Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger brought her boyfriend, White Stripes frontman Jack White, when she came to Tokyo to promote “Cold Mountain” for Toho-Towa. From here, the couple went to China where Renee headed a big promotional tour. Renee is currently working with Russell Crowe on “Cinderella Man;’ and it will be interesting to see what happens to “Piece of My Heart;’ a film on the life of legendary singer Janis Joplin, for which Renee signed on as producer and star.
Director Tim Burton was in town for Sony to promote “Big Fish;” and he told me he spent considerable time searching for Billy Redden, the actor who played the “Dueling Banjos” boy in the film “Deliverance:’ That scene and the song were certainly memorable.
Jude Law flew in from his private island in the Seychelles to promote “Cold Mountain” for Toho-Towa, and we had a nice reunion at the Lex. I first met Jude in New York City during his seven-month run in the play “Indiscretions?” He played Kathleen Turner’s son and was getting considerable media attention for a scene in the play where he was walking around the stage completely nude. Jude’s now one of filmdom’s hottest actors, and I am happy to say success has not spoiled the fun, down-to-earth and genuinely nice guy. From Tokyo, he flew back to the Seychelles for a bit more R & R before returning to his very busy film schedule. He’s playing the sky captain in a Kerry Conran production, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.” Ben Affleck’s younger brother Casey is in the film as well. Jude told me one of the highlights of his life was driving the legendary actress Lauren Bacall back to her New York apartment after a film party in New York. I’ve met Lauren and know exactly how he feels. Speaking of legends, Jude will play the part of Errol Flynn in the film “Aviator.” He’s also co-starring with Natalie Portman in “Closer.”
It was also nice seeing French superstar Jean Reno again. The highly acclaimed actor was recently decorated by the French government and was in Tokyo to promote the film “Crimson River 2” for Gaga Communications, as well as his new perfume called I Love You.
It was Viggo Mortensen’s fourth visit to Japan, and this time he brought his 14-year-old son Henry to see “this wonderful country:’ After the many promotional activities to promote his film “Hidalgo” (“Ocean of Fire” here), the two went to spend some time enjoying the sights in Kyoto. Viggo, well-liked by just about everyone, is a published author and professional photographer. He learned horseback riding as a child in Argentina and liked the horse he rode across the Sahara in “Hildago” so much, he bought it.
The 37-year-old Oscar-winning Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro was in town to promote “21 Grams” for Gaga Communications. The laidback actor took a taxi from the Park Hyatt Hotel, where he was staying, to the Lex. He did not have security but came in, settled down in the VIP section and was very open and nice to everyone. He chatted with a couple of U.S. Marines and, when he left about four hours later, he let me take photos of him with the staff (me, too) outside the club. Benicia hopped in a cab and headed back to the Park Hyatt. His next big project is playing Argentine activist Che Guevara in “Che:’ a movie to be directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Over at the Park Hyatt, Sony held a press conference for Tobey Maguire to promote “Spiderman 2:’ Tobey was here with his girlfriend, Jennifer Meyer, and he had a few prob- ems. His private jet had to land in Hokkaido, and one of the costars in the film, James Franco who had planned to come, got sick and could not make it.
My thanks to U.S. Ambassador Howard H, Baker Jr. and his wife Nancy for including me in a mid-day reception they co-hosted with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig at their residence. The occasion was the opening of the 2004 MLb season with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays playing in Tokyo Dome. I’m not all that savvy about baseball but enjoyed rubbing elbows with several U.S. baseball legends. Baseball experts Wayne Graczyk and Bill Ireton really helped me in knowing who was who, and I appreciate that. Guests included team managers Joe Torre of the Yankees and Lou Piniella of the Devil Rays, New York star players Derek Jeter and Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, Tampa standouts Aubrey Huff and Jose Cruz and former Yankee greats Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, as well as representatives of the MLB Players Association. The highlight came when New York outfielder Hideki Matsui (“Godzilla”) presented Howard with a Yankees pinstriped jersey with his number 55 on the back. Matsui, the pride of Japan, is a former star with the Tokyo Giants.
On the fashion scene, the Fashion Editors Club held its 47th gala awards dinner to honor those who excelled in the fashion business in Japan for 2003.
In Tochigi-ken, two of the world’s top travelers and one of Tokyo’s most respected and bestliked couples, Mitsuo and Lilo Maruyama, hosted their annual garden party. The event, considered by many the “social event of the year;’ always means being with Tokyo’s most interesting and dynamic people, relaxing by the pool in the spacious gardens and exploring the sprawling California-style house with its many treasures the Maruyamas have collected on their world travels. Then there’s the superb buffet and, best of all, Mitsuo and Lila’s warm hospitality.
Kudos to Kudos. Their annual Travel Fair Mar. 13 at Toranomon Pastoral Hotel was bigger and better than ever. It was great running into a lot of friends in the travel and tourism business and many others just looking for new places to visit. I am fortunate enough to travel a lot but, even so, discovered a considerable number of places I hope to visit as well as happenings in countries I would like to re-visit. The Malaysian tourist Office provided the entertainment throughout the day with a colorful program of Malaysian song and dance.
Our city has been busy, especially on the showbiz scene. The funky Lex disco celebrated its 24th (1980) anniversary with a big blast on May 29. Somehow the dub, which we all know could stand a facelift, continues to pull in wellknown film, music, sports and fashion figures and a wide variety of interesting people from the world over. People is what it’s all about.
Recent visitors who partied at the Lex include actors Jude Law and Benicio Del Toro and the bands Pleymo, Living End, Kottonmouth Kings, Good Charlotte, Army of Freshman, Sugarcult and Anthrax. A few Saturday nights ago, the Japanese pop band No Gain put on a half-hour concert at the club and, a week later, Naoki Ishikawa, the only Japanese in the award-winning Broadway show “Blast: performed his one-man drum show. It was great. We had another great night at the Lex when a big Turkish fashion and musical group of models and singers partied after their super-successful show at the Okura. Talk about beautiful!
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender