Kidman, Theron Shine at AIDS Benefit; Scorpion, Scorsese Draw Spotlight

VENICE, Italy — Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron wore white, Bijou Phillips donned black, and Claudia Schiffer came in scarlet. "I picked the dress because of the color," said Germany's favorite supermodel. "It's my favorite."

It was all for the second fund-raising Cinema Against AIDS gala, hosted last Friday by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and planned to coincide with the Venice Film Festival. The women all were adorned with jewels provided by event sponsor Bvlgari; Schiffer helped auction a Bvlgari topaz-and-diamonds white gold necklace that sold for $27,000.

The benefit raised $700,000 and amfAR's chair, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, gave the grim statistics on the disease epidemic now in its 20th year: "There are 38 million people in the world this year that are held hostage, living on borrowed time," noted the veteran AIDS crusader. "This year's death toll of 19 million people leaves 13 million orphans."

Taylor also spoke about the need to "see drug users as human beings," which brought a big smile and a thumbs up from Brad Renfro, in attendance with his Bully mates, Phillips, Nick Stahl, and Rachel Miner.

Festivalgoers Clamor for Woody's Curse The festival saw a near riot as fans and media members tried to get into an overbooked Saturday matinee screening of Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Local police quickly contained the unruly crowd. "It was scary for a bit. We were packed in there by the police and had nowhere to go for half an hour," one journalist reported.

There was no such melee at the press conference for the film, which is not in competition. With Allen home in New York, Helen Hunt and Charlize Theron greeted the film's fervent fans. One Italian reporter jokingly told Theron, "In the movie, Charlize, you fall in love with Woody, an older man who lives in a dingy apartment. I have a dingy flat in Milan."

The leggy former model rewarded the playful proposition with a brief gesture of invitation before returning to the topic at hand: the slinky blond socialite she plays in Scorpion. "I got a kick playing this little rich girl who got everything on a silver platter all her life and was desperately in search of some kind of excitement."

Asked how she deals with her sexuality, Theron, who's been spotted around Venice with her British boyfriend, actor Stuart Townsend, said, "It's not you 'deal with it', it's who we are. As a human being you have to celebrate everything we are. It's true, a lot of beautiful women have a hard time in Hollywood because you so easily do get typecast."

Scorsese Talks Classic Italian Cinema Martin Scorsese took a break from his forthcoming $100 million epic Gangs of New York to bring a pair of very rare, recently preserved films to Venice. The director noted that, "The fact I've come here in the midst of the work on Gangs is because I wanted to show how important this is for me."

Scorsese's four-hour personal history of Italian cinema, My Voyage to Italy, premiered at Cannes and next unreels at the New York Film Festival. He's spent over a decade on it. "The main reason is to draw attention for younger people to see these films on big screens, in museums or rereleases. I'd like to generate that interest. The first film I saw in Italian, I was five in 1948 and it was Paisan — and it marked me for life." The other influential Italian classics of his youth: Shoeshine, Rome: Open City, and The Bicycle Thief.

DVD, he pointed out, has helped make these movies available. "I know lot of young people; I just got a call from a young actor" — might it have been Leonardo DiCaprio, Scorsese's Gangs star? — "who said, 'I just saw The Bicycle Thief! It was amazing!'"