Plus, Anthony Quinn dies, ''Gladiator'' storms the MTV awards, and more

By Gary Susman
June 05, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman: Scott Gries/ImageDirect

BROADWAY BLITZKRIEG Mel Brooks probably hasn’t been feted like this since his bar mitzvah. His Broadway musical ”The Producers,” based on his 1968 movie, took home a record 12 Tonys last night, beating the record of 10 set by 1964’s ”Hello, Dolly.” It came into the evening with a record 15 nominations and won in every category it was nominated in, failing to win awards in those categories where it lost to itself. Nathan Lane won a Best Leading Actor trophy (his second, after 1996’s ”A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” for re-creating a Zero Mostel role), beating his ”Producers” costar (and his cohost at the awards ceremony) Matthew Broderick. Brooks took home three Tonys himself, for best musical (winning as a producer), best book of a musical (shared with coplaywright Thomas Meehan), and best score, gloating in his acceptance speeches that the hardest thing he’s ever had to do was ”act humble,” and that he’d be back to the podium ”in a couple minutes.”

Apart from ”The Producers,” David Auburn‘s Pulitzer Prize winning drama ”Proof” picked up three Tonys, including Best Play, Best Director, and Best Leading Actress, for Mary-Louise Parker. Tom Stoppard‘s play ”The Invention of Love” scored two awards, for Richard Easton (Best Leading Actor) and Robert Sean Leonard (Best Featured Actor), both of whom played the same character, poet A.E. Housman, at different points in his life. For a complete list of who won last night at Radio City Music Hall, visit the Tonys’ website.

LUST FOR LIFE Two time Oscar winner Anthony Quinn, whose 65 year film career was marked by portrayals of larger than life characters, died of respiratory failure in a Boston hospital yesterday. The 86 year old actor, whose mixed ethnic heritage allowed him to play Mexicans, Italians, Arabs, and most famously, Zorba the Greek (in the 1964 movie and the 1984 Broadway adaptation), won Academy Awards in the 1950s for ”Viva Zapata” and ”Lust for Life,” where he played painter Paul Gauguin.

He lived life to the fullest off screen, too, fathering nine sons and four daughters by his three wives and three mistresses and enjoying a side career as a painter and sculptor. He most recently costarred in ”Avenging Angelo,” a film due in 2002, opposite Madeleine Stowe and Sylvester Stallone.

POPCORN MOVIES At Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, where the Oscars are handed out, MTV awarded its golden buckets of popcorn Saturday night. As at the Oscars, ”Gladiator” won Best Picture at the MTV Movie Awards, and Julia Roberts won Best Actress for ”Erin Brockovich,” but any similiarities ended there. Tom Cruise won Best Actor for ”Mission: Impossible 2.” Cameron Diaz won two trophies for her ”Charlie’s Angels” work: Best Team (shared with Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore) and best dance sequence, for her Underoos undulations.

MTV Films’ own ”Save the Last Dance” earned Sean Patrick Thomas two awards, for Best Breakthrough Performance (Male) and Best Kiss (with Julia Stiles). The coveted Best Fight bucket went to Zhang Ziyi for kicking the asses of a tavernful of tough guys in ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Alas, ”Dude, Where’s My Car?” was shut out. Jimmy Fallon and Kirsten Dunst cohosted the ceremony, which will air on MTV on Thursday.

PASSING NOTES You may remember her as ill fated Aunt Edna in ”National Lampoon’s Vacation,” but Imogene Coca was an Emmy winning pioneer of TV sketch comedy. In the early 1950s, she costarred with Sid Caesar on ”Your Show of Shows,” the series that launched the careers of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner. In recent years, she toured the country with Caesar, reviving some of their classic skits. She died at her home in Westport, Conn., on Saturday, of natural causes, at age 92….

Hank Ketcham, the cartoonist who created ”Dennis the Menace,” died of heart failure at his home in Pebble Beach, Calif., at age 81. He began the comic in 1950, inspired by his own son, Dennis. He continued to draw the strip, which was adapted into a TV series and a movie, until 1994, when he handed it over to his assistants….

Arlene Francis hosted a radio interview show for 24 years and died a memorable onscreen death at the hands of Bela Lugosi in ”Murders of the Rue Morgue,” but she was best remembered as the strongest link among the panelists on the TV game show ”What’s My Line?” She guessed contestants’ occupations on the series for its entire run, from 1950 to 1975. She died of cancer at a San Francisco hospital. She was 93.

ALL THUMBS Sony has invented virtual actors to star in the upcoming ”Final Fantasy,” so why not invent virtual critics as well? Newsweek reports that David Manning, the Ridgefield (Conn.) Press reviewer whose effusive praise has been quoted in the print ads for such Sony movies as ”The Animal,” ”A Knight’s Tale,” ”Vertical Limit,” and ”Hollow Man,” doesn’t exist. An unidentified Sony employee created Manning, naming him after a friend, and attributed imaginary reviews to him.

The Ridgefield Press is a real publication whose publisher says he thought the attribution of Manning’s quotes to his paper was just an error on the part of the advertisers. It’s not uncommon for studio publicists to write the quotes and ask reviewers to claim attribution for them in order to cite them in print ads, but inventing a reviewer is an innovation even for Sony, which admitted last week that it had broken precedent by paying theater owners to show the trailer for ”The Animal.” Manning’s “Animal” review supposedly read, ”The producing team of ‘Big Daddy’ has delivered another winner!” Said ”Animal” producer Joe Roth, ”If he doesn’t exist, he should at least have given us a better quote.”

LEGAL BRIEFS Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison for his role in the 1999 New York City nightclub shooting for which his mentor, Sean ”Puffy” Combs was acquitted. Both prosecutors and Shyne’s lawyers cited the rapper’s lyrics in their arguments over whether he had shown proper remorse. He had admitted firing his gun but claimed he was doing so in self defense, and that another gunman’s bullets injured two clubgoers that night. He will file an appeal; meanwhile, he’ll be locked up at Riker’s Island to await transfer to a maximum security prison….

Vince Vaughn and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg have been sentenced for charges relating to the April barroom brawl in Wilmington, N.C., where they were filming the aptly titled ”Domestic Disturbance.” The two entered ”Alford” pleas, which earn the same treatment as guilty pleas without actually admitting guilt. In return, they received ”prayers for judgment continued,” a probationary sentence usually reserved for first time or minor offenders, which may end in the charges being dropped within six months.

Both were also fined $250 plus court costs and ordered to stay out of Wilmington bars. Both are also prepared to testify against Timothy Fogerty, the local who allegedly started the fight, who is charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. He allegedly stabbed Steve Buscemi, who tried to break up the fight, in the face, throat, and arm….

As if her stay in Vancouver hadn’t been been difficult enough, Courtney Love is facing a lawsuit from a homeowner who claims she stiffed him on rent she agreed to pay during her stay in the city to shoot the film ”24 Hours.” Peter Ashby says Love agreed to lease his home from April 20 to June 7 for $26,500 plus a $15,000 damage deposit, but when he tried to cash her two $15,000 advance checks, he found she had stopped payment. Love spent only one day at the house, then checked into a hotel. Love suffered a miscarriage on the set last month, then flew to Honolulu for the ”Pearl Harbor” premiere, and returned to Vancouver, where she jammed at a club with Evan Dando and flashed the patrons. Maybe Ashby should be glad she stayed elsewhere.

MISSION: IMPROBABLE The first thing they teach fiction writers is: write what you know. So it’s no surprise that radio talk show host and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North‘s novel series will be about a Marine working in the White House who is assigned to a secret, illicit mission. North signed a three book deal with Broadman and Holman Publishers, who publish Southern Baptist literature. North has some experience with fiction, having admitted lying to Congress about his role in Iran-Contra, though reviewers may well want to put the books through the shredder.