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May 15, 2000

Martin Scorsese, Ethan Hawke, Billy Bob Thornton, Valerie Solanas, Anna Murdoch, Bob Weinstein, Jennifer Esposito, and more . . .

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For Scorsese, the Gang's All . . . There

Poor Martin Scorsese. Thanks to Rudy Giuliani, the city is too clean for the director's latest New York-centric flicks. Scorsese signed on to executive-produce Deuces Wild, a low-budget film about Brooklyn gangs during the fifties, because it depicts the gritty New York that is the wellspring of his work. The film, which is being directed by Scott Kalvert of The Basketball Diaries fame and stars Matt Dillon and Deborah Harry, was to have been shot in Brooklyn until, reports producer Michael Cerenzie, "we looked around and realized there's no 1958 Brooklyn left in Brooklyn." So the filmmakers decided to reconstruct the borough's bygone era in . . . Los Angeles. And there's more. Scorsese's latest directorial effort, Gangs of New York, a $90 million tale about gang life in New York circa 1850 starring Leonardo Di-Caprio and Cameron Diaz, is being filmed entirely in Rome. This isn't the first time the director has taken creative license with his venues: His 1977 paean to this city, New York, New York, was filmed in Los Angeles. The director was behind sealed doors last week, polishing up a script -- we can only hope about gangs and New York -- and didn't return calls.

Babies Lower Boom on Theater Group

Parenthood spelled doom for one New York acting troupe. At the premiere of Hamlet last week, the film's star, Ethan Hawke, said that he's officially shut down the Malaparte Theater Company -- which he founded in the nineties with a group of actors including Steve Zahn -- to devote more time to Maya Ray, his 22-month-old daughter with Uma Thurman. "I had to choose between my commitment to staging important avant-garde projects and my baby," he says, "and the baby won." Fortunately, Zahn wasn't too heartbroken at the news: "Steve agreed immediately because he just had a baby, too in April," Hawke says. But Hawke hasn't given up the stage completely. The actor says he's planning to star in Ten Unknowns, the latest play by Jon Robin Baitz, which has already piqued the interest of Jason Robards and Julianna Margulies and is slated to debut at Lincoln Center Theater in February 2001. Of the dissolution of his beloved troupe, Hawke summed up, "Everyone else started saying that they were having kids, also. It's just that time of life for everyone." Could the cast of Friends please hurry up and reach that time of their lives?

Billy Bob: Pushing Tunes

Guess who's looking to be a rock-and-roll star? Actor-director-writer Billy Bob Thornton is adding yet another endeavor to his résumé. In the grand tradition of fellow thespians Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, and Keanu Reeves, Thornton has been in the studio working on an album. Though he's been recording in Nashville, it promises to be more rock than country. Not surprisingly, amour Angelina Jolie has been by his side in the studio all those late nights while he's laying down the tracks. Making their own sweet music, no doubt.

Warhol Starlet: Dead Woman Stalking?

By all accounts, Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol in 1968, has been dead since 1989 -- but try telling that to one of the artist's surviving ingenues. Actress Geraldine Smith, who appeared in Warhol's Bad (1977), insists not only that Solanas is still among the living but that the radical feminist is trying to kill her. According to Smith, Solanas always thought she should have gotten the Bad role because she believed Warhol got the story idea from her SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto. Now, Smith says, Solanas has returned to New York and "is paying to have me bumped off." The actress explains, "Right after I saw her in a crowd a year ago, I got hit dead-on by a bike messenger who swerved into me and then pedaled off." Smith -- who recently finished shooting R. Christmas with director Abel Ferrara -- says the run-in left her leg broken in eight places, adding, "I'm sure the guy meant to do it." Just when she was able to walk again four months later, Smith says, she was struck from behind by a hit-and-run car, breaking her arm. "The police just officially closed the case, but they warned me it was suspicious," she says. Valerie Solanas was, not surprisingly, unavailable for comment.

Anna Murdoch's Obstructed View

After being married to Rupert Murdoch, you have a right to be a bit particular. Sources say the mogul's ex-wife, Anna, was all set to move into a new, 4,100-square-foot condo on the sixteenth floor of the former Westbury hotel at 15 East 69th Street -- but took the walk-through with her decorators and decided against checking in. "She was starting a new life in a new condo with her new husband," says one source, referring to septuagenarian financier William Mann, whom she married last year. Anna and William currently live in Mann's co-op on Fifth Avenue and 77th Street, and Anna was primed to spend $6.5 million (a mere chip of the at least $150 million she got from Rupert) for the new place. But "the park views were obstructed by the air-conditioning supports for the penthouse," says one broker familiar with the building. "And the ceilings had been dropped to accommodate the ductwork upstairs." The penthouse's apparently extensive cooling systems seemed to have gotten Murdoch steamed enough to back out -- although another source said that it was Mann who preferred his previous prewar pad. Messages left with Ms. Murdoch's office at the Murdoch Family Foundation and the sales office for the Westbury were not returned. But nobody's going to lose money here: Several other Westbury buyers have resold for more money; and for $7.75 million, you can get Murdoch's cast-off digs.

Bob Weinstein's Prenuptial Jitters

Bob Weinstein had a curious scare just days before tying the knot with Annie Clayton on April 29. When the less garrulous of the two Miramax bosses attended a prenuptial tasting at the wedding grounds, the Regent Hotel on Wall Street, a source says, he loved the surroundings but found the food left something to be desired. Looking for a delectable solution in a pinch, Weinstein phoned Cub Room and City Hall chef Henry Meer, whose classic American dishes have made the movie mogul a repeat diner, and asked him to prepare the wedding dinner. Despite such short notice, Meer says the evening went off swimmingly, with such guests as brother-cum-best man Harvey, Wes Craven, and erstwhile Miramax muse Quentin Tarantino scarfing down his sweet-onion tarts and potato-encrusted snapper. When asked about Weinstein's personal response to his cooking, Meer turned modest. "I saw Weinstein at the end of the party, and he was just ecstatic," he says, "but that's probably because he married such a great woman."

Angry Divas Add to Microsoft Woes

It's rough being a diva these days. A group of female computer pros known online as the "Digital Divas" (at digitaldivas.com) has fired off an angry cease-and-desist letter to software giant Microsoft, which just launched a new Website with its very own "Digital Diva," Stacy Elliott (digitaldiva.com). Elliott's job is to explain high-tech innovations and jargon to the non-digerati, but the original divas say they've been doing exactly that for nearly three years. The women accuse the beleaguered behemoth of trademark infringement and confusing the public with its nearly identical Web address and services. Spokesdiva Faith Kaminsky charges Microsoft is trying to capitalize on the organization's hard work and says the company hasn't responded to their letter, which was mailed on April 25. Kaminsky says the group is raising money to sue. "We've spent years building a reputation for doing what Elliott does," she grumbles. "Microsoft just ignored it." Perhaps it's had bigger things to worry about recently.

Tight Squeeze on Puffy Flick

Jennifer Esposito got into her latest movie role with the help of a team of dressers and a whole lot of masking tape. Last week, on her first day of shooting Made with Sean "Puffy" Combs, Vince Vaughn, and Jon Favreau, costumers presented Esposito with an outfit so form-fitting it took three people to squeeze her into it. At the launch party for the 21 de Cartier wristwatch, the actress told us, "They taped my breasts together. They taped my blouse to my stomach and my boots to my legs because my pants kept riding up. Then they had to tape the microphone to my body because there was no place else to put it." But the real fun came when it was time to remove the ensemble: "I lost two layers of skin in one day of filming," she said, laughing. Vince Vaughn had no such costume trouble, since he spent most of his day shooting a scene in which he lounges in a bubble bath. Esposito told us that Jon Favreau burst onto the set, took one look at Vaughn, and announced, "You look like a lemon-meringue pie with a big head sticking out of it!"

Cannes Job: Class trips sure have improved. Audrey Cohen College, a small not-for-profit school in TriBeCa best known for its subway advertisements, is sending fourteen MBA candidates in its media-management program to the Cannes Film Festival as a class requirement. The Young Turks-to-be will be guided through the glitz by Stephen R. Greenwald, the former CEO of DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group -- and current president of the college -- who will help set up meetings with well-heeled investors and other Hollywood bigwigs with the ability to make things happen. And you thought the Ivy League had all the power.

Additional reporting by Carl Swanson, David Amsden, and Suny Sehgal.

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