Gold Derby nuggets: Oprah goes wild for 'Australia' | 'Defiance' gets mixed kudos reax | Harvey Weinstein follows Scott Rudin from Broadway to screen
• Sasha Stone reports that Oprah Winfrey went gaga over "Australia" when she hosted stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman on her daytime talkfest Monday. Even though she saw the original downbeat ending, Winfrey enthused, "I have not been this excited for a movie since I don’t know when. I’m telling you, have I got the movie for you. It's the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long, long, long time. It literally swept me off my feet." Given the resounding success of Oprah's last endorsement, rival studios might well wonder if Fox has a winning candidate here. Awards Daily
• Following yesterday's revelation that Baz Luhrmann has changed the ending of "Australia", Brad Brevet writes of, "a long chat with a Fox rep yesterday about the situation, and what I got from the conversation was that Luhrmann would not have changed the ending had he not wanted to, regardless of what Fox suits wanted." As Brevet explains, "In a short e-mail message sent to me one sentence pretty much seemed to sum up the conversation: Baz Luhrmann is a 'final cut' director and the studio has always been supportive of his choices." Rope of Silicon
• Pete Hammond reports on the ultimately successful screening of Oscar contender "Defiance" as the closing film for the AFI filmfest last weekend. As per Pete, the film stopped halfway through for an unscheduled break due to a faulty fire alarm. This Oscarologist thinks, "This could be a sleeper contender for Vantage, particularly when it plays for the academy, which often goes for Holocaust-themed dramas." Notes on a Season
• "Defiance" received defiant reviews in the trades, however. Variety called it "a potentially exceptional story is told in a flatly unexceptional manner." The Hollywood Reporter agreed that it's "a story that needed to be told, (but) one wishes it could have been told more dynamically. "
• Hmmm . . . did the early positive Oscar buzz for "Doubt" just get Harvey Weinstein all riled up? Now that it looks like his nemesis, producer Scott Rudin, has successfully transferred his Tonys and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway production to the silver screen, Harvey announces that the Weinstein Company has secured the film rights to the Tonys and Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County," which he invested in on Broadway. Variety reports that "playwright Tracy Letts is doing the adaptation. Harvey Weinstein said his company will fully finance and distribute the film with an eye toward a 2011 release." While Chicago-based thespian Deanna Dunagan won the lead actress Tony for playing the monstrous mama at the head of one helluva dysfunctional family, expect every woman of a certain age in Hollywood to lobby for this meaty part. However, with Meryl Streep topping our latest pundit roundup for her work as a different kind of manipulative mother in the screen version of the 2005 Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play "Doubt," the hunt may be over before it even began. Variety
• Scott Feinberg serves up a treat with his podcast with best actress contender Kristin Scott Thomas ("I've Loved You So Long"). This one-time nominee ("The English Patient") is a pick of six of the seven pundits just surveyed. The Feinberg Files
• The acting branch of the academy and the SAG nominating committee are being sent screeners of the indie flick "Wendy and Lucy" on Wednesday. This low-budget feature stars one-time supporting nominee Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain") as a woman at the end of the road both literally and metaphorically. Unlike years past, when voters were deluged with early screeners, this year's candidates, for the most part, held back till that other election was over. Expect mailboxes to be crammed full in the coming weeks.
• Tony Award winner Roger Bart ("You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"), currently wowing audiences if not critics on Broadway in "Young Frankenstein," has been tapped to host the Nov. 24 International Emmy ceremony in Gotham. As we reported last month, "the bias in favor of Old Blighty continues with the U.K. scoring eight of the 40 nominations in 10 categories. The only categories in which the English aren't competing are non-scripted entertainment and the new one — telenovela. At last year's festivities, the Brits took home seven of the nine awards, losing actress and not contending for children's programming."
Photos: Fox Searchlight, Music Box Theatre