We weren’t expecting a New York screening of a film about a Chinese dancer to be a heavily Australian event, but that’s what Monday night’s special showing of Mao’s Last Dancer at the Crosby Street Hotel was-its director, Bruce Beresford, is an Aussie, and the screening was presented by Australian Consul General Phillip Scanlan. The film is based on Chinese ballet principal Li Cunxin’s autobiography-which recounts his journey to America and his fight to stay here-and it is touching. (Our own Rex Reed agrees; his review of the film appears in this issue.)
Mr. Scanlan mentioned that it was Mr. Beresford’s 70th birthday, which drew gasps and a burst of applause from the audience. Many of his friends and much of the cast of the film he’s currently working on, Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding, turned out to fete Mr. Beresford. The Transom spotted child actor Nat Wolff, CNN correspondent Alina Cho, Gossip Girl‘s Chace Crawford and Catherine Keener, who appeared from the state of her hair to have gotten caught in the sudden rainstorm outside. (She still looked great.)
The role in Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding that has everyone talking, however, belongs to Jane Fonda: She plays a Woodstock-dwelling flower child now embarking on grandmotherhood. We suggested delicately that perhaps the role had given Ms. Fonda a chance to get back in touch with her hippie roots; she, of course, was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War. “My what roots?” she asked, holding her remarkably well-behaved little dog in her arms. “Stoned hippie grandma?” Ms. Fonda insisted that she has little in common with the character, really. “I’ve never played a character like this before, and I never was like this character! Protests, yes, but not like her. She’s very colorful!”
We asked about the funny, strange Scissors Sisters comedy video released earlier this month, in which Ms. Fonda appears along with Amanda Lepore, Kylie Minogue and Juliette Lewis. She explained she’s a friend of the band. “And I went to the concert when I was in Paris. Un-friggin’-believable. Unbelievable. [Jake Shears] ended up almost naked, I might add. It was great.”
Kyle MacLachlan had also been to Paris lately. “I did one trip to Paris, which is my wife’s favorite city, and I love it, too,” he told the Transom. “We happened to hit it right at the height of a heat wave, which is difficult-but we enjoyed that very much, took our son with us.” Now that Desperate Housewives has wrapped up, Mr. MacLachlan has again been flexing his indie muscles. “I worked on a little thing for the Independent Film Channel with Fred Armisen called Portlandia a couple of months ago. That’s been picked up, it’s going to come out and that will be kind of fun.” We looked it up-it is co-written by Carrie Brownstein of the indie rock band Sleater-Kinney.
The man of the evening, Mr. Beresford, admitted to the Transom that he knew “virtually nothing” about ballet when he set out to direct Mao’s Last Dancer. “I’d directed a number of operas, but I didn’t really know anything about ballet! But then I’ve done a lot of films where I never knew anything about the subject. You know, you’ve got to research it,” he said. But he didn’t try out any steps himself: “None whatever! You know, you’ve got to be so fit, and it’s one of the most rigorous things you can possibly do. To learn to be a great ballet dancer is years and years of training, you know, from childhood. Very tough.”
We also inquired as to whether Mr. Beresford had rented any of the classic ballet movies-like The Red Shoes (yes) or Center Stage. “Oh yeah, Center Stage, I saw that one, yeah,” he allowed. “There are a lot of ‘em!”