Top Story: Coppola's Film a Hit, Banderas' Film Booed
Making its debut Sunday, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation is generating a huge buzz at the Venice Film Festival, wowing audiences and critics alike, Reuters reports. Star Bill Murray is getting particular notice for his deadpan performance as a has-been actor who strikes up a friendship with a bored young wife (Scarlett Johansson). "These are some of the most satisfying laughs I've ever got in the movies," said Murray. Meanwhile, the drama Imagining Argentina, starring Antonio Banderas, got a less than warm reception when audiences literally booed it at Monday's screening, Reuters reports. The film tells the story of thousands of Argentines who were killed or "disappeared" during the 1976-1983 period of dictatorship and focuses on one character (Banderas) who uses psychic powers to try and find his missing journalist wife (played by Emma Thompson).
Lewis Telethon Hits $60 Mil Mark
The nearly 22-hour Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon broke its own record Monday by receiving a whopping $60.5 million in nationwide pledges for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The Associated Press reports. "I'm consistently humbled by the generosity of the American public. Every year I ask, and without blinking, you open your hearts and wallets," Lewis said. "You've also let 'my kids' of all ages, and their loved ones, know that they aren't alone in this fight." Ed McMahon co-hosted with the 77-year-old comedian, his body bloated due to steroid medication he takes for pulmonary fibrosis, while entertainers such as Cher, Celine Dion and Don Rickles performed.
VMAs Couldn't Top Last Year's Ratings
Despite pop diva Madonna and pop princess Britney Spears' kiss, the 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards couldn't top last year's ratings. The Thursday night broadcast, hosted by acerbic comedian Chris Rock, drew 10.7 million total viewers, down from the record 12 million who watched last year, Reuters reports. It did, however, get the highest concentration for 12-34 viewers on cable for the year to date.
De Laurentiis Awarded Golden Lion
With more than 60 films and 30 Academy Award nominations under his belt, producing giant Dino De Laurentiis was awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement Monday at the Venice Film Festival, Reuters reports. "Each movie is a son, they are all my children," De Laurentiis said at the press conference. The 84-year-old producer is currently busy on the film adaptation of Alexander the Great's life, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann.
Rodriguez Won't Take Maid Roles
Tough gal Michelle Rodriguez, currently starring in the police drama S.W.A.T., vows she will never play a maid in a movie. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Rodriguez said she was recently handed "a script about a Latina maid…I was, like, 'You must be on drugs, right?'" The actress said the roles are exploitative and asked, "Where is the movie with the blue-eyed, blonde-haired maid? There are tons of them out there." Hmm, maybe she had a bad experience playing a hotel maid who surfs in last year's Blue Crush.
Daly's Show Gets Third Go-Around
Carson Daly's very late night show Last Call with Carson Daly was given the thumbs up for a third season, Variety reports. The show has been generating solid ratings in its 1:35-2:35 a.m. timeslot. "The bottom line is that when we first started this show, we were careful about rolling out a big television show," exec producer David Friedman told Variety. "Here we are two years later, and it's time we made this show look and feel as big as it has become."
Grace Will Grace '70s Show a Little Longer
That '70s Show star Topher Grace signed a new lucrative deal with Fox and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach production to stay on the sitcom through a potential 2004-05 season, Variety reports. The actor is the last cast member to work out an agreement, as the production company already locked deals with the show's other stars, including Ashton Kutcher.
Brosnan Stops Cybersquatter
Actor Pierce Brosnan has won a legal battle against a company that was a front for the well-known cybersquatter Jeff Burgar, who redirected piercebrosnan.com to a commercial Web site. What's a cybersquatter, you may ask? The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) describes the term as someone who "constitutes a pattern of conduct intended to capitalize on the goodwill associated with others' fame for its own illegitimate purposes," Reuters reports. Burgar has 10 days to appeal the ruling, after which time the site name will be transferred back to Brosnan, Reuters reports. The cybersquatter has also been involved in several other disputes over celebrity Web sites and has lost cases against singer Celine Dion, rock group Pearl Jam and actress Pamela Anderson.
Top Story: CNN Axes Connie Chung Show
CNN has canceled its primetime program Connie Chung Tonight, whose tabloid-like, personality-driven topics clashed with the network's recent decision to return to its all-news roots. The last show, hosted by Connie Chung, aired Wednesday. "This reflects CNN's efforts to differentiate itself in a crowded market," a CNN spokeswoman told Reuters. "We did offer her another on-air opportunity and she declined." Chung was hired last summer as CNN, then headed by Jamie Kellner, sought to add high profile TV personalities to its primetime slate. Under Kellner, CNN hired former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson to anchor CNN Headline News and sought to jazz up its programs with flashy graphics aimed at younger viewers. CNN founder Ted Turner, who is on the board of CNN's parent company AOL Time Warner, criticized the moves. In January, Kellner was replaced by Turner Broadcasting veteran Philip Kent, who shifted the network's emphasis back to news.
Tribeca Film Festival Unveils Slate
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from May 3-11, has unveiled an eclectic slate of international titles from diverse locales including Afghanistan, China and South Korea. According to Variety, the selections include 11 world, four international and 22 North American premieres. Given the success of last year's Tribeca discovery and top prizewinner, Roger Dodger, acquisition execs will likely be scouring this year's crop for a potential breakout title.
Box Office Off to Chilly Start
Brrr. The box office got off to a chilly start in 2003. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the national box office total for the just-concluded winter season was $1.55 billion, an 11 percent decline from the record $1.75 billion registered during the same period last year. Estimated admissions for the period were also off, falling nearly 16 percent to 257.3 million this year, compared with last winter's record 305.5 million. The 2003 winter season saw only one movie earn more than $100 million, Miramax's Chicago; it also yielded fewer surprise hits and has had fewer successful family-oriented films, all of which could have contributed to the drop-off.
No Sequel for "Roger Rabbit"
In an interview to promote Tuesday's DVD release Who Framed Roger Rabbit, co-producer Don Hahn said no sequel was in the works. "It was never in the cards, we could never get the planets back into alignment," Hahn said. Although Roger Rabbit was an original character conceived by author Gary K. Wolf, the Disney pic featured some of Hollywood's most famous cartoon characters, including rival Warner Bros.' Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and Tweety Bird. Steven Spielberg executive-produced the original 1988 project and helped secure the rights to many of those characters. But getting those properties again would prove too complicated and expensive, Hahn said.
Lenny Kravitz Records Peace Song
Rocker Lenny Kravitz has joined a growing list of recording artists releasing protest songs directly to the Internet to bypass a cautious and sometimes hostile radio market. Kravitz issued his song, "We Want Peace," which he recorded last week in Miami with popular Iraqi musical star Kadim Al Sahir, on the Rock the Vote Web site. Other artists who have released anti-war songs via the Internet in recent weeks include R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp and former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha.
Kelly Osbourne Defends Dad
Kelly Osbourne, who became a household name when the MTV series The Osbournes became a hit, told AP Radio that the show has given her father's image a positive boost. "My whole life, people have always said stuff like my dad is this and that--he's evil, satanic and bites the heads off animals," Osbourne said. "When people get to see that he's a kind, loving person who deserves everything he has and has worked [hard] his entire life, he gets the gratification he deserves."
Hollywood Unions Join Anti-Piracy Campaign
Three Hollywood unions, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America West and the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, have signed on to a newly formed anti-piracy organization, the Entertainment Industry Coalition for Free Trade, Variety reports. The coalition was created March 13 to educate policy players and lawmakers about using trade negotiations to lay the groundwork for strong copyright laws in foreign countries.
Movielink Expands Content
Movielink, the online movie site backed by five major film studios including MGM, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Pictures, said Wednesday it would expand its content to include independent films. Reuters reports Movielink would begin offering short films and other fare from independent companies, including Artisan Entertainment, to bolster its catalog of movies available for download.
Whether the Olympics or network television, it's a cutthroat world out there. This from ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" files: NBC and CBS are reportedly asking their network stars to not appear on special celebrity episodes of the Regis Philbin phenom, Daily Variety reports.
But viewers will be treated to 10 former U.S. Olympic athletes.
Last spring, funnyman Ray Romano from CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," "X-Files" G-man David Duchovny of Fox, and Vivica A. Fox from the CBS series "City of Angels" appeared on "Millionaire" alongside such notables as Lance Bass of 'N Sync and Queen Latifah to high ratings.
Variety reports that Martin Sheen of NBC's "The West Wing" and Conan O'Brien tentatively agreed to appear this time around but backed out after NBC officials suggested otherwise.
The scheduled TV celebrities so far are all from ABC, of course: "Spin City's" Charlie Sheen, "The Drew Carey Show's" Drew Carey and Joy Behar of the daytime talker "The View." They'll appear alongside Alec Baldwin and Sean "Puffy" Combs.
But if waiting around for the celebrity episodes proves too much, ABC has something else up its sleeves: See 10 former U.S. Olympians with Regis!
Each jock, some of whom will probably be seen by more viewers on the gameshow than during their Olympics events on NBC, will receive a guaranteed $16,000 for their appearances, ABC said.
The scheduled Olympians are: swimmers Lenny Krayzelburg, Jenny Thompson, Gary Hall Jr. and Dana Torres; runner Maurice Green; basketball player Lisa Leslie; soccer player Julie Foudy; pole vaulter Stacy Dragila; diver Laura Wilkinson; and wrestler Rulon Gardner.
The two special Olympic editions will air Oct. 22 and 24. Half of the winnings will go to charity, the other wherever the athletes desire.
And the Olympic spirit lives on.
CNN CAUGHT IN ANOTHER TAILWIND?
Rekindling memories of CNN's Operation Tailwind fiasco three years ago, the CIA has issued a statement saying that Kenneth Bucchi, who was identified as a former CIA agent by the cable network during two appearances on Monday, never worked for the agency in any capacity and that his comments on the air about being involved in CIA activities involving Columbia drug lords were "utter nonsense" and "complete fiction." Reporting on the apparent hoax, the Washington Post said Thursday that Bucchi had been discharged from the Air Force after being labeled as delusional and quoted Bucchi as saying that he had been "framed" by the Air Force during his ouster. Bucchi also reportedly acknowledged that he could not prove that he had worked for the CIA but did concede that he had never been paid by the agency. A CNN anchor read a statement by the CIA about the matter Wednesday but did not retract the story or apologize, the Post said.
WHICH SURVIVOR WILL BE THE WEAKEST LINK?
CBS announced plans Wednesday to milk yet another Survivor episode from its current Outback series for the May sweeps. The one-hour show, set to air 8 p.m. May 10, will follow the 16 contestants as they return home and, from 8:30-9 p.m.will go head-to-head against a half-hour special episode of The Missing Link, which will be featuring several of the original Survivor contestants struggling to withstand the verbal scaldings of host Anne Robinson. Meanwhile, Pax TV announced Wednesday that beginning June 1 it will air repeats of Weakest Link on Fridays, just days after the original telecast on NBC on Mondays.
"TODAY"'S HIT AND RUN
Seeming to invite criticism for emulating the very thing it was scrutinizing, NBC's The Today Show on Wednesday showed a video six times of a 16-year-old boy being hit by a car as he was allegedly attempting to mimic a stunt on the MTV showJackass. The Independence, Kan., teenager suffered numerous injuries including a broken leg. During the broadcast, Garry Edmonson, the local D.A., said that his office was considering filing charges against MTV. "Certainly they are morally culpable," he remarked. For its part, MTV said that it was "incredibly upsetting" to learn of such incidents but that MTV repeatedly has warned viewers not to attempt the dangerous stunts depicted on the show. It also noted that it had never shown a stunt on Jackass similar to the one involving the injured Kentucky boy.
"NEW YORK TIMES" PUTS TV ON HOLD
Representing a blow to the New York Times' ambition to become a force in nightly television news, the paper has been forced to shelve plans to produce an 11:00 p.m. PBS newscast, published reports said Thursday. According to the reports, the newscast, which was to have been called National Edition, has been unable to find $12 million in corporate underwriting to launch the telecast, which was to have been produced with MacNeil-Lehrer Productions.
"60 MINUTES" CHIEF NOW FAVORS TELEVISED EXECUTION
60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, who once voiced opposition to the televising of executions, now says he has changed his mind and is in favor of televising the May 16 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. "You put a guy on a gurney and stick a needle in his arm. People watch that on E.R. every week," Hewitt remarked in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "What's the big deal? He goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. It doesn't seem so terrible to me." Reminded that in 1997 he said of televising McVeigh's execution, "That hungry for ratings, I'm not. ... It's in terrible taste," Hewitt replied, "I'm mush. I change on a lot of things." 60 Minutes is planning to repeat Ed Bradley's March 2000 interview with McVeigh, the only television interview with him.
WILL ACTRESS-ANCHOR MAKE IT AT CNN?
An Albuquerque, NM TV news director has sniffed at Wednesday's report that former NYPD Blue costar Andrea Thompson had been hired as an anchor and reporter for the CNN Headline News channel. Chris Berg, who heads the news department at KOB-TV, suggested that Thompson, who has worked at rival KRQE since leaving Blue, posed no competition. "I think working in Albuquerque is out of her league," he told the Albuquerque Journal. "Yes, I think she has improved as a news reporter, but she's still not good enough to work at our station." Readers of the Journal seemed to agree. In a poll conducted on the newspaper's Web site, 64 percent of the respondents answered "No" to the question, "Is KRQE-TV reporter/former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson ready for CNN?"
KATHIE LEE SAYS SHE'S HAD TALKS ABOUT REPLACING ROSIE
Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday confirmed that she had had "preliminary talks" about replacing Rosie O'Donnell on Donnell's syndicated talk show beginning next June. During a conference call, Gifford said that the talks were "nothing serious, and I don't know. ... To commit to something longterm, I would be throwing myself right back in that same frying pan."
CALLS MOUNT FOR BBC CHIEF TO STEP DOWN
Word that BBC Chairman Christopher Bland has been appointed chairman of British Telecom has sparked demands that Bland relinquish his job at the publicly funded broadcasting corporation. Norman Baker, a spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party, told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "Sir Christopher Bland can't possibly do two jobs at once. He cannot give the BBC his full attention if he believes the job is that part-time. ... There is a clear conflict of interest."
NO MOVIES, NO INTERVIEWS?
If an actors' strike materializes this year, not only will TV and film studios be hard hit, but so will entertainment publications and TV shows whose stock-in-trade is running interviews with celebrities who are plugging their latest projects, the Los Angeles Times observed Thursday. Entertainment attorney Tom Hansen told the newspaper that despite actors' contractual obligations to studios to promote their films or television shows, "the union collective bargaining agreement will always trump the individual actor's agreement. ... If the guild says you cannot render publicity services, you will not be in violation of your contract."
MGM: BIG HITS, BUT BIG LOSSES
Despite back-to-back hits with Hannibal and Heartbreakers, MGM on Wednesday reported a net loss of $399.8 million in the first quarter. It attributed the result to accounting rules changes, noting that operating income (EBITDA) soared to $12.6 million from $5.2 million during the same period a year ago. In a statement, MGM Chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian commented, "MGM's first-quarter performance was a great start to what promises to be another strong year in 2001." The studio plans to release 20 films this year versus seven in 2000.
TRADE PAPER REPORTER QUITS AFTER HIS STORY IS QUASHED
Entertainment labor and legal reporter David Robb has quit the Hollywood Reporter after the trade paper's publisher, Robert Dowling, blocked a story that he had written concerning Reporter gossip columnist George Christy, the online media magazine Inside reported Wednesday. The story reportedly concerned an investigation by the Screen Actors Guild to determine whether Christy actually worked in numerous films and TV shows for which he had received acting credits since 1985. Those credits, Inside maintained, allowed Christy to qualify for benefits under the guild's health and pension plan. According to Inside, Dowling spiked the story over the objection of editor Anita Busch. It quoted Robb as saying that Dowling "reassigned" the story to another reporter. None of the principals in the dispute except Robb responded to Inside's requests for comment.
COLUMNIST ATTESTS "TOWN & COUNTRY" IS AS BAD AS FEARED
Syndicated columnist Liz Smith has confirmed many movie writers' speculation that Town and Country, the costly and long-delayed comedy starring Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling, is a disaster. Saying that she had seen the film this week -- most critics viewed it Wednesday night -- Smith concludes that "it is one of the most chaotic and puerile movies ever made, full of tasteless adultery and some downright offensive vulgarity." As for the top-flight cast, Smith remarks: "It is awful to see talented stars without a clue as to who they are supposed to be portraying or what they are supposed to be doing." (A digest of other reviews of the movie will be included in tomorrow's edition.)
BUSH WATCHING BOWDLERIZED VERSIONS OF MOVIES
President George W. Bush has ordered that scenes of graphic sex and violence be cut from movies shown on Air Force One flights, the British Web site Ananova reported Thursday, citing reporters traveling with the president. It was not clear from the report who was assigned to the bowdlerization of the films, nor what guidelines for cuts had been set. Ananova observed that Bill Clinton always ran the uncut versions of films on the presidential plane and at the White House, even those "that Mr. Clinton regularly condemned when he was talking up family values."