Movie mogul Weinstein looks east for cinematic promise

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* HERE'S A piece of news that will set hearts a-flutter from Hollywood to Washington: the film tycoon Harvey Weinstein is planning to champion the hitherto unglamorous cause of Middle Eastern films.

* HERE'S A piece of news that will set hearts a-flutter from Hollywood to Washington: the film tycoon Harvey Weinstein is planning to champion the hitherto unglamorous cause of Middle Eastern films.

Having "saved" Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 after Disney refused to distribute it, Weinstein - the head of Miramax, and one of the most powerful men in Hollywood - is about to set foot in tricky political waters once more.

Speaking at the premiere of his firm's latest film, Bride and Prejudice, on Monday, Weinstein told me that he's now hoping to produce a "marriage" of Hollywood and Middle Eastern cinema.

" Bride and Prejudice is the chance for Bollywood to go mainstream, to explode," he said. "Next, what I'd really like to see is Middle Eastern cinema exploding in the same way."

"I want to help it happen. I've done a lot of work with Iranian cinema already, but only as a niche. I'd now like to put that together with Hollywood. I don't have a specific project ready to go, but we're looking at a number of things, and I think it has the potential to be the next exciting thing."

Interestingly, it recently emerged that Weinstein met with Colonel Gadaffi's son Saadi, at the Venice Film festival. He was asked - and politely declined - to make a biopic of the Libyan leader.

* THE ACTRESS Renee Zellweger is suffering from the sort of personal crisis that occasionally crops up in the diaries of her most famous alter ego.

Claiming to be suffering from exhaustion, she's decided to take a year-long career break once the new Bridget Jones film is released.

"I need to stop. I have to stop," she tells Time Out . "The work is all encompassing, and there are so many things that you're not allowed in life because of it."

Another annoyance is the attentions of the paparazzi. "The emotional pummelling you have to endure is unimportant in the bigger picture, but it's how that affects your day. You have a convoy of six men who've decided that they need to make some money out of you today, and they don't care that it will be at your expense."

"So I'm stopping. I'm really not considering anything until probably this time next year."

* THE TORIES will today celebrate a PR coup, when the hitherto unknown Yvette Livesey speaks at the New Local Government Network's debate in Bournemouth.

The former Miss UK and long-standing girlfriend of "Madchester" pioneer Tony Wilson is being touted as a future Tory MP.

"Most of my friends are socialists, so it's something I keep quiet about," she says. "But approaches have been made, and I'm toying with the idea."

She'll certainly add some glamour to proceedings. The only delegate of comparable pedigree is John Redwood's amour Nikki Page, a former hostess on the TV quiz Sale of the Century.

* YESTERDAY, I reported on Sienna Guillory's charm offensive at the opening of the Raindance Film Festival, where she accused Kate Beckinsale of having a breast enlargement. That was strongly denied by Beckinsale's agent. So today, I give you Guillory's comments on another young star.

"And then there's Keira Knightley, doing all the roles that no one else will do," she said. "You know: 'I'm a woman. I have no lines, no character, I just stand here and bat my eyelashes'."

Before leaving my company, Guillory added perceptively: "I'm being terribly indiscreet, considering you're a journalist."

* This week's Camden New Journal claimed a one-legged Iraqi orphan, Zeynab Hamid Taresh, was run over by Tony Blair's car in Brighton.

"Behind the darkened windows, Tony Blair and his entourage would have known nothing of the tears shed by the one-legged Iraqi girl flung backwards against the pavement," it read. "The black people carrier brushed against her at high speed, knocking her crutches from under her."

A hard-hitting tale, but is it true? "We regret that Zeynab was frightened, but the Prime Minister did not travel in a people carrier at the conference," says a Downing Street spokesman. "It must have been someone else."

This, for the uninitiated, is known as the "Campbell" method of denial: using an incorrect detail to discredit an entire story.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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