Correction to This Article
A Reliable Source item in the June 21 Style section misspelled the last name of "Fatwa" screenwriter Scott Schafer.

Not Playing at a Theater Near You

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hey, kids, let's put on a show ! Alexandria guys Scott Shafer and John Carter did just that in 2004. Shafer scripted a political thriller, Hollywood types took notice, they raised $750,000, and suddenly they were filming "Fatwa" here in D.C., with a solid B-list cast and Carter in his directorial debut.

The indie flick premiered last week at the Atlanta Film Festival and now it's in wide release . . . uh, in video stores across the country. But the newbie auteurs aren't complaining.

"We just wanted to put it into the venue that was most profitable," Shafer says. The 26-year-old notes that they actually turned down a theatrical distribution deal, fearing marketing costs would eat up profits. "There's some creative stigma in going straight to DVD, but I think that's changing. There's a dynamic of people wandering into video stores saying, 'Hey, this looks interesting.' "

No question about that! "Fatwa" stars Lauren Holly ("NCIS," "Picket Fences," "Dumb and Dumber") as a kinda sexy junior senator (beehive 'do, leopard-print stiletto boots) who speaks out against Islamo-fascism and ends up dodging death threats from both a terrorist cabdriver ( Roger Guenveur Smith ) and her own brother-in-law. Video Business magazine said it "doesn't quite click" but gave it props for nice performances by Lacey Chabert and Mykelti Williamson and more nuance than your average B-movie.

Shafer and Carter are now plotting their next film, a "comic-bookish thriller" about finding Osama . Picking up on a theme? "In the world we live in today," Shafer says, "I can't imagine writing about anything else."

For Some People, Nothing Succeeds Like Excess

Two weeks ago, best-selling conservative pundit Ann Coulter shocked the nation -- or, well, some of it -- with her attack on 9/11 widows who voted for John K erry ("I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much"), included in her latest book. Even allies like Bill O'Reilly denounced her. Had the Coulter backlash begun? Had she Gone Too Far this time? We waited for the numbers from the folks at Nielsen BookScan.

First-week sales, "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter" (October 2004): 36,000 copies.

First-week sales, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" (June 2006): 48,000 copies.

Lauer and Friends, Staying Up Past Their Deadlines

Meredith Vieira with Matt Lauer
Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer sampled Cafe Milano's hospitality.(Evan Agostini - Getty Images)
Why is Matt Lauer anchoring "Today" from the White House this morning when the president's not even in the country? One reason: so he could stay out late in D.C. last night. Lauer, along with his show's top producer, Jim Bell, and Tim Russert , hosted a dinner at Cafe Milano to introduce Meredith Vieira to NBC's Washington correspondents; among the expected guests were Pete Williams , Andrea Mitchell and Lisa Myers . Vieira, who will fill Katie Couric's old seat starting Sept. 13, will also meet with folks at NBC's bureau here today.

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

? Galileo chef/owner Roberto Donna , offloading his 305 pounds from a Harley in Lovettsville, Va. -- first stop on yesterday's "Chefs on Bikes," 75 local culinary pros raising money for anti-hunger charities somehow by riding into the countryside. Over a steak lunch at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, he told pals, "If I eat like this every day" -- sitting down, not standing over a stove -- "then I'd become skinny."

? Director Spike Lee signing autographs at Sunday's Nats game, wearing cool gold sunglasses and a Yankees cap and rooting for the visitors. He said his D.C. weekend was a Father's Day present and that he got to see both of New York's "heartbreaking losses."

? Perky cheap-cooking guru Rachael Ray dining late at Zaytinya Monday (for the second time in six weeks -- Rach, the town is filled with restaurants!) with her Food Network colleague, chef Bobby Flay . Ray 'n' Flay were supposed to speak at the KenCen together that night, but Ray had to hold the podium on her own when Flay's flight got storm-delayed.

Quoted

"Of course not. I remind them: I AM the law!"

-- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales , denying to our colleague Frank Ahrens that his two children ever download music illegally, after his address yesterday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on intellectual property theft.


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