GOOD MORNING: “She’s a force of nature — an auteur, a singular vision. (It’s) stunning to watch her.” It was “Marie Antoinette” producer Ross Katz, in Paris praising director and scripter Sofia Coppola . He described intimate scenes between Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette) and Jason Schwartzman (Louis XVI), giant outdoor scenes with 40 horses and dozens of soldiers, and a sexy, comic bedroom scene between Rip Torn ( King Louis XV) and Asia Argento (Madame Du Barry)– “one of the wildest on-screen couplings” — which was filmed in France’s National Archives. The film company had entire access to Versailles after Sofia met with its director general. Of course, Coppola and Katz are not strangers, having teamed successfully on “Lost In Translation.” Francis Coppola, an exec producer of this American Zoetrope film, visited the “Marie Antoinette’s'” location and Katz says, “he helped me solving some problems. But Sofia, she marches to her own drummer There’s one boss on the set — with quiet elegance, Sofia. She never loses sight of what the emotional core of the scene is.” As for Dunst, Katz praises her as “one of the finest actors I’ve ever worked with — changing eras four to nine times a day in the film covering 19 years.” Katz predicts teenagers will want to see this film-well as adults. … Torn also praised Sofia — and his admiration includes her performance in “The Godfather III,” which he called “the capstone of the film.” When I told him reviews for Sofia’s acting were definitely negative, he answered, “They (reviewers) don’t know anything.” The multi-award-winning Torn who has played “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” three times, admitted this film “is a moving experience for me.” He’s wound four pix in a row and next joins Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo in the remake (Hank Fonda, Lucille Ball) of “Yours, Mine and Ours.” And Rip also voices one of the key roles in the animated “Bee Movie.” He’s beezy. (Sorry.)
WHO MORE APPROPRIATE to host “The Gambler” series than Kenny Rogers. “No matter where I travel,” Kenny modestly told me, “they start playing that song.” And now he’ll host a planned series with gambling teams competing in Indian casinos, traveling by bus around the country. There are 411 Indian casinos, but only seven casinos are (so far) set as venues. And Kenny will play a “dead man’s hand” at each, sez Kelly Jungerman, Rogers’ partner-pal-producer for 20 years. He’s teamed with Ron Brody and Candance Gosch in Rogers’ production. I asked Kenny if he’s a gambler? “I learned early on,” he laughed, “I can’t win enough to excite me, but I can lose enough to depress me.” Does Rogers have Indian heritage? “My mother told me my grandmother was one-half Cherokee,” he said, “so I’m Irish-Indian.” Rogers (66), proud papa of 10-month-old twin boys, has cut down his concert touring (by bus) to 130 days a year. He is completing a 12-song album of “significant songs of social value and relevance.” … Kathryn Crosby (72) stars in “The Melody Lingers On” bowing June 23 at the El Portal. Whiz-kid producer/actor Tripp Hornick (24) produces. Crosby appeared on B’way in 1997 in “State Fair.” Hornick, who catalog’d Bing Crosby’s material for Kathryn C., calls her “my surrogate grandmother” … Scott Glenn stars in a series based on the Burke novels –16 books so far — by Andrew Vachss. He’s teamed with Johnnie Blanco and Lloyd Segan, who has been “chasing this project more than 10 years.” The stories are about Burke, a guy who devotes his life to solving and preventing crimes of child abuse … Al Franken brings his Air America show (KTLK, 1150 A.M. in L.A.), to the BevHills Friars’ Club, May 13. Starting June 6, his show will also be viewed on Sundance Channel — a one-hour video version of his three-hour radio show quickly edited to air the same night … After chairing the dinner for the past 12 years and working tirelessly to find a cure for MS, Tom and Madeleine Sherak will be honored at this year’s Dinner of Champions Sept. 16 at the Kodak Theater. Also being saluted, with the Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life award, Richard Cohen, author of “Blindsided,” the account of his 30 year battle with MS … Amy Ephron, on tour with her book “One Sunday Morning” (William Morrow), takes a hiatus from the trek as she and attorney Alan Rader of O’Melveny and Meyers marry June 4 at home in Brentwood … Laura Fleming and Danny Hizami were married in Maui April 17. Laura’s coordinator in the Specials Department at CBS-TV; Danny is a rising stand-up comedian. The bride’s parents are famed hair stylist Dusty Fleming and his former wife, Bonnie … Wednesday night, Jay Leno m.c’d the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance National Tribute Dinner honoring Bob Wright with its Humanitarian Award. And Jamie Foxx entertained … Today, Holocaust Remembrance Day, composer Richard Nanes’ Symphony No. 3., The Holocaust, played by the London Philharmonic, airs on EWTN and the Gospel Channel Europe and CUNY TV. Nanes lost family members in the Holocaust … Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna cohost a panel of laugh-makers at the L.A. Free Clinic Auxiliary’s annual Laughing Matter luncheon Wednesday at the BevHills Hotel … “Monk’s” Tony Shalhoub will be honored at the Southern Calif. Counseling Center’s City of Lights gala today at the BevHills Hotel.