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‘Gia’s’ Jolie shines in dark role

GOOD MORNING: While the ornate and cavernous Duomo cathedral of Milan was filled with superstars of the fashion world and others (like Princess Di) paying final respects to Gianni Versace, I was in an East L.A. alleyway, filled with dumpsters deposited with scraps of textile cuttings from nearby giant workshops. The nearly deserted (except for an occasional derelict) warehouse district of old L.A was suddenly brought to life by a movie company — this one for HBO’s “Gia,” about another superstar in the world of fashion. Playing the title role of the self-destructive model is young (22) Angelina Jolie (whose name means “beautiful angel”), daughter of Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand. She is startlingly beautiful. For the fashion layout shoot scene (in the alley!) she was wearing a bouffant, low-cut, Chinese red silk gown and an enormous Kabuki-like jet-black wig, pasted on her head which she’d shaved for the role, which takes her into the final phases of AIDS and death. In the scene, she motorcycles off the photo shoot to get a fix, and thus the wig had to be securely pasted on her head. She is disarmingly frank about herself and this role. She admitted that, like Gia, she had experienced drugs — but not to the extent of her film character. “I’m not proud of it (her use of drugs),” said Angelina, who is long past that chapter of her life. Angelina recently played George Wallace’s second wife in the TNT “Wallace” for John Frankenheimer. Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cristofer is making his directorial debut on “Gia” and next segues to WB’s bigscreen, Michele Pfeiffer-starrer “Waltz Into Darkness.” He is bringing in the HBO vidpic for under the $8.3 million budget. And HBO puts it out theatrically overseas.

GIANNI VERSACE IS, OF COURSE, a topic of conversation on the set of “Gia,” especially when producer Marvin Worth arrives. He is wearing a signature, green and blue-hearted Versace tie, and sports jacket that’s unmistakably Versace. I knew better than to check the label: Worth was one of the first and certainly one of the best Versace customers. Would Worth want to do the Versace biopic? Maybe, but not for a while. “I waited for years after Lenny Bruce died to do ‘Lenny,’ ” he reminded. Bruce, was also a good friend of Worth’s. Next, Worth films the James Dean biopic at WB. Stephen Dorff has been talked to star. … Cristofer and Worth, also longtime friends, are talking future projects for Cristofer to write and direct. And the very young Jolie told me she wants to get on the other side of the camera; she feels she’s accomplished the acting side and is planning, along with her mother and brother Jamie (also a director), to make their own movies. With father Voight, too? She smiled, but wondered if taking direction from him would work. In “Gia” she’s had to run the gamut of emotions, from the above-noted drug descent, as well as depiction of lesbian love scenes. “Tender, moving, nothing erotic,” she said. One scene is in the nude, “with (strategic) patches,” she laughed. But she claimed the nude scene made her feel “free.” She admitted not having the wherewithal to have been a model. However, in the decidedly decollaged gown, she looked just fine. And listening to her enthusiasm made me believe she’d soon have the know-it-all. … It should be noted the exquisite designer-looking gowns for “Gia” are created by Robert Turturice, the 11 dramatic wigs by Manny Millar and the makeup, from glamour to near death, by Janeen Schreyer. … Also working in the L.A.-for-N.Y. alley scene Tuesday was actress Allison Mackie, who next goes to the Williamstown theater to star in “La Ronde,” directed by Joanne Woodward — who starred in the pic version of Cristofer’s Pulitzer-Tony winning “The Shadow Box,” which was directed on film by Paul Newman!

“AIR FORCE ONE” WILL TAKE OFF at the boxoffice — that was the unanimous opinion at Tuesday p.m.’s preem at the Century City Cineplex Odeon. And the consensus was that Harrison Ford was sensational as the President. By the way, a print was sent to President Clinton at Camp David and the producers are awaiting his review as well. Tonight, the pic preems in D.C. for the Air Force toppers who helped make the pic possible. Harrison’s fellow thesps also heaped praise on him. Elya Baskin, the terrorist pilot/right hand man to Gary Oldman, told me “I was amazed to see how much physical pain he (Harrison) took. He insisted on the real thing — and that’s why our reactions were also so real, reacting to him!” Baskin heads to Russia for two segs there on Chuck Norris’ series next Spring. … Ford, now back in Hawaii, said “Six Days, Seven Nights’ is going wonderfully with director Ivan Reitman and co-star Anne Heche. … Among those also applauding “Air Force One” was Frances Fisher who co-stars in “Titanic,” which director Jim Cameron had just shown her and a few “inner circle” members of the movie. It will be out Dec. 19 and she reports, “You get so caught up in the (personal) story, you forget you know the ending.” She plays the society mother of Kate Winslet who gets involved with Leonardo DiCaprio. Stay tuned for that ending.

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