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Tanks Much

'Courage Under Fire' Premieres While Fox Execs Go Giddy Over 'Independence Day'


The Scene: Monday's premiere at the Motion Picture Academy of Twentieth Century Fox's "Courage Under Fire" followed by a party a few blocks away at Chasen's. The "Rashomon"-like examination of a Gulf War incident is Ed Zwick's ("thirtysomething," "Glory," "Legends of the Fall") first contemporary action film.

The director said the experience taught him, "It's easy to tell a tank what to do. It's hard to tell an actor."

Who Was There: The film's stars, Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan; co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Scott Glenn, Sean Astin and Seth Gilliam; producers John Davis, Joseph Singer and David Friendly; plus 1,200 guests including Dennis Quaid, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Jennifer Beals, Claire Danes, Matt LeBlanc, Lou Pitt, Alan Blomquist and studio execs Peter Chernin, Bill Mechanic, Laura Ziskin and Bob Harper.

The Venue: Chasen's, that fossil of Old Hollywood, now has a post-closing afterlife as a hip for-rent venue. It's as though the Lincoln Memorial was being leased out for raves. There were nose-ring generation types wearing baseball caps in the booths, Armani rather than Brooks Brothers suits at the bar and so many four-wheel drive vehicles lined up at the valet that it looked like the start of the Paris-Dakar rally.

The Buzz: The Fox brass was in the giddy-with-joy stage of elation over the "Independence Day" opening. And there's a flood of wealth still to come from tie-ins. One exec was heard asking, "So, how are we doing with toys?"

The Hollywood Experience: Zwick described what it's like attending the premiere of your own movie. "It's like the luge. You're strapped in. You've got your head back. You're allowed some small movements, but basically you're in the chute and there's nothing you can do."

Quoted: "I learned a lot about the military," said Ryan, regarding making "Courage Under Fire." "It's a paradox. It's not a monolith. It's as human an institution as any you're going to find. It just so happens the currency is life and death."

Fashion Statement: One woman wore tight hip-huggers made from a plastic/leather combination called "pleather." This combined with a bandanna, belly top and tattoo is what another guest called "the Melrose Avenue trash look."

Overheard: "I thought I'd be deported if I didn't go see 'Independence Day,' I thought it was, like, a citizenship requirement."

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