Jason Biggs is famous for getting intimate with baked goods, but like any good thespian, what the "American Pie" star really wants to do is get serious. And so it has come to pass that the 21-year-old Biggs is in talks to score his first big-screen dramatic gig in "Prozac Nation," a soon-to-be angsty drama based on the angsty best-seller of the same name. Christina Ricci is already a lock for the lead. Biggs would play her leading guy, The Hollywood Reporter says.
IT'S GOOD TO BE THE KING: Lord Tom Hanks has tapped mortal indie filmmaker John Sayles ("Lone Star") to write the script for "A Cold Case," a based-on-a-true story drama about an unsolved murder in New York, Daily Variety says. The honorable Mr. Hanks has also deigned his Oscar self worthy of working with the newly Oscared Alan Ball. The Hollywood Reporter says the "American Beauty" scribe will pound out a script for an as-yet untitled Hanks drama about a Cleveland cop on the trail of the murderer of a family member.
TAKING RISKS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT: Romantic-comedy guy Hugh Grant is circling the romantic comedy "Bridget Jones' Diary," based on the romantic-minded comedic novel of the same name, the Reporter says.
WHY? According to the Reporter, highly employable Sarah Michelle Gellar is considering joining the cast of the Tim Allen-Christian Slater action comedy "Cletis Tout."
FANTASTIC VOYAGE: Bill Murray will star (as will the voices of Chris Rock and David Hyde Pierce) in "Osmosis Jones," a live-action/animated comedy about a white blood cell (Rock) and a cold tablet (Pierce) that team to prevent bacteria from messing with a construction worker (Murrary), Variety says. The Farrelly Brothers ("Dumb and Dumber") will direct the Murray scenes.
They are some of the most-asked questions at donut shops around the world: (1) Who will go home with Oscar?; (2) What new and probing insights will the most important social commentators of our time, Joan and Melissa Rivers, have to say about the nominees' clothes? (3) Why is a babe like Catherine Zeta-Jones hanging around with that old guy? And, (4) What is Ricky Martin's sexual orientation, and how does it affect us?
Ricky Martin At least some of those questions -- and more -- will be answered this week on TV. And just so you don't have to sit through all of it just to find out about the really important stuff, here's a handy little guide:
-- Live from the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, it's the 72nd Annual Academy Awards (8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST, Sunday, ABC)! In case you haven't heard of this show, it's kind of like the Golden Globes. What to watch for? How will Robin Williams perform the expletive-laden Best Song nominee "Blame Canada" (from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut")? Our prediction? We predict that we will go to a party and drink too much champagne so we won't notice how incredibly long this show is.
-- The annual Oscar night "Barbara Walters Special" (7 p.m. EST; immediately after the Academy Awards on the West Coast, Sunday, ABC) looks to be a good one this year. Interviewees Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are expecting, Mike Myers is a very funny man and Ricky Martin actually requested that Walters bring up the much-talked-about issue of "Is he or isn't he?" Our prediction? We will still be at a party drinking champagne and will probably get pretty upset at the whole Catherine Zeta-Jones issue because we really think we would have had a chance if it weren't for Michael Douglas.
-- If it's wacky Oscar-related commentary you're looking for, check out E!'s live pre-show coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST, and featuring the ever-catty Joan and Melissa Rivers standing outside the Shrine and judging people by their covers like mean-spirited high school cheerleaders. Joan looks absolutely fabulous, by the way. Also on Oscar night, ABC unspools the "Politically Incorrect After-Party" at 12:05 a.m. EST/PST. Host Bill Maher will surely have a few choice words to say about some of the goings-on at the ceremony. Our prediction? We will have come to our senses, wished the Douglas family well and cried ourselves to sleep by this time.
-- Jennifer Love Hewitt is quite charming in the title role of "The Audrey Hepburn Story" (8 p.m. EST/PST, Monday, ABC). The made-for-TV movie is as light and breezy as its subject always seemed to be. Nothing groundbreaking or shocking here, but it's always so easy to like Audrey Hepburn, and this movie keeps the feeling going. All in all, not a bad night in front of the tube.
-- ABC has another mid-season replacement worth checking out when "Wonderland" premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. EST/PST. Created by actor Peter Berg, formerly Dr. Billy Kronk on CBS' "Chicago Hope," "Wonderland" is a brooding drama that's just a little different from the more-familiar police precincts and emergency rooms we're so used to seeing on TV. Martin Donovan and Michelle Forbes head a strong ensemble cast as husband and wife doctors in a New York City hospital's psychiatric ward. Our prediction? The show has drawn a tough slot, opposite NBC's "ER," but there might just be room for this one.
Off-screen couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones may hook up on screen as well in the planned action-adventure "Smoke and Mirrors." The Hollywood Reporter says the film is a potential starring vehicle for the soon-to-be newlyweds.
Initial Entertainment Group, which bought the rights to the script by "Batman Forever" team Lee and Janet Scott Bachelor, plans to make the flick a big-budget affair, possibly shooting in France or Algeria.
Although Zeta-Jones is pregnant with Douglas' child, she's still in talks to star as the beautiful partner of 19th century French illusionist Jean Robert-Houdin. Set during the 1850s, the story has Houdin and young Collette (the potential Zeta-Jones role) traveling to Algeria on a secret mission for the French government. Their goal: to expose a religious sorcerer who advocates the overthrow of French colonials.
Kevin Brodie ("A Dog of Flanders") has signed on to direct. He'll also produce with Joel Douglas (brother of Michael).
Michael Douglas, 55, and Zeta-Jones, 30, became engaged last New Year's Eve.
'BUFFY' GOES IVY: Actress-cum-"Vampire Slayer" Sarah Michelle Gellar will put down the wooden stake and pick up the books as a philosophy professor in James Toback's semi-autobiographical "Harvard Man."
The Hollywood Reporter notes that after five years in development, the project may start shooting this spring.
Toback ("Two Girls and a Guy") will helm the film, based in part on his experiences at Harvard in the 1960s, which included an overdose on LSD. The story is said to combine philosophy, sex, and (what else?) basketball scandals. Gellar plays a teacher who has an affair with a college hoopster. That character was once considered for mega-star Leo DiCaprio.
IT'S NOT NIKE, BUT ... Spike Lee won't be hawking shoes in his next commercial. He'll be throwing his clout behind Democratic presidential nominee Bill Bradley.
Lee will star in, but not direct, an ad that will air in the Big Apple before New York's March 7 presidential primary.
Lee reportedly is concerned that black voters are blindly supporting Vice President Al Gore based on their loyalty to President Clinton.
"Sometimes you just got to take the gloves off," Lee told reporters Monday. "It's for real now. Bill will come out smoking."
Lee's frequent commercial co-star, basketball great Michael Jordan, has already appeared in a Bradley ad.
NEW RECRUIT: After sparring with Denzel Washington in "The Hurricane," Vicellous Shannon is ready to go round and round in the Marine Corps as the lead in the Steven Spielberg series, "Semper Fi." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the hour-long show from DreamWorks and NBC will debut in fall. Shannon will star as Wade Maddox, a smart and cocky new recruit.
TAKING IT TO 'THE $TREET': "Saving Private Ryan's" Adam Goldberg, about the only young Hollywood actor not in "The Boiler Room," gets his chance to swim with the sharks as the lead player in the Fox pilot, "The $treet." The drama, about a group of Wall Street yuppies, is being developed by Darren Star, creator of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Sex and the City." Variety says the show will begin shooting in mid-March.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 10, 2000 - Want to get the goods on an "Ally McBeal" co-star's "undisclosed medical condition"? Then get thee to a supermarket and guiltily pick up the Feb. 15 edition of the Star -- wherein said "Ally McBeal" co-star seemingly spills the beans her very own self.
According to the article, tastefully titled "'Ally McBeal' Beauty Locked Up in Psycho Ward," actress Lisa Nicole Carson, who plays Ally's roommate Renee Radick on Fox's hit legal-eagle series, says she required hospitalization after smoking "a joint that was laced with PCP."
"I think the joint may have triggered a collapse in my nervous system," Carson is quoted as telling a Star reporter. "Now I'm here drinking lots and lots of water and trying to get the drugs out of my system."
The "here," according to the Star, is (or was) New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, where the 30-year-old Carson was allegedly admitted to a special ward.
Fox deferred comment on the report to Carson's publicist. A Hollywood.com phone call to said publicist went unreturned.
But last week, Carson's reps did disclose that the actress had recently completed a two-week hospital stay. The official statement on the topic of her "undisclosed medical condition" was devoid of detail. While Carson was seen (briefly) on Monday's edition of "Ally McBeal," it has been said that series producers are writing around her character for the time being.
As for Carson's take on the situation? "I'm [a] honky-tonk woman," she says in the Star. "I used to sing in a rock band and drink whiskey straight out of the bottle. I love my mommy and daddy, and when I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm very bad. I'm very good at being very bad."
LEO WATCH: Okay, he wore (or so we're told) a gray suit and matching tie. He smiled for photographers. He nobly declined the requests of those who implored, "Leo, kiss me quick!"
We speak, of course, of Leonardo DiCaprio, in London on Wednesday for the Euro premiere of "The Beach." (The flick washes ashore in these parts on Friday.)
The red-carpet affair featured the U.K. version of the A-list crowd (which reads more like the lineup for a "Behind the Music" marathon): A Spice Girl (Baby); the guy who used to sing in Simply Red; and a couple of ex-Duran Duraners.
What -- nobody from Big Country?
'BEACH' BUMMED: Don't ask Ewan McGregor about "The Beach."
According to the British magazine The Face, McGregor suggested that the filmmakers behind "The Beach" -- the same team he'd done "Trainspotting" and two other flicks for -- had gone for the obvious commercial choice in casting DiCaprio.
Asked if he felt disrespected by McGregor, DiCaprio reportedly answered: "Yeah. You know, yeah, absolutely."
Here's the ironic twist: DiCaprio has been rumored for the role of Anakin Skywalker in "Episode II" of the "Star Wars" series. Should he be cast, he'd be playing opposite McGregor (who starred in "Episode I" as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi). And as fans know, Anakin will later become Darth Vader and, um, kill Obi-Wan. That's gotta hurt.
We feel for you, Ewan.
DON'T KISS, DON'T TELL: Don't ask Michael Douglas about love. Not when he wants to talk war.
At a recent interview with reporters to discuss his upcoming film "Wonder Boys," Douglas, 55, was speaking passionately about disarmament, according to Reuters. But when an impatient journalist blurted, "So how did you meet Catherine?" (as in Catherine Zeta-Jones), Douglas retorted, "At a nuclear rally." He complimented the reporter on not even bothering to make a transition.
"You really are bored, aren't you?" he asked.
Later, Douglas finally allowed that he met Zeta-Jones, now 30, by arranging a meeting through a friend because he was so impressed with her in "The Mask of Zorro."
And now back to the disarmament issue ...
QUICK TAKES: Looks like Whoopi Goldberg will exercise her hosting chops again -- but not at the Oscars. While Billy Crystal returns for another Academy Awards engagement, Goldberg has been tapped to host the Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 12 in Los Angeles. It will be aired on TNT ...
... In New Orleans, a federal appeals court stood behind Oprah Winfrey Wednesday, ruling that the TV talk queen did not defame the cattle industry in a 1996 show that sparked a headline-making 1998 veggie-libel trial.
... More fun at the Happiest Place on Earth. In Delaware on Wednesday, an appeals court ruled that Disney shareholders do have the right to sue the Magic Kingdom over that $140 goodbye package Michael Ovitz received when he left the company in 1997 after a grueling, um, 15 months on the job.
...Ain't it cute? Kirsten Dunst's prom date will be actor Josh Hartnett, her co-star from the upcoming "The Virgin Suicides." The matchup happened when Dunst asked Seventeen magazine entertainment editor Michelle Shapiro for date suggestions. Shapiro immediately walked up to Hartnett, who answered: "Sure."
MUSIC BEAT: D'Angelo's "Voodoo" spends a second turn at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart this week. Overall, the Top Five was virtually unchanged from last week: No. 2 was Santana's "Supernatural," Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001" held at No. 3 and Celine Dion's "All the Way ... a Decade of Song" stayed at No. 4. Christina Aguilera's self-titled album jumped to the No. 5 spot.
In singles action, the new No. 1 is "Thank God I Found You" by Mariah Carey's collaboration with Joe and 98 Degrees. Rounding out the Top Five: "I Knew I Loved You," by Savage Garden; "What a Girl Wants," by Christina Aguilera; "Get it on Tonite," by Montell Jordan; and "Smooth," by Santana, featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox20.
The ratings weren't so big as those for the finale of the original Survivor, but CBS' Survivor II: The Australian Outback still drew the third-highest numbers of the year, behind only the Super Bowl and the Oscars. (CBS noted that the second Survivor finale aired in a more competitive time slot than its predecessor's.) The two-hour episode pulled a 20.1 rating and a 31 share (a 15.9/39 among adults 18-49), peaking in the final half-hour with a 23.6/33. A reunion show, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, at 10:00 p.m. also edged out a new episode of E.R. on rival NBC. CBS said that was the first time a first-run episode of the hospital drama had been beaten by any network since E.R.'s premiere season in 1994. The Late Show with David Letterman also benefited from the Survivor finale, notching up a rare win over NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
CNN WOOING CLINTON?
CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld claimed on Friday that Robert Pittman, the cable news channel's COO, is personally wooing Bill Clinton to join the company as the host of a live, nightly interview program. In an interview with CBS MarketWatch, Schonfeld also indicated that CNN is looking to have CBS anchor Dan Rather host an expanded primetime program of hard news. Schonfeld roundly endorsed the CNN strategy, saying that Clinton "could triple ratings" for the network. Asked about Schonfeld's comments, Clinton attorney Robert Barnett told CBS MarketWatch that the former president "has received many, many offers for media projects, to host his own show or be a commentator, and is not pursuing any of those things at this time."
UPN MAKING FRIENDS WITH DIAMONDS
UPN has sent what its CEO, Dean Valentine, has called "welcome-to-the-neighborhood" gifts to Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar that include a diamond necklace and a Gucci leather jacket, the New York Times reported Monday. The gifts presumably were intended to win over Gellar's affinity after she had publicly stated earlier this year that she would continue to appear on the show only if it remained on The WB. The Times said that other cast members had received gift baskets that include beluga caviar, Cristal Champagne and $4,000 Cartier watches. "They [the gifts] may be a little pricier than a chocolate cake, but the idea's the same," Valentine said.
"THE X-FILES" FINALE: STILL AN X
X-Files creator Chris Carter has indicated that the final two episodes of the current season could serve one of three purposes: as a cliffhanger for a season finale; as the closing episode of the entire series; or as a teaser for a forthcoming feature film. In an interview appearing on the TV Guide Web site, Carter also said that he is in "constructive" negotiations with Fox about returning for a ninth year with the sci-fi drama, but, he suggested, it was unlikely that David Duchovny would be back. "We had a really good, and I felt sweet, send-off for him his final night a little over a week ago. And whatever decision he makes, we have done eight terrific seasons together, and if there are more, great. And if there are no more, I will figure out a way to hopefully make the show as good as it can be," Carter said. He also noted that the final two episodes will center around the character Scully's pregnancy.
CONTRACT TALKS STALL WITH "THE VIEW" COHOSTS
Negotiations to renew the contracts of The View cohosts Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar and Star Jones have bogged down, according to TV Guide columnist J. Max Robins. Writing in the May 12 issue, Robins quoted an unnamed network insider as saying that following Disney's recent round of layoffs, ABC is "trying to lowball everybody." Although The View has become a hit in the 11a.m. hour, Jones and Behar reportedly earn only $300,000 a year according to Robins, while Vieira is paid about $500,000. Lisa Ling, the newest member, makes only $200,000, the columnist said.
WILL ACTORS FOLLOW WRITERS IN SETTLING WITH PRODUCERS?
A spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild has taken issue with numerous analysts who have suggested that Friday's agreement between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and TV Producers is likely to serve as a model for a similar settlement between SAG and the AMPTP. SAG spokesman Greg Krizman told Monday's New York Times: "Everybody is telling us that the writers' agreement is a template for us, but we're trying to back away from that somewhat." Nevertheless, an article in today's Wall Street Journal quotes an unnamed labor lawyer who formerly negotiated labor contracts for the studios as saying: "Everyone expects SAG's proposals to fairly closely mirror the WGA's financial proposals." In a statement on Friday, SAG and AFTRA said, "If the AMPTP and the networks are prepared -- as they have assured us they are -- to address the unique needs of actors, we are confident we can emulate this significant accomplishment of reaching an agreement without a work stoppage." Among other things, the new industry contract with the WGA calls for a 3.5-percent pay increase for writers, higher residual fees, greater earnings from foreign and DVD sales, the right to visit sets, attend premiers and sit in on the cast's readings of their scripts.
NAME-CALLING ESCALATES IN "HOLLYWOOD REPORTER" TO DO
John Babcock Jr., the CEO of media publishing giant BPI, the parent company of the Hollywood Reporter, has given a ringing endorsement to the trade paper's publisher, Robert Dowling, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the resignation of the Reporter's labor reporter, David Robb. Robb had quit after Dowling spiked an article that he had written suggesting that the paper's gossip columnist had accepted favors from two Hollywood producers in exchange for favorable mentions in his column. Dowling assigned the article to other Reporter journalists. In a memo to the trade paper's staff, Babcock accused other journalists of painting an "incomplete and obviously one-sided" version of what had occurred. He also underscored Dowling's criticism of Robb's article, saying that "Robb had become so emotionally invested in this story that any pretense of objectivity had long since been abandoned." Without citing specific incidents, Babcock alleged that the issue "also involved claims of harassment (both internally and externally) along with overly aggressive and questionable reporting techniques which put the company at legal risk." Dowling said in a letter appearing in the Reporter that the allegations of harassment had been made by executives of the Directors Guild of America after Robb allegedly threatened DGA Executive Director Jay Roth with an investigation of his personal affairs after Roth complained to Dowling about an article that Robb had written.
INSIDE.COM TO COST. "INSIDE" MAG TO BITE THE DUST
Brill Media, the publishing company formed by Court-TV founder Steven Brill, said Friday that it plans to launch a fee-based version of its online media newsmagazine Inside.com on July 1. The new site, it said, will reportedly combine content from Inside.com with material from other Brill-owned publications, including Folio, Cable World and the Kagan World Media newsletters. Inside, a magazine print version of the online site, which had been expected to be combined with Brill's Content magazine as a new publication, Inside Content, has apparently been cast off. The statement said that "launching any new magazine in this economic environment doesn't make sense."
BOLLYWOOD STAR ARRESTED FOR COCAINE POSSESSION
Rising Bollywood film star Fardeen Khan has been arrested in India for alleged possession of cocaine in the latest scandal to rock the Indian film industry. According to Monday's India Express, the actor has confessed that he uses cocaine. "We are immune to shocks now," an industry veteran told the newspaper, referring to numerous sensational arrests involving Bollywood figures during recent months.