Terrence Malick's a Big Goofball; Harry Reid's Taxpayer-Funded Trip to China

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Welcome to the Smart Set. Every morning we bring you the gossip coverage, filtered. Today: Steven Soderbergh cries U.N.C.L.E., Terrence Malick and your little brother have similar taste in films, and CNN correspondent Jim Acosta did not like being asked to leave an airplane bathroom.

  • Terrence Malick's mystique comes from the fact he goes years between projects, doesn't show up to collect awards, and allegedly has a clause in his contract preventing people from taking his picture. The real Malick is somewhat different, according to his Tree of Life production designer Jack Fisk.“The craziest thing about Terry is he’s just a normal guy," Fisk told the audience at a Q & A for The Tree of Life. "He cracks jokes, he doesn’t mind having his picture taken. His favorite movies are Zoolander and Dodgeball." We believe it when his next movie features a carefree gasoline fight and Vince Vaughn getting in the head with a wrench. [Page Six]
  • Steven Soderbergh has reportedly bailed on directing the big-screen adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Reportedly, he made the decision after butting heads with Warner Bros. executives at a meeting in Los Angeles last night over "casting and budgets." Almost every actor under 40 with a pulse was rumored to be in the mix to play lead Napoleon Solo once George Clooney dropped out because of a bad back. Reportedly, Soderbergh's top two choices for the role were Michael Fassbender and The Killing's Joel Kinnaman and Warner Bros. was "both positive and yet cold on the actors," thent turned around and hired them for two of the studio's other movies just a few months later. That move reportedly "never sat well" with Soderbergh. [The Playlist]
  • CNN correspondent Jim Acosta -- the youngish political reporter who enjoys tweeting things he's either said or about to say on CNN -- apparently had a bit of a tift with a flight attendant on a Delta flight from Des Moines to D.C.'s Reagan National on Wednesday. It started with the flight attendant making "the standard pre-landing announcement: Buckle up, stay out of the front lavatory." Unfortunately, Acosta was in the bathroom at the time, and for some reason "felt she deliberately singled him out and confronted her in front of other passengers — calling her rude and asking for her name." This approach seldom works well for people who are on television, because it makes them look like jerks, but Acosta is satisfied with how he left things. "It was an unfortunate situation," he told The Reliable Source in an interview Thursday. "[A]nd the flight attendant apologized to me." But for what? Delivering a standard safety announcement that a CNN correspondent somehow decided was as a personal insult? No way we would have apologized for that. Acosta was the one who committed act breach of final destination bathroom etiquette, and the one who compounded the error by acting like a fugitive from the zoo plane. [The Reliable Source]
  • Howard Stern was rumored to be the early favorite to replace Piers Morgan on NBC's America's Got Talent, but the radio host said at last night's premiere of Breaking Dawn that he hasn't heard anything, after receiving initial word through back channels the producers were interested in him. No one’s told me anything,” said Stein. “I heard that they want me for the job ... I’m honored that they would consider me." He continued, "I love watching the show, I’ve been watching it from the beginning. I think I’d be better than the Hoff, but who knows? But now, there’s nothing to report about it." Considering the radical transparency that Stern brought to earlier contract talks -- especially his 15-month battle to leave terrestrial radio and join Sirius -- there's no real reason to doubt him here. Our America's Got Talent knowledge is limited mainly to promos and two minute clips where the batteries in the remote stop working, but we are familiar with the work Howard Stern, and Howard Stern would make that show a must-watch. [Page Six]
  • $66,000. According to the Congressional Record that's the final bill for the week-long "informational trip throughout China" that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and nine other senators, plus staff and family members, took back in April. The jaunt included an afternoon in Macau, the so-called "Monte Carlo of the Orient," plus stops in Beijing and Xian and other places that couldn't be disclosed at the time, because of "security concerns." It goes without saying that taxpayers are footing the bill, which could end up being much, much higher, since the $66,000 figure doesn't include the price of the military jets that flew the senators and their compadres over and back. Explains Al Kamen: "[T]he Pentagon bills around $10,000 an hour for the larger planes. So figure a round-trip to China would be 30 hours in the air, the bill for the plane — paid out of a special slush-fund for these things — would be about $300,000. And that doesn’t include various lengthy flights within China — which is, after all, a big place." But it'll all be worth it if the senators had fun learned lots of things about fantan the interconnected global economy. [In the Loop]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.