IT TAKES a mighty powerful woman to pull a man away from Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cottilard, Kate Hudson and Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, all together. That’s what I told myself when Harvey Weinstein and I spoke on the phone last week. He was lured away from the London set of the movie musical, “Nine,” as the above mentioned dynamic stars were poised to film the movie’s big finale under Rob Marshall’s direction.
I said: “Harvey, you’ve deserted a lot of divas to chat with me.” Aware he was talking to a columnist, albeit a friendly one, Weinstein, in good-producer mode, replied: “Liz, none of them are divas. They are all so professional and so well-behaved.”
HARVEY PHONED from Blighty just to say thanks for things written here about “The Reader.” He also wanted to address some criticism aimed at his hot Oscar-bent film. Harvey took pains to tell me how impressed Elie Wiesel, the famous Nobel Laureate writer and Holocaust survivor, was with this film. After it was screened for him, he insisted on meeting the director Stephen Daldry, saying, “You have made the right movie. This is not a Holocaust movie. This is about what the Holocaust did to Germany and succeeding generations.” (There are no concentration camp scenes; Daldry felt that would pitch the film into another realm.)
Wiesel, in conversation with both Daldry and Weinstein, also rebuffed remarks that actress Kate Winslet was “too good-looking” ever to have been a collaborator in terrible crimes, and that Lena Olin was also unrealistic. (She was “a rich and beautiful” survivor of the death camps.) Wiesel commented:
“I don’t know what people think when they say things like that. The Germans who colluded, or looked away, were ordinary people. But they were people who had been convinced that Jews were actually sub-human. Twenty years of propaganda works its evil. And why is it unrealistic to show a person who has survived the camps and then made a good life?
“Do you know the way many ‘ordinary’ war criminals were found and brought to trial? The phone book! Investigators just looked in the phone book. These people had simply resumed their lives after the war. They didn’t try to hide because they still didn’t understand they had done wrong. When I sat in on some of the trials, I myself was actually shocked at how normal they seemed. No horns, no outward ugliness. That is the great horror — they weren’t monsters. But they did monstrous things.”
HARVEY ALSO wanted to salute the producers of “The Reader” — the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack. “I can’t tell you what a heartbreak it is that they both died during the post-production. It was a labor of love for both of them. Anthony was originally to direct ‘The Reader,’ but then said, ‘Stephen Daldry should do it. He knows law. He speaks German. He will do better by this material. And, Liz, you were so right when you wrote that ‘The Reader’ is the movie I’ve been waiting for and the Weinstein Company has been waiting for. It’s taken a couple of years to put everything into place (since having to leave Miramax behind) but I feel the energy now. We’ve also got ‘All Good Things’ coming with Frank Langella, Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling. And the new Quentin Tarantino, ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ This is still in the works, and it stars Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Mike Myers and Cloris Leachman.” (Talk about a woman still going strong. Cloris is indestructible!)
Harvey then let himself be pulled back to his well-behaved lady stars who were going into their dance for “Nine.” There are, of course, high hopes that Rob Marshall will bring his special magic to this movie; the same magic he brought when translating “Chicago” from stage to film, winning six Oscars, including best picture.
I have a feeling “Nine” is going to not disappoint. (Harvey will make sure — because it’ll play so well in the press — that the movie receives at least nine Oscar-nominations.)
And I can’t wait to see the Academy-Award-winner Judi Dench in this movie. She is the British actress who plays “M’ in the James Bond movies. Even Daniel Craig dares not ignore her.