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Bertolucci, Peploe 'Besieged' by Freedom

May 14, 1999|IRENE LACHER

Here's our tip of the day: If you happen to be making a film with your spouse, make sure it's a love story.

"It's more pleasurable," said Clare Peploe, who collaborated with her husband, Bernardo Bertolucci, on his lushly romantic new film, "Besieged." "If it had been a story about a guy murdering his wife or vice versa, we'd have had to be working out certain tensions."

Peploe, who co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, unveiled Bertolucci's latest work Monday at a Directors Guild screening benefiting the Artists' Rights Foundation and the Film Foundation. The auteur missed the screening and after-party at Spago Beverly Hills because he underwent surgery last week for a herniated disc.

"L5 S1, to be accurate," he said in prescreening remarks delivered by Peploe.

Bertolucci went on to revel in the luxurious circumstances that surrounded the shooting of his shortest film: " 'Besieged' cost around $3 million and was shot in 28 days [in Rome] plus four days in Africa. It was the cheapest and fastest movie I have done in a long time. There was a sense of freedom I haven't felt since my late 20s, at the time of 'The Spider's Strategem' and 'The Conformist.' Freedom from the self-censorship that the responsibility of a big budget inoculates in your veins. And freedom for me is the real luxury."

Traveling light is fine, but you don't want to start living the monk's life at the snack table, and there were no cut corners at the lavish party underwritten by Italian clothing line Marina Rinaldi. Partiers included the screening's host, Anjelica Huston, and her husband, sculptor Robert Graham, Sharon Stone, Mark Ordesky, president of "Besieged" distributor Fine Line Features, Joan Chen, Lauren Holley, Lynn Redgrave, Kelly Preston, Michael Tolkin and Marina Rinaldi designer Monica De Bellus and Marina Rinaldi CEO Guido Rami.


The Barefoot Contessa, East Hampton's specialty food store, may be baring her feet on a corner near you. Contessa proprietor Ina Garten is mulling the possibility of launching an L.A. branch with former Buzz magazine editor and erstwhile Hamptonite Marilyn Bethany.

"Her food has monster flavor," Bethany said. "I love the food, and I love the store, and I'm looking for something to do, so we're looking at this market. But people might find it expensive and annoying."

The longtime friends were dishing Tuesday at Bethany's party at her cozy Pacific Palisades home for Garten's new "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter). The book sports a foreword by domestic goddess Martha Stewart and blurbs by such food mavens as Eli Zabar and Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg?

"He's an extraordinary customer," Garten said. Spielberg shops there every day when he's in the Hamptons, and sometimes he brings his friends. Last summer he came by with some guy named Bill Clinton.

"These [Secret Service] guys come in with their earphones," Garten recalled, "and they go, 'OK, everybody, you know why we're here. Put your hands up.' They frisk people electronically, and in the bakery, there's this gorgeous redhead, and she's so excited, and she says, 'Mr. President, you want a cookie?'

"He says, 'I don't think so.' I'm sure he saw the headline, 'President Takes Cookie From Hot Redhead.' "

Yum. Anyway, Spielberg may not have to schlep for the Contessa's Banana Crunch Muffins if Garten and Bethany go into the prepared-food business. But don't count your chicken satays just yet. The duo is trying to figure out whether Angelenos, who like to eat out, are also hungering for a movable feast.

Said Bethany, who was editing Buzz when it folded: "It's a serious market question. I've already offered the people of Los Angeles one product they weren't interested in. I'm not interested in being behind another."

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at

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