'Heaven' Packs 'Em In

The Scene: A filled-to-the-gills Academy of Motion Pictures Theater in Beverly Hills on Thursday for the premiere of Oliver Stone's epic "Heaven and Earth," his third film about the Vietnam War. Le Ly Hayslip, who co-wrote the two autobiographical books the movie is based on, plays a minor role in the film. The narrative spans four decades from Hayslip's childhood as a peasant in the '50s, through the horrors of the war years, to her adjustment to life in Southern California after her marriage to an American serviceman, Steve Butler (played by Tommy Lee Jones).

Who Was There: Plenty of brass, including director/screenwriter Stone; producer Arnon Milchan; the stars--Jones, Joan Chen ("The Last Emperor," "Twin Peaks"), Hiep Thi Le, Haing S. Ngor ("The Killing Fields"), Hayslip, Conchata Ferrell--and the film's composer, Kitaro. Also spotted in the crunch of bodies were Juliette Lewis, Mike Myers, Robert Downey Jr. and Dustin Nguyen ("21 Jump Street").

Who Wielded the Real Clout: The Beverly Hills fire marshal, who deemed the crowd beyond the theater's 1,100-person capacity, forcing clumps of less-than-stellar attendees to be directed back outside.

Chow: A pre-screening cocktail party was followed by an East-meets-West selection of light snacks and desserts--ice cream, apple cheesecake, pecan chews, ginger creme brulee tarts and almond cookies.

Rookie Quotient: High. Hayslip said that before her close encounter with Hollywood, she "used to plant rice and ride a water buffalo." Lead actress Hiep Thi Le was a UC Davis physiology student who, despite no drama experience save one high school play, was chosen from thousands to portray Hayslip in the film.

Quoted: "I think that this is the first time the Vietnamese have a voice," Hayslip said. "I hope this movie will help people to understand who we are and why we had to go through so much with the United States and France. It's very sad that my life and my family's life story is just one of the million stories of what the Vietnamese people had to endure."

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