Top Story: Ryder Praised by Judge
Judge Eldon Fox had nothing but praise for Winona Ryder regarding her
adherence to the requirements of her probation after her shoplifting
conviction last year, AFP reports. At the progress hearing, Judge Fox,
complimented Ryder on her completion of the required counseling sessions as
well as the 480 hours of community service Fox ordered at
her sentencing hearing in November of last year. "Probation has indicated
that you are involved in all the requirements as imposed by the court, and
it appears that your participation in counseling issues and others have
served to make this a very positive report on your behalf," Fox said.
Ryder's lawyers requested that her original felony shoplifting conviction for stealing $5,000 of merchandise from a Beverly Hills' Saks Fifth Ave. be reduced to a misdemeanor. This will likely be discussed at a
Ozzy on Six-Month Road to Recovery
Ozzy Osbourne will need six months to recover from the ATV crash he had Dec. 8, his wife Sharon said in an interview on GMTV news in England, although Osbourne is off the
ventilator and on the mend: "He's awake and he's causing havoc. He's busy
telling jokes all the time, he's already asked two nurses to marry him,"
Sharon said on the news and chat show. The former Black Sabbath frontman and
reality show star was seriously injured when the ATV he was
riding hit something in the road and flipped over on him breaking several
ribs, his collarbone, and cracking a neck vertebra. In happier news, the
55-year-old rocker's duet, "Changes," with daughter Kelly, entered the
English charts at #1 this weekend, a first in his over 30-year career.
Lions Gate Buys Artisan
Independent studio Lions Gate has finalized the purchase of fellow indie
Artisan-- a month and a half after the deal was announced, according to
The Hollywood Reporter. The deal will cost Lions Gate over $200 million with
$150 million to be paid outright and $50-$60 million in debt to be acquired
by Lions Gate. In an expected move, Artisan CEO Amir Malin said he would be
leaving now that the merger is complete. He did not specify his future
plans. The combined company will go by the name Lions Gate Entertainment,
though the Artisan name may be used in the future for certain projects.
Theater Screens One of Ritter's Last Roles
One of John Ritter's last roles, shot two years before his untimely death at 54
from an undetected heart ailment in September, is screening in Los Angeles
and may soon screen elsewhere, filmmakers Straw Weisman and Andy Goldberg
told the Associated Press. Man of the Year, a drama-comedy shot in one
night on a budget of $25,000 with 20 digital cameras and as many actors,
centered around Ritter's character, a wealthy man whose dinner party thrown
for friends leads to the unraveling of his life. Though directors Weisman
and Goldberg had an outline of the story, all the actors improvised their
roles. Says Weisman, ""Every actor was told, `You're the star of your story
line and if you do a great job, then you're all over the movie. And if you
don't do a great job, you're not in the movie." Ritter became involved when
Goldberg approached him with the idea for the film. He was intrigued and
signed on for $100.
Native Americans Praise Dialect in The Missing
Apaches are praising the accurate dialog and portrayal of their culture in
the Ron Howard Western The Missing, AP reports. Though Apache
characters have long appeared in Hollywood films, clear and accurate use of
the Chiricahua dialect of the Apache native tongue is nearly nonexistent. New Mexico's Mescalero Reservation councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiricahua linguist Elbys Hugar acted as technical advisers on the film, the first they could recall in which Apache dialog was spoken well enough to be understood. Apache leaders are celebrating the film and a number of screenings have been held at reservations, prompting many Apache adults and children to become interested in the ancient tongue. Fewer than 300 people today speak Chiricahua.
Von Bondies Duke It Out With White Stripes
Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer for the rock group Von Bondies, was left with a bloody nose and a black eye after a scuffle with White Stripes' frontman Jack White Saturday
night at a Detroit music venue, AP reports. Stollsteimer, 25, told police that White punched him seven times in the face while White, 28, claimed self-defense. Stollsteimer's manager, Rick Canny, said regarding the night's conflict: "This was not a
fight, this was an attack." Alison Zero, spokesperson for the White Stripes
singer, songwriter, and guitarist, declined to comment. A
police investigation will determine if charges will be filed, say
Vandross Wants To Go to the Grammys
Multi-nominated artist Luther Vandross wants to go to the Grammy Awards
despite ill health due to a severe stroke earlier this year, Associated
Press reports. The 52-year-old singer is in good spirits after receiving a
platinum plaque for over a million sales of his album, Dance With My
Father, for which he is also nominated for five Grammy Awards. In November,
his mother accepted two statuettes on his behalf at the American Music Awards. Clive Davis, Vandross' record company
boss, is guarded about whether or not the singer will be able to attend the
ceremonies Feb. 8th. "He would be eager to go if the doctors clear it.
There is a possibility. I would not hold out hope one way or the other." If
Vandross does attend the Grammy Awards it will mark his first public
appearance since his stroke in April.
Role Call: Foxx on Stealth Mission
Jamie Foxx, currently in production on the Tom Cruise starrer Collateral,
has signed on to star with Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel in Stealth, Variety reports. The film, which is due to begin shooting sometime early next year,
centers on the three leads and their quest to down a robot-piloted stealth
aircraft. Foxx says he was drawn to the role in Stealth based on
director Rob Cohen's work on the Vin Diesel action flick, xXx.
The Sept. 11th attacks have resulted in a profound change of temperament
among many Hollywood executives, the Los Angles Times observed today. "Hollywood's trademark ruthless practices and myopic,
egocentric nature have given way to much more civil business dealings," the
newspaper commented in an article that quoted numerous top producers as
acknowledging that the terrible events had put their jobs into a different
perspective for them.
Famed entertainment attorney Bertram Fields told the
Times that while recently negotiating a deal with a top studio
executive whom he regarded as "a very tough brusque guy," he noticed that
"his voice and attitude were totally changed. We commiserated and talked
about our families. ... I'm not saying he gave up a deal point, but his
manner and style were totally different."
Another entertainment lawyer,
David Colden, remarked: "This is not the Hollywood I've known for the last
23 years. ... There's a sense of humanity among business people that often
And Artisan Entertainment's Amir Malin echoed: "I am seeing
a sincerity that can be categorized as atypical."
Apparently, there really is no stopping the curse of the "Blair Witch".
Artisan Entertainment top dog Amir Malin told The Associated Press that the studio is going full force with a "Blair Witch Project" prequel -- aka the third installment in the shaky-camera, little-film-that-could franchise.
The fate of a "Blair" prequel has been in jeopardy ever since "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" -- the franchise's first sequel -- became a critical bomb when it came out in October last year.
"Blair Witch 2" grossed $26 million domestically (mere peanuts compared to the original's fairy tale $140 million plus take), the film still nonetheless made a profit given its mid-range budget of $15 million.
Plans for a prequel and a sequel were concurrently announced in summer 1999 after the huge success of the original "Blair Witch Project." While the sequel -- directed by documentarian Joe Berlinger -- was delivered on schedule as Artisan had projected, the prequel has been quite a different matter entirely, hit by pushback after pushback.
According to AP, the prequel -- which would revisit the legend of the Blair Witch behind the original film -- would likely bow during Halloween 2002, and the studio plans to take more time on the prequel this time around.
But the delay might be due to scheduling conflicts with the prequel's helmers, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the original masterminds behind "The Blair Witch Project." Myrick and Sanchez had just finished up the romantic comedy "Heart of Love" (they had passed on doing "Blair Witch 2" to do this film), and Myrick has apparently signed on to helm another project called "Salvage," which might clash with the making of the prequel.
The Blair Witch, meanwhile, watches and waits.
With more than $140 million scared up last summer at the domestic box office, the following item should hardly come as a surprise: The Blair Witch is coming back. Soon.
Artisan Entertainment, which distributed the original "Blair Witch Project", confirmed the long-rumored follow-ups Monday, announcing plans for a sequel and prequel to the indie horror hit about three clueless film students who disappear in the woods while shooting a documentary about the legendary (but fictitious) Blair Witch.
The sequel -- which may again feature Maryland locations -- should go before the cameras as soon as next month. A fall release is planned. Helming the flick will be acclaimed documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger ("Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"). No word on who's writing the screenplay.
What of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who wrote and directed the original no-budget wonder? They're going to executive produce "Blair Witch 2." In the meantime, they'll continue work on "Heart of Love," a romantic comedy for Artisan which they're also executive producing.
The pair then looks to get back in the "Blair Witch" game, reteaming to write, direct and produce the third "Blair Witch" feature -- a summer 2001 prequel that likely will delve into the history of the Blair Witch. (Think "Phantom Menace," minus Jar-Jar.)
"Artisan views 'The Blair Witch Project' as one of the company's most viable franchises," said Artisan Co-President Amir Malin in a statement. "These additional installments will help to satisfy the high demand for this multifaceted property."
For Artisan's purposes, "multifaceted" means "major profitable" -- Myrick and Sanchez's magic gimmick of a movie cost less than $100,000 to produce. The sequel and prequel will cost $7 million to $10 million each -- still quite low by Hollywood's (inflated) standards.
The cast for the two new movies remains a mystery. Although in USA Today, Malin hinted that Heather, Josh and Mike (aka the three clueless campers) are not quite as dead as viewers of the first movie might think.
Says Malin: "Whether you will see any of the [original] characters back exists as a possibility."
Never underestimate the power of a hit franchise.