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A star-studded bet on '21'

From left: '21' producer Dana Brunetti, author Ben Mezrich, actor Jim Sturgess, and Jeff Ma at the screening. From left: "21" producer Dana Brunetti, author Ben Mezrich, actor Jim Sturgess, and Jeff Ma at the screening. (bill brett for the boston globe)
Email|Print| Text size + By Carol Beggy and Mark Shanahan
Globe Staff / March 4, 2008

Actor Jim Sturgess got a baptism by fire when he arrived in Las Vegas last year to begin work on "21," a film about a crack blackjack team from MIT who beat the Vegas casinos. "My wallet was stolen . . . or I lost it," the 28-year-old star told us yesterday. "It could have fallen out of my back pocket. . . . But the first time I sat at the table to play, it happened. My wallet was lost - literally - in Vegas." In town for last night's screening of the movie, Sturgess said filming in Boston was a welcome change of pace from the lights and noise of Vegas. "It's such a different world. We were in the casinos, making a film of the casinos. It was so overwhelming." Joining him on the red carpet at the AMC Loews Boston Common was his real-life counterpart Jeff Ma, a former MIT blackjack team player whose life was chronicled in Back Bay author Ben Mezrich's bestseller "Bringing Down the House." The film, which opens March 28, will have its official premiere in Vegas in a couple of weeks with Sturgess's costars Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, and Laurence Fishburne. "I've never been on a film set," Ma told us yesterday. "Now it's a red carpet. . . . It's all very surreal." Mezrich said he was trying to enjoy the experience. "It's been nearly eight years since I was in Jeff's South End apartment . . . and now it's a film," Mezrich said. The guest list for last night's screening and after-party at Mantra included Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley, Governor Deval Patrick, and "21" producer Dana Brunetti. Sturgess said he hopes the city has forgiven him for the day last April when the Mass. Avenue bridge was closed for filming. "It's a beautiful shot," Sturgess said. "I think we must have angered a lot of people that day. Traffic was backing up everywhere."

Survival of the fittest?
If Mike Bortone sounds bitter about being sent packing from "Survivor," that's because he is. The Watertown native was bounced from the new season of the CBS reality show after just four episodes, and he's none too pleased about it. "I played with a bunch of losers," Bortone (below) told us yesterday. "Joel [Anderson] didn't trust me, and he managed to persuade the crew of misfits not to trust me, either." Because he was in it to win it, the LA-based actor who once dated Eliza Dushku said he was bummed. "Sure, I'm disappointed, more than you can imagine," he said. "There was no personality on the show. . . . I'm sure [CBS] is [peeved] to see me go." Asked what's next, Bortone said he's hoping to parlay the experience into work. "I want to write, and I want to act," he said. "I want to work."

A couple on the move
MSNBC host Dan Abrams attended a symposium at Boston University over the weekend on prejudice and was accompanied by British girlfriend Jaime Murray, the raven-haired actress best known for her roles on "Hustle" and "Dexter." Joining Floyd Abrams's son on the panel were Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, BU professors Jeffrey Mehlman and Robert Zelnick, and Brandeis professor Eugene Sheppard. The symposium was part of "The Power of Prejudice: The Dreyfus Affair," an exhibit at the 808 Gallery at BU.

Dogged devotion
Tanya Littlefield and her dog Winston joined a couple dozen owners and their pooches at a march outside the State House yesterday to show support for homeless pets. The event was a marketing promotion for today's DVD release "Dr. Doolittle: Tail to the Chief," a movie that stars Peter Coyote as the president and Kyla Pratt as young Maya Doolittle. To help fight the problem of abandoned pets, the film's makers donated $1,000 to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Simon's dash down the aisle
If not for a phone call from Bianca Jagger, there's a chance James Taylor and Carly Simon would not have married when they did. In a forthcoming book about Carly, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell, Simon says Bianca accused her of carrying on an affair with Mick Jagger, and she called Taylor to warn him. "[Bianca] said to him, 'You know, my husband and your fiancée are having an affair,' and James said, 'That's not true'; he totally defended me." Still, Sweet Baby James wasn't going to wait any longer to wed Simon. "There's nothing that gets men so crazy as other men pursuing their women," Simon says. "Boy, did we decide [to marry] fast!" The book, "Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation," comes out later this month. . . . Simon, meanwhile, is the latest star to sign with Starbucks' record label. The "You're So Vain" singer joins the likes of Taylor, Joni, and Sir Paul McCartney.

Ordway: Family first
WEEI talk-show host Glenn Ordway will be off the air while he tends to a family medical issue involving his wife, Sarah, and the couple's newborn baby, Mia Grace Ordway. Explaining his absence from the airwaves, the highly rated host issued a statement yesterday saying there were complications during the baby's delivery and, as a result, the child suffered a "significant trauma injury" and is being treated at the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital. In addition, Ordway's wife suffered an internal injury and is also hospitalized. "It is important at this time for me to devote all my time and energy to helping my wife and to helping my baby get healthy," Ordway said. The station has also postponed next week's Whiney Awards, which Ordway hosts.

Patriots visit Israel
Patriots Ben Watson and Richard Seymour joined team owner Robert Kraft and his wife, Myra, for the trip to Israel the Krafts organize each year through Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Among those in the delegation, which arrived in Boston's sister city Haifa yesterday, are Kraft Group's Dan Kraft, Boston developer Mark Goldweitz, Clio chef/owner Ken Oringer, PR maven George Regan, and restaurateur Steve DiFillippo, who is opening a Davio's outpost at Gillette Stadium this year. The group is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and tour the Kraft Football Stadium in Jerusalem.

Hollywood prep, 101
Hollywood producer Denise Di Novi was back at her alma mater, Simmons College, yesterday without the one thing a woman with three dozen film credits needs: her cellphone. Not a problem - all of Di Novi's calls were forwarded to the dean's office. "Simmons has kept that nurturing feeling," she said with a laugh yesterday. Back on the Fenway campus, the former journalism major joined fellow alums TV reporters Gwen Ifill and Rehema Ellis and novelist Elinor Lipman on the communications department's "Wall of Fame." A producer whose credits include "Little Women" and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," Di Novi said her time at Simmons prepared her for the viper pit of big-time filmmaking. "My years here were some of the greatest years of my life," she told us from the campus. "It gave me the foundation and confidence to negotiate the world of Hollywood and remain grounded and try and have a normal life."

Names can be reached at names@globe.com or at 617-929-8253.

BY CAROL BEGGY & MARK SHANAHAN

For celebrity news updates, go to boston.com/ae

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