BELL, BRAND & MCBRIDE

Had a very pleasant round of interviews this past weekend for two Universal movies, “Leatherheads” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

The interview for the George Clooney directed “Leatherheads” was on Saturday, and featured all three stars. John Krasinski from “The Office” was first up, followed by George and then Renee Zelwegger. All three were very honest and self depreciating. George, always a great story teller and certainly the most charismatic and likable actor you’ll ever meet, told us how he stays away from doing romantic comedies but made “Leatherheads” because of the interesting backdrop of early pro football. He also thinks it’s ridiculous that he’s been tagged as the new Cary Grant and repeatedly referred to himself as a knucklehead.

Renee matched George for modesty, calling herself an accidental actress who’s not that competent (the Oscar voters would disagree) and has a poor knowledge of film history.

The next day brought another trip to the Four Seasons Hotel for interviews for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Aside from a disturbing amount of talk about male nudity from star Jason Segal and director Nicholas Stoller (see the movie and you’ll know why), the most fun interview was of an actor I’d never heard of before this week. In “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Russell Brand gives a standout performance as a charismatic self centered English rock star who’s the new boyfriend of the title character. The funny thing is, except for the rock star part, Russell is pretty much the person he plays in the movie, right down to the leather pants! While I suspect that in a few years, Russell’s personality will turn out to be a Borat like acting job, he sure was hilarious.

Of course, the other highlight was my first roundtable with longtime fave Kristen Bell. I remember sitting in the audience during a “Veronica Mars” panel at the San Diego Comic-Con and being mad at myself that I had nothing for her to sign. I didn’t make that mistake this time, as I had my “Veronica Mars” Season1 DVD ready to go. Sure enough, I got she signed it (although even though I spelled my name for her, it looks a lot more like Breeen than Brian!).

Kristen told me I gave her one of the greatest compliments she ever got when I said, “Some actresses play good girls. Others play bad girls, but you’ve been lucky enough to play women that are a mixture of both.” She said she really hadn’t planned that and just goes with her gut when choosing roles. In fact, although she’s never been unemployed for long, Kristen always thinks she’ll never work again when she finishes a job, which is why she sought the job of the narrator on “Gossip Girl,” just so she would have something to do after the cancellation of “Veronica Mars”!

I also asked Kristen what interesting things she’s learned how to do when researching roles. She said she thinks she could pull off being a private investigator after playing Veronica Mars, although she admitted doing the show initially made her paranoid because she found out how easy it was to steal someone’s identity or tap their phones.

The junket interviews weren’t my only brushes with stars this weekend. My friend Chuck Thomas gave me a ticket to the Paley Festival’s celebration of “Pushing Daisies” on Saturday night.

Officially the 2008 William S. Paley Television Festival, the event takes one TV show a night, brings together the creators and the cast and sets them loose on stage to answer questions from a moderator and the audience. I’ve been attending the Festival for years, and have gone to nights celebrating shows both famous (“Desperate Housewives,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Lost” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) and obscure (“Under Suspicion,” a great cop show from 1994).

Although I stopped watching “Pushing Daisies” a few episodes into its run, the clip package they showed made me rethink that decision. Then the cast came onstage. Usually there’s one person in every cast that takes over the proceedings with their sense of humor. In this case, it was Chi McBride, who after hearing how some of his fellow actors hadn’t been looking to do television until they received the “Pushing Daisies” pilot script, said he was tired of all the B.S. you hear on panels! What were they doing, sailing in Majorca?

Throughout the evening, Chi continued to be very, very funny and even convinced Kristen Chenoweth to let loose with her fantastic singing voice. Just a great night, so I highly suggest if you live in L.A., check out the Paley Festival website and if there’s a show you like on the schedule, check it out. Yes, it may be too late to get tickets to the “Buffy” reunion (they plan on streaming it live on their website so you can see it that way), but there are still tickets available for a little show called “The X-Files”!

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