Pres. Bush praises ‘Seabiscuit’

GOOD MORNING: President George W. Bush predicts “Seabiscuit” “will be a national hit.” That’s what he told the group from Hollywood Monday night after a White House screening of the Universal-DreamWorks-Spyglass film. The president took four hours off work to buffet-dine the group, show the film (complete with popcorn) and then again host ’em for dessert in the East Room after the screening. Bush, a horse-riding Texan, was a fan of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller about the history-making horse. His Yale roommate, Roland Betts, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is also a friend of fellow committeeman and “Seabiscuit” producer Frank Marshall, so it was only a matter of moments before the White House preem was arranged. Among those attending the special screening were Frank Marshall and wife Kathleen Kennedy, director-writer Gary Ross and wife (exec producer) Allison Thomas, author Hillenbrand, stars Tobey Maguire, Gary Stevens and Elizabeth Banks, Universal’s Ron Meyer and Stacey Snider, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. In addition to predicting the film would be “a national hit,” the president told the filmmakers he was particularly impressed with the film’s depiction of (actual) places and people in the country from the start of the century to the 1940s. That interplay was the idea of writer-director Gary Ross, producer Marshall told Bush. But one thing the group did NOT discuss with Bush was — current politics and policies. (The Hollywood group was mostly Democrats.)

TOBEY MAGUIRE ADMITTED MONDAY was some kind of day for him: In N.Y., he made the rounds of all the major talkshows until it was time to wing to the White House screening; then it was back to L.A. for Tuesday’s work on “Spider-Man 2” and the preem of the pic at the Village Theater in Westwood. At the post-preem party at the Armand Hammer Museum, it was interesting to note the change in Tobey from his role onscreen — he’s regained the 20 pounds he’d taken off to fit the silks as “Seabiscuit’s” jockey Red Pollard, but remains trim to slip into “Spidey’s” threads. After he winds “Spider-Man 2,” Maguire laughingly told me, “I plan to follow Robert De Niro — and eat my way across Italy.” (P.S.: He was doing nicely with Along Came Mary’s menu at the post-preem party). Asked which role was tougher, he admitted both were (are) great to do. He received praise from all of the filmmakers on his courage in the hefty physical scenes, atop both real and mechanical horses. He told me he’s feeling fine and has no back problems … As for the film’s Seabiscuit (real name Fighting Ferrari), Frank Marshall bought him ($5,000) for the Marshall-Kennedy ranch in Telluride, Colo., “where he can have a nice life.” The film company had to buy 60 thoroughbreds to use in the many location racetrack scenes — and yes, they’ve all been sold since completing their film roles … The racing scenes were totally realistic and the Village audience cheered “Seabiscuit’s” wins as if each had a $2 bet on his nose. A winner.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, children of ALL ages … How many times have we thrilled to hear the ringmaster open the circus with those words! And now, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey will start an unprecedented third unit, to debut in March with rehearsals to begin shortly in Florida. Kenneth Feld, chairman-CEO of Feld Entertainment, says the new company will feature interaction between the audience and performers, thanks to new technologies. He’d just returned from Tokyo, where he bowed a new version of Disney on Ice’s “Beauty & the Beast” in the Yoyogi Arena. The show has played 20 countries. Next is “Monsters on Ice” featuring Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” characters. The live-entertainment company’s business is great despite times of international stress, Feld says, “because we offer families a real outlet of stability in entertainment.” Another constant winner for Feld is the Siegfried & Roy show at Las Vegas’ Mirage, which will continue “until they retire” — and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of that! The duo is readying their “Father of the Pride” animated show with DreamWorks and NBC. Feld is also in development discussions with VH1 on a show. Feld has 13 productions on tour … A book sure to be required reading is one now in the works by Vic Garvey, 20-year veteran of NBC. The subject: customer relationship management. Garvey recently held the title of senior vice president of NBC Olympics. But he also designed, developed and executed marketing projects for GE, NBC Entertainment, NBC Sports and NBC Corporate. And now he has set up his own executive consulting firm, giving corporate clients beyond NBC and GE the opportunity to tap his expertise in corporate events and customer relations. He’s also inked a new multiyear pact with NBC to consult on major events. … Miramax Films donated $10,000 to the Motion Picture & TV Country House & Hospital from the proceeds of its one-off Red Carpet Oscar issue of 2003. The magazine was a co-venture with American Media … The Golden Boot Awards, Aug. 9 at the BevHilton benefiting the MPTF, will honor Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Graham Greene, Sue Ann Langdon, Terry Leonard, the Sons of the Pioneers, Chris Alcaide, Michael Dante, Tommy Farrell, Kelo Henderson, William Smith and Charles Champlain. Ben Cooper will m.c. … Robert Rosen, dean of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & TV, wings to the Verbier Fest in Switzerland, where he’ll show films restored by the UCLA Archive. They include Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman,” Dorothy Arzner’s “The Wild Party,” Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep,” Orson Welles’ “Macbeth,” Charles Laughton’s “Night of the Hunter” and Victor Fleming’s “Joan of Arc.” It is hoped all these classics will later be shown here again.

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