Actors George Clooney, left, and Sam Rockwell arrive at the premiere of "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." (Chris Weeks / AP)

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12/16/2002

Bang a gong
By Elizabeth Snead
Tinseltown Spywitness

Talk-show host or CIA operative? You can never be sure. But it sure felt like both walked the red carpet at the L.A. premiere of "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" on Wednesday night at the Mann National in Westwood.

The film, starring Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Rutger Hauer and Julia Roberts, is based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, the creator of "The Gong Show," "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game."

Barris claims to have been a CIA hit man during his entire TV career. "A lot of that stuff is true," whispered film composer Alex Wurman, who scored "Confessions." "In fact, we're all wondering about Charlie Kaufman, too." Kaufman, who wrote "Adaptation," adapted the script from Barris' book.

Clooney, who also directed the film, was in secret-operations mode himself, even breaking from the carpet and running across the street through traffic to shake his screaming fans' hands. You should have seen the looks on the drivers' faces as they braked for Hollywood's hottest man. Hey, wasn't that ... ?

How did Clooney land Roberts to play the Mata Hari role in the film?

"You know she's unemployed. She really needs the work," wisecracked Clooney, who says he never thought about directing until he got the "Mind" script. He admitted that directing himself (he plays a CIA recruiter in the film) is tough. "It's no fun. There's no one to yell at, no one to get mad at."

But according to Barrymore, who plays Barris' longtime love and has worked with the finest film directors, Clooney was a pro. How would she rate him on a scale of one to 10? "I would rate him at 5 million trillion," gushed Barrymore.

The after-party at the W hotel was also pretty fun and exciting. And crowded. Spotted in the packed lobby, bar and patio areas: Barris himself; the "Ocean's Eleven" crew of Matt Damon, Brad Pitt (sans Jennifer), Don Cheadle and Elliott Gould; Dick Clark; Cindy Crawford and her husband, Rande Gerber; Lili Taylor; and Jacqueline Bisset. All chowed down on yummy prawns, asparagus, flatbreads, cheeses, risotto and sushi.

There were also several suspicious-looking men wandering around wearing dark suits, ear pieces, whispering into mouth mikes. Hey, you don't think they were ... ?

GUYS AND MOLLS: A flash of leg. The bitter taste of gin. The smell of corruption. The sweetness of revenge.

Chicago in the roaring '20s? Nope, the premiere of "Chicago" starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, at the Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night. "Chicago," opening Dec. 27, is the long-awaited celluloid version of Bob Fosse's award-winning Broadway musical about passion, rivalry, murder and betrayal.

So, natch, every TV crew, from "Access Hollywood" to "Entertainment Tonight," asked the film's stars to sing the classic songs from the film. Some, but not all, obliged, such as Christine Baranski, Mya, Denise Faye and Anastacia, who sings the title song. "I'm from Chicago, and I just can't believe my luck," said the sexy blond pop singer. "If the song gets nominated, I get to sing at the Oscars!"

Baranski plays a TV journalist and says she based her character on Barbara Walters: "You know, how she's so nice and sympathetic, then goes in for the kill."

"Chicago"s' murderous plot resonates today. Showgirls Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Zellweger) kill their cheating men and are defended by a headline-hungry lawyer (Gere). Sounds like the Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson trials.

"We're not planning an O.J. musical, but Richard Gere could have won that case," said "Chicago" producer Seymour Cassel.

At the after-party: Jennifer Tilly, Juliette Mills, Oliver Martinez, Mena Suvari, Linda Gray, Janet Leigh, Stephanie Powers, Martin Short and the happy cast, including Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, John C. Reilly, Gere (with wife Carrie Lowell) and Zellweger, sporting a '20s bob sure to spark a holiday hair trend.

Zeta-Jones, with husband Michael Douglas, looked elegant in a low-cut Valentino gown that disguised her pregnancy. No tight belly-baring styles for this classy gal. The secret to her happy marriage? "Be nice to your partner. We are always so much nicer to strangers and other people. It's important to be nice to your husband."

Good advice. We think the dress helps, too.