By 2008, writer/director Luc Besson had already had a long and fruitful career, both here and in his native France, with such credits as The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and The Fifth Element to show for it. (He also wrote the French movie that would become Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah's Taxi, and that we do, unfortunately, have to dock points for.) And then he went and wrote and produced Taken, and things got turned up a notch. Who knew just the concept of a well-aged Liam Neeson very slowly kicking everyone's ass would breed not only an instant classic but also a deathless franchise? (Wait, you guys are going to keep making Takens forever, right?) Fast forward a bit, and Besson might have just come up with his latest greatest idea ever. Let me ask you a question: Does the thought of Scarlett Johansson kicking everyone's ass — but while accidentally on drugs — do anything for you?
The title of World's Greatest Living Singing Actress isn't a simple one to bestow. You might well think that Zooey Deschanel could make a rightful claim to the crown: Not only is she four albums deep with She & Him, her collabo with respected folkster M. Ward, but those albums were put out by freakin' Merge Records, which is really, very, quite indie-rock of her. I mean, there might actually be people out there who don't even know that the chick with the bangs from She & Him has a day job, and who else is bringing that kind of cred to the Singing Actress game? But, see, then you'd be overvaluing the Singing side of things. Right now Zooey Deschanel is part of an ensemble cast on one of the best shows on TV; she does a very good job, but is regularly, just about on a weekly basis, outshone by her cast mates. The Singing credibility is therefore mitigated by the lack of Actor star power (why, yes, this whole thing does hinge on quite a delicate, mysterious formula), which then opens the door for Scarlett Johansson — the one true beholder of the title World's Greatest Living Singing Actress.
Angelina Jolie is "Surprise! Boring in bed." Whaaaaaa? This alleged information comes from shade thrown by her ex, Billy Bob Thornton, who has said, "sometimes, with the model, the actress, the 'sexiest person in the world,' it may be literally like fucking the couch." FUCK YO COUCH, BILLY BOB!
It’s Friday night, and we’re in a mansion high atop a mountain somewhere in nearby Deer Valley, the kind of place that doesn’t have an address. A cab driver takes me over. He reminisces about the old days at Sundance. “I’ve had some crazy times, man.” I ask him what he means. “Oh, you know: big parties, hot tubs, cougars.” He’s a local, remembers sending the yellow cabs that drive up from Salt Lake City during Sundance on wild goose chases around town. But GPS put an end to that, he says, sadly.
Which I’m grateful for tonight, actually: It’s all we can do to find the hotel at the base of the mountain, where in the lobby I give my name to a waiting factotum, who dispatches another factotum, who brings another car around. I get in and we drive for a while, heading up the hill. There is no address because this road is private: We pass through one gate manned by a security guard, and then another, pairs of leaping deer glinting off the ironwork. Up the mountain we go, making lefts and rights at seeming random, speeding up in the dark.
Bethenny Frankel & Jason Hoppy's Split: Lunching with a friend in New York, Frankel and a friend "shared a plate of octopus, spaghetti, and a solemn conversation." How does one share a plate of octopus? Four tentacles each? Bethenny "wasn't smiling or laughing. She looked serious." Not to mention, her wedding ring was off. "So much for Frankel's happily ever after." Hoppy is still wearing his wedding band, and "feels used — like she just wanted him for a baby." He plans to fight her over custody of their daughter in court. Despite constant fights, Hoppy "was hoping she was just going through a phase." Friends claim he is wearing his ring as a plot to garner public sympathy. "It's definitely an image thing. He knows he's getting photographed. He's a smart guy." Frankel wants him to move out ASAP but he has been taking his time. "He's just not sure where he wants to go." Hoppy is angry, and "feels like he gave up his career for her. He basically stopped working to support her and wants to be compensated for it."
The couple got together in 2008 after meeting at a New York club. Sources say Frankel's no-holds-barred ambition is to blame for the union's downfall. "She got obsessive about her career." Bethenny's empire of Skinnygirl products had netted her at least a hundred million, but she still wants more. She also apparently "has high expectations that no man could ever live up to." With a new talk show rolling out soon expect to hear plenty more about the split, and possibly for it to get ugly.
Kate Winslet & Ned Rocknroll: Kate Winslet married Ned Rocknroll, a.k.a. Richard Branson's nephew with the incredibly dumb (self-chosen) name. "Call her Mrs. Rocknroll!" I will but I won't like it! The couple of a year wed before "a small group of friends and family." Perennial bachelor Leonardo DiCaprio "walked the bride down the aisle" and shattered/stoked the dreams of a trillion Titanic fangirls. Ned is "really attracted to her mind. She's mature, and he feels he can learn so much from her. It's sexy!" Is it just me or does that sound a little bit like shade? Oh, well, wishing all the best to the Rocknrolls.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
Taylor Swift & Conor Kennedy Split: "Taylor Swift was in the mood to talk about — what else? — heartache." During a listening party for Red she explained one song saying, "Long-distance dating is hard, and is something I face constantly." And will probably deal with for the rest of her life, unless she quits touring. Swift and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conor Kennedy, recently broke up. "The breakup was mutual because of the distance, schedules, and being at different places in their lives." Why do I not believe that any Taylor Swift breakup is ever really "mutual"? Although self-professed "hopeless romantic" Taylor tried to make it work with Conor, soon "reality set in." She is promoting her new album nonstop for the next year, and Kennedy is in high school. "There aren't many guys game for a serious relationship with a girl who's out of town the majority of the year." Swift should date a pro athlete next! Just playing. She should date a civilian who could go on tour with her. Are there any sweet guitar techs out there that don't mind having an album potentially written about them?
Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel: "You could safely call him a groomzilla." Having gotten over his "inability to commit," Timberlake threw himself into planning the $6.5 million ceremony, renting an Italian resort for the wedding and flying guests in on chartered jets. "Justin planned a series of mini-celebrations leading up to the evening ceremony. Guests were treated to a seafood feast followed by a fireworks display on the beach the day they arrived." He chose Biel's "6-carat princess-cut engagement ring without consulting her" and "picked out Jess's gown from sketches. She trusts him." Well, that's her first mistake.
Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds: "With its 300-year-old moss-draped oak trees and stately, columned mansion, the Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is a favorite venue for couples tying the knot. But it wasn't just the charming post-and-rail fences and lush lawns that appealed to the couple saying 'I do' there September 9th."
Was it the historic slave quarters then? Boone Hall's website seriously boasts about the "eight original slave cabins" and the road in front of the plantation property is quaintly named "Slave Street." I personally find the whole idea of getting married at a Southern plantation totally tacky and repulsive on a soul level, but hey, I'm not Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
It appears that Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively got married. If your first reaction was a brief eyebrow lift, possibly paired with an audible "huh," congratulations: That is the correct answer.
At the age of 35, Ryan Reynolds has now been married twice (Lively, Scarlett Johansson for 10 minutes two years) and engaged thrice (Alanis Morissette, way back in 2004). Reynolds is kind of like a groupie of female celebrities, except he happens to be a celebrity, too, which makes matters much more complicated and public. But there is something kind of lost and hungry about his romantic travails up until now, as if he's searching for that perfect name to attach his name to, and whose fame won't overshadow his own. One thing is for certain: The search is far from over. Here's a cheat sheet for the next 10 years.
Taylor Swift's Fatal Attraction: Her relationship with rising high school junior Conor Kennedy continues at warp speed. "Swift is certainly taking her one-and-a-half-month romance rather, well, swiftly. Since meeting the 18-year-old Kennedy in July, the six-time Grammy winner, 22, has rearranged her schedule to spend as much time with him as possible." Although the rumor that she bought a house across the street from the Kennedy compound has been debunked, she is still giving off some serious Stage 5 Clinger vibes. "Swift loves that her new guy (son of Robert Kennedy Jr. and the late Mary) gives her entrée to the storied political family. She says it's a fantasy come true. She's very smitten." Isn't she always, though? "Pals are concerned she's repeating a troubling relationship pattern," citing the insanely fast pace of her monthlong fling with Jake Gyllenhaal, which ended when he dumped her unceremoniously. "She's always rushing into love. We all wonder why she can't take it slow." Because she thinks fairy-tale, love-at-first-sight romances are real, and always decides that whomever she is dating at the moment is The One (regardless of what the dude might think). "For years, Swift has harbored a not-so-secret infatuation with Conor's iconic family. One insider says Conor's cousin Ted Kennedy Jr. even calls the crooner a Kennedy groupie!" Well maybe Conor Kennedy is a Taylor Swift groupie! And they're not groupies, they're Band-Aids! She started collecting Kennedy memorabilia last year, after reading The Kennedy Women. She met Rory Kennedy at a screening of a doc about Ethel Kennedy, and was invited to spend her Fourth of July at the compound in Hyannis Port. She and Conor Kennedy have been inseparable ever since, although that may change in the fall when he goes back to, uh, high school.
Kristen Stewart & Rob Pattinson: Pattinson is sequestered at Reese Witherspoon's ranch in Ojai while he sorts out his feelings. Reese understands Pattinson's situation, as she weathered her own cheating scandals with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe. Damn you, Tracy Flick. Always meddling!
Pattinson has been running a lot to work off some of his anger, "huffing past a lavender-scented meadow, a pool, and a horse paddock" as he jogs his way around the compound. "Yet no matter how peaceful the scenery, the actor, 26, could not escape the hell his days had become." The news that Kristen Stewart had cheated on him with Rupert Sanders "blindsided" Pattinson. "He's questioning everything and wants nothing to do with her." Stewart's public apology made him even more furious. An "inconsolable" Stewart is camped out at her parents' home in the San Fernando Valley. Pattinson is "not using electronic cigarettes anymore. He's been smoking real ones since this news came out." He had noticed that Kristen "was being really weird lately but she reassured him nothing was going on." Rob is "disgusted because he had a feeling about this director." Nobody but Rupert and Kristen knows exactly when the affair started. Stewart realizes "how totally self-destructive this was. She just can't believe she fucked all this up and ruined everything." Even her parents are embarrassed for her. Now they must brave the Breaking Dawn: Part 2 press tour together, during which their every mumble will be parsed for clues.