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Garcia: ‘Runway’ Will Rebound with Season 7

hollywoodexclusive1Good news for "Project Runway" fans who found that Season 6 didn't measure up. To hear judge Nina Garcia tell it, Season 7 is a whole 'nutha thing.

"Right off the bat, you'll see this group is very talented and interesting. It's a good, good, good season," insists the judge and Marie Claire fashion director, speaking of the designer competitors who'll be introduced to the country Thursday (1/14) when "Project Runway" returns to Lifetime.

She informs, "The casting was a little different for Season 7. They really focused on people's portfolios much more seriously and scouted in a more professional manner. There's a wide range of backgrounds — some designers who just came out of school, and some who've already had experience." The guest judges, meanwhile, "are a little more 'fashion insider' this season. They're unpredictable guest judges known in the fashion industry. You will recognize the names. Some of them are international," she says.

Garcia has been called the most no-nonsense of the show's regular judges — alongside Heidi Klum and Michael Kors — a designation she doesn't mind. "I want to judge them on a par with everyone else in the industry, on a par with what I'm seeing on the market because I see a lot. I want to be clear and honest with them. I'm not there to feed them lines and bring their hopes up."

That said, she agrees with Klum, who told us awhile back that she feels she herself has toughened up through the years. "I think Heidi is a little tough with the designers, and she's very tough with the models. Having been a model herself and still being a model, she's very opinionated."

THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Robert Redford's "The Conspirator" is already generating excitement among film cognoscenti months before its anticipated bow — as well as among the actors who wrapped up work on the feature a few weeks ago.

"Robert would do these long, three- and four-minute masters of the courtroom scenes so it was like theater. Those were a blast to do," reports venerable character actor Stephen Root, speaking of the historical story that has Robin Wright Penn as accused Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt and James McAvoy as her reluctant defense attorney.

He also notes that, for him, Redford was "very hands-off as a director. If you brought him what he wanted to see, he let you go do it. He had faith in your choices. But he had very specific notes about camera angles. He left the character work to me pretty much, but did the camera work with what he wanted to see onscreen. ... My first shot was in the Savannah woods at midnight, where John Wilkes Booth rides up to a farmhouse, which was fantastic." The film also stars Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline, Danny Huston and Tom Wilkinson.

Root shuttled back and forth between "The Conspirator" and the Alexander Payne film "Cedar Rapids," starring Ed Helms of "The Hangover," "The Daily Show" and "The Office" fame. "They couldn't have been more different — a heavy period piece to a very fun comedy. Ed is brilliant — really, really funny. John C. Reilly and Anne Heche are in it, too. I play Ed's boss in an insurance agency," says Root. "He's very afraid to go to the big city. He's used to small-town stuff. He's a sweet, simple guy who finds out about life in the big city — the big city being Cedar Rapids. Gosh, there must be 300,000 people there."

Next up for Root: an arc on the new season of "24." But he can't say much about it other than it's involved a lot of physicality.

TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC: The dance craze continues into new territory, having already scored giant hits in competition shows and via big- and small-screen musicals. Now on the way: a dance-themed half-hour sitcom called "Dance Dance Dance Chicago." Casting is under way for teen dancer characters that range in description from "a young Jason Bateman type" to "a hipster Yoda," a James Dean type to a brother and sister that should remind us of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett in "Blades of Glory." Hey, nothing wrong with aiming high.

And yet more dancers will find opportunity knocking with "The Ultimate Talent Contest," an in-the-works live weekly competition to be held in Beverly Hills that will also include everything from rappers, singers and bands to comics and ... lip synchers.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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