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August 05, 2005
"WE MUST assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard of, must be possible in it. That is, at bottom, the only courage that is demanded of us," wrote Rainer Maria Rilke.

AS YOU READ this, those very special gods of Hollywood - Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood - are probably down in Washington at the Iwo Jima monument. They'll film there and then move on to Iceland this coming Monday where they'll do the location shooting for their coming epic "Flags of Our Fathers."

Iceland has the same kind of volcanic black beaches as Iwo Jima. The latter South Pacific island has become a sacred burial ground to the Japanese, so the movie about the raising of the flag by victorious Marines back in World War II can't be filmed there. (Iwo Jima was a crucial military target for the United States, as it was the last island before Japan itself.)

Three of the six men who raised the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi are still alive and will be portrayed in the film by actors Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach. The cast boasts 132 speaking roles.

How do I know all of this? I ran into the distinguished casting director Phyllis Huffman at the hairdresser - Vincent of Saks. Phyllis has been affiliated with Warner Bros. for years and is well known for being Clint's favorite when it comes to selecting actors. She is so good in her field that when Hilary Swank won her Oscar for Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," the actress thanked Phyllis from the podium for her skyrocketing career.

NEGOTIATIONS are heating up for the leads in the coming film "Dreamgirls," which will be directed by Bill Condon.

Right now they are talking to Beyonce, Usher and Jamie Foxx. (Beyonce also has "The Pink Panther" coming up, so she may be the new sex threat on the screen.)

I AM told they are hoping and praying that John Travolta will agree to set aside his dignity and portray the portly Edna Turnblad, in the screen version of "Hairspray," a role made famous on the Great White Way by Harvey Fierstein.

BRAVO to Hollywood Life scribe Stephen Rebello. For the mag's July/August issue he somehow nabbed a sit-down with the Blonde That Got Away, the elusive, husky-voiced Kim Novak.

Novak is now 72, and still a knockout. Her best screen work looks even better today. ("Vertigo," "Bell, Book and Candle," "Middle of the Night," "The Man With the Golden Arm" and "Strangers When We Meet.")

She talks to Rebello about her retreat from Hollywood . her animal-filled life in Oregon with her veterinarian husband of 29 years . her resistance to the old studio system . her love affairs . troubles with her leading men . how she never (BEGIN ITALICS) ever wore a bra or panties, and why she always felt like an outsider, even at her peak. Shy and sensitive in the extreme; Novak got out when the getting was good.

But even when she returned in 1991, to play a small but pivotal role in director Mike Figgis' "Leibestraum," Kim did it her way. "I know he thinks I'm a total bitch. That role was fabulous, full of depth. When I interpreted it the way I thought was evident in the incredible script, he said, 'We're not making a Kim Novak movie, just say the lines . if you continue to play the role this way, I'm going to cut you out of the movie,' and he pretty much did that." Novak says she feels she was "unprofessional" in this case, not to obey her director. I disagree. "Liebestraum" was on cable not long ago. It was a mess. If only the film (BEGIN ITALICS) had been a "Kim Novak movie!"

All I can add is - here is a vital, healthy, great-looking living legend ready to work. Is anybody listening?

NEW YORK'S legendary Le Cirque restaurant at the Palace Hotel was shuttered, but do you long for a Le Cirque fix, at least in terms of ambience? You are in luck. Hot events designer Ed Libby has bought the entire interior of the last Le Cirque, the swirling banquets, lamps, mirrors and even the carpet. Libby has stored it all in his warehouse and for a fee Le Cirque can be re-created for you - at an event space or in your own home, if it is roomy enough.

Libby has a penchant for this sort of thing. At Alicia Keys' recent concert at Cipriani on Wall Street, the decor included panels made for an uncompleted Thai temple.

Personally, I've always wanted to give a party at the fabulous palace of Knossos in Crete. See what you can do, Mr. Libby.

SPEAKING OF eateries in the past tense, Pierre Au Tunnel, one of Manhattan's lovely French restaurants that once dotted the theater district, closes on Aug. 13 after 55 years on West 47th Street. The owners, Jacqueline and Jean-Claude Lincy, have expressed their deepest regrets to their ardent customers, but they are anxious to retire and their children are not interested in running the business. So hurry, as this is one of the last bistros where a delicious three-course dinner, prix fixe, at $37 bucks, is served along with the charming French accents of the waiters and waitresses.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com, or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)



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