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Director’s ‘Carnal’ education

Jason Reitman talks to Mike Nichols

Jason Reitman was “so nervous, you have no idea” to be discussing “Carnal Knowledge” with its helmer, Mike Nichols, on Sunday. The special screening of the 1971 classic was part of kickoff week for the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center. Reitman called the battle-of-the-sexes pic “the most honest film I’ve ever seen. The way it looks particularly into the male mind. It grabbed me by the balls, and it was terrifying.”

Nichols replied, “It was one of the very few times I knew exactly what I was going to do.”

Reitman asked if “Carnal Knowledge” was the first movie to show a condom. Not so, said Nichols. “I had a condom in ‘The Graduate,’ but no one’s ever caught it.”

For “Carnal Knowledge,” Ann-Margret readily agreed to all the film’s nude scenes. “Jack Nicholson had some nude scenes too,” Nichols recalled. “I don’t think they’re in there anymore, I’m happy to say. He was hilarious. He’d say, ‘All right, here comes Steve. Get ready.’ He would make such a fool of himself that everybody else was cool.”

Despite the film’s very adult subject matter, Nichols told Variety that he never saw the pic as a “benchmark,” and it wasn’t a hard sell for its producer, either. “Joe Levine thought it was dirty, and he loved that. He just wanted to make money.”

Dan Fellman got his wish. The Warner Bros. theatrical distribution topper let it be known last week during the AFI fete for Morgan Freeman that he was rooting for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals. Why? Because Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is also an exhibitor (Landmark Theaters), of course.

When Naomi Wilding steps up to the Beverly Hilton podium on Thursday night to accept the Women in Film/Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award for Elizabeth Taylor, she’ll carry with her a very fond memory of her grandmother. “She was gleeful when she would get this kind of an award. She never did the work for merit, she didn’t expect anything in return, but she loved it when she got an honor like this,” Wilding said.

Taylor, who founded both amfAR and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, poured her own money and effort into the cause.

“She overall was the opposite of a snob,” said Wilding, who works as a fashion stylist in the entertainment biz. “She treated everyone equally. That was her thing. … She did it to make a point as well. Almost to be bloody-minded at times, because she was so ambivalent about her fame. It wasn’t necessarily a part that she chose for herself. It was chosen for her, when she was a child. And she accepted it, at times in her life quite gleefully. But she always did it, too, with a middle finger up at it. She didn’t care about any of it, status and money and all that, until she realized that she could do great work with it.”

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