Thursday, November 16, 2006
Why we love TomKat
Somebody recently asked me: Why is there such a fascination with the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding story? Why is it getting so much attention?

The answer is simple. All great stories are stories that are character-driven -- fueled by characters that provoke a visceral reaction because of who they are, how they act, whether they are liked or disliked, whether they are larger than life, whether they stimulate a "love 'em or hate 'em" feeling.

And all great stories have back stories with sometimes unbelievable twists and turns, and ups and downs, and characters acting out of character -- leading to situations that make you say "Are you kidding me?"

Think of it this way. Imagine the Cruise-Holmes story was fiction. It starts with one of the most famous and popular movie stars in the world, a drop-dead handsome guy who millions of women adore, an intensely private man involved in a controversial religion but priding himself on keeping his private activities private.

Then one day this star seems to become possessed, infatuated with a young up-and-coming actress many years his junior. This once private man goes on the most popular daytime talk show in the world and jumps on a couch like a giddy schoolboy. He's head-over-heels in love -- almost manic.

Ridiculed for his actions, he brushes it off and then goes on the most popular morning show on American television and not only attacks psychiatry but bashes one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses for taking drugs to deal with her post-partum depression, in one fell swoop ticking off the millions of women who once adored him.

His antics hurt his box-office appeal, he's fired by his longtime movie studio -- and he then turns the tables by flashing a giant middle finger at his critics and starts his own movie studio. Within weeks he gets one of Hollywood's most legendary figures to sign on to direct one of his movies.

Oh, and then there are plenty of other little stories going on, like having a baby with the young actress, keeping the baby under closer wraps than North Korea's missile program and fueling speculation the baby might have been a hoax.

All culminating in a fairy-tale wedding in a 16th-century castle near the city where he and the young actress first did their public canoodling so openly it made more than one person say "Okay! Enough! Get a room already!"

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. What a great story. Can't wait to see the ending.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The power of 'Bobby'
So I know we've been busy with all the recent celebrity divorces, but let me direct your attention to a film I think everyone will be buzzing about in the following weeks: "Bobby." Emilio Estevez's directorial effort sports a high-powered cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Christian Slater and Lindsay Lohan.

But the movie's message may be bigger than its all star-line up. The film follows the lives of more than a dozen characters who were at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel just before Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968.

Estevez's screenplay highlights the woes of that time: soldiers going to a questionable war, the government abandoning its people in times of need, issues of immigration reform and problems arising from hanging chads during a presidential election. Sound familiar?

Watching the film, you do get the feeling that it was -- at least in some way -- Estevez's intention to shine a light on current issues. What I was surprised to find out during the film's media tour was that Estevez began writing the script pre-9/11. Estevez told me the film should not be seen as an indictment.

But what impressed me most was the conversation I had with some of the younger cast members who were beaming with excitement, knowing they were part of something grand. Lindsay Lohan, Nick Cannon, Joshua Jackson and Shia LeBeouf all agreed the film had a profound impact on their lives. Like me, these actors had only heard of Robert Kennedy from history books or our parents.

But through archive video and audio recordings of Bobby's speeches, the movie captures the essence of the man and you begin to realize that he was, indeed, special. You get a sense that Bobby Kennedy had a love of mankind that transcended party lines -- a leader whose integrity was matched only by his compassion for humanity, regardless of race, gender or religion, traits which seem increasingly fleeting in present-day politics.

When I asked the cast if they were hopeful for our future and if there could be another "Bobby," the answer was a resounding "YES."

Ironic that a movie about the death of a monumental historical figure may resurrect the one thing this generation seems to need most: hope.

(Editor's note: This post originally described "Bobby" as Estevez's directorial debut. That was incorrect; Estevez has directed three other features, as well as some TV movies and episodes. Thanks to some contributors for pointing that out.)
Monday, November 13, 2006
Welcome back, Britney!
I remember when I first met Britney Spears. She was just 17 at the time and her dazzling career had just taken off.

It was a steamy, almost unbearably hot July 4th and we were, improbably, at the site of the historic 1969 Woodstock music festival in Bethel, New York. Britney was there to perform a free concert, a promotional stunt for a soon-to-be launched Internet entertainment site called Centerseat, for which I was the VP of Entertainment. Although Britney would one day repeatedly declare "I'm not that innocent" in her smash hit "Oops! ... I Did It Again," on this day she was nothing but innocent, a cherub-faced, almost angelic teen with a look of wonder on her face, as if to say "I can't believe this is really happening to me! This is so cool!" She was polite to a fault, self-effacing and a symbolic representation of the anti-diva.

I spent the day with Britney off and on, from her "safe house" -- where her big demand for food was an assortment of cereal -- to the moment she stepped onto the stage. I became a big fan of her in the years that followed, watching her grow into an international superstar while her life evolved -- or, as she put it in yet another hit, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman."

And like so many others, I watched in jaw-dropping disbelief and dismay as the life of this beloved young woman dissolved into an almost comical train wreck when she hooked up with and then married Kevin Federline, degenerating into the cringe-inducing reality TV show "Chaotic" and her public baby mishaps. (Watch: Did they marry too young? -- 4:10)

Talk about coming full circle. I was with Kevin Federline just days before Britney smacked him out of the blue with a divorce filing. Kevin had come to "Showbiz Tonight" on CNN Headline News for what turned out to be his last extensive interview before the divorce bombshell. He gave no indication there was trouble in paradise, telling "Showbiz Tonight's" Brooke Anderson "I love [Britney]" and insisting "We’re happy behind closed doors."

Whoops! Guess not. And now that Britney has shed her K-Fed albatross, is back in the studio recording her new album and trying to reinvent herself into what the New York Post calls "The Comeback Cutie," I can only say what so many others are thinking. Welcome back, Britney. We missed you.
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