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Robert and Susan Downey Glad To Be Working Together/Now It Can Be Told: Ron Howard Feared Opie-Bama Backlash

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Robert Downey Jr. got an assist from his wife in order to be present at this week's Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon. Susan Downey is one of the producers on his currently shooting "Sherlock Holmes" movie, and she was able to rearrange the shooting schedule to allow him time to get to the pre-Oscar gathering that's always a favorite with actors and filmmakers — an event he particularly wanted to attend, according to her.

(Unlike some nominees, apparently, who'll go nameless here.)

The Best Supporting Actor nominee — for his turn as an extremely methody actor in Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder" comedy — is keeping up a Herculean schedule, between awards season commitments and filming. We happened to be seated with the Downeys at the luncheon, where they held hands through much of the proceedings. He said that it's a great plus to be working together on the film, so they don't have to miss each other. Downey's been married to the beauty (formerly known as Susan Levin), who runs Joel Silver's movie company, Silver Pictures, for three and a half years.

With Guy Ritchie directing, the November release "Sherlock Holmes" has Downey as the famous detective, Jude Law as Watson and also stars Rachel McAdams. Downey's thrilled that the "Sherlock Holmes" team was able to go forward with the film based on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, surprised that "nobody else was doing it."

AND: Also at the Nominees Luncheon, Ron Howard accepted lots of congratulations for the nominations accumulated by his "Frost/Nixon" — including another Best Director nod for Ron. And he also accepted congrats for his recent attention-grabbing campaign ad for President Barack Obama, in which he resumed his "Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days" personas — Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham — to sell Obama for president. He told us he did have his worries about that piece, though: "I was afraid it would hurt in some kind of weird, backlashy kind of way." Obviously, things turned out just as he'd hoped. Next up: "Angels & Demons," Ron's May release sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" with Tom Hanks.

KIDDING AROUND: Nicole Sullivan is just about ready to wrap the first season of her popular "Rita Rocks" series — and then will devote her attention full time to her 20-month-old son.

"It's hilarious with him now — every day is something new. It usually involves something gross. We have four dogs and three cats. Today, he was fascinated with dog poop. What is it and why it's there."

If "Rita" goes on for a Season 2 — and all signs point to that happening, "I think we would start production back up in the summertime," says Nicole. "It would be a nice break. I stayed at home with the baby for the first year, and that was great — and I do love working. We try to make a balance — it's very Rita to do that," she says of her schedule-juggling character. "It's hard and frustrating, and some days you feel like crying. Other days, things work out, and you get home early. Sometimes, doing an interview with certain people — guys, usually — on the phone, they'll hear my kid in the background and say, ‘Do you want to go take care of that?' And I say, 'No, we'll have to talk with my kid in the background. We have to do it this way, sir. He's not going away.'"

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW: Kimberly Elise says she jumped at the chance to meet the real Sonya Carson, who she plays in TNT's "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story" on TNT Saturday (2/7).

The heroic single mother of world-renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) had the grit to keep her two sons on the straight and narrow and ensure their good education despite her own meager means, illiteracy and battles with depression.

"I have so much reverence for Dr. Carson and his mother. I was very conscious of wanting to do right by her and by the family," says Elise. "There were so many challenges on her little shoulders, and still she pushed her children through. I feel she was very brave to tell the truth of her struggles with her depression, to let her son write about it. So many women struggle with that."

Elise is aware that some actors feel constrained when meeting their characters' real-life counterparts, but "I don't at all. Every actor has his or her own process. For me, the real people offer great energy, and if I get the opportunity to soak up some of their energy, it helps me in my characterization. I learned things about Sonya I didn't get from the script or the book — her accent, for one thing. There's a very special Southern quality to it, sort of a Southern transplant into the Northern. It's a different dialect than her children and a lot of the community around her in Detroit. It tells you about her."

With reports by Emily Feimster.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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