The political drama Thirteen Days has become a symbol of peace.
The film will bring together old enemies when it premieres this week in Cuba and Russia, two of the three major players during the tense 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. .
Monday night's screening in Havana will include a discussion panel with executive producers Kevin Costner, Peter Almond and Beacon Pictures chairman Armyan Bernstein.
Organized by the Cuban film society, Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos, the screening will be attended by Cuban government officials who were involved in the Missile Crisis, known as the Crisis of October in Cuba, and members of the public. It is unclear whether President Fidel Castro will attend.
Almond will then travel to Moscow for a screening Wednesday hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A group of about 300 will attend, including some of the key figures who were involved in the crisis: former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Theodore Sorensen, the former special counsel to President Kennedy, and Anatoly Dobrynin, the former Soviet Ambassador to the United States. The discussion panel will explore the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S.-Russian relations, and nuclear risk issues that currently exist.
The film will open wide in Russia in May.
The event marks the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's first film screening in the nonprofit organization's 90-year history, a spokeswoman for the think tank told the Hollywood Reporter.
Released nationwide earlier this year in the United States, Thirteen Days focuses on how the missile crisis pushed the Kennedy administration to the brink of war with Cuba and Russia. It is based on the The Kennedy Tapes - Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis. Directed by Roger Donaldson, the film stars Costner as Kenny O'Donnell, a White House aide and confidant to President Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and his brother Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp). Dylan Baker portrays McNamara; Tim Kelleher portrays Sorensen.
The film has attracted worldwide political attention because of its importance and historical accuracy, said Gary Shapiro, Beacon Pictures' vice president of worldwide marketing.
In the first few days of the President Bush administration, Bush requested a screening of the film and invited several members of the Kennedy family to watch it with him, including Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"If the White House pays attention, then so does the rest of the world." Shapiro said Monday.
Shapiro confirmed that Castro personally requested the Cuba screening.
"We are proud to have made a film that has not only entertained audiences around the world but has also made people think and talk about the issues of power and leadership in the nuclear age," Beacon chairman Bernstein told the Hollywood Reporter.
Bernstein and Almond conceived the idea of a film on the crisis five years ago.
"Both of these screenings culminate a broad public recognition of the film and this remarkable crossover to recognition from the highest levels of political leaders and public policy," Almond said.
Film critics seem to have all the fun, dishing out catchy blurbs and influencing the fate of the latest Hollywood offerings with a tilt of the thumb, while powerless actors, directors and producers have no recourse but to curse them from afar. But today, Hollywood has the last word.
Daily Variety surveyed four dozen filmmakers for their opinions on the nations' top movie reviewers and -- surprise! -- they're pretty darn critical of the critics. So critical, in fact, that almost nobody was willing to let their names be published in the trade newspaper's article, lest they incur the printed wrath of any pundit they decided to diss.
Variety didn't rank the critics from best to worst, nor did it give marks to individual critics for their (perceived) strengths and weaknesses. But the catty comments of those unidentified Hollywood types who took part in the survey revealed that: (a) critics from the print medium (newspapers, magazines) were regarded fairly positively, while (b) blurbmeisters working on TV are, well, not.
According to the survey, the Hollywood players consider Anthony Lane of the New Yorker magazine the doyen of movie writers, thanks to his "film literacy, reliability, verisimilitude and quality of writing." Roger Ebert and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times were also well respected as being passionate and informed, even if some consider them pompous.
David Denby of the New Yorker and David Ansen of Newsweek also seemed to be generally well regarded; Kevin Thomas, a longtime critic for the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, "took a drubbing from filmmakers of all ages and disciplines," according to Variety.
But what's really interesting is how much dirt the filmmakers dished about the broadcast critics, ranging from the guys on local newscasts to the network morning news programs to entertainment news shows.
An unidentified Oscar-nominated actor said, "I cannot abide David Sheehan. Gene Shalit's not a dope, but he goes for the gag. And I cannot abide Joel Siegel. I can develop a real hatred for critics as I talk about these people!"
Sheehan is the perennial, I-like-everything critic for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles; Shalit, of course, is a resident of NBC's "Today" show. (Vocabulary lesson for today: "Abide" is synonymous with "tolerate.")
Another missive was fired by a director (also unnamed, natch), who called TV critics "the people who absolutely aggravate me. One guy who's very uneven and goes into ecstasy over mediocre pictures is Joel Siegel (of ABC's "Good Morning America" fame)."
But how reliable is Variety's survey, if no quantitative methodology, at least none that is apparent, was used? Is four dozen people enough of a survey to gauge prevailing Hollywood opinions? How thorough can it be, when it mentions that that Hollywood insiders consider Variety's own chief film critic, Todd McCarthy, to be "the only one contributing something worth listening to" but (tellingly) no mention is made of The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt?
And now we know: "Ally McBeal" (the series, if not the character) will not end up with Billy Thomas.
At least that's the way it looks with word that actor Gil Bellows -- Billy to Calista Flockhart's titular heroine -- will depart the hit Fox legal-eagle series at the end of this season.
The network has confirmed that Bellows' Billy Thomas character is to leave the Cage/Fish firm in the spring. But hope lives -- at least when Fox notes that Bellows/Billy will be back on a recurring basis next TV year. No details on how many episodes that gig will entail or under what circumstances the Billy character will be written off.
According to gossip maven Liz Smith, Bellows wants to (what else?) pursue other/different opportunities -- like, um, the movies. The 32-year-old actor recently completed work on the big-screen romantic-drama "Beautiful Joe," with Sharon Stone. To date, his most prominent feature role was in the 1995 wanna-be Woody Allen comedy, "Miami Rhapsody" with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Bellows is a founding cast member of "Ally," which premiered in September 1997. The Liz Smith item notes that the actor originally only signed a one-year contract with the series -- a rarity in an industry where seven-year pacts are the norm. Next fall, "Ally" will begin its fourth season.
In series lore, Billy is the great love of Ally's life -- an entanglement that began in childhood when they, er, sniffed each other. Writing off Billy shouldn't be a big stretch -- the guy wigged out this season, bleaching his hair blond, donning an earring and splitting with wife Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith).
The Bellows exit marks the first major defection for the series, ranked No. 29 for the season to date.
"HIGH" TIMES: In-demand Ashley Judd, whose star power was cemented when her name packed in the fannies for the dud that was "Eye of the Beholder," is zeroing in on a "Jagged Edge"-style courtroom drama for one of her next projects, Daily Variety says.
"High Crimes" tells the story of a Harvard Law School professor who defends her husband, accused of mass murder, in a military court. Judd would play the professor. The film is slated to begin production in the fall -- a start date that would give the actress time to finish the romantic comedy "Animal Husbandry."
GOING TO GRACELAND? With (presumably) no more "Scream" movies to cut into her summer vacations, "Friends" star Courteney Cox Arquette is in final talks to play Kurt Russell's love interest in "3000 Miles to Graceland," according to Variety. The Vegas-heist flick also will star Kevin Costner.
"NEXT" NEXT: Steve Carr, who helmed the surprise comedy hit "Next Friday," is being lined up to direct the $25 million Jamie Foxx action comedy "National Security," the Hollywood Reporter says. In true 1980s-style buddy-flick fashion, "National Security" is an odd-couple tale -- this one about a white ex-cop who joins forces with the black man (Foxx) he was unfairly accused of beating.