‘Tis the season for some mud-slinging

MUD-SLINGING HAS BEEN A FACTOR in Academy Awards campaigns for years, but it gained a lot of media attention last year after Internet rumors blasted “A Beautiful Mind” for fudging the truth.

It’s debatable whether this hostility actually does any damage — “Beautiful Mind,” after all, did win the best pic Oscar. And it’s doubtful we’ll see a repeat this year. The makers of fact-based “Antwone Fisher” and “Catch Me If You Can” have readily acknowledged that they took a lot of dramatic license, while the filmmakers for “Adaptation” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” seem amused by the notion that they would even consider sticking to the facts.

But Oscar campaigning is like a virus: Once you come up with an antidote, a new strain will emerge. In other words, we can expect some different forms of bad-mouthing this year. It’s already started this season; we won’t dignify those rumors by even citing which films they’re slamming.

LET’S GET THE BALL ROLLING. Here are a few more nasty, totally manufactured rumors. Please, don’t believe them. After all, Hollywood needs to uphold its image as a town full of good-natured, supportive people.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis, “Gangs of New York” — The entertainment media has made a lot over the fact that he was lured back to acting after being an apprentice to a master cobbler in Italy. Like many stories cranked out by the publicity machine, this one has a few grains of truth. In fact, Day-Lewis was actually making flip-flops in Honduras; he was thrilled to finally get an offer for an acting job when Payless rejected his line of footwear as “too shoddy, even for us.” My left foot indeed.

  • Roberto Benigni, “Pinocchio” — After winning his Oscar, Benigni could have done almost anything, but has repeatedly said that Fellini planted the idea that he should star in the Italian classic. Not true. Hollywood actors are fanatical about appearing youthful, but they can’t hold a candle to Benigni, who, since he turned 50, has been obsessed with playing youngsters. Currently in development: He plans to star in remakes of “Heidi” and “Home Alone.”

  • “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” — Don’t believe the Cinderella success story of this $5 million pic. The film meticulously re-created those suburban American “locations” on the backlot at Cinecitta in Rome, sending the budget past the $100 million mark. And Nia Vardalos is actually Swedish.

  • “The Hours” — Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep were originally set to play the three little aborigine girls in “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” but director Phillip Noyce ultimately “chose to go in a different direction” with casting. Eager to work together, the trio of actors eyed roles in “Jackass the Movie” and huddled with Pedro Almodovar about “Talk to Her,” but he decided his pic only needed two women in a coma.

  • “The Pianist” — The first draft of the screenplay was much more lighthearted and bawdy, written under the title “Puppetry of the Pianist.”

  • Eminem, “8 Mile” — Following the historic wins by African-Americans at last year’s Oscars, Eminem will once again try to convince people that he’s black and lovable. Once again, a surprising number of people will believe him.
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