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Enjoying 'Human' contact

September 28, 2003|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

After the private screening of Miramax Films' "The Human Stain," a tanned and smiling Anthony Hopkins suggested that he shares a few traits with his character, embittered professor Coleman Silk, who engages in a scandalous love affair with a cleaning woman played by Nicole Kidman.

"What I loved about it is Coleman's contempt for political correctness, which goes hand-in-glove with my feelings," he said. Like Coleman, Hopkins added, he experienced "betrayal of friendships" recently, "so I was in a good mood to play this role." (No further explanation was offered.) As for his steamy sex scenes with Kidman, Hopkins said, "People talk about chemistry, but it's discipline. It takes a bit of work."

Hopkins had joined co-stars Gary Sinise, Jacinda Barrett and Wentworth Miller as well as director Robert Benton for the Sept. 18 screening and intimate dinner, held to benefit the Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theatre Company. (Sinise, the theater's co-founder, said he's hosted a benefit screening of every one of his films since 1988.) The evening also gave about 90 arts lovers from Seattle and New York a $1,000-per-person chance to mingle with the film's stars.

"Every once in a while you get lucky, and you're swallowed up by all the creative energy around you," said Sinise. Benton praised his cast, saying he learned long ago to follow director Robert Altman's advice: Stay out of the way. "Acting is a thing that happens at the speed of light," he said. "It's like watching somebody make a double play."

After the screening, the well-heeled out-of-towners moved from the small theater into the glass-walled lobby of the office building where Wolfgang Puck's crew had arranged about a dozen candlelit tables. Puck himself mingled before returning to Spago, where Emmy nominees were being feted.

At a table of Seattle visitors, conversation moved from Kidman's gritty role in the movie (she wears a dark mop of curls and a tattoo, and swears like a sailor) to the recall election (the consensus: Schwarzenegger is an absurd choice for governor) to Los Angeles as cesspool. "I don't mind visiting," said one man. "But I don't think it'd be any great loss if the ocean suddenly rose up and swallowed all of Southern California." Ultimately, Hurricane Isabel stayed on the East Coast that night.

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