In Hollywood, the Oscars aren't the only game in town
Didn't receive an Oscar this year? Relax! There are plenty of honors to go around. Let's rephrase that: There are plenty of trophies to go around. Like the Reel Awards, presented March 20 in Hollywood, for those who simply look like famous actors. The Taurus Awards, set for June 1, are more legitimate, honoring stuntmen and -women. The Hackademy Awards, doled out March 19, are for "gratuitous" images of tobacco use in films. (Chicago's Catherine Zeta-Jones was cited for "dancing with a cigarette in her mouth!") And the Golden Raspberries are for the worst moments in film. Madonna's Swept Away earned five Razzies March 22; Roberto Benigni (Pinocchio) beat Eddie Murphy (Pluto Nash) for worst actor. (Still, it's an honor just to be nominated.)
A Friend to the End
Comic George Miller was a recurring fixture on David Letterman's late-night shows. Yet few know that Letterman and Miller, who died of complications from leukemia on March 5 at the age of 61, had been as close as brothers since the 1970s, when both were young comedians on the L.A. club circuit. "David kept George alive," said comic Gary Mule Deer, a Miller pal. "George was always David's best friend." When Miller was first diagnosed with leukemia years ago, Letterman made sure he received the most promising new drug treatment. To the end, Letterman covered all of Miller's medical costs, including round-the-clock nursing care. "David's not close to a lot of people," said Mule Deer. "But for him, George was the guy."
Tony Soprano will be pushing up daisies soon. To be more accurate, Tony will be a daisy soon. The African Rainforest Conservancy has asked James Gandolfini to name a species of flowering weed just discovered in Tanzania. Gandolfini, 41, will christen the plant at an April 5 gala in New York City.
The actor, who recently settled a salary squabble with HBO (he'll be paid $13 million this season), has long been a supporter of the Conservancy. Although he's still researching a moniker, the ARC's Jeff Hobbs notes the hardy buds are a weed fit for a don. "It's a pioneer species that grows anywhere," says Hobbs. "It makes the soil richer for the next generation of plants."
RYAN'S FILM: A KNOCKOUT, FOR NOW
Meg Ryan fans will have to wait a little longer to see her play a boxing manager in Against the Ropes. The film, scheduled for release April 25, has been postponed indefinitely because, said a Paramount spokeswoman, "we became concerned that our message would be lost amid the current war coverage" on TV. The delay pushes back a very personal project for Ryan. Ropes director Charles Dutton tells PEOPLE, "She was chomping at the bit, ready to try something different. She was waiting to sink her teeth into this." Dutton, now starring on Broadway in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, is also eager to see the movie released. "I love the fight game," he says. "It's my feature-film debut [as a director]."
Will everyone please take their seats? That's what the cast of Friends is hoping. From May 12 through May 22, eBay will auction six La-Z-Boy recliners, each one designed by a Friends cast member. Proceeds will go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Each Friend came up with a basic chair concept, which was then fleshed out and constructed by La-Z-Boy's designers. Are the final results reflective of each actor's personal style? See if you can match the chair to the Friend who made it. (Hint: True to her well-toned form, Jennifer Aniston's lounger has the best arms.)
Chairs designed by:
(1) Matthew Perry;
(2) Matt LeBlanc;
(3) Jennifer Aniston;
(4) David Schwimmer;
(5) Courteney Cox Arquette;
(6) Lisa Kudrow
FEUD OF THE WEEK
MICHELLE BRANCH vs. MADONNA
Like a teenager who just got the keys to the family car, 19-year-old Michelle Branch wants a shot at the open road. On March 3 Madonna's Maverick Records answered a petition that Branch had filed with the California Labor Commissioner. Branch wants to be released from her contract because, she says, Maverick signed her for endorsement deals without authority. "This is about money," says Maverick's attorney Bert Fields. "We're going to resist it." Counters Branch's lawyer Larry Stein: "There is a sound legal basis for this claim."
with Chris Rock
Chris Rock cowrote, stars in and directed the new feature Head of State, which opens on March 28. In the film he plays an unlikely presidential candidate. Scoop chatted with Rock, 37, about politics, comedy and hanging out with real-life Presidents.
Is it true you talked to Bill Clinton to prepare for this film?
I met him a couple of times at dinner parties. I was just checking out his vibe.
What did you ask?
I inquired a lot about fund-raising and where the money goes. Bill's a good guy.
Does he still have that presidential charm?
His charisma is Sinatra level.
And as for George W. Bush...?
He is a comedown no matter what. We're never going to get as much material as we got with Clinton. Bush can't cop it. He would have to murder somebody. It's impossible.
Do you vote?
Do you think it makes a difference?
Not if my guy loses. But if your guy wins, you help a guy win.
Presidential candidate Al Sharpton: Good thing or bad thing?
It can't be a bad thing. It's the American way. We should have 20 candidates every year instead of two guys.
Is it tough for a comedian to command respect behind the camera?
Not at all. It's a comedy. If I was directing Gladiator, yes, it would be hard for me to command respect.
Your comedy idols?
Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen. I look up to Adam Sandler and I love the stuff Jim Carrey does.
Your wife, Malaak, gave birth to your first child, daughter Lola Simone, last June 28. Has fatherhood changed you?
I guess I'm a little calmer. I have one thing that makes me happy every day, at least.
ON THE BLOCK
BENATAR BY THE BEACH
Classic '80s rocker Pat Benatar is telling Realtors: Hit me with your best shot. Benatar, 50, and her guitarist-songwriter husband, Neil Giraldo, 47, recently put their gated one-acre Malibu home on the market for $4.5 million. Built in 1958, the newly remodeled, three-bedroom, 3,400-sq.-ft. house features glass walls, vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces and a spa. It's perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The couple, married since 1982, are currently building a new home in Hawaii.