- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stars shine for Simon

Neil Simon couldn’t stop rewriting his material, even with the Mark Twain Prize for humor firmly in hand.

The playwright, 79, stopped several times Sunday during his acceptance speech for the comedy honor — once to explain why he prefers writing to performing and later to say he was editing out some comments that didn’t seem important.

The actors who bring Mr. Simon’s plays to life know the multiple Tony Award winner will tweak his writing all the way up to opening night — and then some. Before the show, “Seinfeld” alumnus Jason Alexander said Mr. Simon can be cruel when it comes to editing his own work.

“He keeps cutting. It’s not just rewriting,” said Mr. Alexander, who appeared in Mr. Simon’s “Broadway Bound” as well as the screen version of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“If it’s not an ‘A’ he doesn’t want it on the stage.”

Mr. Simon’s “A” material has been making audiences laugh until they cry for more than five decades, from his earliest days as a writer for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” to his years penning Broadway smashes such as “Lost in Yonkers.”

Sunday’s program, scheduled to air Nov. 20 on WETA-TV (Channel 26), let the stars whose careers have burned brighter thanks to Mr. Simon’s prose offer their gratitude. Robert Redford, who memorably starred on both stage and screen in “Barefoot in the Park,” reminded the audience that Mr. Simon is the first Mark Twain recipient “to win the prize for the power of the pen alone.”

Matthew Broderick said he may not be Jewish or from New York, but he had the same reaction to Mr. Simon’s protagonists as everyone else had: “That’s me.”

The assembled stars also performed snippets of Mr. Simon’s plays, from Christina Applegate belting out “Big Spender” (from “Sweet Charity”) to Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein re-creating a scene from “They’re Playing Our Song.”

Of course, a night filled with comics couldn’t go by without a political swipe, and Nathan Lane (“The Odd Couple”) did the honors Sunday night.

“Foggy Bottom,” the portly comic said of the neighborhood the Kennedy Center calls home, “is also Mark Foley’s Internet screen name.”

Taking on bin Laden

Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone plans to follow up “World Trade Center” by tackling America’s post-September 11 invasion of Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.

According to the trade publication Variety, Mr. Stone wants to make a film based on the memoir “Jawbreaker” by Gary Bernsten, the CIA’s point man in Afghanistan during the invasion. Variety says Mr. Stone and Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to “Jawbreaker” several months ago but kept silent about the deal because they did not want to derail the publicity campaign for “World Trade Center.”

in New York. The film has earned favorable reviews and, to date, has grossed $125 million worldwide.

Night of the Zombie

Rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie picked up a Chainsaw Award for his horror film “The Devil’s Rejects,” Associated Press reports.

The Killer Movie Award, presented Sunday night to the filmmaker by Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, was part of the first televised Fuse Fangoria Chainsaw Awards to honor the best films and actors in the horror genre. The awards ceremony was held at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles and will be broadcast Sunday on Fuse Television.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

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