Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hollywood: John Legend Says He’s Made His Most Exciting Album, Mary Steenburgen Writing More Songs, LA Media Eating Own Tail


Big night in Hollywood Thursday night:

The Oscar Wilde Awards were held at the Ebell Theater, a swanky and elegant event that brought out a slew of A listers. “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Mission Impossible” director JJ Abrams hosted the night with his wife Katie McGrath and their Bad Robot company. Kenneth Branagh couldn’t be there, but Jamie Dornan filled in for him accepted an award for “Belfast.” Another recipient was “Don’t Look Up” director Adam McKay, presented to by the great Mary Steenburgen.

In the crowd, vaccinated and reduced in size but still convivial, I ran into terrific actress Elisabeth Shue, who doesn’t seem to age, and TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, and “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George, among others. I also got to meet the great casting director, April Webster, who guided my favorite TV series, “Lost” through six seasons for JJ Abrams.

Mary Steenburgen and I caught up after two years. You may remember the story of her coming out of a 2007 surgery and suddenly being musical. Something about the anesthesia or the doctor leaving a tuning fork in her during an operation. It’s one of those weird Believe it Or Not things but it was permanent. So Mary, an Oscar winner for acting in “Ragtime” years ago, tells me she is writing plenty of songs, received a nomination from the Guild of Music Supervisors, wrote a bunch of the songs used on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on NBC, and is writing songs now for an animated film. And, of course, she’s acting all the time, tons of movie and TV credits. Not bad!

THE REAL A LIST HEADED OVER TO CRAIG’S ON MELROSE, OF COURSE. That’s where we found John Legend hosting a table of friends. Plus Ryan Phillippe and Breckin Meyer were having an unofficial reunion of their movie, “54,” about Studio 54 at another table. “Vampire Diaries” stars Ian Somerhalder, wife Nikki Reed, and their pal, Paul Wesley, were convening at another. Rod Stewart’s daughter, Kimberly (her mom is the great Alana Hamilton Stewart) was in the house. Craig’s by 9pm is now brimming over with New Hollywood, young people galore in the front, in the back, in the middle!

John Legend is a great talent of course. It was a pleasure¬† running into him. I’ve known him since he started out. He works all the time, acting (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) recording, TV appearances. He told me last night, celebrating a pal’s birthday, that his attitude every day is that he’s hungry and he’s got to get out there. That what keeps his work fresh,

To that end, John has changed record labels after 17 years. He’s jumped from Sony/Columbia to Universal. He’s already finished a new album for Universal, which sounds like it will be released soon. John tells me, “It’s my most innovative and upbeat record yet, my best so far, I’m very proud of it. You’re going to love it, Roger.”

And where was his gorgeous wife, Chrissy Teigen? “Home with the kids,” John said, “working on all her projects.”

And PS Ryan Phillippe, who similarly doesn’t age (he told me he’s turned 47 but he looks 27): shooting a big pilot for a new ABC series this fall. This time, ABC better keep him in the lead. He ankled “Big Sky” after its premiere episode, and the series tanked in the ratings!

AND OF COURSE HOLLYWOOD PRESS EATING ITS OWN TAIL:¬† Both the LA Times and Los Angeles Magazine have scathing pieces today about the Oscars being “dead.” So stupid. If they kill off the Academy Awards, these writers will not have jobs. Is that their goal? What’s the point?

Both publications just sound cranky and in need of some kind of hemorrhoidal help immediately.

The whole idea of 10 Best Picture nominations is that you get the wide range of films from “Power of the Dog” to “Dune,” and “CODA” to “King Richard.” And this year, the 8 categories getting awards during the first hour — everyone will be acknowledged, no one will be disrespected. And if it doesn’t work, there’s always next year.

LA Mag, LA Times, get a hold of yourselves, please!


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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