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Rambling Reporter

JOHN LASSETER HITS THE PAVEMENT: Until recently, Pixar head John Lasseter had done voice work for only one of his films, 1998’s A Bug’s Life. “But I got zapped in a bug zapper pretty quickly,” he tells THR. He’ll soon sound off onscreen again as an all-American pickup truck named John Lassetire when his Cars 2, starring Owen Wilson, Michael Caine and Eddie Izzard, hits June 24. “Denise Ream, my producer, got legal clearance on the name, so I felt like I had to do it,” says Lasseter, who even called in a co-director for his bit part. “I needed objectivity — for my three lines!” And while Disney’s gearing up Cars 2 to drive big box office, Lasseter — who’s got hits, Oscars and every accolade a filmmaker could get — isn’t so secure: “What if Cars 2 is the first Pixar movie to bomb? And what if it’s because of my performance?”

Cooling Heels at CAA’s Oscar Party
If you think getting into Bryan Lourd’s Feb. 26 pre-Oscar shindig was hard, getting out was way harder. The crowd of all A-listers waited up to an hour and a half for their cars due to a narrow driving path that made retrieving those Beemers and Mercedes nearly impossible. What’s an impatient exec to do? Suddenly, the valets were making out like bandits, with fifties and hundreds flying around like pollen. MGM’s Roger Birnbaum and producer Neal Moritz were said to be the top tippers. But it was all in vain — nobody’s cars showed up any hastier.

Thin Blood
Vampires are big in the youth market, we know — but they’re about to skew older. A lot older. Billy Crystal has been cast by Will Ferrell to play an aging vampire in a brief webisode for Ferrell’s comedic website Funny or Die. Crystal needed a partner — so he called old pal Renee Taylor, who told her friends, “Billy’s going to bite my neck, but carefully — we’re senior vampires!” Let’s hope no teeth are broken during the making of the show.

The Girl Before Dragon Tattoo
Before she was David Fincher’s “It” girl, Rooney Mara was just another young actress slogging through auditions. But now a film she made in 2009 called Tanner Hall will be released in the fall, in time to benefit from her no-doubt major Christmas media exposure (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). It turns out to be the first feature by Tatiana von Furstenberg, co-written and co-directed with her BFF Francesca Gregorini — and, yes, mom Diane von Furstenberg helped with the costumes. It’s a coming-of-age story set at a Rhode Island boarding school. According to Tatiana, the unknown Mara snagged the lead “because she had a lot of dignity and intrigue to her, even though her headshot was bad — she even had chapped lips in it. But we had this instinct she could become a Grace Kelly type.” The film, produced by Julie R. Snyder, was in competition at Toronto in 2009 but didn’t get a distributor till Mara got her big break this year. Now, Anchor Bay will put it out in September or October — and Mara already committed to starring in Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, Gregorini’s next feature as a writer-director. Clearly, it pays to go with your instincts.

TED Is an Excellent Adventure
“TED is like supersmart-people camp,” says director Morgan Spurlock about the annual invitation-only Technology Entertainment Design conference, which wrapped March 4. TED — which presents talks on cutting-edge research and thinking — doesn’t reveal the names of attendees, who pay $6,000 or more to go. So who was there? Ashton and Demi, regular TEDster Cameron Diaz, Google’s Sergey Brin and Participant Media’s Ricky Strauss were among those who heard Bill Gates speak on states’ budget deficits, Spurlock talk about the making of his film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and Julie Taymor compare her Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark experience to the Salem witch trials. We checked in with producer Lawrence Bender, whose highlight was seeing composer Eric Whitacre. “He got people all over the world to sing this song and post it via YouTube. Then he put them together in this 3D clip, conducting them like a choir,” he says. “It’s a way of bringing people together.” And Discovery Communications founder-chairman John Hendricks tells THR: “The designers of the London play War Horse, which is on its way to New York, presented these life-size horse puppets. You can clearly see the three human manipulators, but you suspend reality and think of it as a horse. It was fairly stunning.”

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Power Lunch
Comme Ca on Melrose played host to a number of celebs: Amy Adams and Adam Shankman joined two others for a meal, while Jessica Biel enjoyed a very quiet lunch. … Jennifer Lopez dining on spaghetti with clams, pancetta and chile pesto at Osteria Mozza. … Obika Mozzarella Bar in the Century City mall welcomed Italian songwriter Tony Renis (“Quando Quando Quando”) and actress Giselle Itie, who starred opposite Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables. … Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa enjoying a martini and steak with girlfriend Lu Parker and another couple at La Seine on Beverly Hills’ Restaurant Row. … Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and his family at Hugo’s in Studio City. … Jason Reitman lunching with his Up in the Air star Jason Bateman on the terrace at Soho House. … Reese Witherspoon spied downing steak frites and chocolate cake with two other women at Bouchon, while Michael Chow dined across the room. In another corner of Bouchon: CAA’s Missy Davy, Michael Mand and Beth McClinton.

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