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The Sydney Morning Herald: national, world, business, entertainment, sport and technology news from Australia's leading newspaper.

No escape from these questions

Go on, ask anything … Catherine Zeta-Jones at the news
conference before the premiere of Death Defying Acts .

Go on, ask anything … Catherine Zeta-Jones at the news conference before the premiere of Death Defying Acts .
Photo: Peter Rae

March 11, 2008

BACK briefly from shooting a movie with Adam Sandler in Los Angeles, Guy Pearce was dressed down in jeans, T-shirt and sandals. The young Atonement star Saoirse Ronan, who has been filming with Peter Jackson in New Zealand, looked ready for a high school mufti day. But Catherine Zeta-Jones brought more than a trace of Hollywood glamour to the Opera House yesterday.

At a news conference before last night's premiere of Death Defying Acts, about the escape artist Harry Houdini, our film writer, Garry Maddox, reports that the star of Chicago and the Zorro movies was a vision in hot pink and tall Jimmy Choo stilettos, dominating proceedings as she ran through all the important questions: for example, the benefits of being married to an older man, Michael Douglas. "Until somebody actually tells me he's 25 years older than me, I don't actually think about it," she said. Her attitude to plastic surgery and Botox? "Whatever it takes for someone to feel happy within themselves."

Is she really planning to move away from sex symbol roles? "I'm a mother. I'm not going to be rip-roaring in corsets playing a 19-year-old, because I'm not. I'm 38 years old. [But] I'm not going to be playing old grannies any time soon." What's it like living in the Bahamas? "Everyone gets confused. It's Bermuda."

What was it like winning an Oscar for Chicago? "It was a bit of a blur because I gave birth nine days later. I had to watch the re-run to see what I said." How's Kirk Douglas? "He's doing great guns. He's 91. He's completely in love with me, I have to say." Her views about the psychic world? "I would love to be able to contact people on the other side. If I could speak to my grandmother tonight I'd be doing webcams with her constantly."

And does she really use strawberries to brush her teeth and put caviar in her hair? "It goes right in my stomach, thank you very much. The strawberry thing is a new thing to me … wouldn't you think you'd get, like, red stains on your teeth?"

I LIKE TO WATCH


Low enrolment was the reason that Metro Screen film school in Paddington gave for postponing a course titled "Directing sex scenes" last week.

In the interests of improving the quality of on-screen booty calls, SiT put out the call for nominations for less intimidating course titles. Responses ranged from the sublime to the smutty.

Paul Roberts made a graphic if long-winded suggestion that required some editing to appear in the pages of this publication: "Showing performers how to play mothers and fathers, doctors, missionary work, the birds and the bees, a roll in the hay, rumpy-pumpy, nookie … and coming to a sticky end without any actual beastliness." His second attempt was more succinct: "How to turn porn into sublime cinematic art and vice versa." Victoria Collins favoured a sci-fi twist with "Close encounters of the intimate kind", and Tiina Sepulveda won our vote with "Directing reel love".

NEW BILLYS


With the current crop plagued by injuries, fresh recruits have been announced for the title role in the Australian production of Billy Elliot The Musical. Next week the Sydneysider Dayton Tavares and Joshua Waiss Gates from Hobart will begin rehearsals for the role. The announcement comes after revelations that Corey Snide, from the London production, had been flown twice to Sydney to cover first for an injured Nick Twiney and second for Lochlan Denholm. However, a spokesman for the show said reports of injury had been "grossly exaggerated". "Rarmian Newton scratched his knee on his mother's treadmill, the wound started bleeding on stage … it wasn't a blood bath."

Dayton hails from Penrith and has a story not unlike Billy Elliot, who trades in boxing for ballet. The 11-year-old has a black belt in taekwondo and started dancing in 2005. He was the Australian junior dancer of the year, and two years later competed in the world dance championships in Las Vegas. Twelve-year-old Joshua has been toe-tapping since the age of six and was understudy in 2006 for the young Peter Allen in Hugh Jackman's The Boy From Oz. The new Billys are likely to replace one of the four current dancers.

IN THE RED


The Sydney band bluejuice is $15,000 richer after winning an award in the Australian Music Prize, known as The Amp, designed to recognise outstanding potential. One of the band's vocalists, Jake Stone, said he knew just where the money was going to go. "Straight up our arms," he quipped, before confessing that the money from the Red Bull Award would probably go to pay back money poured into the band.

"Bands have a lot of debts, and we owe ourselves a lot of money."

The Amp MySpace public vote was also announced yesterday. New Buffalo, a singer-songwriter based in Melbourne, won the popular vote for her second album, Somewhere, Anywhere. New Buffalo, who goes by the name Sally Seltmann off-stage, won $50,000 worth of promotional support on the social networking website. The overall winner of the Amp, an independent music prize, will be revealed on Thursday.

BACK IN THE AIR


The new season for Kookaburra - the National Musical Theatre Company, looks to be a scandal-free zone so far. Last year the company's artistic director, Peter Cousens, landed himself in hot water when he cut songs and scenes from a production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Sondheim got wind of the changes and Cousens was forced to stage a charity performance as penance. No Sondheim in this year's line-up, announced last night, which includes a performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me On A Sunday and Little Women.

Also on the horizon is a commission from Peter Rutherford and James Millar. Their first musical, The Hatpin, opened at the Seymour Centre last month. The commission will be funded by Kookaburra's cabaret series from last year, Up Close & Musical, and will be run through The Nest, Kookaburra's creative development wing (no pun intended).

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