Douglas, Zeta-Jones Lose Monkeyface
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
By Roger Friedman

No More Monkeyface  | Go Bebe, It's Your Birthday

Douglas, Zeta-Jones Lose Monkeyface

The plan to bring married couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to the big screen together has fallen through.

Indeed, the two Oscar winners, I am told, pulled out of their planned film Monkeyface on Friday. The Stephen Frears directed heist film was set to start shooting in November. But Frears says that at the end of last week the whole thing "fell apart," for reasons which are unclear.

That leaves Frears -- whose highly touted Dirty Pretty Things starring Audrey Tautou opens this Friday -- looking for work.

Last night in New York, a bunch of influential movieland types came to the Disney screening room for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a screening of the latest Frears work. He is also the director of such great films as Dangerous Liaisons and The Grifters.

Liaisons star Glenn Close hosted the screening, which drew familiar faces like screenwriter Buck Henry, actors Sheila MacRae, Sylvia Miles, Celeste Holm, and Marni Nixon, writer-actor-director Wally Shawn, agents Boaty Boatwright and Johnnie Planco , and writer Donald E. Westlake.

Frears is not bitter about losing Monkeyface, by the way. He's already had his share of Hollywood battles. A few years ago he made Liaisons knowing that Milos Forman was going to direct a similar film, Valmont.

In the end, his was the better picture, even though the Forman film was the one that had the advance buzz.

As for Monkeyface, the real story no doubt lies with producer Elie Samaha, whose mysterious ways of financing a film may have been more than Douglas -- a seasoned and Oscar-winning producer himself -- and Warner Bros. could handle. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this Monkey business in the days ahead.

Liv Tyler's Mom Gets Birthday Surprise

She's known as Liv Tyler's mom to a whole new generation, but rocker-model-author Bebe Buell is famous for being rock's first independent woman. Her book Rebel Heart: An American Rock 'n' Roll Journey -- a New York Times bestseller -- chronicles her life from Ford model in 1972 through a history of rock relationships from Mick Jagger to Elvis Costello. Cameron Crowe even based Penny Lane on her in the movie Almost Famous.

So it seemed kind of appropriate on Monday night that Tyler along with Buell's husband, Vacationland lead guitarist Jim Wallerstein, threw Bebe a wild surprise 50th birthday celebration up in alt-rock heaven Portland, Maine. Was she worried about everyone knowing she's 50? Let's put it this way: Buell, once a Playboy playmate, just posed for the cover of Grace magazine's fall issue.

The swanky soiree moved between two Portland venues -- the gourmet Bintliff's American Cafe and the Pavilion nightclub, where guests including Tyler's new rocker husband Royston Langdon boogied the night away. How many 50th birthday parties have you attended where the guest of honor, looking more like 35, has gotten up and sung a raucous lead with her hubby's band? Buell, who's had her own bands in the past including the B-Sides and the Gargoyles, ended her set with a sparsely arranged "You're So Untouchable."

Meanwhile, Vacationland -- which Wallerstein put together when the couple moved to Maine last year -- is now in the studio finishing up tracks for its debut album. The group, voted for many awards in a Boston Phoenix poll, is expected to sign with a major label within weeks. Their music is definitely for the young rocker set, but I was touched that they pulled off a cover version of the Neighborhoods' old indie hit, "Prettiest Girl" for this old-timer. Boston in 1980 seemed so hip at the time!

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