Some call it magic, but we say it's the ultimate revenge of the four-eyed nerd.
As promised, Warner Bros. today introduced us to Harry Potter - or, more precisely, to 11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe, who'll play the world's most famous kid in the studio's forthcoming big-screen adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The lucky kid is an utter unknown who, thanks to the signature circular-framed glasses and hair, bears more than a passing resemblance to the fantasy book hero.
"We saw so many enormously talented kids in the search for Harry," Chris Columbus, the flick's director, says on the Warners Web site (www.wb.com). "The process was intense and there were times when we felt we would never find an individual who embodied the complex spirit and depth of Harry Potter. Then, Dan walked into the room and we all knew we had found Harry."
The search for a real-life Harry began in England a few months back with an open casting call. Two other key roles were also filled: Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, two more unknowns with experience mostly limited to school plays, will play Harry's pals, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
For those living on another planet, the Harry Potter thing has been all the rage since "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" -- the first of a seven-part series envisioned by author J.K. Rowling -- was published in 1998. So far, four "Harry Potter" books have been published, and a fifth comes out in November 2001.
The speed at which Rowling cranks out the books out is matched only by the speed at which they fly off the bookstore shelves. An estimated 35 million copies of the first three books have been sold so far, and nearly 400,000 copies of the fourth book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," were pre-sold on Amazon.com before it was published July 8.
The first three Harry Potter books are hogging so many spots on the New York Times Review bestseller list that the newspaper launched a separate children's bestseller list on July 23, to assuage complaining adult-book authors who felt the kid stuff was invading their turf.
In a nutshell, the Harry Potter yarn is about a boy cultivating wizardry skills in a special magic-boarding school. The series has been lauded for its imagination, inventiveness and the rare accomplishment of turning kids away from their flashy video games and TV to, believe it or not, old-fashion reading.
But perhaps more important to Warners is the series' ability to attract and sustain a dedicated following -- those seven-to-15-year-olds who have their parents' wallets at their disposal.
But the question remains: Will Harry Potter fly on film?
We asked the experts. Linda Dimitroff of Children's Book World in Los Angeles says chances are good, provided that the adaptation sticks to what the book is famous for: that illusive magical quality that keeps kiddies coming back.
"It depends on how much they stick to the story. Unfortunately, a lot of films get made and they take the essence out of the [original] story. And I hope they don't do that to 'Harry Potter,'" Dimitroff tells Hollywood.com.
Though the plot to the film has not yet been disclosed, the studio's choice in picking Radcliffe for the main part did serve to quiet a lot of people, including Dimitroff's, worry.
"I think the film needs to preserve the British charm. And it pretty much needs to pick an unknown for the role because all the kids who've read the books already have a picture of harry potter on their mind. And a big star would ruin that for the kids."
Word has it that Warners is hoping to turn the book series into a cinematic franchise, with such ambitious talks as adapting all seven installments onto the big screen.
Regardless the quality of the first film, Dimitroff speculates that kids, and a lot of them, will probably go see the it out of sheer loyalty. But she also warns that such fidelity is not to be counted on if the film does stink, since, knowing kids, if they don't like the first one, they're unlikely to return for the second, or the seventh, time.
He won’t be back. Cinemascape.com reports today that director James Cameron has confirmed once again that he will not be involved in any further "Terminator" films. While attending the premiere of "U-571" recently, Cameron was asked about his potential participation in "Terminator 3." Cameron replied, "Not gonna do it."
Additionally, recent comments made by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton have the pair saying that they have no interest in another sequel unless Cameron is directing.
But the question remains: Will there be a "Titanic II"?
WHAT A SCREAM! Miramax has registered the Web sites www.scream4.com through www.scream10.com in making plans for a new batch of sequels, msnbc.com reports. A Miramax official has no comment, but director Wes Craven is among those who never completely believed that the studio would kill off the successful slasher-flick franchise starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette.
A CALL TO ACTION: Bill Cosby, in Los Angeles on Tuesday to receive the Steven J. Ross/Time Warner award from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, called for additional outreach programs that give minority students the chance to prepare for careers in the entertainment industry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cosby said that such programs help give an edge to aspiring talents who already face stumbling blocks as they enter film and television.
GOODBYE, OSCAR: Richard D. and Lili Fini Zanuck have said that they will never produce another Oscar telecast, DailyVariety columnist Army Archerd reports today. Richard Zanuck told Archerd, "Although it was one of my greatest experiences, I'll never do it again." Lili said: "We were very happy with the reception ... (but) we have a day job."
COUPLES WATCH: Howard Stern and Angie Everhart have blossomed into something serious. "They have been going out," the model's rep, Shari Goldberg, tells the New York Daily News. "I don't know about Howard, but she's not seeing anyone else." ... Actress Kristin Scott Thomas is expecting her third child. She is married to Francois Oliviennes. ... Joan Lunden, the former host of ABC's "Good Morning America" who reportedly is a contender to replace Kathie Lee Gifford on "Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee," has married Jeff Konigsberg, who operates children's summer camps. It is Lunden's second marriage.
HERE’S LOOKIN’ AT YOU, KID: Robert Evans’ best-seller "The Kid Stays in the Picture," which chronicles the producer’s rise to power in Hollywood, might be brought to the screen as a feature documentary by this year’s DGA documentary feature winners Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein ("On the Ropes"), the Reporter says. The news first broke March 25 on foxnews.com.
So, did you really expect a show named "Freaks and Geeks" to get respect? Linda Cardellini of "Freaks and Geeks" NBC, more used to making ratings with the pretty-people types of "Friends," made the inevitable call Tuesday, axing the acclaimed hour-long drama series about social misfits and high school (circa the early 1980s).
The show is being yanked ASAP. Starting next week, NBC will fill the show's 8-9 p.m. Monday time slot with extra-special episodes of the "Dateline NBC" newsmag.
Praised by critics or no, the bottom line was not terribly enticing for NBC. The series, which started out in that TV desert known as Saturday night, never climbed out of the ratings cellar, watched on average by a relatively paltry 6 million viewers -- a sad fact acknowledged by the series' makers.
"Well, what can I tell you? We got killed. And we weren't even up against anything," creator Paul Feig writes in a post on the official "Freaks and Geeks" Web site (www.freaksandgeeks.com). "I thought we might have trouble with that 'Satan's School for Girls' movie [on ABC], but we were trounced by a rerun of 'King of Queens' [on CBS], not to mention being beaten by 'Satan' and [Fox's] 'That 70's Show' (and THAT was a rerun, too)."
DreamWorks, the studio behind "Freaks and Geeks," meanwhile, is sending a message of (false?) hope to the series' diehard fans.
"We're hopeful that we will find the appropriate home for the show in the very near future," DreamWorks' Dan McDermott says in Daily Variety.
But while networks such as Fox, the WB and MTV are mentioned in the article as "logical outlets," none are tagged as "likely" or even "interested" outlets.
OUTTA THERE: The Fox programming chief who brought you "Action" (and then took it away when nobody watched) quit today. Doug Herzog lasted all of 14 months -- just long enough to see ABC launch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and watch his professional life go up in flames.
LONG LIVE, SNOW MISER! Holiday TV staple "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (the 1974 Rankin-Bass special with the Snow Miser, the Heat Miser and those two fellows' catchy little songs) is going to get the big-screen treatment courtesy Warner Bros. Today's Hollywood Reporter says a live-action version of the puppet-animated "Santa Claus" is being targeted for a Christmas 2001 release, with Bo Welch, a production designer, tapped to make his directing debut.
Yup, he's the dad. Mick Jagger Wrinkled Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, 56, today confirmed in sworn testimony that a baby boy born to Brazilian model Luciana Morad is indeed the result of his, er, handiwork.
Speaking to New York court officials via the telephone from London, the rocker said he had no problem being listed as the father on the birth certificate of Lucas Maurice Morad Jagger, born May 18. No word if he had a problem with the whole "Maurice" thing.
The out-of-wedlock birth -- he is no longer linked with Morad -- is proving costly to the mega-millionaire. First, it drove the final nail into his relationship with model/actress Jerry Hall. (The two formally split in July, annulling what most people thought was a nine-year marriage, but what they agreed was a nine-year nonlegal cohabitation. In any case, Hall walked away with a reported $15 mil.)
And now the Morad affair has landed Jagger (in spirit anyway) in the Big Apple's Manhattan Family Court, where the maternal unit is demanding $35,000 a month in support from the paternal unit. (Said paternal unit is currently forking over a mere $5,500 a month.)
For those keeping score at home, Jagger has now squired seven kids -- two by ex-wife Bianca Jagger, four by Hall, one by Morad.
Well, that he knows of anyway.
COUPLEDOM: What's it like to be an ex-Beatle? You have to issue a press statement when you go out on a date. Widowed Paul McCartney, 57, today confirmed to the British press that he's "an item" with a 32-year-old, one-legged activist. "She's a very impressive woman," McCartney said of Heather Mills. The erstwhile Mop Top lost wife Linda to breast cancer in 1998.
COUPLEDOM II: Actress Angie Harmon, 27, ("Law & Order") and football star Jason Sehorn, 28, (New York Giants) are engaged after the groom-to-be proposed to the bride-to-be on the Monday edition of "The Tonight Show." It was a really happy occasion, and Jay Leno didn't call anybody names, neither.
HOW TO GET A HEAD: Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" ran away with a field-best 11 nominations for the 26th Annual Saturn Awards, honoring TV and films of the sci-fi, fantasy and horror variety. Burton's Headless Horseman tale earned a nod for best horror flick as well as a best actor nomination for star Johnny Depp. Winners will be announced in June.
JURISPRUDENCE: In Los Angeles, a judge has dismissed a $150 million slander lawsuit brought against "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno. The complaint, filed by an auto designer, accused Leno of calling the man a "crook" and other not-so-nice things at a 1998 classic car show in L.A. The attorney for the auto designer vows the court battle is "far from over."
FABIO NEWS! Everyone's favorite artificial butter spokesman is 39 years young today. That's all.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.
The latest scary news from the "Blair Witch" front is that the sequel will be seeking "unrecognizable talent," according to a casting note obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Specifically, "Blair Witch Project 2" is looking for five lead characters - two men and three women, ages 19-early 20s. The trade paper says a one-page breakdown on the film lists the characters thusly:
-- "Heather Arendt," a Chicagoan whose life philosophy is "when in doubt indulge"; -- "Nick Leavitt" and "Anna Casio," a couple of live-in lovers attending their senior year at Boston College; -- "Cotter Kaller," an irresponsible state college kid; -- "Domini Von Teer," the enigmatic outsider who favors black and a vague Gothic look.
No word if recognizable talent will be deigned eligible for the above roles -- provided they round up really good disguises.
"Blair Witch 2" is scheduled to begin shooting Feb. 23 on the East Coast, with a Fall 2000 release planned. (Think Halloween.) Despite all this activity, there's still no word on a script (or a screenwriter). Joe Berlinger, the documentary filmmaker behind "Brother's Keeper" and "Paradise Lost," will direct.
GETTING "UGLY"? They may be splitsville in real life, but in Hollywood, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow are seriously considering a reunion in "The Ugly Truth," a possible project for Warner Bros. and Disney about an unlucky-in-love woman (Paltrow, presumably) who receives a romantic sparkle from an obnoxious, sexist, sloppily dressed TV personality (paging Affleck?).
ON LOAN FROM HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE: 007 star Pierce Brosnan is set to sign up for the CIA as the headliner and producer of "Burnt Sienna," a movie based on an upcoming novel by "First Blood" author David Morrell. Today's Daily Variety says Brosnan will play a former Marine pilot who becomes an artist in Mexico, only to find his life threatened when he turns down an offer to paint the wife of an arms dealer. His character is described as a cross between James Bond and John Rambo.
WHAT A CROC: Car pitchman Paul Hogan is ready to return to the film franchise that made him a movie star - at least in the mid-1980s. According to the Reporter, Hogan, now 59, will say "G'day' in a third "Crocodile Dundee" flick, tentatively titled "Crocodile Dundee in Hollywood." No director yet. Hogan's wife and perennial co-star, Linda Kozlowski, will return as his, yes, perennial co-star. The last "Dundee" movie - that would be "Crocodile Dundee II" - was released in 1988.
IN THE 'DUST': Disaster prone Jan De Bont ("The Haunting," "Speed") has signed on to helm (and produce) "Dust" for Village Roadshow/Warner Bros The movie's based on a novel by Charles Pellegrino, who created the dinosaur-cloning theories behind Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park."
TRUCKIN' TO 'RENO': Patrick Swayze and Natasha Richardson are in final talks to put on their redneck boots alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron in "Waking Up in Reno," the Reporter says. Newcomer Jordan Brady will direct the film about Arkansas rednecks, infidelity and (of course) monster truck shows.