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Published: Friday, 11/23/2007

Kidman continues to take chances

"ARE YOU, like, the queen of Australia?"

"No, Cate Blanchett is, I'll be lady-in-waiting."

That was the exchange between Newsweek magazine and one of our favorite stars, Nicole Kidman.

Nicole is gracious, and though she is probably sincere, she is nobody's lady-in-waiting. This beauty continues on a tightrope, career-wise. She takes chances and works where the inspiration, the interesting directors, and the fascinating scripts are. Her latest, Margot at the Wedding, has its flaws, but Nicole gives herself over to a characterization that is relentless and unredeemed in sour spitefulness. She's splendid, even if the film lets her down.

Nicole's next is the fantasy/thriller The Golden Compass with Daniel Craig. Craig, by virtue of his sensational - and unexpectedly successful - turn as 007, has landed on one of GQ's covers celebrating the mag's men of the year. The other cover men are Bill Clinton and Kanye West.

WELL, just as I predicted, the film bio of the famous - and infamously assassinated - San Francisco politico, Harvey Milk, will go before the cameras pretty soon, with Sean Penn as Milk. Gus Van Sant will direct him. This is yet another unhappy gay story. (Van Sant also directed the brilliant, melancholy My Own Private Idaho about two young hustlers.)

The film, as yet untitled, has been scripted by Dustin Lance Black, who first broke out in Hollywood in 2003, appearing in a documentary about the travails of being gay in Hollywood. He did some writing, some directing, some producing - nothing really caught fire. Then, this guy who grew up in Mormon-saturated Utah, began writing for HBO's great polygamy series, Big Love. Now he's got a major feature coming up.

Dustin Lance Black - young, gifted, gay, and at long last, successful!

THE CINEMA Society, which always puts on those deliciously intimate N.Y. screenings, is really aflutter, anticipating Madonna, who will accompany husband Guy Ritchie to the premiere of his compelling thriller, Revolver on Dec. 2. Andrew Saffir, the big man behind these events, says, "The word is out. Everybody in the world wants in!" Well, the world's attention is old hat for Mr. and Mrs. Ritchie.

I CONTINUE to worry a bit about the fate of living breathing actors. The current computer-enhanced smash, Beowulf - like last year's 300 hit - uses real actors, but there is such an overuse of CGI, it's difficult to relate to anybody as real - not even the luscious Angelina Jolie. (One critic groused that the film's artificial look is "more alienating than alluring.") Are we only a step away from totally computer-created characters? - and not cartoon characters, either.

I ponder thoughts of human decline even while watching TV. There are a series of commercials for Schwab insurance that use very life-like animation. Creepy, if you ask me.

SPOTTED AT the still exclusive Waverly Inn - Michael C. Hall of Showtime's bloody, funny and intense show Dexter. He was dining with that network's honcho Matt Blank. If you haven't tuned in to Dexter, check it out. Hall became well-known on Six Feet Under and now he plays a serial killer whose victims are others like him - a bad boy doing good deeds in a twisted way. This TV show is very hot with Hollywood stars.

THE LONDON production of Grey Gardens is now "on" with a vengeance. Rights reverted from the original Broadway production and came back to the authors and composers. Music man Scott Frankel and star-producer Tony winner Christine Ebersole took off for London to put little Edie Beale and her adventures on the West End.

The goofy cousin of the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her East Hampton house saga have been in the London spotlight lately because of the release of the original Maysles documentary on the Beales. British fashion mags then rushed to push Edie's "revolutionary costumes." So this musical will be a natural for the Brits who love eccentrics.



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