GOOD MORNING: Nicole Kidman stars in “a little drama.” That’s the way Baz Luhrmann describes the Chanel No. 5 commercial that he’ll complete following Sunday’s gala bow of his production of Puccini’s “La Boheme” at L.A’s. Ahmanson Theater. After viewing a preview week here, Luhrmann tipped his hat to the L.A. audiences’ reactions to his young,. multi-national casts. Luhrmann, also praised Angelenos’ “quick responses” to the unique supertitles around the theater. This will be the only U.S. engagement scheduled for this production, running through March 7. Tickets are, understandably, at a premium. Its stand at the 1,697-seat Broadway Theater was a huge success, having received rave reviews including one from Daily Variety‘s Charles Isherwood calling it “just the thing to take the chill out of the winter chill. It succeeds spectacularly in its ultimate goal — to put the pop back in opera.” Luhrmann, whose most recent bigscreen outing was the magnificent “Moulin Rouge” starring Kidman, says of the commercial, “It was an education in science for me in making a film that will run 30 seconds, or 60, hopefully two minutes somewhere — and maybe a documentary somewhere.” And he said working with Kidman again “was a great joy.” (Part of his commercial deal was “no ad agency involvement” in his creation.) Karl Lagerfeld created some “dreamy frocks” for her and Brazil’s Rodrigo Santoro (“Love Actually’) appears with her … Luhrmann’s bigscreen return, “Alexander the Great” for Universal and DreamWorks and starring Leonardo Di Caprio (his “Romeo + Juliet” star), gets another script-see in February. He has traveled the world seeking locations, calling “Alexander,” “the world’s greatest road picture.” He also has treatments in the work for three more epic works. “I have so many treatments I can’t live long enough to do them all!”
PRESIDENT BUSH ANNOUNCED PLANS Tuesday to use the moon as a launch for future missions to Mars. I called astronaut Buzz Aldrin for reaction to the president’s and NASA’s speeches Wednesday. Aldrin’s history with the space program dates back to 1963 including the historic July 20, 1969 Apollo XI moon landing when he and Neil Armstrong became the first two humans to set foot on the moon. “It is the beginning of an exciting period — sometimes, you need a little patience. It sounds pretty ambitious to me,” Aldrin said after attending a World Affairs Council lunch with Vice President Dick Cheney, who told administration’s past and future record on space. “The departure for exploration has been overdue. But, it will take some discussion — Congressional budget. I am a rocket scientist, but who knows who will be the front-runner in ’08? It was like Kennedy said in 1961 — ‘we’re going to the moon.’ It didn’t happen until 1969. There’s a lot of politics involved.” Aldrin says he’s had a group of engineers looking at the realities of space flight with his company, Starcraft Boosters. But the Columbia “accident” interrupted the then-existing “space imperative.” Aldrin has written two books, in 1996, a sci-fi story, “Encounter With Tiber” looked at the potential of another world. He followed with “The Return” a story of the shuttle.
WHILE THE WB NETWORK’S Jamie Kellner and Jordan Levin were telling the TCA press tourists that the Nielsens didn’t accurately tell the demographics of their shows’ viewers, I happened to be visiting the set of “7th Heaven,” one of Aaron Spelling’s high-rated series. (It’s in its eighth season and renewed for yet another.) The happy company reminded me their show’s stories appeal to all ages and range from the cradle on up; last week’s dealt with a newborn infant discovered in trash. It read like an item from L.A.’s Monday police blotter. Another of the show’s characters is involved with an American soldier in Iraq. Deborah Raffin who was directing this seg, started with the series eight years ago — acting. Barry Watson (30) who plays Matt Camden, another of the original cast as the eldest son in the story, has been recurring this season as he’s off to med school (story line). While away, he has actually starred in two features, “Deluxe Combo Platter” a lesbian-themed story, and “Boogie Man.” Spelling is also readying another for the WB, “Summerland.”
MELISSA LEO, WHO IS TAKING (well-deserved) bows for her role in “21 Grams” is next set to costar with Robert De Niro in 20th’s “Hide and Seek” with John Polson directing. The pic has been on hold for De Niro, but she says it is now skedded to start next month. After being in the business 20 years, Leo admits considerable excitement about being in the film with De Niro. “Hollywood has always been thisclose,” she said. Leo recalled having tested with Tom Cruise at one time. The film didn’t happen. … And another talented lass, Scarlett Johansson, who is taking bows for “The Girl With A Pearl Earring” in Luxembourg, “Lost in Translation” in Japan and “A Good Woman” in Italy, starts “Cinergi” in N.Y. in March with Dennis Quaid playing her father … Meanwhile, Ian McKellen, the wizard Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, segued to film “Asylum” with Natasha Richardson and returned to the stage in Strindberg’s “Dance of Death” in Sydney. He returns to London to write a screenplay of “Dance of Death” much as he had after his legit stint in “Richard III.” As for the experience on “Lord of the Rings” he’d be happy to return –“if Hobbit gets married.” And as for New Zealand, he’d be delighted to return there. “I love it.”
AWARD SHOW TOPPERS move on: Sunday night it was Walter C. Miller producing and Louis J. Horvitz directing “The People’s Choice Awards” at the Pasadena Civic Aud and Monday morning, Miller was at work on the Feb. 8 Grammys for the Staples Center and Horvitz was at Joe Roth’s Oscars office (at Revolution) readying the Feb. 29 Oscars for the Kodak. … Frank Gorshin will be toasted Friday by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Friday at the Sportsmen’s Lode. Dais includes Adam West to whose “Batman” Gorshin played “The Riddler” in the 1960s TV series … Betty White and Warren Eckstein co-host the annual “Friends for Life Pet Telethon” Sunday from Stage 6 at Universal Studios on KCAL, 5-9 p.m. … Marty and Miko Erlichman are first-time grandparents along with Marilyn and Norman Lesser as J.J. and Ali Erlichman welcomed Mia Lillian Erlichman Jan. 4 at Cedars-Sinai.