- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On the fast track

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and other stars of “The Da Vinci Code” boarded a high-speed train for the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie is scheduled to premiere today.

The Eurostar train, named the Da Vinci Code, was in pursuit of a world record. Going nonstop over the 883 miles from London to southern France would put the train into the book “Guinness World Records,” Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, anger over the movie, opening worldwide on Friday escalated yesterday at Cannes as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings. The plot of the film, adapted by director Ron Howard from Dan Brown’s international best-seller, makes the case that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her.

Star perks

Uber-diva Barbra Streisand and TV actor James Brolin might be millionaires many times over, but don’t expect them to pay $20 for a pair of movie tickets.

Arriving at the Mann Agoura Hills 8 near their Malibu, Calif. estate to see “Mission: Impossible III” on Friday, the 64-year-old singer-actress and her hubby, 65, wheedled their way into free seats by schmoozing a teenage theater employee, the New York Daily News reports.

“We asked especially for you,” Miss Streisand reportedly cooed to the young man at the customer service desk as Mr. Brolin smiled a winsome supporting-actor smile. “We haven’t seen you in a while,” Miss Streisand continued.

The flattered young man said he had been transferred briefly to a different Mann multiplex and added: “You’re always welcome here. We’ll take care of you.”

Then he waved the happy couple past the ticket-takers, the Daily News reported in yesterday’s editions.

Unluckily for Babs and Jim, the transaction was witnessed by paying customer Jennifer Grossman, a fellow Malibu resident and self-described “subversive right-winger” who doesn’t much care for Miss Streisand’s Democratic politics.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” the New York Daily News quotes Miss Grossman as saying. “It’s one thing to be comped their tickets, but it’s quite another to ask to be comped in order to save a lousy $20 bucks. But she’s notorious for being this way.”

Yesterday, Miss Streisand’s press representative said it’s customary for “major stars” to get into movies for free, adding, “It’s a professional courtesy that many theaters extend to film stars.”

Pricey strings

An anonymous buyer shelled out $3.5 million for a Stradivarius violin known as the “Hammer,” smashing the previous world record for a musical instrument sold at auction, Christie’s said.

The earlier record was held by another Stradivarius, nicknamed “The Lady Tennant,” which sold for $2 million dollars in April 2005 at Christie’s New York, Agence France-Presse reports. The new record breaker gets its nickname from Christian Hammer, an 18th-century Swedish collector. It had been expected to net between $1.5 million and $2.5 million when it went on the auction block yesterday.

The violin was made by luthier Antonio Stradivari in 1707, during a period seen as the golden age for his “Strads,” 1700 to 1720. Privately owned, it was used by New York violinist Kyoko Takezawa.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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