Top Story: Richard Simmons Slaps Airline Passenger
Exercise guru Richard Simmons, known for his Sweatin' to the Oldies exercise videos set to songs from the '50s and '60s, was cited for misdemeanor assault for allegedly slapping a man, the AP reports. Simmons was at the Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport waiting for a flight to Los Angeles Wednesday when a fellow passenger recognized him. According to Phoenix police, the man "made the offhand comment, 'Hey everybody. It's Richard Simmons. Let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s.'" Simmons, 55, reportedly walked over to the passenger and slapped him in the face. The man wasn't injured but told police he intends to file charges against Simmons.
Simon Cowell's Finger Causes Controversy
Did American Idol judge Simon Cowell flip fellow judge Paula Abdul the bird on national television? Cowell and Fox are having to respond to this allegation today after online Internet columnist Matt Drudge pointed out Cowell's odd middle finger alignment during Tuesday night's telecast after the acerbic judge argued with Abdul over a contestant. And he wasn't the only one to take notice. Federal Communications Commission spokesman Richard Diamond told Reuters Thursday the agency had received a few complaints about the incident, which are generally reviewed to determine if an investigation is warranted. But Cowell is vehemently denying the allegation. "I certainly would never make a gesture like that toward Paula or on national television," Cowell said. "Sometimes I lean on my index finger. Sometimes a different finger. Sometimes two at the same time, or, God help me, even the whole hand. I never even thought about it until now."
Houston Checks Out of Rehab
Whitney Houston, who had been undergoing treatment in a drug rehabilitation center, has left the facility five days after checking in because she "felt the walls were closing in on her," a source close to the singer was quoted as saying in the Daily News. The source also said the singer is now staying at a rented home near her home in the Atlanta area. Houston's spokeswoman told The Associated Press Thursday that the report is no big deal and that the singer is still taking part in the rehab program but at another location.
Bobby Brown Back in Jail
Whitney Houston's husband, meanwhile, has been ordered back to the pen. Massachusetts Judge Paula Carey sentenced Bobby Brown to jail Wednesday for 90 days or until he can come up with more than $60,000 in child support owed to the mother of two children he fathered, Reuters reports. Local media report that Brown, who will serve the sentence at the Norfolk County House of Correction in Dedham, Mass., wept at his hearing.
Aretha Franklin Released From Hospital
Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who was admitted to Detroit's Sinai-Grace Hospital Saturday for treatment of a low platelet count, a blood disorder that can lead to hemorrhaging, was released Wednesday. "She responded very well to her treatment and she's doing just fine," Dr. Claud Young, Franklin's longtime personal physician, told Reuters. Young said the temporary disorder was caused either by a virus or an allergic reaction to antibiotics Franklin had taken earlier, but was not related to the singer's hypertension. In a statement released by her New York-based publicist, Franklin said she planned to spend her 62nd birthday Thursday at her Detroit-area home.
Ryan Seacrest Defends Color Pink
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest is lending his support to six boys from Ensign Middle School in Newport Beach, Calif., who were banned from a class portrait for wearing pink T-shirts. According to the AP, the eighth graders were pulled from class portrait last week because principal Edward Wong feared the color could be associated with gang-affiliated "dance crews," which hold all-night dance contests and raves. The boys, however, denied being crew members and said they wore the shirts, described as "Easter pink," to stand out in the photo. Seacrest said Tuesday he got involved because a student told a local newspaper that pink was popular among teens because it was a color often worn by Seacrest. He declared this week "Think Pink Week" and asked listeners on his KIIS-FM morning radio show to wear pink on Friday.
MPAA Wants Public To Report Pirates
The Motion Picture Assn. of America said Wednesday at the movie theater industry's annual ShoWest convention in Las Vegas that they are considering a plan to encourage customers at movie houses to squelch criminals using camcorders to record films illegally. "We are considering an MPAA camcorder reward program," Bill Shannon, the MPAA's U.S. anti-piracy operations director said. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shannon talked exhibitors through a behind-the-scenes tour of how pirates steal and distribute films worldwide and chronicled a handful of films' fates after they were camcorded and pirated, showing how a film can be pirated in New York and then appear on the streets in China in less than two weeks.
VH1 Greenlights Michael Jackson Movie
Music cabler VH1 has greenlighted an unauthorized movie about pop oddity Michael Jackson. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project, tentatively titled Family Values, has begun preproduction in Calgary, Alberta. It will follow Jackson's life from his Thriller heydays to his current scandal-plagued legal woes and include flashbacks to his old Motown. Executive producer Jon Katzman said the film will strive for an objective portrayal of Jackson's life. "We're big fans of Michael's. We're going to do our best to present the facts as truthfully as possible," he said. "We're not taking sides one way or the other." Jackson has not been consulted on the project, however, and he script will not be derived from any one source of material.
Role Call: Suvari Heads to Beauty Shop; Wilkinson, Hauer Join Batman Begins
Mena Suvari is joining the cast of Queen Latifah's Barbershop spin-off, Beauty Shop, which begins shooting next month.
Larry (not his real name) wanted $30 for a $10 ticket to "American Psycho." If you waited 15 minutes, you waited too long, because then Larry wanted $40 -- and got it, too. (Or so he thought.)
According to one overheard comment Friday night at the "Psycho"'s sold-out Sundance premiere at the Eccles Theatre, the 15-year-old and his underage posse were possibly the first scalpers in the history of Robert Redford's mountain paradise.
Such is life in this now (really) big little city.
The snow arrived about the same time the stars did this weekend -- as did the buzz, the crowds, Tammy Faye and the kids trying to price gouge morally offended indie film types. A rundown of the action:
KA-CHING! "Groove," a no-name indie about the rave-party scene, is living the Sundance dream -- snapped up today by Sony Pictures Classics. No word on the dollar amount. The flick, called a "low-budget 'Nashville' by the Sundance wags, premiered Friday under the festival's American Spectrum wing. A "Groove" party tonight was the place to be -- particularly after worked leaked out about the Sony buy. "Oh, my God," said film publicist Matthew Strauss, "it went through the roof." "Groove" is written-directed by veteran film editor Greg Harrison making his feature-length debut behind the camera.
BAD VIBES: This morning's press screening for "Psycho" was interrupted when a viewer lapsed into an apparent seizure with 10 minutes left in the picture. At first, fellow audience members thought the man was snoring. "Everybody felt bad people had started to laugh [at the seizure victim]," says Hollywood.com's Jim Bartoo. Paramedics were called, the man revived and escorted from the theater. The screening resumed.
HERE'S WHAT THE GUY MISSED: Ultra-violent "American Psycho" is sorta funny -- at least that was the buzz from audience types leaving Friday's mishap-free Eccles showing. "People were laughing until the last 15 minutes and then no one said anything," said 21-year-old San Francisco resident Maris Brenn-White, on her way out of the theater. Chimed in companion Andrew Harper, also 21: "Yeah, very strange, very strange ending. Not really sure what to make of it."
HERE'S WHAT TO MAKE OF IT: According to "Psycho" star Christian Bale, the thing is supposed to be mixed up. "It is a funny film but then it is also disturbing," the actor told Hollywood.com today, "and then toward the end it really sort of ceases being funny." Oh. (To read the Hollywood.com review, go to The Buzz.)
SO, WAS THE MOVIE WORTH $40? "I was supposed to pay $40, but the little kid didn't know how to do the math so I paid $30," proud ticket-holder Greg Robertson said Friday night.
UNLESS YOU NEED TO BOLT FROM THE THEATER: Ben Affleck turned out to tonight's premiere of "Committed" (an upcoming Miramax release as well as a Sundance dramatic competition entry) sans Matt Damon, but with a single crutch. The actor says he sprained his ankle playing basketball. "It kind of sucks," he told us. "Sundance is a real walking experience. ... [But] I guess sitting down to watch movies doesn't take too much mobility."
NO THUMB UP: So, we cornered one Roger Ebert exiting the "American Psycho" premiere. We locked eyes -- ours were saying, "Ooh, Roger Ebert what'd you think?"; his were saying, "Don't even ask." What can we say? We asked. He didn't tell. "You have to wait," the Great One said. "I don't review when I walk out of movies."
ROGER EBERT WON'T, BUT MATTHEW BRODERICK WILL: "'You Can Count on Me,' I saw," the "Ferris Bueller" icon said when prompted for an impromptu movie review by Hollywood.com this morning on Main Street. "It was great. ... Great performances, wonderful script, excellent."
ALL RIGHT, SO WE WERE HAD: Upon further review, "You Can Count on Me," which premiered Friday night at Sundance, is a family drama starring Laura Linney ("The Truman Show"), Jon Tenney (TV's "Get Real") and, um, Matthew Broderick.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SUNDANCE PARTY AND A SLAMDANCE PARTY: A Friday night Sundance bash sponsored by Entertainment Weekly featured a spectacular view of the mountains, really tasty mini-eclairs, delightful chicken things in peanut sauce, an open bar (up until about 11 p.m.) and a low-key vibe. Slamdance's Saturday night opening bash featured an OK view of the mountains, bowls of pretzels, a cash bar (unless you ordered vodka, which was free) and a happening buzz.
SPEAKING OF HAPPENING...: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," a Sundance doc about ex-televangelist Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner, is entertaining movie deals after its Friday premiere at the Yarrow Theatre brought its audience to its feet. "It's been a good day," co-director Randy Barbato told us. For Tammy Faye, it was a really good premiere. "After it ended, I walked up in front of the people, and I began to cry," a full mascaraed Tammy Faye said at the mega-loud Slamdance blowout. "... It was the most wonderful, warm moment I've ever experienced. And I'm so grateful."
SPEAKING OF ANOTHER HAPPENING: "A Galaxy Far, Far Away," an 80-minute Slamdance doc about "Star Wars" geeks on the eve of the premiere of "The Phantom Menace" played to a packed video lounge at the Treasure Mountain Inn tonight -- despite a wacky thermostat that made the screening room Africa hot and a wacky playback machine that cut out the video 10 times. Still, director Tariq Jalil was far from despondent later that night. He tells us the crowd of 100 to 200, with few exceptions, stayed with the flick throughout the entire ordeal. Always a good sign. So are the phone calls we hear the "Galaxy" team's been getting.
FIGHTIN' THE MAN: No fliers on fliers in Park City this January. Slamdance filmmaker Farhad Yawari was "very nearly arrested" on Friday over a handbill flap, festival co-founder Dan Mirvish tells Hollywood.com. It seems Yawari, who directed the short "Dolphins," was found in violation of the local's new anti-handbill-passing-out ordinance -- punishable by a $2,000 fine. "He wasn't happy about paying that, so that's why they were going to arrest him," Mirvish says. Slamdance officials say the new law is news to them -- they have yet to see it in writing. Says Mirvish: "Does it say [no fliers] on Main Street? Is it the whole town? Is it just Slamdance?" To be sure, other Slamdance filmmakers are taking it personally. Jali's "Galaxy" crew has seen roaming Park City bearing posterboard signs declaring: "We're not allowed to hand you a flier, so here's a sign."
MOST UBIQUITOUS FREEBIE IN PARK CITY: The snowflake button for "Snow Days," the buzz-a-rific American Spectrum comedy set to debut Sunday.
HOT TREND: Pregnancy. Actor/director Stanley Tucci had to skip the premiere of "Joe Gould's Secret" on Friday to go have a baby with his wife. Other with-child types here include filmmakers Stacy Cochran ("Drop Back Ten") and Mary Harron ("American Psycho").
THINGS WE SAW OTHER THAN "AMERICAN PSYCHO":
1. "Waking the Dead" (Sundance World Premiere) -- Director Keith Gordon's tale of a young couple whose future is cut down by a terrorist's bomb is hurt by slow pacing and an overindulgence in the sentimental. Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly star as complete opposites who fall in love during the tumultuous early 1970s. As bad luck would have it, Connelly's involvement in Latin American issues presumably leads to her death by car bomb. Years later, an older and politically suave Crudup is poised to make a run for Congress -- only to start having delusions of seeing Sarah in his everyday life. While it could prove commercially viable, "Waking the Dead" treads very little new ground. (Jim Bartoo)
2. "Just, Melvin" (Sundance Documentary Competition) -- With painstaking detail, director Ronald Whitney does an amazing job telling the story of his abusive grandfather, Melvin Just. A sexual predator of the worst kind, Melvin abused Whitney's mother, her sisters, their daughters and a whole host of other young children from his second marriage. "Just, Melvin" is receiving a tremendous amount of praise in Park City and deservedly so. (J.B.)
3. "Well-Founded Fear" (Sundance Documentary Competition) -- Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini's touching, disturbing behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. political asylum system is an extremely engaging piece that attempts to put a human face on the much-maligned Immigration and Naturalization Service. Through the stories and eyes of multiple applicants and INS officers, Robertson and Camerini give viewers a never-before-seen look at the actual interview process, as well as very candid conversations between officers and their supervisors. Often unsettlingly sad, "Well-Founded Fear" is summed up by one particularly kind officer who, after having to deny an applicant admission, is asked about his day: "Do I feel good? No. I feel like [crap]." (J.B.)
4. "The Small-Timers." (No Dance) -- This is an earnest doc about an independent film ("The Big Muddy") that didn't exactly go "Blair Witch" after its Park City premiere last year. As far as naval-gazing projects go, its heart is in the right place, even if its indie-worn message ("Make your movie -- no matter what!) is in the same old place. (Joal Ryan)
PREVIEW OF SUNDANCES TO COME? So, when everybody's trying to sell movies in Park City, the only way to distinguish yourself is to make a movie in Park City. The Brooklyn-based film crew for the in-the-works indie flick "The Battle for Breuklyn" was spotted doing just that the other day. Producer Liz Maddalone says the film's about a guy (natch) trying to make a movie called (natch) "The Battle for Breuklyn." (History note: That's the way the Dutch used to spell the name of the borough.). Anyway, the flick's a family affair -- one of Maddalone's brothers is the writer/director, another one's the camera guy. Almost eight years in the making, the project seems at the climax phase. Maddalone says the Park City shoot features the film's hero trying to drum up interest in his project. So does he get a deal? Says Maddalone: "You're gonna just have to watch to find out."
MOST HEARTWARMING MOMENT: An awestruck kid watching Hollywood.com-er Gerry Katzman interview two food-service workers at the Eccles Theatre: "Dude, Hollywood.com!"
SPOTTED: Supercouple Heather Graham and Edward Burns doing the press line at the "Committed" premiere; character actor Joe Bologna trying to do the press line at the "Committed" premiere; Kevin Smith ("Clerks") and Michael Nouri ("Flashdance") walking into the lobby at the "American Psycho" premiere; Peter Weller ("RoboCop") putting in appearance near Sundance headquarters at Shadow Ridge.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Ethan Hawke-led "Hamlet," the Neve Campbell-equipped "Panic" and the aforementioned "Snow Days" all get their first Sundance screenings Sunday. With additional reporting by Jim Bartoo and Gerry Katzman.