'Diaries' folks begin film kickoff

“OH, NO! We talk all the time about Lindsay Lohan. There’s going to be none of that. He’s gonna stay normal.” That’s what Sharon Art, mother of 8-year-old actor Nicholas Art, said while watching her son sign autographs at Swifty’s on Monday night. She added, “We’d rather he become George Clooney.” Nicholas is the child who steals Scarlett Johansson’s heart in the film version of “The Nanny Diaries” based on Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ bestseller, about the experiences of an Upper East Side nanny. Harvey Weinstein, whose company is releasing the film, presided over a smallish dinner afterward. Johansson, filming her latest Woody Allen opus in Madrid, sent word that her “Nanny” directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini were “her favorites.” Harvey wisecracked, “That’s gonna get her in trouble with Woody.” (Not likely. Scarlett is Woody’s beloved new muse.) Other “Nanny” cast members were on hand, including Laura Linney who plays the employer from hell, Alicia Keys as Scarlett’s best friend and Donna Murphy, who plays Scarlett’s mom, appalled that her intelligent daughter is nannying. … The movie is one of those New York-based films that make you fall in love with the city all over again. Manhattan looks romantic and interesting. The book — “The Devil Wears Prada” with kids — is more than a little formulaic, but the performances make it work in spades. Johansson, is almost too convincing as a young woman who feels she can’t live up to what is expected of her. No sex-bomb here, Scarlett communicates a drab insecurity that is startling. Linney as the fearsome “Mrs. X” is luminous. Paul Giamatti is appropriately loathsome as her ruthlessly unfaithful, emotionally distant husband. … Aside from Nicholas Art the big find in “The Nanny Diaries” is Keys. She invigorates and dominates her every moment on screen. If we didn’t already know who she was, Alicia would be one of those girls hand-picked by an audience for stardom.

DOES THE DEATH of Brook Astor mark the end of some sort of “civilization” in this city. When Astor was 100, I wrote the last interview this doyenne ever gave. Her funeral will be held Friday at the St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue and 53rd, at 2:30 p.m. She’ll be feted in absentia for weeks to come — certainly by the New York Public Library she loved so much. Burial is at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Irvington, N.Y. I will never forget talking with Astor on WNBC’s “Live at Five” in the days after she began giving away Vincent Astor’s Foundation and more or less “retiring” from philanthropy. She characterized herself then, laughingly, as “one of the nouveau pauvre.” Sometimes our Mrs. Astor was a sketch.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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