The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in Anna Nicole Smith's lawsuit seeking $474 million bequeathed to her by the nonagenarian Texas oilman she married more than a decade ago at age 26. On the following evening, March 1, the widow is slated to grace a Manhattan sneak preview of clips from Illegal Aliens, a sci-fi comedy shot in Rutland by native son David Giancola. He'll show 15 minutes of his work-in-progress, in which Smith plays a scantily clad creature from outer space, for potential distributors, celebrities and press at Tribeca Cinemas.
Why the big splash for an unfinished project? "Of all the movies we've made over the years, this could be the first real breakout title," explains Giancola, 36, whose Edgewood Studios boasts a plethora of releases in the action-adventure genre. "We're screening it the day after her court case to take advantage of the media fervor."
Smith is a co-producer of the film, which is the first Giancola has had time to direct in seven years. To wrap Aliens' post-production in three months, he and 15 colleagues are feverishly correcting the color, mixing the sound and creating special effects - such as the holograph that depicts Syntax, a "mentor" to the extraterrestrials.
"The story is in the spirit of There's Something About Mary, with outrageous humor. It's an idea that bounced around Edgewood for years, originally with male characters rather than three Charlie's Angels-type women," Giancola says of his saga about intergalactic "super-hot babes" saving the planet from bad guys.
Smith's reason for promoting it on the heels of her encounter with the Supremes, he adds, is that "Anna wants to let people know that she really is an actress." A former stripper and 1993 Playboy Playmate of the Year, the zaftig blonde has navigated a rocky road to pop-culture fame. It winds through some bizarre television appearances, most notably when she seemed sloppily drunk at the 2004 American Music Awards.
But one of her Aliens costars inhabits a far edgier domain: the bulked-up Joanie Laurer, whose nom de guerre as a professional wrestler was Chyna. Her off-the-mat exploits have included hardcore porn, competing on TV's "The Surreal Life," judging The World's Most Beautiful Transsexual Pageant, and interviews on Howard Stern's radio show that reportedly shocked even the notorious shock jock.
Nonetheless, both actresses apparently were delightful on the set last year, albeit a bit high-maintenance in terms of canine control. Smith arrived in Vermont with her four tiny dogs, one of them called Sugar Pie; Lauer had a Chihuahua. "The makeup trailer," Giancola recalls, "was like a hair salon-slash-kennel."
The University of Vermont's Culture Jam Film Festival, sponsored by SPARC (Student Political Awareness and Responsibility Collective), focuses on topical issues. Senior Paul Bedrosian, the 22-year-old anthropology major coordinating the series, says the goal is to offer motion pictures that provide inspiration. They're presented Tuesdays in Billings Student Center, except when holidays or campus events intervene.
On February 28 at 8 p.m., the selection is Venezuela Bolivariana: The People and the Battle of World War IV, which explores the current sociopolitical situation in that South American country. Coming on as-yet-unspecified dates: The Corporation, The Yes Men and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, also set in Venezuela. Call 1-401-391-1564 for more information.
Anthony Hopkins noshed on fellow humans as Hannibal the Cannibal in Silence of the Lambs, but many people find the Welsh actor, himself, an acquired taste. In The World's Fastest Indian, a biopic opening this weekend at the Roxy in Burlington, he portrays an elderly New Zealand mechanic named Burt Munro who tinkers obsessively with a jerry-rigged 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle.
Munro's dream is to race at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, which he accomplishes in 1967. But the character's self-absorption proves annoying. Hopkins only digs deep enough to make him a sort of automotive Chauncey Gardiner, less passive than the lucky fool in Being There, but equally detached.
Director Roger Donaldson (Dante's Peak), who did a 1971 documentary about Munro, has crafted a slow and sentimental feature. As the episodic road movie meanders across America, Munro meets an array of oddballs - among them, cast members Diane Ladd and Paul Rodriguez. Although we're meant to be as charmed by the old codger as they are, his narcissistic pursuit keeps him from actually connecting with anyone on screen or in the audience. A nice Chianti might help.