Levinson makes a ‘Man’ out of Williams

IN BARRY LEVINSON’S “Man of the Year,” Robin Williams will play a latenight talkshow host who runs for president and, through a computer glitch, wins. Coming in October via Morgan Creek/Universal, Levinson said it will be “less cynical, more optimistic” than “Wag the Dog.” “It works in a different way, through humor and you can say a lot you couldn ‘t get across otherwise.” Pic also stars Laura Linney, Lewis Black and Christopher Walken. … Showtime is filming a series, “The Tudors,” in which pouty-lipped Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a young, sexy Henry VIII. Showtime promises a modern, seductive take on those wild and crazy royals of yore. (This probably means nudity!) Natalie Dormer (as Anne Boleyn), Sam Neill and Jeremy Northam co-star. And one of the elaborate costumes Jonathan wears is an original that once clung to the thighs of swashbuckler supreme, Errol Flynn.

CHRISTOPHER MELONI of “Law & Order: SVU” and I met for iced tea at Dean & DeLuca in Rockefeller Plaza. Nobody bothered me, but Meloni was continuously interrupted politely by fans, who said they admired his work. He was gracious. “Isn’t that nice? That’s what it’s about really, feeling what you’ve done has meant something, connected to people. I really love to act; I love everything about it. I’ve never had this” — and he tapped a prominent vein on his muscular arm — “addiction to being known. I mean, sure, if you go into acting, there’s part of you that is saying, ‘I want attention’ but I was brought up to work to deserve attention, and it is the work, not the trappings that are important.” … Meloni will soon film an ambitious, as-yet-untitled indie in New Mexico, about a bird flu pandemic, directed by the Pastor brothers, but he is up for as much of “SVU” as NBC wants to give him.

MOVIEGOERS WENT wild for Ellen Barkin back in 1989 when she did those steamy scenes with Pacino in “Sea of Love.” Now, they find themselves filming “Ocean’s Thirteen.” How did it happen? Ellen says, “I don’t know but I think it’s just the greatest that I got tapped for this movie. Jerry Weintraub gave me my first job, so maybe that’s it. Being asked to join all these great guys — George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, etc., in this sequel was just completely unexpected. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better thing to happen to me at this point. And now, also, I will be able to name my favorite director. People always ask me who it is and I never knew what I wanted to say. But now I do — for all time — it’s the amazing Steve Soderbergh! Last week I had my first day of work with Pacino. It seemed like I’d come full circle. ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ is the perfect job to remind me of what’s fun about acting.” … Barkin will be selling the jewelry she has collected: personal as well as items given in that tempestuous wedlock to Ron Pearlman. Christie’s will offer more than 100 pieces for auction on Oct. 10 and they expect the resulting sale to come to at least $15 million. Christie’s describes the collection as “the history of jewelry design.” And about selling the jewelry? “Well, to be practical, I can’t really keep it. I wouldn’t wear it again.”

SALLY FIELD, on the verge of 60, is about to embark on a return to the popular series “ER” as the bipolar-suffering mother of actress Maura Tierney. Sally goes happily back to “ER” because, “I love Maura. Such a terrific actor and lovely person.” She is also embarking on the ABC series “Brothers and Sisters,” as the family matriarch. She says, ‘It seems like a great idea.” … Sally’s enthusiasm, however, is chiefly for her role as spokeswoman for osteoporosis. “My generation of baby boomers was so vocal and loud about issues and now they need to start caring about how women age. The awards we are giving today are to scientists because of a long-term, 30-year-old study of women’s health issues. It affects osteo, strokes, breast cancer and many other problems.” Harvey Weinstein wants to distribute the hot Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up and Sing.” But he has determined competition from Michael Barker and Tom Bernard of Sony Classics. It was a riot watching the three moguls circle and pitch the Chicks the other night at the Koi Lounge fete, prior to the girls’ Madison Square Garden concert.

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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