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McConaughey, Supporting 'Sahara' for the Long Haul

By Richard Leiby
Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page C03

Where did hunky actor Matthew McConaughey spend his Oscar night? While his girlfriend and "Sahara" co-star, Penelope Cruz, could be seen on the tube presenting a golden statuette in Hollywood, McConaughey was in College Park -- spending the night in a trailer park, no less.

He's on a six-week cross-country tour with producing partner John Chaney, driving a Ford F-250 King Ranch truck, pulling an Airstream trailer and staying in RV parks to promote "Sahara," an action-adventure flick opening April 8. "It hadn't really been done before," he told us yesterday by phone while drinking Dunkin' Donuts coffee, adding that he views the PR campaign as "a brilliant idea!" (Hollywood: where everyone's a genius.)

Road trip! Matthew McConaughey is touring the country in a trailer to promote "Sahara." The action-adventure film is due out in April. (Katherine Frey - The Washington Post)

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"We're meeting people at truck stops, handing out T-shirts and hats, having barbecues," says the 35-year-old actor, known for such comedies as "Dazed and Confused" and "The Wedding Planner." "I believe in this film. . . . It's like a big epic. . . . I really dig the film."

So, from the Moroccan deserts -- where he shot for five months -- to snowy Washington (he lunched at Olives downtown yesterday)? McConaughey tells us: "I haven't seen snow in two years, so this is pretty cool." He screened "Sahara" at Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday night for troops and planned to be in Baltimore tonight -- one of a dozen or so stops before ending up back in Los Angeles.

And watch out, fans: "You may see Penelope on the road." But, shooting down a rumor, he says, "We are not engaged." As for departing words of wisdom, he channels his famous "Dazed and Confused" character Wooderson, and says, smoothly: "Hey, just keep livin'."

Kerry Sets the Stage for a Second Act

• Campaign '08 Watch Begins: We solemnly vowed in November not to start ginning up stories about the next presidential election until at least March, and mirabile dictu: An enticing invitation crossed our desk just in time. "Thank you for your interest in joining John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry at their home on March 7 in Washington, DC for a special meeting to discuss the formation of Senator Kerry's political action committee, Keeping America's Promise."

Woo-hoo! It's not every day that a defeated '04 Democratic nominee sets up a new PAC. "This is the kind of thing he has to do" to run for prez again, Dan Payne, a Dem media consultant and longtime Kerry acquaintance, told us yesterday. "It seems to me that candidates have been forming PACs before they made a run for president for a long time."

The senator's camp wouldn't comment on whether Keeping America's Promise is an effort to maintain and invigorate Kerry's base for 2008, stressing instead his "focus on strengthening the Democratic Party," as spokeswoman Katharine Lister put it.

Kerry is supposedly eager to help out new DNC Chairman (and former rival) Howard Dean, but Lister's official statement to us seemed more Kerry-centric than anything else. "Keeping America's Promise, a leadership PAC which will officially start raising funds in the second quarter of this year, will be the vehicle that helps Kerry transform the infrastructure, energy and excitement from his presidential campaign into a permanent grass-roots organization that promotes the causes Kerry advocated on the campaign, and supports candidates up and down the ticket across the country," she said.

And, of course: "Keeping America's Promise will also help amplify and promote Kerry's leadership agenda in the Senate." His friend and loyal campaign operative John Giesser is running the PAC.

Last week the '04 candidate came in second, with 16 percent vs. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's 32 percent, in a Zogby poll on potential Democratic contenders. Al Gore came in third with 12 percent. Not that anybody pays attention to such meaningless early speculation. We certainly don't.

Columnist Robert Novak, On a Mission From God

• He's been known for 40 years as Washington's journalistic "prince of darkness," but cranky, arch-conservative pundit Bob Novak believes he's doing God's work.

"I'm trying to tell the truth and taking positions that I hope are godly positions, positions that I hope are helpful to my fellow man," he tells Vanity Fair in a profile that hits the stands tomorrow. "And I don't think there's any law against enjoying myself in the process."

The 74-year-old columnist and CNN commentator remains mum on a great mystery of the moment: his legal status in the Valerie Plame leak case. "While two other reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of the New York Times, face jail time for refusing to divulge their sources in the case," writes VF contributing editor David Margolick, "the man who broke the story apparently doesn't."

Novak does talk about his lightning-rod reputation and even shares a recent hate e-mail: "Too bad you weren't on the beach when the tsunami hit," it reads. "You are a disgrace to journalism . . . partially due to your senility."

But the piece describes Novak as a formidable, hardworking columnist -- "he has courage and foresight," writes Margolick -- and notes that "despite spinal meningitis, three types of cancer, two broken hips, two broken wrists and a broken ankle," the man hasn't slowed down. How long will Novak last? "Well, I think probably it's God's will," he tells the mag.

With Anne Schroeder

© 2005 The Washington Post Company