The Dance of a New DirectorJohn Malkovich...

The Dance of a New Director

John Malkovich presided over the Los Angeles premiere of "The Dancer Upstairs," his debut as a film director, with characteristic impish charm. Standing before the crowd at a special screening at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Thursday, he singled out Gary Sinise, his longtime friend and co-founder of the Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theatre Company. "Why, when I ask you to wear a sarong to my openings--you don't wear one?" Malkovich asked Sinise. "I want you to reflect on that."

Afterward, at a candlelit dinner at the Highlands club in Hollywood, Malkovich worked the room as others ate, moving through a crowd that included Andy Garcia, David Schwimmer and Mark Ruffalo. About 200 people attended the $1,000-per-ticket fund-raiser for the Chicago-based Steppenwolf.

"The Dancer Upstairs," which was purchased by Fox Searchlight at the Sundance Film Festival this month for $2.5 million, is Nicholas Shakespeare's adaptation of his own book on revolutionary activity in Latin America.

Spanish star Javier Bardem stars as a police investigator who falls in love with his daughter's mysterious dance instructor while tracking down revolutionaries. Bardem told us that Malkovich gave him an enormous amount of freedom, and helped him channel his emotions more carefully than he had done in other roles. Working with Malkovich "was a huge responsibility," Bardem said. "And I was scared. It was like going to acting school for free."

Malkovich described Bardem as a hard worker bursting with ideas, and called him "a screen-eating monster."

"If you get the camera on him ... it's impossible not to watch him," he said. Malkovich said he was given nine weeks and $4 million to shoot the picture--"and I did it." The result, he said, is a film that is "dense, clear, demanding."

If audiences agree, he'll have reached his goal of creating a picture that has a lasting effect and won't be seen as "a product of this second, or a film that you couldn't remember five minutes [after it ended.]"

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Courting Koolhaas

The scene was reminiscent of a Hollywood premiere: long lines of spectators, a cluster of celebrities (Brad Pitt, Martha Stewart, Michael York, Diane Keaton), and at the center of it all a charismatic star adroitly filling the role of Man in the News.

But the attraction Sunday afternoon at UCLA wasn't a matinee idol, but controversial Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the leading rock-god/philosopher of contemporary design.

Possibly the most talked-about builder on the planet today, he was on campus to deliver a freewheeling lecture on his latest projects, including the new Prada boutique in Manhattan's SoHo district and a major redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

About 400 people squeezed into Dickson Auditorium for the free event, with another 130 or so watching a live video feed in an adjacent building. Some said they had stood in the rain for more than an hour to get seats, and when Koolhaas appeared in the hall, several squeals of excitement went up from the crowd.

Among the L.A. art-world luminaries in attendance were Ann Philbin, director of UCLA's Hammer Museum, and Stephanie Barron, senior curator of modern and contemporary art and vice president of education and public programs at LACMA.

Dressed in a white shirt and black slacks--Prada, by any chance?--Koolhaas used slides, playful graphics, paradoxical thinking and deadpan humor to walk his audience through the major conceptual issues he's currently wrestling with. "Every single institution known to man is infiltrated by shopping," Koolhaas declared at one point, before going on to defend his own involvement with Prada, for which he has been chastised by architecture critics.

Leaning his 6-foot-5 frame into a lectern, Koolhaas was alternately jokey and intense, assertive and disarming. Air conditioning and the escalator have turned architectural values systems upside down, he said, leading to the use of increasingly "debased" materials and "the degradation of the idea of the city." Commenting on a graphic depicting pay rates for Chinese architects versus the much higher salaries of their less-productive U.S. and European counterparts, Koolhaas joked to the audience, "I hope you will permit me to find your laughter extremely unpleasant."

Summing up his attitude toward the global marketplace, where credit cards have become the new passports, Koolhaas said, "Our relationship with the market is both analytical--and also relentlessly critical."

It'll be interesting to see if L.A., where the LACMA project and another Prada boutique are set to open in coming years, will buy that combination.

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A Drive to Court

Sheriff's deputies arrested Emmy-winning actress Kim Delaney in Malibu on Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The actress, who played a detective on "NYPD Blue," was driving erratically on Pacific Coast Highway on Saturday evening, prompting another driver to call 911, said Sgt. Mo Angel of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The driver began following Delaney's black Mercedes while calling in directions to deputies.

When Delaney reached her home, she accidentally set off the burglar alarm, causing additional deputies to respond, Angel said.

Delaney was arrested but refused to take an alcohol test. She was booked at the Malibu sheriff's station and released four hours later. A court date was set for March 27.

In 1997, Delaney won an Emmy for best supporting actress for her role as a recovering alcoholic on "NYPD Blue." She currently stars as a defense attorney in "Philly."

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Sightings

Fabio spotted at Home Depot in Woodland Hills considering the store's selection of lightbulbs.

Times staffer Reed Johnson contributed to this report. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Thursday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.

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