PASADENA Calif., July 20, 2000 - Substance reigned over style as NBC unveiled its new Fall lineup to the media this week. Gone were the matching color schemes and meals by the pool that ABC employed to fete reporters just a few days ago; in their stead, there were neon peacocks and buffet trays with sternos. And the consensus among critics at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was that ABC surely hung window dressing on everything because it only had four new series to pump. NBC, on the other hand, needed no frills to roll out seven new series and two miniseries.
Not surprisingly, the Q-and-A sessions were shorter, with less time for breathing in between. Trashy dramatist Aaron Spelling unveiled his high-camp "Titans," a Dallas-for-the-millennium evening soap with vixens, sex and greed, and starring Yasmine Bleeth, Casper Van Dien ("Sleepy Hollow") and Victoria Principal. Critics broke into applause during a preview, when Bleeth tells Van Dien she is pregnant with his baby - even while walking down the aisle to marry his father.
Katey Sagal showed has ditched her Peg Bundy wig to play a neighborhood witch with heart in the coming-of-age sitcom, "Tucker." Oliver Platt ("Bulworth") and indie film queen Lili Taylor spoke about their New York newspaper drama "Deadline." And writers and producers hailing from "The Late Show with David Letterman" brought out the romantic comedy "Ed," starring Tom Cavanaugh ("Providence"), about a New York lawyer who gets fired, catches his wife cheating and moves back to his hometown to buy a bowling alley.
Then there was Michael Richards ("Seinfeld"), promoting his sitcom "The Michael Richards Show," an Inspector Clouseau meets Ernie Kovacs P.I. romp. Steven Weber ("Wings") was on hand to tout "Cursed," co-starring Chris Elliot ("There's Something About Mary'), about a guy who, uh, gets cursed. And, David Alan Grier ("In Living Color") joked about starring in the sitcom "DAG" about a demoted secret service agent who guards the demanding First Lady, the slimmed-down Delta Burke, saying "You will always hear these lines: 'It's because I'm black.'"
Then there were the two miniseries, the biblical drama "In the Beginning" starring Jacqueline Bisset and Martin Landau, and the Kennedy wives' drama "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot," which features Jill Hennessey ("Law & Order"), Lauren Holly ("Dumb and Dumber") and Leslie Stefanson ("The General's Daughter"), respectively.
NBC's marathon unveiling ended with a celeb-fest at Jillian's Hi-Life Lanes, a bowling alley at the tourist-beseiged Universal City Walk shopping mall. While the food was, again, unspectacular, everyone was handed disposable cameras to take pictures of things like Rob Lowe and Kathy Ireland talking (two perfect creatures that seem freakish standing together), Martin Sheen mugging with "Daddio" tyke Mitch Holleman, and "Will & Grace" actor Eric McCormack discussing how the characters will soon have significant others. In short, the stars pranced, the critics howled.
The $20 million club might soon welcome another member. Daily Variety says today that funnyman Martin Lawrence, whose last laugh fest was the summer hit "Big Momma's House," is in talks to star in two pictures. If signed, the comedian will make an upward of $20 million for each project.
The hike will put Lawrence in the same salary ranking as Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker. Lawrence previously got $16.5 million for starring in the Fox film "The Black Knight."
The two films -- "National Security" and "Blue Streak 2," a sequel to the 1999 hit -- are both action comedies being developed at Columbia Pictures. "National Security" is about a white cop wrongly accused of beating a black man (Lawrence). And in "Blue Streak 2," the actor would reprise his role as a thief turned cop when the Luke Wilson character enlists him once again to solve a crime.
No word on which of the two projects will go into production first. But shootings for the two films will be back to back, with the first one starting in spring and the second in July if the Hollywood actors and writers strike doesn't occur.
The third time was apparently not charming enough for Oliver Stone.
The filmmaker -- heretofore best known for blowing up stuff and shooting things in high-octane flicks like "Platoon," "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers" –- is looking to direct yet another version of the classic rags-to-riches/riches-to-rag Hollywood tale, "A Star Is Born," today's Hollywood Reporter says. So, what will make the fourth take on this romantic Tinseltown fable unique?
Well, um, take a look at the would-be star: Jamie Foxx.
Yes, the "In Living Color" comic, a relative no-name in the movies, is being talked up as the successor to Fredric March, James Mason and Kris Kristofferson -- the previous "Star Is Born" leading men. (All right, maybe the Kristofferson shoes won't be so hard to fill.)
Foxx is living his own "Star Is Born" story these days. The actor is said to be Stone's first choice to replace (get this) Will Smith in the new "Star" project. (Smith opted out of the film to make "Ali," that planned Muhammad Ali biopic.)
"A Star Is Born" would be the second time Stone has helped make Jamie Foxx a movie star. Last year, the director called on Foxx to replace wannabe actor Puff Daddy as the arrogant QB in Stone's "Any Given Sunday."
In the all-new "Star Is Born," Foxx would play a falling-star guy who falls in love with a rising-star girl. So, the next question mark in this curious project is: Who'll play opposite Foxx? According to the Reporter, candidates for the leading-lady slot include singers Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey.
This new, hip-hop duet would tread a few footsteps over their old-fashioned predecessors. The first "Star," released in 1937, starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. George Cukor helmed a second (musical) version for Warner Bros. in 1954, with Judy Garland and James Mason. The latest remake, in 1976, featured Barbara Streisand and the aforementioned Mr. Kristofferson.
A source tells the Reporter that the latest film hopes to capitalize on Warner Bros.' music catalog. A diva all-star affair with tunes by Garland, Streisand and Mariah Carey? For pop aficionados everywhere, it's reason enough for a remake. Even a weird one.
FOR RICHER OR ROBBERS: Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito could be swapping goods in the MGM caper comedy "What's the Worst that Could Happen." The Hollywood Reporter says that Lawrence has climbed aboard, and DeVito's in negotiations to star in the film, about a billionaire (DeVito) who swipes a good-luck ring from a con (Lawrence). The production's set to roll 'em in June.
HURRYING TO 'RUSH': Chris Penn's stuck in traffic again with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. Variety reports that the heavy from "Rush Hour" has signed up for another installment opposite the dynamic duo. "Rush Hour 2" starts production in the fall.
SEEING 'SPOT': After fending off masked serial killers, "Scream" vet David Arquette is ready for the dog pound. Variety reports that the actor's nabbed the lead role in the Warner comedy "See Spot Run," set to shoot this June. Arquette comes to the project after potential star Martin Lawrence decided not to go postal. Instead, Arquette will play a postman who takes in a stray dog -- make that a stray dog trained to fight crime. Ah, comedy.