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Brendan Fraser, Swinging in a Different Jungle

By Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page C03

After making his share of mummy movies and kids' flicks, Brendan Fraser, best known as the vine-swinging star of "George of the Jungle," is finally in a film he's proud of. He even wants the president to see it.

"Do you think we could get this screened at the White House?" he asked a Washington audience Monday night after credits rolled for "Crash," an urban drama about racial conflict in Los Angeles. "I'm serious."

Paul Haggis and Brendan Fraser
Paul Haggis and Brendan Fraser
Director Paul Haggis and Brendan Fraser at the screening. (Liz Roll)

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The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, invited Fraser, fellow "Crash" actor Michael Peña and director Paul Haggis to town to help build buzz for the small-budget picture, which opens May 6.

"It's a departure for me," Fraser, 36, told us about his role as an image-obsessed Los Angeles district attorney. But then his career could use some gravitas: "I can't walk through the airport in Singapore without a little kid hanging on my leg saying, 'George! George!' "

The screening and reception at Regal Cinemas Gallery Place were heavy on thoughtfulness, not glamour.

"I see about three movies a year, so I'm not a film critic," cautioned Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who joined a panel discussion with Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) and the Hollywood contingent. "But this movie is a powerful work of art. It shows how ordinary events and lives become something profound."

"Crash" portrays an explosive mix of black, white, Asian and Iranian characters. But in the end, Peña noted, they turn out not to be the people you presume they are. "The movie is sort of like dating," he told us, surrounded by female fans and sipping red wine. "For three months you think, 'This is the greatest girl I've ever met.' And then, once the honeymoon's over, you think, 'Why is she drying her socks in my microwave?' "

"Crash," made for a mere $7.5 million, brings together a roster of big names: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Ludacris.

After a career slogging away as a TV writer, Haggis won an Oscar nomination for his "Million Dollar Baby" script. He, too, sounded relieved to be taken seriously for his directorial debut. "You make all your mistakes," he told The Post's Pablo Izmirlian. "Still, it's rewarding."

SQUIBS

• Awaiting a puff of smoke over the White House? "Maybe we can elect Hillary Clinton pope. God knows what she's running for," Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) joked to roars from the crowd when he appeared with the senator yesterday at a Construction Trades Council breakfast in New York.


Like daughter, like mother: Mary Amons, right, and 18-year-old Lolly of McLean will be featured in Marie Claire in May. (Marie Claire)
• The late, great Arthur Godfrey must have had youthful genes. His granddaughter, 38-year-old Mary Amons of McLean, graces the pages of May's Marie Claire magazine with her 18-year-old daughter, Lolly, in a feature called "What If Your Mother Looked Your Age?" Lolly tells the mag: "Guys I know definitely think my mother is hot -- which is a little weird, I have to say." Mary, mother of five, says: "I guess I have 'cool' taste in clothes -- even Lolly's friends like to borrow them." The pair is slated to go on "Good Morning America" tomorrow.

• Screech! It's the name of the hour these days and we hear that Ritz-Carlton PR queen Colleen Evans has scooped all Nats fans. She has depleted the NBC store in New York of its stock of "I Love Screech" T-shirts -- all nine of 'em -- left over from "Saved by the Bell" days, when Screech wasn't a baseball mascot. He was the show's dorky brainiac and her fave.

• Members of Congress and friends of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) got invites a couple of weeks ago asking, "Is there a doctor in the House (of Representatives)?" Why, yes there is! Ros-Lehtinen found time to get her Doctor of Education degree from the University of Miami, and it's not one of those honorary sheepskins, either. "Dr. Ily" buttons were passed out last night at a party in the Longworth Building, with attendees including the university's president -- former Clintonite Donna Shalala -- and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.).

Annals of Puffery

"American cult hero and iconic all-round entertainer Mr. T returns to pulp fiction -- and to pulp bad guys -- this May in an all-new comic book series published by APComics. . . . Mr. T said: 'Quit your jibber-jabbering and buy my comic! I pity the fool who don't read it! It's gonna be pure gold!' "

With Anne Schroeder


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