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A starry encounter with Her Wackiness

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Laugh in disbelief if you will, but I don't think of myself as star struck. Oh, sure. I sometimes get giddy at the idea of dancing with certain hunky male actors, but there truly aren't any celebrities worth lying, cheating and conniving my way into a VIP room to meet. Shirley MacLaine is, of course, the exception.

I've been a fan of this delightfully ballsy broad and all her past incarnations since I was a child. She was the one and only person I was dying to meet during the festival. So imagine my disappointment when I raced over to the Club Monaco/Premiere party for Curtis Hanson's In Her Shoes on Wednesday night, only to discover that Her Wackiness had already been whisked down the red carpet and into the impenetrable VIP room inside.

There I was, drowning my sorrows in a plastic cup of warm white wine under the glare of spinning spotlights, when up rocked a familiar face from Golden Palace.com, the Internet casino company that was sponsoring the event's week-long celebrity poker lounge.

"I'll get you in," he generously offered after I had explained my plight. "I'm paying for all this -- they had better let me take in whoever I want," he added, as he sneaked me through a side entrance.

So, there I was again, this time mere inches away from Ms. MacLaine's elbow, waiting for the appropriate moment to weasel my way into the conversation while fantasizing about how the venerable actress and spiritual guide might recognize me as her long-lost granddaughter from ancient Egypt.Knowing I had only one chance to capture Ms. MacLaine's undivided attention with a gripping opening line, I leaped right into the metaphysical realm.

"Can you tell me about your experience with the Ramtha School of Enlightenment?" I asked, referring to the Oregon-based retreat that was founded by JZ Knight, a woman who claims she channels the spirit of a 35,000-year-old warrior from the long-lost city of Atlantis. The school's publicity materials cite Ms. MacLaine among its many celebrity endorsers.

She had to be impressed, I thought confidently.

"I don't endorse anything," she replied with a withering put-down that made me wish I had asked about Terry, her rat terrier and constant companion, with whom she has recently co-authored the book Out on a Leash and really does consider her Egyptian peer from a past life.

"I don't even endorse vanilla ice cream," she added, before admitting that she had met Ramtha once. "But that was many years ago."

We carried on chatting about What the Bleep Do We Know?, last year's indie sleeper hit, a fictionalized documentary produced and directed by Ramtha's students, which has become one of the most popular documentaries of all time not made by Michael Moore.

"There are a lot of people out there who need help," she said with a worried sigh. As I caught a nervous glance from the publicist, I realized I was one of them.

My time was up. Maybe Ms. MacLaine and I will meet again in a future life.

The gods were definitely not on the side of Sturla Gunnarson when the Canadian director was shooting Beowulf and Grendel on the southern coast of Iceland. The calamities began on the first day, when a pagan high priest and friend of the director arrived to bless the set. In the middle of the ceremony, Mr. Gunnarson fell on the shore and split his head. Later, the storms were so bad, seven vehicles were knocked out by flying rocks. They also had to contend with a volcanic eruption.

The producers begged Mr. Gunnarson to halt production, but with a determination worthy of the legend's hero, he refused to back down.

According to the critics, it looks like the mere mortal won.

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