MacLaine, Neill tout minis as good way to be all bad


Shirley MacLaine and Sam Neill stepped out Monday at MIPTV in separate news conferences to extol the virtues of badness, and they agreed that television is the forum in which they can best let loose with the nasties.

MIPTV is not normally a place for the likes of MacLaine and Neill, but both were in town to herald what was described as "the world bow" of Alchemy Television, which unveiled a slate of miniseries during a champagne reception at the Carlton hotel.

MacLaine was both charming and scary as she nose-dived into journalists who confused the names of her old and dear friends, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn.

MacLaine plays the title role in the Alchemy miniseries "Coco Chanel." Audrey Hepburn, she recounted, had told her "50 years ago, not quite" that she should one day play Chanel.

"I told her she should play her, but she said, 'No, you!' " she said.

One journalist asked about her friendship with "Katharine." MacLaine, with panache, overlooked the mistake. But when it was repeated again and again, MacLaine clearly was scorched.

"Look, they were both my friends, Katherine and Audrey, but can we please understand that they are two different people," she said.

MacLaine said the decision to take on the role of Chanel in a miniseries gave her the scope to develop a character who straddled love and wickedness over several hours, which a theatrical movie does not allow.

Neill, who stars in Alchemy's mini "Iron Road," echoed MacLaine, saying that the four-hour stretch of a mini gave him greater scope as an actor to be "all bad."

"My character is simply a son of a bitch," he said.

Neill added that working in television is different nowadays.

"You know that 20 years ago if you did television you were like a leper and you could never do film again," he said. "That has all changed so much."

MacLaine agreed. "It's true about television; It's true for all of us," she said. "Everything has changed."