‘Sweeney Todd’ building buzz

Depp lights up Burton's musical adaptation

FIRST-PEEKS at the movie version of “Sweeney Todd” leave people gasping and saying Johnny Depp is sure to get another Oscar nod for playing Stephen Sondheim’s razor-wielding killer, “the demon barber of Fleet Street.” Will a younger audience go for this classic musical-almost opera? Well, I hear there is so much Tim Burton-directed blood, guts, gore and action that they will! Depp has long-been regarded as one of Hollywood’s best and most unusual leading men. (And he has been box-office gold ever since “Pirates of the Caribbean.”) In “Sweeney,” there’s great acting as well from Helena Bonham Carter as “Mrs. Lovett,” and Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen round out the cast. Depp was nervous about singing because, Burton explains, “It’s like casting a porno movie, having people sing. They feel they’re being asked to take their clothes off.” Yes, you sticklers–“Sweeney Todd” has been filmed before, back in 1982. Broadway legends Angela Lansbury and George Hearn reprised their original stage roles for TV. And Patti LuPone, last of the red-hot divas, revitalized Mrs. Lovett for the “Encores” stage at Lincoln Center and will soon bring her back to Broadway.

CHITA RIVERA — knocking ’em dead at Feinstein’s at the Regency in NYC. Publisher Joan Jedell says: “Chita! You look fabulous. What are you, a size two?” The B’way legend replies: “No, I’m a size six, but I shop wisely.”… RAN into Diane Reverand up at Vincent’s salon in Saks 5th Ave. (Vincent was fresh from making Diane Sawyer look even better than she really does each a.m. on “Good Morning America.”) The writer Ms. Reverand said she’s collaborating with Raquel Welch in a book about the star’s life and views on getting older. “Raquel knows more about proper makeup and making herself look great than anybody else around.” Ms. Reverand is also working with Texas legend Kinky Freidman on a new book to be called “Life Is A One-Night Stand.” It will tell about the Kink’s life on the road in the rock’n’roll years…. SPOTTED AT the still exclusive Waverly Inn – Michael C. Hall of Showtime’s bloody, funny and intense show “Dexter.” He was dining with that network’s honcho Matt Blank. If you haven’t tuned in to “Dexter,” check it out… THE LONDON production of “Grey Gardens” is now “on” with a vengeance. Rights reverted from the original Broadway production and came back to the authors and composers. Music man Scott Frankel and star-producer Tony-winner Christine Ebersole took off for London to put little Edie Beale and her adventures on the West End. This musical will be a natural for the Brits who love eccentrics…SPAIN’S QUEEN SOFIA will come to New York on Nov. 29 to honor Bill Clinton and Penelope Cruz at the Gold Medal Gala for her Spanish Institute. None other than Oscar de la Renta chairs this happening…DAME HELEN MIRREN arriving in NYC on Dec. 2 to promote her movie “National Treasure: The Book of Secrets,” in which she co-stars with Nicholas Cage. Helen just beat out Kate Moss in the list of Britain’s Best-Dressed. She ranked 4 over the supermodel’s number 10. CHER, the One and Only herself, will host the benefit premiere of the short film, “Love Sees No Color,” on Nov. 28th. It stars recording artist and peace activist, Nassiri.

An informal panel of publishers, editors and public relations pawns voted recently on who the most impossible persons are in show business. This probably won’t be printed anywhere but here, as these pros all have to stay in business. But Numero Uno, at the top of the list, is the rather newish star, Vince Vaughn, he of the current “Fred Claus.” (This so-called comedy is about as funny as a lump of coal in one’s stocking.) Insiders call the guy who emerged triumphant from “The Wedding Crashers” and from a failed romance with Jennifer Aniston “the most egotistical, the most difficult, the kind of person who calls at three a.m. to demand different things.” And who, asked I, is his female equivalent? I was a tiny bit surprised when in unison came this reply – “Sharon Stone.” As Sharon Stone raises so much money for the AIDS fight, I am reluctant to add her here, but I will — just in case her detractors have a point.

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