Weinstein might ditch Disney
Walt Disney Co. and its Miramax Films unit, which is run by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, are expected to meet this week to discuss letting Harvey Weinstein start a production company, while his brother would remain at Disney to make movies, Reuters reports. In a recent New York Times article, Reuters reports the newspaper cites several unidentified people involved in the talks, who say the agreement being negotiated would give Bob Weinstein a four-year contract with Disney, including a small staff and a $300 million to $350 million annual budget to make four to six movies under his Dimension Films banner. Harvey Weinstein would then become an independent producer, who would secure financing for movies to be distributed by Bob Weinstein, the Times article continued. Disney might also license the Miramax name back to Harvey Weinstein, but only for movie projects. Sources told the Times that the two sides still have big issues to work out, but the progress shows that both sides recognize the importance of maintaining a successful relationship and would like to reach an agreement before Disney's fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
Overdose cited as cause of Douglas death
The death of Eric Douglas, the youngest son of Oscar-winning actor Kirk Douglas and brother to Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas, was caused by an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription tranquilizers and pain killers, authorities told AP. Douglas, 46, was found dead inside a Manhattan apartment building July 6. Eric Douglas had a history of substance abuse and had spent time in jail and rehab clinics.
Lawsuit brewing over Shyamalan's Village
Publishing giant Simon & Schuster Inc. is reviewing its legal options against The Walt Disney Co. and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan over similarities between a children's book they published and the film The Village, a spokeswoman for the publisher told AP Monday. Apparently, the film's plot and surprise ending parallel Margaret Peterson Haddix's first book, Running Out of Time, published in 1995, in which adults living in a bucolic 19th century town keep the same secret from their children, and a plucky tomboy journeys through dangerous woods to get medicine. Haddix said she optioned the book twice--once to Viacom Inc.-owned Nickelodeon, which allowed the option to expire in May 2003 without making a film. She saw The Village last week but declined to discuss her opinion of the film. "Let's just say that I saw the same similarities that other people have pointed out," she told AP. "It's certainly an interesting situation," Haddix said. "I'm just examining what my options are." In a statement, Disney and Shyamalan's Blinding Edge Pictures said they "believe these claims to be meritless," AP reports.
Rick James' funeral to take place in Los Angeles
Funeral services have been announced for Rick James, who was found dead Friday of unknown causes. A public viewing will be held Wednesday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Calif., and a memorial service will be held there Thursday. "Rick wanted everyone who loved him to be with him at the end and to celebrate his life," Sujata Murthy, his record label Universal's spokeswoman, told The Associated Press.
Recent death, health problems plague musicians
Tony Mottola, 86, a guitarist who played with Frank Sinatra and on NBC's The Tonight Show over the course of a 50-year career, died Monday of complications from double pneumonia and stroke. Meanwhile, William Lee Golden of The Oak Ridge Boys is recovering from a mild heart attack, the group's publicist told AP. Golden, 65, was traveling with the country group Saturday near Wausau, Wis., when he fell ill and checked into an area hospital, publicist Sandy Brokaw said Monday. The singer is expected to make a full recovery in four to six weeks, Brokaw told AP. Same goes for former Eagles bassist Randy Meisner, 58, who co-wrote and sang the rock group's classic "Take It to the Limit." He was hospitalized Friday for chest pains, his manager said but is now "resting comfortably" and "not experiencing any pain." Then there's soul veteran Ronald Isley, the lead singer with the Isley Brothers, who suffered a minor stroke but hopes to resume performing as soon as possible, a spokeswoman for his record label told AP. Isley, 63, felt unwell while walking along a street in London last Friday, checked into a local hospital for a few days, and has since returned to his home in St. Louis, Mo., said the spokeswoman.
Top Story: Madonna's Two Cents on Celeb Marriages
Madonna has some advice for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez: get over it. In an interview for Access Hollywood that aired Thursday, Madonna said, "To a certain extent, [Affleck and Lopez] courted the media attention. At the end of the day I feel like that's their job, and then there needs to be a part of the relationship that you keep private." But the pop diva added, "You know, I'm not making a judgment call on Jennifer and Ben ... we can only make assumptions about why it did or didn't happen. Ultimately, if you have a strong relationship, and there is understanding of what a committed marriage is, I don't think that having a lot of media attention can break it up."
P. Diddy Is No "Sweat" Daddy
In an investigation into whether Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is using "sweatshops" to make his trendy clothing line, Honduran officials said Thursday they could find no evidence of worker's exploitation at the factory, Reuters reports. "We haven't found instances of exploitation, or slave-like conditions," Honduran Labor Minister German Leitzelar told Reuters. The U.S. National Labor Committee accused Combs' factory managers earlier this week of cursing at Honduran workers, refusing to pay overtime, or firing them when they became pregnant. In a press conference, Combs vowed to have "zero tolerance" for any labor law violations in factories producing his Sean John clothing line.
Rocker Weiland Ordered Into Another Drug Program
While still completing a court-ordered drug counseling program, Stone Temple Pilots' lead singer Scott Weiland was charged Thursday with driving under the influence and ordered to a live-in detox program, to be followed by a six-month stay in a residential drug rehabilitation center, Reuters reports. Weiland was arrested Monday after crashing into a parked car in Hollywood.
Chong's Jail Release Denied
A federal judge ruled that Tommy Chong, one half of the pot-smokin' comic duo Cheech and Chong, must continue serving his prison sentence for conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia while his appeal is pending, AP reports. The 65-year-old actor and comedian pleaded guilty to conspiracy last spring in federal court and was sentenced to nine months in prison.
Tyler's Daughter Marries Drummer
Plus-size model Mia Tyler, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler's daughter and actress Liv Tyler's sister, married Papa Roach drummer David Buckner in front of thousands of people during an Aerosmith concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, AP reports. The proud father of the bride reportedly told the audience, "Hey Vegas, I need a favor, my daughter wants to get married tonight. Can I get a witness?" It's the first marriage for both.
McCartney Tops British Rich List
Former Beatle Paul McCartney, 61, was named the biggest earner in Britain--the same week his second wife, Heather Mills, gave birth to a baby girl, Reuters reports. The latest Sunday Times Pay List reports McCartney earns $68 million a year. "Maybe a baby will make him feel young and stay in touch with modern trends in his dotage," list compiler Philip Beresford told Reuters. Other rockers on the list include Sting, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart.
Culkin Signs Up for TV Projects
Macaulay Culkin signed a deal with NBC to develop several television projects, including a possible comedy show for fall 2004. "We're going to use him in an unconventional way," NBC's president of prime-time development, Kevin Reilly told AP. "I don't think you'll see Macaulay as a straight-down-the-middle romantic lead. I think you'll see him in something surprising, a little offbeat."
Miller Heads to CNBC
Dennis Miller will host a prime-time cable talk show on CNBC, Reuters reports. The politically charged comedian will also serve as executive producer for the hour-long show, set to debut in January. "With all that's going on in the world today, it's nice to have a nightly platform to air my opinions. I'm happy to be back in the NBC family," said Miller, a former Saturday Night Live regular on the peacock channel.
Role Call: Cain To Star in Peterson Story, Affleck Plays Coach
Dean Cain will portray Scott Peterson--the Modesto, Calif., man accused of killing his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son--in an upcoming USA Networks television movie, AP reports. The film, tentatively titled The Perfect Husband, will be from the perspective of two of Laci's friends and will follow the real-life headlines about the search for Laci and subsequent revelations about Scott, network officials told AP… In more movie news, Ben Affleck has agreed to play retired University of Texas at El Paso basketball coach Don Haskins in a feature about the 1966 Texas Western NCAA championship, AP reports. Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun) will direct.
Finally some good news for Jason Priestley.
The ex-"Beverly Hills 90210" star's directorial feature debut, "Barenaked in America," a documentary about pop-rock's Barenaked Ladies ("One Week"), has been selected to play the Slamdance Film Festival.
"Barenaked in America" is one of six films chosen to play the Special Screenings section of Slamdance, the chief alternative venue (and Park City, Utah, neighbor) to Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival. Slamdance is scheduled to run Jan. 22-29. (Sundance will play Jan. 20-30.)
Whether Priestley is able to attend his own screening may depend on what happens in a Los Angeles courtroom. The actor turned director is facing felony drunken driving charges for a Dec. 2 crash that trashed his Porsche and left his passenger with a broken arm. Priestley is currently free on $50,000 bail. He pleaded innocent to the charges Dec. 21.
Priestley's car misadventure came just days after the 30-year-old star revealed he had separated from his wife, makeup artist Ashlee Peterson, after less than one year of marriage.
"Barenaked in America" premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival.
Also in today's news:
FUN-COUPLE WATCH: Is Jerry Seinfeld inching closer to the aisle? Today's Daily Variety says the 45-year-old comedian will wed fiancée Jessica Sklar, 28, "between Christmas and New Year's." The two, who announced their engagement Nov. 9, began dating in 1998 shortly after Sklar, a public-relations executive, returned from her honeymoon with another man (theater scion Eric Nederlander).
JAMES BOND'S GOOD KNIGHT? Oscar-winning actor Sean Connery may finally be able to add a new line to his resume: British knight. The 007 screen veteran, 69, was up for the honor two years ago when his ties to a political party group that campaigns for an independent Scotland (the actor's beloved homeland) reportedly doomed the bid. The actor also came under fire for his supposed tax-exile status. (Connery lives most of the year outside the United Kingdom.) At the time, Connery termed critics' barbs a "character assassination." Fellow U.K. celebrities to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth include Elton John, Anthony Hopkins and John Gielgud.
MASTERFUL: Hopkins, meanwhile, has been tapped to receive the lifetime-achievement award treatment in the form of the Modern Master Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival March 2-12 in California. The 62-year-old star will next be seen on screens in the Shakespearean drama "Titus," opening Christmas Day.
THUMBS DOWN: Just what box-office dud "Anna & the King" needs -- fewer potential moviegoers. An official for Thailand's film board tells Reuters it's "unlikely" the film based on the 19th century tale of an English schoolteacher imported to tutor the children of Siam's king will be allowed to play in the country. Censors have found "several inappropriate scenes" involving Jodie Foster as the teacher and Chow Yun-Fat as the monarch. "Anna & the King" opened to just $5.1 million business in theaters last weekend.