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One of TVs hot tickets has been "Inside the Actors Studio" and its success couldn't happen to a nicer, harder-working person than the perspicacious host, James Lipton. You've seen the creme de la creme on this Bravo channel show -- superstars of every shape and size.

Who did Lipton want the most? Well, at the time Brad Pitt was bursting forth with "Troy," he wanted Brad to come and talk about his career. But Pitt, who did yeoman interviews for this hoped-to-be-epic movie that didn't quite live up to its hype, declined.

Believe it or not, the superstar felt modestly that he did not yet have a sufficient "body of work." He wasn't ready for such high-toned exposure. Lipton was then offered Pitt's co-star, the great 2003 honorary Oscar winner Peter O'Toole, but Lipton turned down the venerable Irishman.

Speaking of epics -- the funniest remark of the season is the one making the rounds about the coming Colin Farrell-Oliver Stone historical drama, "Alexander." The wags are calling it "this year's 'Showgirls'!"

Hey, I know it's considered righteous to make fun of 1995's "Showgirls," but yours truly, along with many others, simply adored it. And I'm sure I'll love watching Farrell be "the great Alexander."

Andrew Lloyd Webber wants me to know I got one or two little facts incorrect in my praise for his coming movie of "The Phantom of the Opera." He says it cost $70 million to make, not $90 million. He adds he did not put his own money into the production entirely, but raised all the money for it himself.

P.S. Speaking of "Phantom," Bloomingdale's -- that bastion of frenzied shopping on 59th Street -- has something more orderly and cultural happening today at 4 p.m. Cast, crew and Webber will gather to present musical selections from the film. (The glorious soundtrack from Sony Classical hits stores Tuesday.) Bloomies features "Phantom"-themed windows for the holidays. Yep! A skulking, loony man in a mask always says Christmas to me!

We told you last year about the fire that destroyed producer Robert Evans' famed screening room. Evans has been haggling with insurance companies ever since, as, naturally, he wants to restore it.

Just like a mere mortal, Evans finally had to appear in arbitration court. But unlike those who trod the earth, Evans had an immortal on hand -- his good friend Jack Nicholson. Jack helped Evans plead his case to a genuinely stunned judge. "Your honor" Jack said, "I was unable to vote for films last year in the Oscar race because I couldn't view them at Mr. Evans' screening room!" This worked. Acting! It's not overrated.

Evans won a tidy sum, and plans to refurbish his wonderful home movie palace are already under way.

Anderson Cooper has this to say about the inevitable attention of TV stardom: "Fame starts to lick at you and moisten you and soften you, and it's very appealing." Uhhh ... well, so much for my watching Anderson deliver the news without wondering if he's moist.

Cooper gives this wet-and-wild remark in the latest Bergdorf Goodman magazine. The interviewer's byline is a mysterious BG, but we know it's actually the mag's editor, Michael Gross. BG also interviews Anderson's famous mom, Gloria Vanderbilt. When BG asks G.V. how she maintains her privacy, even while publishing sexy, little memoirs like "It Seemed Important at the Time," she says, "There's so much I haven't revealed."

Probably the soft, moist parts.

So here's the hot skinny on overblown Anna Nicole Smith at the American Music Awards from one of the industry's top insiders: "Anna was not at all loaded backstage. I saw her five minutes before she went out. She obviously thinks it's adorable to sound like a total drug addict ... she is very pretty but certainly not normal. She kept touching her crotch backstage. Weird."

We asked, but how did she seem otherwise? "Oh, well, Anna is an idiot." Perhaps. But she ain't smart to pretend to be under the influence. That's not funny.

Tribune Media Services

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