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Attack of Martians Who Ate Hollywood!

December 16, 1996|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Thursday night, while the city lay unaware under a soupy blanket of fog, something really weird was going down at Mann's Chinese Theater.

It was the premiere of "Mars Attacks!" a special-effects-saturated sendup of "Independence Day" and '50s sci-fi schlock. Produced and directed by that king of quirk, Tim Burton, the film stars Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Natalie Portman, Martin Short, Lisa Marie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Lukas Haas and Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Fans cheered behind barricades as limo after limo slithered up to the theater dropping off its cargo of celebrities, drag queens and other eccentrics. After the screening, the motley crowd made its way across the street to a reception at the Hollywood Colonnade.

In all, more than 1,000 of Hollywood's strangest souls showed up, including, from the film, director-producer Burton, who arrived with Lisa Marie, Nicholson, Close, Short, Portman, Brown and Christina Applegate. Adding to the party's extraterrestrial star power were director John Singleton, Stephen Dorff, Justine Bateman, Martin Landau, Debi Mazar, Catherine O'Hara, Sharon Stone, Matt LeBlanc, Rob Schneider and punk rock icon Johnny Ramone.

"Amazing," "Unbelievable, "Incredible" were just a few of the superlatives tossed around after the screening. Most of the crowd agreed: Burton fans won't be disappointed. At the Colonnade, those who didn't spoil their appetites with the free Mars bars given away in the theater dined on pizza, meatloaf, fried chicken, lasagna, mashed potatoes and veggies provided by Along Came Mary. For dessert, there were cookies, Rice Krispies cakes, ice cream and bubble gum.

The Colonnade was decked out with little rainbow-hued Martians, a theremin player and all manner of outer space kitsch. Music was provided at maximum volume by the Stepsisters, but louder still was the clothing worn by the guests--fun furs, Manic-Panic hair and outfits that ranged from Far East to far out. Not to be outdone was the film's Martian spy, Lisa Marie, who showed up in a silver, gravity-defying headdress and a star-spangled silver body suit. All this pleased Burton, whose loopy visual style was certainly the inspiration for the sartorial outrageousness. "It's beautiful," he said. "I feel right at home. It's just like our living room."

The movie's first family say they owe more of their inspiration to Burton than they do to, say, the Clintons. "I certainly wasn't playing Hillary," said Close, who plays the movie president's wife. "I think I looked a little bit like Pat Nixon, but I was thinking of Nancy Reagan. But as far as acting goes, Tim gave me these great directions. He said, 'Be like the bride of Frankenstein.' "

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