GOOD MORNING: One Oscar nominee salutes another. I asked Emily Watson, Oscar-nominated for her remarkable performance as multiple sclerosis-afflicted cellist Jacqueline Du Pre in “Hilary and Jackie,” whether she was sorry to have turned down the role of Queen Elizabeth in “Elizabeth”? Not at all, she said. Further, she has seen the film starring Cate Blanchett and admits, “I couldn’t have done it. Cate is amazing!” Watson, an alumna of the Royal Shakespeare Company, also gives praise to another Oscar nominee, Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shakespeare in Love.” But Watson is admittedly happiest about the fact her “Hilary” costar Rachel Griffiths is also nominated (in the supporting actress category). They have remained friends, even though Griffiths is in Australia and Watson in London but hope to reteam on screen again. In L.A. briefly, Watson and husband Jack Waters leave today for a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, returning in time for the SAG Awards March 7 and back again March 21, of course, for Oscar. She recently wound “Angela’s Ashes,” Alan Parker’s film version of Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his Irish childhood. In the film, Watson ages to 40, having given birth to seven children, three of whom die. She says, “Working for Alan Parker is so completely safe for an actor!” Watson also has awaiting release, the totally different “Metroland” and “The Cradle Will Rock.” She says she’d like her next to be “lighthearted and funny.” But admits her choice of film depends on the director.
OPRAH AND BARBARA GOT TOGETHER in Chicago this week — and it wasn’t about Monica. Walters is awaiting final clearance to air the (already-taped) interview, March 3. Winfrey had said on the air Sept. 29 she’d taken herself “out of the running.” (George magazine’s March cover features: “Exclusive: How Oprah Dumped Monica” by Josh Young.) Oprah says she “withdrew the offer” to participate in the interview when Lewinsky wanted rights to distribute the interview in foreign markets. “Oprah felt it was a form of indirect payment and withdrew the offer to participate in the interview” … Walters winged to Chi to tape Winfrey as part of her “100 Women of the Century” special. Walters’ pre- (post- on the Coast) Oscar show, usually on Oscar Monday, will now also shift to Sunday this year. Oprah just returned from Paradise Island tapings at the Atlantis, where guests included Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross and Tyra Banks … Lesley Ann Warren and Ron Tast are going to get married. She says, “I found my prince.” Warren’s colorful career and life will be chronicled March 8 on A&E’s “Biography.” She’s not sure what ex-husband Jon Peters will think of it. “His relationship with Barbra (Streisand) was devastating to me.” But Lesley Ann is completely happy these days, with her new role as Christina Applegate’s mom on “Jesse,” a starring, dramatic role in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey” with Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda, and parts in “Twin Falls Idaho” (a hit at Sundance), “All of It,” and “Killing Mrs. Tingle.” She also did a turn on B’way in “Dream” before shooting all of the above pix/TV … Joel Grey, in London playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in TNT Hallmark’s “A Christmas Carol,” allows “This (ghostly) look is like nothing I’ve ever done!” He says the movie, starring Patrick Stewart and Richard E. Grant, with David Jones directing, “is being played very Dickensian,” shooting at Ealing Studios. The versatile Grey plays Josef Goebbels in “The Empty Mirror” which Lions Gate will release in March, he hears.
FRANK SINATRA IN THE COPA ROOM: The new Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas will also feature the Copa Room. It’s on the site of the old Sands hotel, where the original Copa was the room where Sinatra and/or the Rat Pack played and played around. Planned for late summer is the “live ” attraction in tribute to Sinatra. Gary Smith is producing; he’s no stranger to Sinatra, having produced several specials with him and the second Reagan inaugural gala which starred Sinatra. Smith has already talked to Steve Lawrence to star — but not to imitate his late, good friend. The show would be a multi-media event, with film clips in addition to “live” performers. Smith will be one of the panelists when the Museum of TV & Radio preems “This Is Sinatra!” the 1962 British TV special that will open the Museum’s 16th annual William S. Paley TV Fest, March 2, and then will be shown at both the L.A. and N.Y. Museums through May 30. Among others who will be on hand at the L.A. bow and discussion: Tina Sinatra. She is now finalizing the deal at Par for her remake of Sinatra’s “Manchurian Candidate” (1962 and rereleased in 1987). Tina is also finalizing plans for the Frank Sinatra Foundation … Pierre Cossette bowed his “The Civil War” at the Shubert in New Haven Tuesday, wings out to L.A. today to ready the Grammys Feb. 24, then back for “Civil War” bowing March 7 at the St. James in Gotham for previews … Bobby Short had a triumphal return to L.A., with lines streaming down Cahuenga from the Catalina Bar & Grill where he bowed Tuesday. L.A. is the last stop on Short’s three-week West Coast tour (winds Sunday in L.A.) before returning to his stand at the Carlyle … Warner Bros. exex honor Vivian Tibbetts at Patsy’s in N.Y. tonight, toasting her on 50 years working in the studio’s N.Y. publicity office. Congrats.