Fast, French and Full of Film Stars


The Scene: Wednesday night's premiere of "Ronin," United Artists' action thriller on steroids, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert De Niro. The flick, which opens today--and features an unforgettable, knuckle-gripping Mother of All Car Chases against traffic through the teeny-weeny streets of Paris--was screened before about 800 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Party-goers then chased each other to Chasen's restaurant where they buzzed about that chase!

Atomic Star Power: More than 35 television crews and 50 photographers lined the Academy's sidewalk and lobby vying for snaps of the film's stars (De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean, Skipp Sudduth and Katarina Witt), Frankenheimer and producer Frank Mancuso Jr. Other Hollywood heavyweights in attendance: Andy Garcia, Faye Dunaway, James Woods, Gary Sinise, Pam Grier, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jacqueline Bisset, Clarence Williams III, Daniel Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Steven Weber, Robert Forster, Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Loggia, Catherine O'Hara, Kyle MacLachlan, and Chazz Palminteri.

Frank Talk: Before the screening, Frankenheimer confessed to the audience that when he was in college, he wasn't named most likely to succeed or best-looking guy on campus. "I won the highway menace award. I wanted to share that with you," he said, an allusion to the thrill ride that would follow.

De Niro De Nowhere: The party was delightful, delovely and delicious, but De Niro decided to ditch it after the screening. But his co-stars carried on. "The chase scene will be very popular with the audience," Reno predicted in his deep French accent. "It puts you inside the car, and it was done without any computers, it's for real. Myself, I'm a good driver, but sometimes I am too fast of a driver. I am less disciplined than Los Angeles drivers."

"I used to be a fast driver," added Skarsgard, "but after this movie I find myself being a very, very careful driver."

La Fete: Revelers at the party (hosted by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) dined on mostly French cuisine (coq au vin, chateaubriand that melted in one's mouth like buttah, crepes patisserie and more) on several buffet tables decorated with ice sculptures of the Eiffel Tower. A dance floor was surrounded by red velvet drapes, ornate mirrors and upholstered banquettes where couples got lovey-dovey. Others jammed into a back room where the celebs got chummy.

Overheard at Chasen's: "I've gotta go to Paris. I never knew you could drive like that there."

Celeb Chatter:

* Alonso: "I've never been in a movie like that, but I've driven a car like that in Latin America. I don't dare drive like that in L.A."

* Witt: "Everybody's been asking me about my hair. I have no idea what you would call the style. I brought it from Germany. . . . It's just lots of knots on my head."

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