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A look inside Hollywood and the movies : IN THE SPIRIT : Shirley MacLaine Raises Lazuras

November 08, 1992|Ryan Murphy

"Used People," a bittersweet dramedy set in the 1960s that revolves around a Jewish widow played by Shirley MacLaine, is a David of a film competing against Goliaths this Christmas season.

Although advance word on the film, written by Todd Graff, is good, it won't have the merchandising juggernaut that, say, "Home Alone 2" or "Aladdin" will. Nor will it benefit from a zillion-dollar opening-weekend advertising campaign earmarked for Columbia's "A Few Good Men."

But "Used People" has what its competitors lack: The karmic Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of a thousand-year-old spirit.

According to Lazuras, a centuries-old entity who has examined the "energy source" of the film, "Used People" is destined to be this season's sleeper hit, the "Fried Green Tomatoes" of 1992.

According to sources close to the film, Lazuras was asked to examine the karmic possibilities of the film by MacLaine. During the shoot of "Used People" in Toronto, MacLaine, a firm believer in chakras, crystals and all thing mystical, summoned her favorite channeler to a birthday bash thrown for Graff, 32. The channeler, said to be "Shirley's favorite psychic guy," said he can summon up the spirit of a mystic named Lazuras at will.

At MacLaine's request, Graff lobbed questions about the fate of the movie at Lazuras.

"How will this movie be received by the public?"

Replied Lazuras in a deep knowing voice, "I see boffo box office."

"I would never guess that a thousand-year-old spirit guy like Lazuras would have the words 'boffo box office' in his vocabulary," Graff says, "but he did."

Graff then asked what his grandmother's reaction to the film was ("Used People" is based on a series of one-act vignettes called "The Grandmother Plays": both are dedicated to his deceased grandmother.)

"She thinks it's fabulous," replied Lazuras, looking heavenward.

MacLaine butted in with her own question: "Really? She doesn't think I'm not Jewish enough?"

"She thinks you're absolutely perfect," Lazuras assured.

Graff, whose script "Angie, I Says" will shoot in March (starring Madonna and directed by Jonathan Kaplan), says he found Lazuras' spiritual bon mots comforting, but he concedes that "the whole thing was a crock, in my opinion.

"It was charming of her to arrange the appearance by Lazuras. But I still don't believe a word of it. I won't even believe the movie is actually going to open until I sit in a theater on opening day with my popcorn."

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