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Papa loves Mumba

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What if you could change the past? You know, crack the laugh lines back into the laughter and pour the liver pain back into the shot glass. Take it all back for a spirited revisit to whatever one-night stand seemed so important that you've held it in a grimace on your face (or a mention in your column) for much too long. Nah. That would be too much work.

Time travel, not surprisingly, makes for a better movie than it does a column (and I've only begun!). With my knees in my face muffling inappropriate childhood guffaws, I have just sat through a screening of "The Time Machine, an epic revision of the H.G. Wells nerd classic about a Victorian Englishman, played by Guy Pearce, who invents said machine so he can correct the past, only to hurtle accidentally into a hostile future. Now I'm fortunately seated across a Hard Rock Hotel table from beautiful Irish pop princess -- now movie star -- Samantha Mumba. In the re-make, she plays Mara, the pretty face who captivates Pearce and represents reformed society after an apocalypse that introduces monsters who want to eat her. And she is pouring messy affection all over her movie.

"Listen, I was screaming too," she Mumbas. "And I knew what was happening!" I love her.

Anyway, my girl Sam is in town for the obligatory Nickelodeon "Slime Time" cameo and small-press chats that come with first-rung celebrity, and I've got only 15 minutes to make her know just how much I love her. I really do. I want to eat her too, and surprisingly, not eat her up. Oh my god! I'm not a journalist at all! Quick. Ask a question.

"I know you must be tired of this one, but ...," I unprofessionally cushion, "how did you get into this?"

"Yep," she confirms, throwing the cushion back in my face, "but I'll say it anyway. I was in an article in People magazine -- they came to Ireland to do a piece on me -- and the casting director had been casting for the role for months. She saw my picture in the magazine. I think I had what it was you're supposed to look like in 800,000 years," she winks.

"How old are you?"

"Nineteen."

That would put me at 800,011. "Any coaching?" I quiz, like a bitter dinner-theater actress might.

"No, not really," she nonchalants. "I worked with a guy called Larry Moss for about a week before the shoot. He was brilliant. We would just sit in coffee shops and drink loads of coffee while flipping through the script."

How casual ... and trendy!

"We'd talk about things that I wouldn't normally think of," she thinks, "like maybe `the character's` mannerisms were different from mine or maybe she walked different from me. Funny little things like that."

It all sounds so easy. Only it's not. Living on sides of cliffs and in dense jungles, Mumba's movie tribe hardly has time for coffee breaks, much less trendy milk steamers. The scary monsters and super freaks await at every turn.

"They've got to have so much on their shoulders," she shrugs, "knowing that there are horrible monsters that are going to come and eat them every night."

Note to self: Do not eat Samantha.

In the movie, Mumba's people are all young, with all of their parents presumably having perished. This is something they do not talk about. Which means, in my blurring of fact and fiction, I'm compelled to ask: "Where did your parents go?"

"Did you see the original `1960` movie?" she checks.

"Um, no," I cower. "Did you?"

"I didn't want to watch it until after I filmed. ... I thought it might throw me off," she snoots. "Looking at it now, it's just funny, the old version. So not scary."

"So your parents ...," I continue.

"The `tribes` back then were very much kind of airy-fairy and gave the same answer for everything: 'We don't talk about that' and the like," she airs.

I think I've interviewed them before. Or dated them.

"If you remember, Jeremy Irons, who plays the über-Morlock, is controlling our minds and our dreams. So obviously our parents have been eaten by him."

Obviously. What about your extremely edible co-star, Pearce?

"He was cool," she dismisses. "He's professional and good at what he does."

And cute!

"Yeah," she glazes off like maybe she doesn't think so. I am very much in love.

"You must be surprised by the difference between promoting a film and promoting a teen-pop album," I glow. "Like nobody asks you your favorite color."

"Or 'What boy do you fancy?'" she stares.

Is that a question for me? Hmph.

OK, I move on, who is Samantha Mumba?

"Tee-hee-he-he-he"

A little spark of light?

"Hee-he-he-he"

A feather blowing in the breeze?

"No, actually I'm an idiot," she shuts me up. "My friends just say I'm crazy. I don't take anything particularly seriously. I like to have fun and enjoy myself. You're only here once ..."

I'm hungry for something meatier. Let's dish Britney and Mandy and their failed film forays!

"I do think the timing is awful," she confesses. "It seems like everybody who's a singer is going into movies now. Even that bores me."

OK, you're bored. Go ahead and close me out. But keep in mind, I could have eaten you.


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