Producer to receive Danny Kaye Award
WHEN THE United Nation’s gives away the Children’s Fund “Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award” on Dec. 10 at the Beverly Wilshire in L.A. — well, guess who’ll be stepping up to accept as “Man of the Year?” Our old pal, Jerry Weintraub. (Listen, I can recall the past, when Jerry was getting “Man of the Year” awards and the President was George Walker Bush.)Maybe you just think of Jerry as the movie producer who revived the “Oceans 11″ franchise, much to our delight. But he is also the philanthropist who co-founded “Not On Our Watch,” which donated $400,000 to help at-risk Zimbabwean children. Do you want to see in person — George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis, and others equally elusive? Call 310-201-5033 for more information on how to go to the UNICEF Ball. OUR GREAT pal, Helen Mirren, has been in Russia to check out her ancestors. This quintessentially “English” Dame was actually born Ilynea Mironov and her forebears lived on an estate at Kuryanovo near Smolensk. Helen says it was an incredible experience to go back; she wanted to because she had made a film titled “The Last Station,” which is about the final year in the life of the famed writer Leo Tolstoy. I, Liz, have always privately cherished the story of how Tolstoy died, having run away from his estate and his wife, Sofya, because (it was said) Sofya had denied him sex. (They had been married for 48 years and had 13 children.) Tolstoy died in the little railroad station at Astapovo, feeling aggrieved at Sofya and ignoring the fact that he had become a national treasure with hundreds of newspaper reporters trying to find him and discover his condition. I don’t know how the movie handles these facts. Christopher Plummer plays Tolstoy in this movie version, which is based on Jay Parini’s novel and has a screenplay by Michael Hoffman. The film was completed last year after being made in Germany. Coloradans loved it at the Telluride Film Festival. Helen’s family lost their estate when the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917. She waited quite a long time to play a Russian, which she is, because although the adaptations of Parini’s novel existed, Anthony Quinn as Tolstoy fell by the wayside and then Anthony Hopkins waited to inherit it. Both Meryl Streep and Glenn Close had been talked of for the role of Sofya. Well, nobody will quarrel that it finally went to the real Russian — Dame Helen Mirren.