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A look inside Hollywood and the movies : CERT-IFIED PHOTO : Amazing Discovery: 120-Year-Old Retsin!!!

September 12, 1993|CLAUDIA ELLER

Director Martin Scorsese paid painstaking attention to detail when he re-created aristocratic 1870s New York society for his latest movie "The Age of Innocence."

Everything from the lush costumes, jewelry and paintings to the elaborate set designs and tabletops reflect the period in the filmmaker's $35-million screen adaptation of Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1920 novel. The film's producer, Barbara DeFina, has been quoted as saying "the authenticity is almost another character" in the film.

Imagine, then, how embarrassed the filmmakers and Columbia Pictures, which is releasing the picture Friday, must have been when it was discovered that one of the publicity stills for the movie appearing in the September issue of US magazine shows Michelle Pfeiffer holding a roll of Certs in one hand while engaging in a passionate embrace with co-star Daniel Day-Lewis.

The film's story centers on the extramarital romance between an aristocratic lawyer (Day-Lewis) trapped in the conventions of his time and an expatriate countess (Pfeiffer) who has bucked the oppressive rules of society.

"Oops!" said Columbia's marketing and distribution president Sidney Ganis about the breath mint mishap.

He explained that the photo in question was given to US for exclusive use in its fall forecast issue, which details upcoming movies, TV and music projects for the season.

According to Ganis, US caught the error and "called us to let us know, after they had already printed it" at "pretty much the same time" Columbia photo editor Helen La Varre discovered it as she was preparing the press kits for the movie.

While it may be true that La Varre was the person who originally sent the shot to US, as Ganis said, she was not the only one to sign off on the photo, which had to be approved by her superiors at Columbia as well as Scorsese's camp. Not to mention the oversight by the unit photographer who took the shot.

US editor Jim Meigs said of the matter: "Everybody at Columbia looked at it, we looked at it and we ran it. Nobody really noticed anything." That is, Meigs acknowledged, until "after we got our issues in-house and somebody in the office noticed it." The editor said "it became a running joke in the office and we actually toyed with idea of doing a little joke item on it in (the magazine's column) Inside Moves."

That idea was scrapped; the fact that Pfeiffer is on the next US cover may have influenced that decision. Meigs said US decided instead to wait for readers to notice the mistake and write in about it--which they did. In the November issue, US will run a letter from "a sharp-eyed reader who picked up on it," said Meigs.

"By the way," writes the reader, a San Francisco woman, "could you use your influence to confirm with Michelle if she was concerned with her breath or Daniel's. I believe this is an important distinction."

Meigs said he and his US associates found the incident "just one of those amusing things that happens in the world of magazines."

Producer DeFina, who said she was told about the error but had not yet seen the US photo because she and Scorsese were at the Venice Film Festival, took the whole thing in stride:

"You know it happens, what can I say? It's a great ad," she quipped, adding, "I would rather it hadn't happened, but it did, so what can you do?" The producer surmised that because the photo was made from a slide "it's hard to see every detail, so it slipped by."

DeFina said she's been assured by Columbia that the Certs has since been airbrushed out of the shot, which is included among other stills in the press kit. Ganis said the photo was not an actual frame from the movie but rather a production still shot by a unit photographer.

And, Ganis also assures that the breath mint appearance was not, as some might suspect, just another shameless product placement device, but truly was "one of those wonderful blunders that has its own built-in humor." And Certs gets the last laugh.

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