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17 items from 2006


Writers Guild Reveal TV Nominations

15 December 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

There were few surprises when nominations for the Writers Guild TV Awards were revealed on Wednesday with castaway show Lost, mob hit The Sopranos, and Kiefer Sutherland-starring 24 all battling it out for Best Drama. The shows' writers were joined on the list by scribes from Grey's Anatomy and Deadwood, while Best Comedy nominations went to Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, The Office and Arrested Development. Meanwhile, television network NBC dominated the New Series category, with nods for writers on 30 Rock again, as well as Friday Night Lights, Heroes and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. They'll be battling it out alongside ABC's Ugly Betty, executive produced by Frida star Salma Hayek. It's based on the groundbreaking Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea and features America Ferrera as a struggling assistant at a fashion magazine. Nominations in film categories of the Writers Guild Awards are scheduled to be released next month with the prize-giving set for February 11 in Los Angeles. »

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Hayek Thanks Prince for Jewelry Return

3 November 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Salma Hayek has a real-life Prince Charming to thank for returning pricey jewelry to her when it ended up on the back seat of a taxi cab. The pretty Frida star picked out $50,000-worth of rented jewelry to show off at a recent New York benefit and her assistant left it in a taxi. Fortunately for the actress, Lorenzo Borghese - the royal star of The Bachelor - was the next person to hail the cab. Lucky Hayek says, "I just took something really simple and they took the rest and the poor girl that brought me the jewelry left it in a taxi. The guy that's like the prince in The Bachelor gets in the cab right after that girl, somewhere random in New York and sees an envelope that says 'Salma Hayek'. He called (TV network) ABC and said, 'I think Salma Hayek just lost $50,000 worth of jewelry,' and they gave it back. Isn't that fantastic?" Hunky Borghese, who is related to historical French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, has an Italian title, passed down from his ancestors in the 1600s. »

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Clooney Honored by Hollywood Stars

16 October 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney was toasted by a host of fellow stars when he received the 2006 American Cinematheque Award in Beverly Hills on Friday. The lavish event, which was held to raise money for film-making charity American Cinematique, was attended by director Oliver Stone and actors Julia Roberts, Christian Slater, Salma Hayek, Geoffrey Rush and Lindsay Lohan. They paid tribute to the 45-year-old, whose film credits include Good Night, And Good Luck, Syriana and Ocean's Eleven. Slater said, "There's no man probably more worthy of getting some awards. He's a great artist, great director, and a phenomenal humanitarian. I think he serves as a great example to other actors, myself included." Clooney said of the event: "Basically, what it is, really, is a bunch of your friends who are gonna roast the hell out of you. But when it's done, you're raising money to help American Cinematheque, which actually does some great things." »

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Clooney fete has Roberts leading way

5 October 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Julia Roberts will present George Clooney with the 2006 American Cinematheque Award on Oct. 13 during the 21st annual Cinematheque Award Show at the Beverly Hilton. Colleagues who will pay tribute to Clooney at the event -- to be broadcast Dec. 13 on AMC -- include Ellen Barkin, Don Cheadle, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Morgan Freeman, Salma Hayek, Bonnie Hunt, Richard Kind, Bernie Mac, Julianna Margulies, Carl Reiner, David Strathairn, Bruce Willis, Noah Wyle, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. »

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Clooney To Date Everyone To End Paparazzi Reign

3 October 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood superstar George Clooney is so desperate to bring paparazzi culture to an end, he plans to start dating as many A-list beauties as possible. The single actor/director admits his carefully thought out plan might not be entirely plausible, but believes it would soon change public perception of celebrity gossip. He says, "Here is my theory in debunking photographs in magazines. You know, the paparazzi photographs. I want to spend every single night for three months going out with a different famous actress. You know, Halle Berry one night, Salma Hayek the next, and then walk on the beach holding hands with Leonardo DiCaprio. People would still buy the magazines, they'd still buy the pictures, but they would always go, 'I don't know if these guys are putting us on or not.'" »

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'Betty' moves; Noxon exits 'Sisters'

9 August 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

ABC is moving its promising new one-hour comedy Ugly Betty from Friday to 8 p.m. Thursday. Meanwhile, Marti Noxon, the executive producer/showrunner of another new one-hour ABC series, the drama Brothers & Sisters, has stepped down. Betty, from Touchstone TV and executive producers Salma Hayek, Jose Tamez, Ben Silverman and Silvio Horta, has emerged as one of the buzzworthy new series after receiving a warm reception at the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour. In its new, high-profile position, Betty will open Thursday night for ABC, leading into the network's new Thursday anchor, the hot medical drama Grey's Anatomy, at 9 p.m. »

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Hayek Denies $100 Million Fortune Reports

24 July 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Mexican beauty Salma Hayek denies reports she has a $100 million fortune, and insists she would donate the money to the poor in her native Mexico if she was so rich. The Frida actress is ranked by Fortune magazine as the second-richest Latin American in Hollywood behind Jennifer Lopez. But the 39-year-old is angered by false details about her finances becoming public. She says, "It's a huge lie. It's very, very far from reality. I don't have that amount of money. Somebody sent me it and I laughed. It's a bit like a joke. Obviously I have never earned $100 million and I wouldn't even want to. With things as they are in Mexico, it bothers me that they put me in a group of millionaires with $100 million I don't have when there are so many people dying of hunger. If I had $100 million I would have retired and would be doing more things on an altruistic level than I can now. I would have opened centers in Mexico for violence against women and many other things." Hayek is one of Mexico's most well known faces and has helped to raise awareness about issues such as the country's failure to solve a spate of brutal murders of women in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez. »

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Hayek inks with CAA

2 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Salma Hayek has signed with CAA for representation in all areas. The actress, who most recently was repped by Endeavor, will continue to be handled by Management 360 and attorney Bill Sobel. Hayek, who recently starred opposite Colin Farrell in Robert Towne's Ask the Dust, next appears in Lonely Hearts, which is based on the true-life story of a serial killer couple who lured their victims through the personals. Hayek was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of artist Frida Kahlo in 2002's Frida, which she also produced. »

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Roberts To Be the Face of Avon

1 June 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Julia Roberts will sign up to be a spokesmodel for cosmetic company Avon this week, according to reports. Just a month after she was dropped as the face of Christian Dior make-up, the Mona Lisa Smile actress and mother of two is ready to agree a $2 to $4 million deal with Avon, reports PageSix.com. Roberts will join Salma Hayek, who is currently the face of Avon. »

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Fonda and Hayek Urge Mexican Government To Act Over Juarez Killings

11 May 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Crusading actresses Jane Fonda and Salma Hayek teamed up on Tuesday to urge the Mexican government to act over the unsolved murders of women in the bordertown of Ciudad Juarez. Since 1993, over 350 women have been killed in the northern Mexican city, just south of the Texas border. Fonda, 68, and Hayek, 39, performed in a benefit performance of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues in Mexico City last night, with proceeds from the show going to charities supporting women in Ciudad Juarez. At a news conference, Fonda said, "If the Mexican government doesn't put energy and resources into stopping these crimes and prosecuting the perpetrators, this is going send a message to the rest of the world." Mexican-born Hayek fumed, "It's really an embarrassment. In 10 years, it's not possible to secure this area? We won't let them (local authorities) rest." Hayek revealed she is taking time out of her film career to focus on fighting for women's rights, and in particular, justice for the Juarez women. Playwright and women's rights campaigner Ensler added, "It's now seven years later and we are still here fighting for the rights and the dignity and the honour and the safety of the women of Juarez. This is an outrage." »

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Tribeca Photo Diary: Lonely Hearts

3 May 2006 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Lonely Hearts Premiere Lonely Hearts is based on the true story of two homicide detectives who captured and convicted Martha Beck (Hayek) and Raymond Martinez Fernandez, the "Lonely Hearts Killers" of the 1940s who found their victims through the personals. Cast: Mr. Travolta Cast: Christa Campbell Cast: Jason-Gray Stanford All pictures © of Pierre-Alexandre Despatis 2006. Tribeca Photo Diary #9 Tribeca Photo Diary #8 Tribeca Photo Diary #7 Tribeca Photo Diary #6 Tribeca Photo Diary #5 Tribeca Photo Diary #4 Tribeca Photo Diary #3 Tribeca Photo Diary #2 Tribeca Photo Diary #1 »

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Lonely Hearts

3 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- The notorious Lonely Hearts Killers of the 1940s already have provided the inspiration for more than one film. But while the duo's crimes were indeed sensational, writer-director Todd Robinson's starry take on the material fails to provide much in the way of a new perspective. Concentrating as much on the detectives investigating the case as on the killers, "Lonely Hearts" fails to show off its impressive cast at their best. The film recently had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

For those who don't recollect the case, it involved Raymond Fernandez (Jared Leto) and Martha Beck (Salma Hayek), who teamed up to commit a string of murders before being caught and executed at Sing Sing in 1951. They were dubbed the Lonely Heart Killers because of their conning of lonely war widows, using Raymond's Latin charms as romantic bait.

Robinson's version depicts the initial teaming of the pair, after Raymond attempted to fleece Martha before realizing she was more than his match when it came to criminality. Indeed, as the film has it, she was a murderous psychopath who elevated her partner's crimes from mere swindling to murder.

Tracking the pair are Long Island detectives Elmer C. Robinson (John Travolta) and his partner, Charles Hildebrandt (James Gandolfini). Fueling Robinson's passion to solve the case is his guilt over his wife's suicide and his covert relationship with a female co-worker (Laura Dern).

The film alternates between scenes depicting the killers' wooing and dispatching of their victims, including a lonely middle-aged woman (Alice Krige) and a young widowed mother (Dagmara Dominczyk), and the detectives' dogged pursuit. The filmmaker doesn't shy away from brutal violence when it comes to the murders, with several of the scenes proving difficult to watch.

Unfortunately, the filmmaker is unable to render either of his intertwining stories with much interest. The killers' crime spree has a familiarity that is not given a particularly original approach, as does the detective's emotional travails. (It's easy to understand the emphasis, however, since Robinson is the real-life grandson of Travolta's character).

Travolta and Gandolfini, in their fourth film together, have a strong rapport, and the former provides his usual complex emotional shadings. But Gandolfini, other than providing a hard-boiled narration, has little to work with here. More egregious in terms of casting are Leto, who is wholly unconvincing as a smooth Latin charmer, and Hayek, who besides bearing no physical resemblance at all to the actual Beck, even here seems far more likable than threatening.

LONELY HEARTS

Nu Image/Millennium Films

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Todd Robinson

Producers: Boaz Davidson, Holly Wiersma

Executive producers: Danny Dimbort, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Manfred Heid, Gerd Koechlin, Josef Lautenschlager, Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Andreas Thiesmeyer, John Thompson

Cinematographer: Peter Levy

Editor: Kathryn Himoff

Production designer: Jon Gary Steele

Costume designer: Jacqueline West

Music: Mychael Danna

Cast:

Elmer C. Robinson: John Travolta

Charles Hildebrandt: James Gandolfini

Martha Beck: Salma Hayek

Raymond Fernandez: Jared Leto

Rene: Laura Dern

Detective Reilly: Scott Caan

Janet: Alice Krige

Delphine Downing: Dagmara Dominczyk

Running time -- 108 minutes

MPAA rating R

»

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Lonely Hearts

3 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- The notorious Lonely Hearts Killers of the 1940s already have provided the inspiration for more than one film. But while the duo's crimes were indeed sensational, writer-director Todd Robinson's starry take on the material fails to provide much in the way of a new perspective. Concentrating as much on the detectives investigating the case as on the killers, Lonely Hearts fails to show off its impressive cast at their best. The film recently had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

For those who don't recollect the case, it involved Raymond Fernandez (Jared Leto) and Martha Beck (Salma Hayek), who teamed up to commit a string of murders before being caught and executed at Sing Sing in 1951. They were dubbed the Lonely Heart Killers because of their conning of lonely war widows, using Raymond's Latin charms as romantic bait.

Robinson's version depicts the initial teaming of the pair, after Raymond attempted to fleece Martha before realizing she was more than his match when it came to criminality. Indeed, as the film has it, she was a murderous psychopath who elevated her partner's crimes from mere swindling to murder.

Tracking the pair are Long Island detectives Elmer C. Robinson (John Travolta) and his partner, Charles Hildebrandt (James Gandolfini). Fueling Robinson's passion to solve the case is his guilt over his wife's suicide and his covert relationship with a female co-worker (Laura Dern).

The film alternates between scenes depicting the killers' wooing and dispatching of their victims, including a lonely middle-aged woman (Alice Krige) and a young widowed mother (Dagmara Dominczyk), and the detectives' dogged pursuit. The filmmaker doesn't shy away from brutal violence when it comes to the murders, with several of the scenes proving difficult to watch.

Unfortunately, the filmmaker is unable to render either of his intertwining stories with much interest. The killers' crime spree has a familiarity that is not given a particularly original approach, as does the detective's emotional travails. (It's easy to understand the emphasis, however, since Robinson is the real-life grandson of Travolta's character).

Travolta and Gandolfini, in their fourth film together, have a strong rapport, and the former provides his usual complex emotional shadings. But Gandolfini, other than providing a hard-boiled narration, has little to work with here. More egregious in terms of casting are Leto, who is wholly unconvincing as a smooth Latin charmer, and Hayek, who besides bearing no physical resemblance at all to the actual Beck, even here seems far more likable than threatening.

LONELY HEARTS

Nu Image/Millennium Films

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Todd Robinson

Producers: Boaz Davidson, Holly Wiersma

Executive producers: Danny Dimbort, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Manfred Heid, Gerd Koechlin, Josef Lautenschlager, Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Andreas Thiesmeyer, John Thompson

Cinematographer: Peter Levy

Editor: Kathryn Himoff

Production designer: Jon Gary Steele

Costume designer: Jacqueline West

Music: Mychael Danna

Cast:

Elmer C. Robinson: John Travolta

Charles Hildebrandt: James Gandolfini

Martha Beck: Salma Hayek

Raymond Fernandez: Jared Leto

Rene: Laura Dern: Detective Reilly: Scott Caan

Janet: Alice Krige

Delphine Downing: Dagmara Dominczyk

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 108 minutes »

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Ask the Dust

3 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Much admired by Charles Bukowski and occupying a hallowed place in the literature of Los Angeles, John Fante's slender 1939 novel "Ask the Dust" pulses with the bruised but hopeful poetry of outsiders' yearnings. The love-hate romance at its center involves not only the tug of war between writer Arturo Bandini and waitress Camilla Lopez but the tension between WASP America and the rest of us, self-realization and shame, the skyward-reaching city and the wild natural continent.

Screenwriter Robert Towne, a great chronicler of Los Angeles in "Chinatown" and "Shampoo", would seem the perfect big-screen translator of the influential book, here taking the helm as well as scripting. To an extent he is, but Towne also inexplicably softens the story's noir edge, lapsing into melodrama and hammering at his themes instead of delving deeper into his characters. Despite what are likely to be mixed reviews, the project's literary/cinematic pedigree and topliners Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek will be certain lures when the film opens March 10 in limited release, after its world premiere at the Santa Barbara fest.

Towne's fourth directorial outing is an exceptionally handsome evocation of 1930s Los Angeles (shot in South Africa), with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel ("The Passion of the Christ") casting the proceedings in a burnished desert glow, a dreamy grit like the Mojave sand that permeates the city streets. The film is faithful to the book's tone of dark ache and much of its detail and for the most part terrifically cast. But Towne can't overcome an essential challenge of the material: Arturo and Camilla are constructs and ciphers as much as they are vivid characters -- difficult roles, to be sure. Neither the screenplay nor the actors manage to get far under their skin.

The story opens as Arturo Bandini (Farrell), subsisting on oranges and cigarettes and six weeks in arrears on his $4-a-week rent, ponders what to do with his last nickel. It has been five months since the good-looking young man arrived in L.A. from Colorado, with high hopes, an Underwood and a suitcase full of copies of his one published story. Determined to be a great writer of fiction, he rents a furnished room at the Alta Loma, a residential hotel built against the slope of Bunker Hill.

Arturo meets Mexican beauty Camilla when she's waiting tables at the Columbia Cafe, the downtown establishment where he spends that last nickel on an a cup of undrinkable joe. Their attraction quickly finds expression in cruelty. With a pointed stare at the huaraches in which Camilla glides about the dining room, Arturo takes great pleasure in shaking her out of her haughty self-confidence, arousing her shame about not being a "real" American. A pas de deux of one-upmanship begins, each expertly finding the other's sore spots -- easy to do when their insecurities are nearly identical. In the unenlightened parlance of the day, Camilla and Italian-American Arturo are both "spicks," a point Towne's script stresses repeatedly. It also adds an excruciating bit of business in which Arturo teaches Camilla to read English.

Towne's grasp of the story's existential core is shaky, but he turns the story's central romantic episode into a piece of exquisite cinema: Arturo and Camilla rushing naked into the moonlit Santa Monica surf, their exultation quickly turning to angry tussling. With haunting imagery, Deschanel captures the beauty of the two leads, tossed by the silver waves.

Farrell puts across the conflicted, virginal Catholic boy beneath the swagger, pretending to be worldly while fearfully resisting the more experienced Camilla's bold overtures. The film doesn't shy away from the ugliness of their strange courtship, but their games grow tiresome and never accrue much emotional weight. Losing steam in stretches of flat melodrama, the film lapses into bathos, nearly veering into "Love Story" territory.

Playing a character quite a bit younger than herself, Hayek has never looked more beautiful, and Camilla's tempestuous spirit finds full expression in her performance. Still, the sense of who Camilla is doesn't deepen as the story progresses. For his part, Farrell often struggles to indicate anything beyond observer Arturo's surface reactions, and the character remains opaque, even in a disturbing interlude with Vera Rivkin. Idina Menzel ("Rent") is heartbreaking as the wounded soul who sweeps into Arturo's room like a Santa Ana, all devouring gaze.

There are plenty of tantalizing performances at the edges of the narrative, especially the wonderful, pitch-perfect work by Donald Sutherland (who starred 30 years ago in the film adaptation of another revered L.A. novel, "Day of the Locust"), playing Arturo's dissolute neighbor Hellfrick. Eileen Atkins contributes a nuanced cameo as the landlady with a distaste for Mexicans and Jews, and Jeremy Crutchley makes an impression as informative barkeep Solomon. Providing the amused, avuncular voice of real-life American Mercury editor H.L. Mencken, Arturoıs benefactor and deity, is real-life critic Richard Schickel.

Towne and Deschanel never lose sight of Los Angeles as a naive, impermanent interloper, most dramatically in an earthquake sequence full of buckling pavement and crumbling buildings. The South African landscape is an evocative if not an accurate substitute (there's nary a Joshua Tree in sight). Dennis Gassner's production design and Albert Wolsky's costumes re-create the period with fittingly subdued detail, as does the music of Ramin Djawadi and Heitor Pereira.

ASK THE DUST

Paramount Classics

in association with Capitol Films a Cruise/Wagner, VIP Medienfonds 3, Ascendant production

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Robert Towne

Based on the novel by: John Fante

Producers: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Don Granger, Jonas McCord

Executive producers: Redmond Morris, Mark Roemmich, David Selvan, Andreas Schmid, Andy Grosch, Chris Roberts

Director of photography: Caleb Deschanel

Production designer: Dennis Gassner

Music: Ramin Djawadi, Heitor Pereira

Co-producers: Galit Hakmon McCord, Kia Jam, Andreas Schmid

Costume designer: Albert Wolsky

Editor: Robert K. Lambert

Cast:

Arturo Bandini: Colin Farrell

Camilla Lopez: Salma Hayek

Hellfrick: Donald Sutherland

Eileen Atkins

Vera Rivkin: Idina Menzel

Sammy: Justin Kirk

Solomon: Jeremy Crutchley

Voice of Mencken: Richard Schickel

MPAA rating R

Running time --117 minutes »

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Ask the Dust

2 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Much admired by Charles Bukowski and occupying a hallowed place in the literature of Los Angeles, John Fante's slender 1939 novel "Ask the Dust" pulses with the bruised but hopeful poetry of outsiders' yearnings. The love-hate romance at its center involves not only the tug of war between writer Arturo Bandini and waitress Camilla Lopez but the tension between WASP America and the rest of us, self-realization and shame, the skyward-reaching city and the wild natural continent.

Screenwriter Robert Towne, a great chronicler of Los Angeles in "Chinatown" and "Shampoo", would seem the perfect big-screen translator of the influential book, here taking the helm as well as scripting. To an extent he is, but Towne also inexplicably softens the story's noir edge, lapsing into melodrama and hammering at his themes instead of delving deeper into his characters. Despite what are likely to be mixed reviews, the project's literary/cinematic pedigree and topliners Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek will be certain lures when the film opens March 10 in limited release, after its world premiere at the Santa Barbara fest.

Towne's fourth directorial outing is an exceptionally handsome evocation of 1930s Los Angeles (shot in South Africa), with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel ("The Passion of the Christ") casting the proceedings in a burnished desert glow, a dreamy grit like the Mojave sand that permeates the city streets. The film is faithful to the book's tone of dark ache and much of its detail and for the most part terrifically cast. But Towne can't overcome an essential challenge of the material: Arturo and Camilla are constructs and ciphers as much as they are vivid characters -- difficult roles, to be sure. Neither the screenplay nor the actors manage to get far under their skin.

The story opens as Arturo Bandini (Farrell), subsisting on oranges and cigarettes and six weeks in arrears on his $4-a-week rent, ponders what to do with his last nickel. It has been five months since the good-looking young man arrived in L.A. from Colorado, with high hopes, an Underwood and a suitcase full of copies of his one published story. Determined to be a great writer of fiction, he rents a furnished room at the Alta Loma, a residential hotel built against the slope of Bunker Hill.

Arturo meets Mexican beauty Camilla when she's waiting tables at the Columbia Cafe, the downtown establishment where he spends that last nickel on an a cup of undrinkable joe. Their attraction quickly finds expression in cruelty. With a pointed stare at the huaraches in which Camilla glides about the dining room, Arturo takes great pleasure in shaking her out of her haughty self-confidence, arousing her shame about not being a "real" American. A pas de deux of one-upmanship begins, each expertly finding the other's sore spots -- easy to do when their insecurities are nearly identical. In the unenlightened parlance of the day, Camilla and Italian-American Arturo are both "spicks," a point Towne's script stresses repeatedly. It also adds an excruciating bit of business in which Arturo teaches Camilla to read English.

Towne's grasp of the story's existential core is shaky, but he turns the story's central romantic episode into a piece of exquisite cinema: Arturo and Camilla rushing naked into the moonlit Santa Monica surf, their exultation quickly turning to angry tussling. With haunting imagery, Deschanel captures the beauty of the two leads, tossed by the silver waves.

Farrell puts across the conflicted, virginal Catholic boy beneath the swagger, pretending to be worldly while fearfully resisting the more experienced Camilla's bold overtures. The film doesn't shy away from the ugliness of their strange courtship, but their games grow tiresome and never accrue much emotional weight. Losing steam in stretches of flat melodrama, the film lapses into bathos, nearly veering into "Love Story" territory.

Playing a character quite a bit younger than herself, Hayek has never looked more beautiful, and Camilla's tempestuous spirit finds full expression in her performance. Still, the sense of who Camilla is doesn't deepen as the story progresses. For his part, Farrell often struggles to indicate anything beyond observer Arturo's surface reactions, and the character remains opaque, even in a disturbing interlude with Vera Rivkin. Idina Menzel ("Rent") is heartbreaking as the wounded soul who sweeps into Arturo's room like a Santa Ana, all devouring gaze.

There are plenty of tantalizing performances at the edges of the narrative, especially the wonderful, pitch-perfect work by Donald Sutherland (who starred 30 years ago in the film adaptation of another revered L.A. novel, "Day of the Locust"), playing Arturo's dissolute neighbor Hellfrick. Eileen Atkins contributes a nuanced cameo as the landlady with a distaste for Mexicans and Jews, and Jeremy Crutchley makes an impression as informative barkeep Solomon. Providing the amused, avuncular voice of real-life American Mercury editor H.L. Mencken, Arturoıs benefactor and deity, is real-life critic Richard Schickel.

Towne and Deschanel never lose sight of Los Angeles as a naive, impermanent interloper, most dramatically in an earthquake sequence full of buckling pavement and crumbling buildings. The South African landscape is an evocative if not an accurate substitute (there's nary a Joshua Tree in sight). Dennis Gassner's production design and Albert Wolsky's costumes re-create the period with fittingly subdued detail, as does the music of Ramin Djawadi and Heitor Pereira.

ASK THE DUST

Paramount Classics

in association with Capitol Films a Cruise/Wagner, VIP Medienfonds 3, Ascendant production

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Robert Towne

Based on the novel by: John Fante

Producers: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Don Granger, Jonas McCord

Executive producers: Redmond Morris, Mark Roemmich, David Selvan, Andreas Schmid, Andy Grosch, Chris Roberts

Director of photography: Caleb Deschanel

Production designer: Dennis Gassner

Music: Ramin Djawadi, Heitor Pereira

Co-producers: Galit Hakmon McCord, Kia Jam, Andreas Schmid

Costume designer: Albert Wolsky

Editor: Robert K. Lambert

Cast:

Arturo Bandini: Colin Farrell

Camilla Lopez: Salma Hayek

Hellfrick: Donald Sutherland

Eileen Atkins

Vera Rivkin: Idina Menzel

Sammy: Justin Kirk

Solomon: Jeremy Crutchley

Voice of Mencken: Richard Schickel

MPAA rating R

Running time --117 minutes »

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Cruz Honored in France

12 January 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz was made a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier Dans L'Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres) in a ceremony in Paris, France yesterday. The sultry Blow actress, who appeared French film Fanfan La Tulipe three years ago, was honored for her international film career, which includes performances in English, Italian, French and her native Spanish. France's culture minister Renaud Donnedieu De Vabres enthused, "It's France's role to be the ardent defender of cultural diversity and to recognize those who extend, with their talent, the culture of their country. I'm happy to have honored this great European actress." Bashful Cruz, who was joined at the ceremony by her Bandidas co-star Salma Hayek, said, "I'm not sure that I deserve it, but I will do my best so that you won't regret it." Previous Hollywood recipients of the arts honors include Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Bruce Willis - who received titles last year. »

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'Ask the Dust' to kick off Santa Barbara

4 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The world premiere of Robert Towne's "Ask the Dust" will open the 21st Santa Barbara International Film Festival. "Thank You for Smoking", the directorial debut of local Jason Reitman, will close out the festival, which runs Feb. 2-12. "Dust", starring Salma Hayek and Colin Ferrell, is an adaptation of John Fante's Depression-era novel. "Smoking" is a satire on the smoking industry starring Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Katie Holmes, Adam Brody and Robert Duvall. The SBIFF will offer 20 world premieres and 11 U.S. premieres, as well as its "Conversations With ..". series, which offers a dialogue with filmmakers and actors. Towne, Bello and Felicity Huffman are slated to participate, with more to be announced. »

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17 items from 2006


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