Batman Forever/or Titan A.E." So what's it like to be the Big Woman on Campus? Scoop asked.

You seem to be enjoying the Ivy League.
I still can't believe they chose me. When I was 13 and dropping out of school and at a very scary place in my life, I certainly didn't think Harvard would ever call. I would never have missed this day. So often, at home, I feel like such a geek as I walk around hanging pictures and worrying about my future.

Do you wish you had gone to college?
Oh, yes. Definitely.

Your major would be...?
I'd study literature and art history. I wouldn't study acting.

What else would you do differently?
I'm not exactly sure. I would love to laugh at myself a lot more often. I think no matter how embarrassed you get, you need to keep going and do positive things.

Any birthday thoughts?
So often I feel so much older than 25. I know 50 isn't old, but when I think of what I've done in 25 years, it's hard to imagine 50.

What did you chat about with the Harvard boys?
We had a great lunch. We talked about one of the guys' girlfriend. I told them I have a boyfriend, a fiancé.

That would be Tom Green, of course. Do you wish he were with you today?
Sure I do. I took lots of pictures of the parade for him. He called me from L.A. this morning at 6:30 his time to tell me to enjoy the day.

Did you enjoy the parade?
It was just so great, but I wish I had been a little more outgoing. I felt shy and introverted. Next time, I'll dance on top of the car.

ON THE BLOCK

MIA'S MANOR
Her mother, actress Maureen O'Sullivan, was born in Ireland, and for the last few years Mia Farrow has had a home on 19 acres of the countryside there too. But now Farrow has decided to sell the cottage she owns in County Wicklow, about 27 miles from Dublin (she gave no particular reason, says her real estate agent). Farrow purchased River Run, the 2,500-sq.-ft. five-bedroom house, in 1997. Some of Farrow's furniture, including simple iron beds and American-style washing and drying machines, is also for sale but not included in the $700,000 asking price.

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