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City of Angles

The James Dean Method of Acting

July 27, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

James Franco, the 22-year-old actor who looks like and stars as James Dean in the TNT Original movie of the same name, stopped talking to his friends and family, picked up a two-pack-a-day ciggie habit, learned to play bongos and rode motorcycles to get into character. He tells us he even got to know Dean's friends, Martin Landau and Dennis Hopper, and Dean's old girlfriend, Liz Sheridan.

The television movie chronicles Dean's troubled family, his salad days at New York's prestigious Actor's Studio and on Broadway, and his brief film career. It premiered Wednesday night in Burbank and airs for the first time on TNT on Aug. 5. We're told that Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Stephen Dorff were considered for the role during the years the project spent in development. Franco was discovered in a nationwide talent search.

Director Mark Rydell, who knew Dean, said finding Franco among 500 Dean wannabes was "a miracle." Franco said his audition with Rydell felt more like a therapy session. He wound up sharing tidbits about his own family and performing the father-son scene from Dean's movie "East of Eden."

"Afterward he came up and gave me a big hug," Franco recalled. "The next day, he called and told me I had the part."

The real Dean died at 24, when his Porsche Spyder collided with another car near Paso Robles. The actor who plays him, we hear, has a rosy future and is dating Marla Sokoloff of "The Practice."

Air Chan

Boats, planes, what's next? Trains and automobiles?

Not to be outdone by Disney and its lavish "Pearl Harbor" premiere, held in June aboard an aircraft carrier in Hawaii, New Line Cinema commandeered a United Airlines terminal Thursday morning at LAX to plug "Rush Hour 2."

Stars Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star Zhang Ziyi sipped cappuccino with director Brett Ratner, nibbled on bagels and mingled with reporters, airline execs and studio suits in a plush United VIP room. Then, a magnum of champers was tapped against a Hong Kong-bound 747, christening it United Airlines Flight No. 1, a.k.a. "The Rush Hour Express."

We're told that passengers aboard the 14-hour flight were treated to a sneak peek at the film, which doesn't hit movie theaters until Aug. 3.

The stars told us that Chan was the life of the Hong Kong shoot. He took his Chinese female co-star under his wing and Tucker out to a karaoke bar, where the comedian took over the stage and sang five Michael Jackson songs.

Tucker didn't know the words, so he made them up as he went along. It didn't seem to matter since everyone else spoke Chinese, he said.

"The Chinese people were saying, 'It's my turn, It's my turn,"' Tucker recalled. "They thought I was Kobe Bryant because I was taller than anybody else."

Two Weddings

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and girlfriend Heather Mills got engaged on Monday, surprising no one. McCartney got down on one knee--no easy feat when you're 59--to propose to Mills, a 33-year-old former model. He's apparently had marriage on his mind for a while; he bought the Indian sapphire and diamond ring in Jaipur during a January vacation.

The proposal came during a trip to Britain's Lake District and they plan to marry "sometime next year," a spokesman said.

McCartney's wife, Linda, died of cancer in 1998.

Meanwhile, forget those outdated rumors linking "Four Weddings and a Funeral" star Andie MacDowell to newly single Dennis Quaid. MacDowell's getting married to a childhood friend, Atlanta jeweler Rhett Hartzog, her father told the Associated Press. She accepted the proposal and got the ring last week. No date was announced. Still, it looks like the only place we'll be seeing MacDowell and Quaid together is in the HBO movie "Dinner With Friends," which airs Aug. 11. Greg Kinnear also stars--in the movie, not the wedding.

Hello, Mariah?

What's the deal with Mariah Carey? She's been admitted to a hospital in suburban New York for "extreme exhaustion" amid a flurry of pathetic e-mail postings and rumors of a record store meltdown.

Carey's publicist, Cindy Berger, said the pop singer checked herself into a hospital late Wednesday night, suffering from exhaustion after filming two movies and writing, recording and producing a new album.

Berger said rumors of a Carey meltdown Friday at a Long Island record store were "exaggerated."

"She was not yelling at me," Berger said, adding that a reporter asked a question she didn't want Carey to answer. "I just told her to just focus on the fans" and sign copies of her single, "Lover Boy," Berger said.

Meanwhile, Fox's online entertainment snoop, Roger Friedman, unearthed two rambling e-mail postings, which seem to coincide with Carey's realization she needs a long, long rest.

"I'm trying to understand things in life right now and so I really don't feel that I should be doing music right now," says one posting.

Later on, she adds, "What I'd like to do is just take a little break or at least get one night of sleep without someone popping up about a video ... when all I really want to do is just be me."

Sightings

Heath Ledger, Vince Vaughn, Matt Dillon, Katie Wagner, Jason Bateman, Craig Kilborne, Jacqueline Bisset and Balthazar Getty, crowding into the opening of Ione Skye's art exhibit at Les Deux Cafes .... Aimee Mann, husband Michael Penn and a friend sharing a table at Mexico City in Los Feliz .... Ben Stiller and Charlize Theron, checking out the band Remy Zero at the Viper Room in West Hollywood .... Cher and son Elijah Blue, Keanu Reeves and Mark Wahlberg, making the scene at Stuff magazine's carnival party on the Santa Monica Pier.

*

Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this column. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.

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