Costner gets candid about ‘Mr. Brooks’

Veteran actor opens up about new movie

KEVIN COSTNER on “Mr. Brooks”: “I had to be convinced by the script. This isn’t generally my kind of movie, and I certainly never saw myself as a serial killer, I find what is usually done with material like this kind of creepy. And not in a good way. But I can take no credit, really. ‘Mr. Brooks’ was all in the writing, which gave us a road to follow. … I see the relationship between myself and Bill Hurt in this movie as kind of the dark side of Butch and Sundance.” Costner does express some concern that “Mr. Brooks” is being released in competition with the summer blockbusters. “I always envisioned it as a fall movie. But we were in the same boat with ‘The Upside of Anger.’ That’s why I wanted to talk to you about it. I feel that film had got the shaft.” … Costner — father to a new baby boy with wife Christine — has, for the last 15 years, owned a restaurant and casino in the Black Hills of South Dakota, near where his parents live. “Listen, if I ever stop acting, I could actually go to work for a living.”

HAD LUNCH with Marion Cotillard who plays France’s great singer Edith Piaf in the hot film “La Vie en Rose.” This young Frenchwoman has made 10 films, speaks perfect English, resembles a combo of Natalie Portman and Winona Ryder, and gives an astounding performance as “The Little Sparrow.” Marion portrays Piaf from her 20s to her tragic death at 47. Piaf came to haunt Marion’s dreams. She found it impossible to get out of being Piaf. Once she smoked a cigarette and later dreamed the singer sat on her bed saying, “You just can’t smoke a cigarette if you want to play me.” She told me that when the French were asked to name their 100 most important persons, they named only two women — Madame Curie and Edith Piaf. … Cotillard made me laugh describing working on another film for director Tim Burton — “a genius” in her eyes — down in Montgomery, Ala. We were discussing interpreters and she said, “We really needed some there on ‘Big Fish’ to explain to New Yorkers what the Alabamians were saying.”

SO, WHAT DO you call a New York-born, Muslim-raised, self-described “redneck” girl? (She grew up in Georgia.) You call her Noureen DeWulf. You’ve already probably seen her onscreen in “Pledge This!” with Paris Hilton and any second, she’ll burn up the Cineplex in “Oceans Thirteen.” How does a nice Muslim girl, who says she is “hugely spiritual,” wind up as a vixen-in-the-making in the under-dressed movie biz? Noureen says growing up in the Deep South wasn’t easy and her parents have a tough time with her profession. But her exotic looks have pushed her a certain way. “Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when people keep telling you you’re sexy you become that. But I enjoy it. Sexuality is a part of life; why shy away from it?” (The sounds you hear are mom and pop, gasping.) And what of Noureen’s little acting experience with Miss Hilton? She says, “Paris is everything you think she is. That’s the best way to describe her.” Nuff said.

SPALDING GRAY would have been 66 last week. (He famously disappeared three years ago and his body was eventually found in the East River.) Whoopi Goldberg now joins the cast of his self-named hit Off B’way play “Stories Left to Tell.” This is one night only tonight. Each week a new guest cast member joins the play, devised by Gray’s widow, Kathie Russo and director Lucy Sexton. Today is Charles Busch’s final performance. Upcoming is David Boreanaz. … Arriving on DVD this week — Hal Prince’s unfairly maligned screen version of the Sondheim stage classic “A Little Night Music.” Filmed in 1976, but withheld from release until ’78, the movie is not without flaw. This was only Prince’s second screen effort, and his inexperience shows. The editing is choppy, the cinematography is muddy, but all the performances — Elizabeth Taylor as the aging actress Desiree, Len Cariou as her one-time lover, Diana Rigg and Lesley Anne-Down as her rivals, and Hermione Gingold as Desiree’s dragon of a mother — are delicious. (Rigg, in fact, commits cinematic grand theft.) Taylor, then on the verge of her John Warner years of “retirement” brings startling poignancy to her role; a celebrity trying to find another way of life. Her singing is no great shakes, but a big voice is not required anyway. This “Night Music” has an undeniable charm and romance. P.S. By the time the movie was released, Taylor’s weight problem had become a national obsession, so when Len Cariou sings, “If she’d only been faded, if she’d only been fat” audiences at the time, guffawed. In the film itself, ET is overripe, but not disastrously so.

WE TOLD you weeks ago that the Today Show’s Matt Lauer had lured England’s princes, William and Harry, to sit with him and talk of many things. The interview airs on June 18. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say about the royal duties foisted upon them — lives planned out before their birth — and how they feel about the world’s continued fascination with their mother, Princess Diana.

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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