Devin Gordon

Stories by Devin Gordon

  • Capturing Kong

    Like any classic film worth its salt, the original 1933 "King Kong" has its little unsolved mysteries. Most notorious is the missing spider-pit sequence. Co-directors Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack's first cut of "Kong" featured a scene on Skull Island--the famous ape's jungle pied-a- terror--in which several men tumble into a chasm and get devoured by giant arachnids. It was screened for an audience only once. Cooper later said that he dropped the scene for "pacing" reasons; no one crucial to the plot falls into the pit and the directors wanted to get on with his story. According to legend, though, there was another reason: the scene made several people barf. In any case, Cooper dumped it, and no one has seen it since.Before he won a raft of Oscars for "The Lord of the Rings," before he stunned the art-house crowd with the 1994 drama "Heavenly Creatures," Peter Jackson, New Zealand's favorite son, directed a series of demented, low-budget horror films that seemed designed to...
  • Newsmakers

    Zach Braff is expanding his thespian chops (and learning some barnyard epithets?) by voicing the title character in the animated "Chicken Little." He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Yes, but that doesn't sound funny.You're never offended when people offer you a gargantuan movie.No, I don't have a specialty in the area.Of course. Everyone can relate to feeling like an underdog. He's a one-foot version of me as a chicken.Yes, I'm also the voice of the Cottonelle puppy.You'd think. But I did switch to Cottonelle. I just figured if I'm going to be the voice of a puppy that's so fond of Cottonelle I should use it.With everything you set out to do, the majority of people say, "You're never going to be able to do that." It's been a tremendous lesson.You might consider therapy.I loved "Gilligan's Island." Before I could tell time, my parents used it to articulate increments of time. If we were in the car and I'd ask how much longer, my mom would say, "Two more 'Gilligan's Islands'."No, it...
  • Transition

    AUGUST WILSON, 60When a famous writer dies, it's a natural response, and a kind of homage, to visit the local bookstore and read up. Last week the playwright August Wilson, author of a 10-part cycle of works about the black experience in 20th-century America, succumbed to liver cancer. But in this particular case, you should keep your wallet closed. Reading Wilson is a satisfying enough experience. But in order to fully appreciate what all the fuss was about, his plays need to be seen and, above all, heard.Each of the 10 plays in Wilson's cycle was set in a different decade of the last century, and the most celebrated of the bunch--his breakthrough hit "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1984) and his two Pulitzer Prize winners, "Fences" (1987) and "The Piano Lesson" (1990)--felt like the blues alchemized into spoken words. (Remarkably, Wilson quit school in his early teens; he was an entirely self-taught virtuoso.) He set most of his plays in Pittsburgh's bruising Hill District, where he...
  • Swimming With Sharks

    MTV's reality series about teen life in paradise, "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," hasn't become the network's latest hit because of all the interesting things that happen on it. In fact, nothing even close to interesting happens. Last week the biggest development was a hickey. One MTV executive describes "Laguna Beach's" storytelling as "subtle," a charitable way to refer to 30 minutes of gossip, shopping and backstabbing. The show specializes in the "um"s, "like"s and "whatever"s of teen politics, observed at a petri-dish level. Why is it a hit? Because its subjects are the same kids we all went to high school with, only richer and better looking. (That could be MTV's slogan--"You, Only Richer and Better Looking.") Says Brian Graden, head of programming: "It's that mixture of envy and disdain."Now in its second season, "Laguna Beach" draws nearly 4 million viewers a week. That's up 33 percent from last year, making it MTV's No. 2 series behind the still mammoth "The Real...
  • A Healthy Fantasy Life

    Four days before his wedding last September, my college roommate called to say hello. I was his best man, and I was a bit nervous about the job. But talk soon turned, as usual, to our fantasy football team. We were facing our first crisis of the season: our top running back, Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks, was on a bye week, and his backup wasn't getting any carries. We needed another RB, fast. But after throwing around some names, I started to feel bad. Didn't we have more serious matters to discuss? My closest pal was about to be married, for crying out loud. Was there anything I could do to help? Did he need to talk? I braced for a heart-to-heart. "Find us a running back," he said. "This is your top priority."As the NFL preseason swings into high gear, 10 million Americans are beginning to reorganize their real priorities--work, family, mental health--to make room for an altogether pointless one: fantasy football. They will have trouble falling asleep at night and they...
  • GIVING US A LITTLE 'EXTRA'

    In the debut episode of "Extras," a new fall comedy series from the makers of the beloved BBC sitcom "The Office," four-time Oscar nominee Kate Winslet guest-stars as Kate Winslet, four-time Oscar nominee and lead actress in a movie about the Holocaust. During a pause in shooting, she explains to a pair of astonished extras why she took the role: to ensure her fifth nomination and, more to the point, her first victory. "The whole world is going 'Why hasn't Winslet won one?' " The extras, played by Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen, just nod politely. " 'Schindler's' bloody 'List,' 'The Pianist'--Oscars coming out their arse." Later in the episode she overhears Jensen's character, Maggie, fretting about phone sex with her boyfriend, so she offers a few pointers. (Winslet recommends the line "I'm fudding myself stupid and I'm bloody loving it.") "The great thing about those scenes," says Gervais, who wrote them especially for Winslet, "is that, not only do we have this quintessentially...
  • PART OF THE 'ENTOURAGE'

    Mandy Moore seems like a sweet girl, but she's wrecking "Entourage." It's not that she's a lousy actress. (She's OK.) It's not that she's unattractive. (That's definitely not the problem.) And it's not that she's a bad match for Vincent Chase, the series's faux-celebrity star. (He's naughty. She's nice. They're both hot.) So what's the problem? For 15 episodes, "Entourage" was the quickest 30 minutes on TV, a guys-being-guys joyride with Vince (Adrian Grenier) as the carefree, alpha-male hero. He was cool, he was loyal to his boys, and no girl could tame him. Then Mandy shows up (playing herself, starring opposite Vince in a fictional movie called "Aquaman"), extends her index finger and wraps Vince around it like a pipe cleaner. Frankly, it hurts to see him this way--and he's not even real.Fortunately, Moore isn't becoming a series regular, so--hint, hint--this, too, shall pass. Once it does, "Entourage" can get back to what's made it HBO's most satisfying comedy: four best friends...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Tommy LeeOne of the most famous bad boys of rock has hopped on the reality-show gravy train with "Tommy Lee Goes to College." Lee chatted with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Wasn't this show an excuse to pick up college chicks?You know what? The whole time I was there we partied a couple of times, but for the most part I studied and we were making a TV show. Studying? Come on.No, for real. I had to take exams. I had to kick some a--.You actually do take some really hard classes. I couldn't do it. I know. Chemistry was so f---ing difficult I just wanted to cry. I was, like, "OK, I just don't get any of this."Do you think you're misunderstood?That's the main reason I wrote my autobiography last year, so I didn't have to answer any more stupid questions.Like?There are a few. Oh, this is a good one: "How much money did you make off the sex tape?" I get that all the time. We never saw a penny off it.Do you feel for Colin Farrell?What's up with him?His ex is allegedly trying to peddle a sex tape...
  • GARY SINISE

    When actor Gary Sinise talks about Operation Iraqi Children, the humanitarian organization he cofounded 16 months ago to provide basic supplies to schools in the war-ravaged country, he does not peddle sob stories. He does not proselytize, or inflate with self-satisfaction the way celebrities usually do when they wax about giving back. He describes his project in modest terms, as if it were as simple and obvious as shutting off the lights when you leave a room. "We're just about giving some pencils to some kids," says Sinise, 50, star of "CSI: New York" and an Oscar nominee for "Forrest Gump." "That's it."Actually, that's not quite it. Sinise's OIC, which he started in early 2004 with "Seabiscuit" author Laura Hillenbrand, also accepts donated scissors, rulers, erasers, folders, pencil sharpeners, paper and composition books, plus the occasional soccer ball and stuffed animal. Since last August, OIC has shipped nearly 150 tons of supplies to the Middle East, reaching about 250,000...
  • INVINCEIBLE

    For the first hour and a half of his interview with NEWSWEEK, Vince Vaughn is--oh, might as well come right out and say it--a bit of a snooze. He is polite, professional and completely unrevealing. His agenda on this lovely day in Los Angeles is to plug the raucous new comedy "Wedding Crashers," in which he and Owen Wilson play bachelors who bluff their way into weddings to pick up girls, and he's diligent about staying on message. He quotes liberally from the modest-celebrity handbook--"My focus has always been work"; "I'm just an actor"--and often begins answers by saying, "You know, it's interesting..." But don't be fooled. It's not. Perhaps it was silly to expect the guy to conjure up the speed-talking, bile-hurling bons vivants he made famous in "Swingers" and "Old School," the twin pillars of Vaughn's movie library. But something about his careful blandness suggests that that guy really is in there, lurking, like a class clown waiting for the teacher to leave the room.And then...
  • A 'POSITIVE PESSIMIST'

    Meeting Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's greatest living director, is nothing like watching a Miyazaki film. The man dresses entirely in gray, chain-smokes and has a bleak, fatalistic sense of humor. The films, meanwhile--"My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke," his masterpiece "Spirited Away"--are enchanting, radiantly colorful fever dreams. The 64-year-old director is a legend among American animators, and back home he's the equivalent of Steven Spielberg. Miyazaki rarely speaks publicly, but as his latest miracle, "Howl's Moving Castle," arrived in U.S. theaters last week, he made an exception and sat down with NEWSWEEK's Devin Gordon.GORDON: Why this change of heart?MIYAZAKI: I figured, "Oh, what the hell." [Laughs] And I feel sorry about making my producer do all the interviews.Are you hoping your films will enjoy the same success here that they do in Japan?I think only about my Japanese audience when I make a film. Of course, I'm delighted that people from other countries also enjoy...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Danica PatrickPatrick finished a more-than-respectable fourth at this year's Indianapolis 500 and is the first woman to ever lead the pack during the race. She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Are you the Gloria Steinem of racing?The what? I don't even know who that is. Is that bad? No, no. She's a famous feminist.I'm sure that to some people I'm something like that. I'm sure everybody has their opinion about what I am.Do you think you've gotten extra attention because you're cute?Probably a little bit. It's just like when you watch a reality show and there's a cute girl on and she's kicking butt, you're like, "Go girl!" I think it appeals to people. It shows that you're not just using your looks to do simple, mindless things.When are you going to be on the Wheaties box?You know what? I always said that if that's the one thing I get, the Wheaties box, I will pee in my pants. I'm serious.So let's send a shout-out to the Wheaties people and get you a box.Yeah!Is it hard for...
  • HOT FOR COLDPLAY

    It's a March afternoon in Los Angeles, and Coldplay has just announced on a local radio station that the band will perform its first live show in a year and a half this evening at the tiny Troubadour, on Sunset Boulevard. Up until now the concert has been a "secret," meaning that only half the city knew about it. The 300 lucky souls who manage to get in the door--a group that will naturally include singer Chris Martin's wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, and, completely unnaturally, Don Johnson--will be the first to hear songs from Coldplay's long-anticipated new CD, "X&Y." But at the moment the band's racing through a sound check, and there are only two people in the audience: Coldplay's publicist, who's tapping out an apology on her BlackBerry to a prominent magazine editor who's irked he didn't know about the gig, and a NEWSWEEK reporter. "Hi," Martin says into the microphone, "thanks to both of you for coming. I don't know if you remember us. We used to be big."Once "X&Y" arrives on...
  • KEEPING IT REAL--AND REAL SMALL

    The woodworking shop in Blu Dot's Minneapolis factory space is cold, sawdusty and filled with intimidating machines, and John Christakos loves it in here. It's where he gets to do what designers live for: making stuff. But lately, Christakos has noticed that he's spending less and less time in his favorite spot. "I try to create reasons to come in here," he says, but the excuses are getting harder to find. Since 1996, when Christakos started Blu Dot with two pals from Williams College, the company has bloomed into an unlikely success, averaging 60 percent annual growth and becoming perhaps the only label to have items on sale at Murray Moss's famed Manhattan boutique and at the Home Depot. Christakos now spends more time managing Blu Dot than thinking up new designs for it, and he worries, half seriously, about the day when he'll have to admit he's running "an actual business." Making its name was Blu Dot's first challenge. Now comes its second: staying small, no matter how big it...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Michael VartanIt isn't enough that Michael Vartan plays second fiddle to Jennifer Garner every week on "Alias." In the film "Monster-in-Law" he's caught between two divas: Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez. Vartan spilled the beans to NEWSWEEK's Marc Peyser:Hello.Aren't you impressed by my accent?That was very good.Do you hate when interviewers get excited because you're French?The funny thing is I'm actually a Polish Jew who happens to be born in France. My mom is Polish and my dad is Bulgarian. I don't have an ounce of French blood. But I work it.How did you come to the United States?I was 17 and had dropped out of high school, and there was a thing called mandatory military service in France, so I thought that would be a good time to move in with my mom in California. There were six or seven years where I wasn't allowed back into France or I would have been arrested by the military police. That was kind of exciting.Wait--you dropped out of high school?I don't condone it. Children,...
  • The Band Speaks

    Last February, NEWSWEEK visited with Coldplay as it put the finishing touches on its third studio album, "X&Y," which will be released June 7. During breaks in the mixing process, three of the band members talked with Devin Gordon. (He caught up with guitarist Jonny Buckland a month later in Los Angeles.)Singer Chris MartinNewsweek: When did you start working on "X&Y"?Chris Martin: Pretty much as soon as the last one was done. The good songs come along so rarely that you've always got to be on call. You always have to have your song pager on in case one of them wants to get in touch with you. [Laughs.] Some people wake up with "Yesterday" in their head. Other people have to spend two years trying to construct it. We're from the latter. I'm also suspicious of people who say they've written 200 songs for their next album, because they tend to be terrible.How many songs have you written since the last album?Two hundred.And how many of them are terrible?About 190.The lyrics to...
  • FEARS OF A CLOWN

    "I'm so sorry," says Dave Chappelle, chuckling as he shakes hands with a visiting journalist. "This is a terrible way to meet a person." It is late afternoon and Chappelle has a long night of work ahead, so the introduction is a bit rushed. But more than likely, he's referring to the fact that he's covered in blackface, with white painted lips, white gloves, a red vest, a black cane and a Pullman Porter cap. Yes, that's definitely it. It is November 2004, just a few weeks into shooting on the third season of "Chappelle's Show"--a process that will soon become far more tortured than anyone ever expected. At the moment, though, all is tranquil. Today's scenes are part of a delicately titled sketch, "The N----r Pixie," in which Chappelle plays a cackling, devil-on-the-shoulder creation who serves as the self-hating conscience of famous black men, such as Tiger Woods and Chappelle himself. Hence the racially combustible costume. In Chappelle's universe, this is high comedy--the kind of...
  • THE HEAVYWEIGHT

    Many directors have said it's a pleasure working with the famously mercurial Russell Crowe. Ron Howard is not one of them. "Directing Russell is like shooting on a tropical island," he says. "The weather is going to change several times a day, but you're shooting there for a reason. Sometimes those dark clouds are just what you need. And sometimes"--he laughs--"you wish it would stop raining so you can do the sunny scene." Still, Howard insists that he adores Crowe, and if he's lying, he must be a masochist. The men are already planning a third collaboration even though their second, "Cinderella Man," the true story of boxer Jim Braddock's improbable rise to glory during the Depression, doesn't open until June. It's a curious pairing. Howard, 51, is known as one of the most genial guys in Hollywood; Crowe is not. But it works. Crowe gets a director unfazed by his Vesuvian blasts and unintimidated by his talent. And Howard gets from the actor something that his movies, even the very...
  • TELEVISION: PROS VERSUS THE VOLCANO

    There are very few terms in television as uninspiring as "dramatic reenactment." It suggests acting and production values at the level of an instructional video. But lately the Discovery Channel has used the form to unexpectedly compelling effect in its science-based documentaries. January's "Pompeii" was a visceral re-creation of the infamous volcanic blast and was seen by 4.6 million viewers--a hefty audience for cable. Next up: "Supervolcano," a documentary-style film premiering this week about an epic eruption at Yellowstone National Park that devastates the entire country. It's a disaster movie that puts Hollywood to shame--and has the added virtue of being geophysically accurate. Sort of. "This kind of eruption has occurred at Yellowstone, but it was 2 million years ago. It is very unlikely to occur again any time soon," says Jacob Lowenstern of the U.S. Geological Survey's Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Lowenstern's team consulted on the film to boost its veracity, despite...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Matthew McConaugheyMatthew McConaughey's perfect teeth and abs are currently costarring with his perfect girlfriend, Penelope Cruz, in the popcorn pleaser "Sahara." He chatted with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Did you get sick of all the sand?Yeah, two months after getting back to the States I would still find sand in unexpected crevices. You've got a nice sandwich in a Ziploc bag, the wind's not even blowing and you bring it out of the bag--and it crunches when it gets to your mouth.Did your camel spit on you?They gleet. It's a way of sticking your tongue out where you actually spit from under your tongue like a horny toad or a snake. My personal camel and I worked it out. We had a long walk and a long talk the first day we knew we were going to be working together for some time. We got on quite well, actually.You've been traveling the country in a caravan?It's an Airstream. It's how I like to travel. I'm in an RV park right now. I have a nice room over at the Four Seasons but...
  • FAMILY REUNION

    On the night that Fox's animated sitcom "Family Guy" premiered in 1999, its creator, Seth MacFarlane, was one of the network's guests of honor at the Super Bowl. MacFarlane's show had been given the most coveted launch position a TV network could offer: the half-hour slot just after the big game. And "Family Guy" delivered. Twenty-one million people watched the show's premiere, turning MacFarlane, a 25-year-old comic wunderkind, into an overnight star.Very briefly. After a strong six-episode run in early 1999, during which "Family Guy" cemented its reputation for cold-blooded humor and glorious insensitivity, Fox made a brutal decision: it moved the show to Thursdays at 8 p.m., hoping it could make a dent in "Friends." It got crushed. Only 5 million people watched the fall premiere. Says producer David Goodman: "Even our families weren't watching." Fox ran just one more episode in September, another in December, then shelved the series until March. Its mercy killing was delayed only...
  • MONSTERS' BALL

    The first dozen times Frank Miller got called about turning his legendary, and legendarily violent, "Sin City" graphic novels into a movie, he didn't flinch. He turned them all down cold. "This was my baby," says Miller, 48, nursing a beer at his favorite pub in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. "And I know what they do. They turn everything into a bromide with a happy ending." Director Robert Rodriguez ("Spy Kids") was the 12th "no." The Austin, Texas-based auteur had been an early fan of the comic, often purchasing the same issue twice because, in his excitement, he'd forget he already had a copy at home. In late 2003 he chased down Miller at the very same pub to make his pitch. Miller was impressed--and said no.Weeks later Rodriguez, a broad-chested, 36-year-old perpetual-motion machine, called again with a proposition: "Fly to Austin and we'll shoot a test. If you don't like it, we've still got a cool little DVD." Miller caved. When he arrived, he found actor Josh Hartnett and a...
  • Troubadour Next Door

    Growing up in San Luis Obispo, Calif., singer-songwriter M. Ward, 31, logged hundreds of hours on car trips along the Pacific coast in the family Pontiac. Control of the radio was a dear privilege. Dad loved gospel and country. Mom preferred classical. His brothers were into oldies and classic rock, while his sisters liked the modern stuff. Ward, the youngest--whose nickname was M., short for Matt--didn't get much of a vote. But he didn't mind because he loved all of it.Ward's absorbing new CD, "Transistor Radio," is a tribute, he says, to those days in the car and nights spent falling asleep to a DJ--"to a period in my life when radio was exciting and magical and larger than life." The disc opens with a sun-drenched guitar cover of "You Still Believe in Me" off the Beach Boys' classic "Pet Sounds" and closes with another: J. S. Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier." The 14 tracks in between swing from jazz lullabies to whisky-soaked country dirges to barroom stomps. Each song feels...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Keri Russell<

    She made her debut as a Mouseketeer, then won our hearts as Felicity. Keri Russell, now playing Joan Allen's daughter in "The Upside of Anger," spoke with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.I read that your nickname is "Care Bear." Please don't tell me you have a collection.Wouldn't that be scary? No, when I was a teenager I was on "The Mickey Mouse Club," and now there's this never-disappearing bio of me as a 15-year-old that says Keri Russell's favorite drink is a virgin pina colada and her nickname is "Care Bear."Did your cheeks ever get sore from smiling?To be totally honest, we thought we were very cool. That's the sad truth. Some of the other people who were on the show get embarrassed when it's brought up.Were you invited to Britney's wedding?No. When we were on the show, I was 17 and she was 12. She was sweet, but at that age it's a huge difference. I was the cool girl.You just finished the mini-series "Into the West."I've never had more fun in my life. Just riding...

  • SPAMISH INQUISITION

    Broadway critics have not yet weighed in on "Monty Python's Spamalot," a new musical based on the classic 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but by the time they do, a great many audiences will have delivered their own verdict. After a five-week run in Chicago, the warm, hilarious, profoundly silly show is receiving rapturous applause in previews on Broadway. Yet the director, the legendary Mike Nichols, and the show's creator, Eric Idle, an original Python, are still tweaking it. Nichols, 73, and Idle, 61, sat down with NEWSWEEK to explain why. Idle arrived first. He was ready to talk.NEWSWEEK: Surely you could've found someone more distinguished to direct this.IDLE: It's funny, we had to give a little speech before the first show on Monday, so I was just rude. When they asked me who I initially thought of to direct, I said I went straight for the top--but Susan Stroman wasn't available. Seriously, Mike is so good for this. He keeps it from going over the top, so it doesn...
  • Off to the Races

    Still, predictable as it was, the announcement of 2005 Oscar nominees had a few things worth noting. Here are the eight most interesting things about this year's list--or, at least, the most interesting things to me:1. There wasn't a single obvious travesty in the bunch.I love Paul Giamatti, and I thought he deserved a best-actor nomination for "Sideways," but it's hard to make the case that his absence is as great an oversight as, say, Bill Murray's for "Rushmore" in 1998. I love "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and I think it might be the only future classic released in 2004, but I can't say I'm surprised the Academy passed over such a quirky, complicated film. (And they did honor Kate Winslet and the film's ingenious screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.) So whose omission am I supposed to get worked up about? Julie Delpy for "Before Sunset"? Liam Neeson for "Kinsey"? Uma Thurman for "Kill Bill Vol. 2"? "Hotel Rwanda"? "SpongeBob SquarePants"? All great, sure. But there's nothing...
  • IS 'NUMBERS' PRIME? DO THE MATH!

    With "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: New York," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Without a Trace," "Navy NCIS" and "Medical Investigation" currently parked on prime-time TV, it tickles me to think that someone at CBS woke up in the middle of the night and cried out, "I know what this network needs! Another show about people solving grisly crimes in 60 minutes or less!" Television these days is lousy with copycats, and "Numbers," a new CBS drama (Fridays at 10 p.m. ET) about an FBI agent whose math-genius brother helps him solve crimes, is a rip-off of a spinoff of a clone. Except that it's a good one. Starring Rob Morrow (the Fed), David Krumholtz (the geek) and Judd Hirsch (their dad), "Numbers" is a gripping hour of TV, with unexpected shades of character, crisp acting and enough gee-wizardry to excite anyone with even a quark of scientific curiosity.In the pilot episode, written by creators Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci,...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Jamie Lynn SpearsBritney's kid sister, 13-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, now has her own sitcom, "Zoey 101," on Nickelodeon. (Her character's a girl at a previously all-boys school.) More than a million-and-a-half kids watched the premiere. She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.What's all that noise? Where are you?I'm at a ball game. I'm a cheerleader.Are you one of those cheerleaders who get thrown up in the air?No, I'm a base. I lift them up.You go to regular school. Do the kids treat you differently?No, ma'am. Not at all. I've grown up with these people all my life, so they don't really treat me different. I've taken some of my friends on the set. They get to be extras, so they like it a lot.What is your best and worst subject?My best is probably history and my worst is algebra. My teacher is awesome--she's the best teacher in algebra--but I just don't get it.What else do you do?Softball. I play outfield.Not to sound mean, but isn't that where they stick bad players?That's...
  • THANKS FOR THE ANGST

    The 24-year-old singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, who records with a rotating cast of players under the name Bright Eyes, inspires one of two emotions among indie-rock fans: reverence or disdain. There's no middle ground on the guy. To loyalists, he is the second coming of Dylan--a shy Midwestern kid who's been playing in bands since he was 14, who built an exciting, tightknit music scene in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., and who writes folk-troubadour tunes with lyrics so naked that they approach poetry. To detractors, he's a whiny stiff. After hearing his band's last CD, 2002's "Lifted, or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground," which was every bit as bloated as its title, I was firmly in the whiny-stiff camp. Though obviously talented, Oberst was like an unguided missile. Songs wandered on for six, eight, 10 minutes, as if he had no say in the matter. But now he's releasing two new CDs on the same day--quite the chest-pounding move for a vegan. And one of them is so...
  • HOLLYWOOD UNPLUGGED

    Since we're all still a bit warm and fuzzy from the holidays, let's start with a charitable take on "Unscripted," the new, documentary-style HBO series about struggling actors in Hollywood from director George Clooney and producer Steven Soderbergh: it's better than "K Street." The duo's disastrously received 2003 show about political consultants--which, like "Unscripted," featured real people improvising fake story lines--was a classic case of two well-meaning naifs wandering into foreign turf and getting slaughtered. They've corrected that error this time: whatever riches Clooney and Soderbergh have enjoyed of late, they know a lot more about struggling in showbiz than, say, Lindsay Lohan.As long as we're being charitable, it says a lot about the two men that they would use their considerable clout to shine a light on the industry's far less fortunate and, in the process, give the opportunity of a lifetime to a trio of actors (Krista Allen, Bryan Greenberg and Jennifer Hall) who...
  • STATE OF GRACE

    Someday soon, Topher Grace will be an award-winning actor. He will be a movie star, one of those guys about whom directors and producers and studio chiefs say fondly, "He can do anything." If every planet aligns, he'll inherit American cinema's Everyman throne passed down from Jimmy Stewart to Jack Lemmon to Tom Hanks--actors whom Grace, 26, has long revered. But in the meantime, he'll have to settle for this: according to Scarlett Johansson, his radiant costar in the workplace comedy "In Good Company," Grace plants upon her ample lips the best on-screen kiss she's ever received. Way to go, stud. "During shooting," says Grace, "I asked her as a joke, [in a lascivious voice] 'So, who's your best movie kiss ever?' And she says, 'Oh, definitely you.' I was, like, 'Uh, what?' And then I told everyone on the set. I think I actually made an announcement."Not to rain on Grace's parade, but Johansson, 20, hasn't gotten much action on screen. It was basically him versus Bill Murray. Still,...
  • THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER

    The town of Winthrop, Iowa, a tiny farming nook in the state's northeast corner, has a population of 772. In high school, Michelle Monaghan, now 27, was voted class president, a credential that's diminished slightly by the fact that a majority required just 18 votes. But just because Monaghan is a genuine Iowa farm girl, it doesn't mean she's just some farm girl from Iowa. In next fall's comic noir "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," she'll get her first starring role, playing a fierce, frisky, struggling actress who's wrapped up in a murder. The role includes a brief nude scene and enough four-letter words to scorch a harvest. Monaghan was more than game. "You might be surprised if you go to Iowa," she says. "The Bible belt is a bit further south.""Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" also stars Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, two of the most notorious handfuls in Hollywood, and is produced by Joel Silver, who made the "Matrix" films and will never, ever be confused with a shrinking violet. If Monaghan...