THE NEW FACE AT ESTEE LAUDER
Euro-glamorous model-actress-producer ELIZABETH HURLEY, below, at 36 can still give a blind man whiplash. But stepping aside for younger model CAROLYN MURPHY, 28, as the star for cosmetics giant Estee Lauder must have been a bit unsettling, no? "I couldn't be happier, and remain besotted with, and grateful to, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, my surrogate American parents!" Hurley gushed. She'll remain a spokeswoman for Lauder fragrances and will try to take more time for acting. (She's got four films in the can, so one wonders how much more time she'll need.) As for Murphy, who beat out Gwyneth Paltrow for the job, this marks her return to modeling. A cover girl for American, British, French and Italian Vogue, she quit the life and moved to Costa Rica, where she met her chef husband; they now live in New York City with their baby girl. Carolyn probably has a few good years left.
After Hollywood's Summer of Duds, news that Philadelphia filmmaker M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN (The Sixth Sense; Unbreakable) is ready to start work on his next supernatural thriller is good news. But first--what did he think of that summer ghost movie that ripped off his Sixth Sense twister ending? "I was bothered by it," he admits. "But I guess I'm flattered. So many times I'll come out of a movie and think, 'I wish I had done that!'" His new movie, Signs, stars Mel Gibson as an ex-priest wrestling with his beliefs ("I like to cast slightly against type," he understates), with Joaquin Phoenix as his brother. They own a farm that becomes the site of enormous, mysterious crop circles. A surprise ending to this one? He's coy, but promises it will be unique: "I'm an Indian living in Philadelphia--I can't help it!" Disney execs, who paid eight figures for the script, are counting on a hit--and hope the surprises stay on the screen.
SO IT IS ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS
They gave an awards ceremony last week, and an infomercial broke out--not to mention a Mutual of Omaha wildlife special, a dragfest (comedian ANDY DICK, left, as singer Christina Aguilera's "cousin Daphne") and a monster truck rally. (P. Diddy arrived on an 18-wheeler.) And those were some of the more dignified moments at the MTV Video Music Awards, a spectacle that started low and slithered downhill from there, landing in a lagoon of cheese, with BRITNEY SPEARS' joyless gyrations to her new single Slave 4 U. (She didn't like her boa, it seems.) The most curious aspect was the shameless shilling. Presenters like MACY GRAY, right, Busta Rhymes, Shakira and others were more interested in the "Song of Myself," relentlessly hawking their new releases. At least Missy Elliott (lowered from the ceiling via chandelier) had the grace to remember the singer Aaliyah with an airbrushed portrait on the back of her white leather jacket. Across the backside of Macy Gray's getup? BUY IT.