The Simpsons' creator, Matt Groening, is denying a report that appeared Monday in British newspaper The Financial Times that implied he was winding up the series because it was getting harder and harder to surprise the audience. "I was misquoted and misunderstood," Groening said in a telephone interview with Reuters. "I don't want anyone to think I am predicting the demise of the Simpsons. They will live on with new adventures for years to come." The cartoonist added that his comments were ones he often made before but were taken out of context and misunderstood. "After 300 episodes, it is more difficult to remain true to the characters. We are trying to top ourselves after all those great shows, and the shows are as good now as they have ever been," he said.
Eccentric Icelandic singer Bjork and her American filmmaker boyfriend, Matthew Barney, are expecting a child in September, Reuters reports. Bjork, 36, joined the band Sugarcubes in 1987 but later quit the band to go solo. She has a teenage son from her marriage to fellow Sugarcubes band member, Thor Eldon.
Aussie darling Nicole Kidman won a spot on the cover of People magazine's "The 50 Most Beautiful People" special issue, which hits newsstands Friday. Also included in this year's list are celebs Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford, Denzel Washington, Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Sharon Osbourne.
In the Biz
Seinfeld writer/producer Larry Charles is making his directorial debut in Masked & Anonymous, which is scheduled to go into production in Los Angeles this July, according to Variety. The film's cast so far includes Penelope Cruz, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson and Bob Dylan, with Jeff Bridges in negotiations to join.
Brett Ratner, who helmed the hugely successful Rush Hour 2 starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, is in early negotiations to direct Paycheck for Paramount Pictures, Variety reports. The film, a futuristic tale about a man who has part of his memory erased, is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.
Meanwhile, Jerry Bruckheimer and the Walt Disney Co. are in final negotiations with director Gore Verbinski to helm Pirates of the Caribbean. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film focuses on a daring attempt to rescue someone from dangerous pirates trying to reverse an ancient curse.
Steven Spielberg will be wrapping up the shoot on his thriller Catch Me if You Can in Canadian cities Montreal and Quebec City over the next few days, Reuters reports. The big-budget film stars Tom Hanks as an FBI agent who tracks down the young con artist Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is slated for a late fall release.
Fans of MTV's phenomenal reality series The Osbournes will finally be able to find out what exactly Ozzy Osbourne is mumbling between bleeps. The show is being closed-captioned for the hearing "non-impaired," Knight Ridder Newspapers reports.
Following the success of its drama Queer As Folk, the Showtime network is teaming up with MTV to launch a new gay-oriented premium service, the AP reports. The two Viacom outlets will be racing against Canada's existing Pridevision TV to reach the gay market first in the United States.
In a bid to save the recently canceled ABC series Once and Again, fans have purchased a billboard ad in West Hollywood, Calif., that reads: "Dear ABC, Bring back the magic 'Once and Again.'" The ad, which cost fans more than $12,500, will stay up for a month, according to the AP. The series, which stars Sela Ward and Billy Campbell, was canceled because of low ratings.
MTV has scheduled a free concert for 7-10 p.m. May 10 in New York's Battery Park in lower Manhattan as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, the AP reports. Performances at MTV's Rock and Comedy Concert include those by Sheryl Crow, the Counting Crows, Robin Williams and Jimmy Fallon. The festival, which is organized by Robert De Niro, runs from May 8-12.
The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin said he did not realize the comments he made in The New Yorker magazine about the news coverage of the Bush administration would create such a flap. Referring to the special The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing, which aired on NBC Jan. 23, Sorkin said that the media were waving pompoms instead of providing objective news coverage and that anchorman Tom Brokaw let it happen. "There should be a difference between what NBC news does and what we do," he told the Associated Press. "And that night, there wasn't, except we have more interesting lighting." Sorkin later apologized to Brokaw at the request of NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker.
Anne Heche gave birth to a baby boy over the weekend. Homer Heche Laffoon weighed 7 pounds and is the first child for Heche and husband Coleman Laffoon. The two married in September last year and met while working on a documentary about Ellen DeGeneres' return to stand-up comedy, AP reports.
After shooting two back-to-back sequels for the 1999 sci-fi thriller The Matrix, Keanu Reeves will travel back in Hollywood time to work on a remake of the 1971 cult classic Billy Jack, Variety reports. Reeves will star as Billy Jack, a Vietnam veteran who's half Native American. Tom Laughlin, who wrote, directed and starred in the original film, controls the film rights and is in talks with Danny DeVito's Jersey Films to remake the retro hit.
Elizabeth Taylor will play the role of Elton John's wife in his new video "Original Sin," the BBC reports. His daughter will be played by teen singer/actress Mandy Moore. John, who normally hates appearing in videos, recently called on Justin Timberlake to take the lead in "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" so he wouldn't have to. John makes an exception for this next single, which is slated for release April 1.
Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham escaped injury in a six-car pile-up on Sunday near Stafford, England, the BBC reports. Beckham and her three-year-old son, Brooklyn, were in a minivan being driven by her father, Tony Adams, when he managed to swerve the vehicle away from the full force of the crash. None of them were injured. Beckham is expecting her second child with soccer star David Beckham in September.
Nightline host Ted Koppel said he hopes to stay with ABC but criticized the network for questioning the relevance of his show, AP reports. ABC has apparently had discussions with David Letterman about taking over Koppel's 11:35 p.m. time slot. Nightline ratings have been shrinking in the past few years while Letterman has been a longtime No. 2 behind NBC's Jay Leno.
The Fox network is set to revive four sci-fi TV series, airing reruns and creating new TV and film versions of Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Land of the Giants. The deal also covers any potential feature films, as well as merchandising and licensing.
Mary McCormack, who recently appeared in K-PAX with Kevin Spacey, will star in the CBS comedy pilot Julie Lydecker, which centers on a mother/daughter relationship. According to The Hollywood Reporter, McCormack will also be seen in the upcoming drama Full Frontal alongside Julia Roberts.
Yoko Ono, the widow of former Beatle John Lennon, has paid an estimated $213,300 to have the words "Imagine all the people living in peace" emblazoned on a billboard in Piccadilly Circus in London, Reuters reports. Ono, who already has the billboard up in Times Square and in Tokyo, thought people needed to be reminded of this message after the horrible events of Sept. 11.
After a three-year hiatus, former supermodel Cindy Crawford returned to the catwalk for designer Roberto Cavalli's autumn/winter fashion show. Although she enjoyed the return, the model-turned-mother of two told Reuters she would not do it for a whole season. "At home, I wear jeans and a T-shirt, so it doesn't matter if I get mucky...but then I put on a Cavalli top or trousers and feel like a sexy mum rather than a frumpy housewife."
Comic Kevin Meaney was arrested at San Francisco International Airport on Sunday for grabbing the butt of a gun held by a National Guardsman, Reuters reports. An airport police spokesman said Meaney got belligerent after his wife was subjected to a secondary security screening and had to lift up her blouse and show her bra to the screeners. Meaney, 45, was booked into the San Mateo County Jail on a felony charge of attempting to take a firearm from a police officer and two misdemeanor charges of battery and disturbing the peace.
Julia Child is recuperating from a bout with bronchitis that landed her in the hospital during the weekend. Child, 89, had to cancel an appearance at a rare-wine auction Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Bay Area after she had trouble breathing. She checked into a San Francisco hospital Saturday afternoon and was released Sunday, AP reports.
Edward Norton, Brett Ratner, James Whitmore and Anthony Hopkins will be some of the stars attending the 7th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in West Palm Beach, Fla. The festival will take place April 11 through 18 and will feature more than 40 films, including American independent and Spanish-language films and entries from France, Israel, Ukraine and Italy.
Songwriter Harlan Howard died Sunday at the age of 74. Responsible for more than 100 Top 10 hits, including Ray Charles' "Busted" and Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," Howard was known as the dean of Nashville songwriters. His death came after years of ill health. A memorial service for him will be held in Nashville on March 19.
Russell Crowe is a somber fellow, isn't he? I would think coming from fun-loving Australia, the guy would learn how to lighten up a bit, but alas, drama is his thing. Now he and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment are teaming up to develop a dramatic big-screen version of the '60s TV sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" for Crowe to star in. That's right. Hogan and his wacky cohorts, who continually sabotaged German war efforts while in a Nazi POW camp on TV, are getting serious for the movies. Don't look to bumbling Sergeant Schultz and pansy Colonel Klink for comic relief in this one.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Hogan's Heroes a TV spin-off of the 1953 Oscar-winning film Stalag 17, which was a serious drama about a German POW camp? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply to remake Stalag 17? Sure--but that's not how those Hollywood types think. They'd rather take a silly sitcom and turn it into a "quality" movie--especially if they get Oscar-winning (and decidedly un-silly) Crowe in the lead role.
Fiennes may be a bad guy again
When thinking of British actor Ralph Fiennes, most of us picture him as the tortured lover in the Oscar-winning The English Patient. That's probably what he wants us to remember--but I will never forget his chilling, Oscar-nominated performance as the sadistic Nazi concentration camp officer in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. My lord, was he ever despicable. Now he's looking to play the villain again in Brett Ratner's Red Dragon, the retooling of Thomas Harris' novel with Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as Hannibal Lecter. Fiennes is in negotiations to play the serial killer Francis Dollarhyde, whom FBI agent Will Graham wants desperately to catch even if it takes soliciting the help of original psycho Lecter, who is locked up in a hospital for the criminally insane.
Even though the Michael Mann movie Manhunter was a great adaptation of Harris' novel, I'm really looking forward to this new adaptation for the cast alone. If Fiennes comes on board, he'll be joining not only Hopkins but also Emily Watson, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel and Philip Seymour Hoffman, working from a script by Ted Tally, who won the Oscar for writing The Silence of the Lambs. We could be looking at another Lambs landslide.
Scott and Chow "Monk"-eyin' around
Did you ever think you'd see Seann William Scott, the ultimate dumb guy who just wants to get laid in American Pie, star in the same movie with the Crouching Tiger himself, Chow Yun-Fat? Neither would I, but it's happening nonetheless. Scott is set to star opposite Chow in the MGM film Bulletproof Monk as a street kid who gets mentored by a Tibetan martial arts master. The story comes from a cult comic of the same name. This is somehow supposed to make it sound better? It seems like a skewed version of The Karate Kid to me.
Continuing on the same theme...
Adam Sandler and Zhang Ziyi are making a movie together. I don't know, maybe this is some kind of new trend in movie casting--geeky white guy and Asian martial arts expert (or anyone from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). But wait, there's more. Listen to the premise: called Good Cook, Likes Music, Sandler plays a likeable but jobless loser (big stretch) who lives with his mother. In a drunken stupor, he sends away for a mail-order bride (Zhang), who turns out to be a music prodigy. Of course, they end up changing each other's lives. Yikes. Double yikes.
You know what I think is the strangest thing about this stuff? The fact that Variety or The Hollywood Reporter reports these stories in all seriousness. I know, they have to. I'm just hoping the journalist writing the story turns to his buddy and says, "Who the hell thinks of this crap?" He wants to write how horrible it sounds but can't...so I'll do it for him.
Lawrence is da-"Bomb"!
After making 2000's comedy hit Big Momma's House and the recently released Black Knight, funnyman Martin Lawrence and screenwriter Darryl Quarles may join forces again for a third film, Warner Bros.' The Bomb. Third time's a charm? The film is being described as a black remake of the 1979 Blake Edwards' comedy 10, starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek. OK, you've got me so far. The story revolves around a married record executive whose smack in the middle of a midlife crisis. He ends up chasing a model to the Caribbean and in the process he loses his wife, the respect of his peers and the one client who could save his ailing record company. This may work just so long as Lawrence plays it like Moore did--a hapless guy who really has no idea why he's doing what he's doing. No shtick, Martin.