Top Story: Ashton Kutcher Gets New Best Friend
Just weeks after it was announced the hit hidden-camera show Punk'd was leaving the airwaves, MTV plans to launch a new series starring, once again, Ashton Kutcher. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new show, My New Best Friend, will be similar to Punk'd, which featured Kutcher playing practical jokes on celebrity friends. In Friends, based on a British series of the same name, contestants can win a substantial cash prize by convincing friends and/or family that they have a new best friend (actually an improv actor handpicked by the show's producers). The catch is that this person, whom the friends/family have never met, makes the challenge more difficult by behaving inappropriately. Kutcher will co-executive produce the show, developed by his Katalyst Films company, but is not expected to be an on-air personality. The news is a welcome relief for MTV, which was caught off guard when Kutcher canceled Punk'd after only two seasons because he felt the series had run its course. No airdate for My New Best Friend has been set.
Osbourne Cancels British Tour
Ozzy Osbourne has canceled an upcoming 20-date tour of Britain in order to fully recover from his accident on a quad bike last month, The Associated Press reports. "I am deeply disappointed, but it's out of my control," Osbourne said in a written statement Friday. "Right now I need to concentrate on my recovery and unfortunately this is something I cannot rush." The tour was due to kick off Feb. 15 at London's Wembley Arena, but the former Black Sabbath frontman said he was looking forward to performing again "when the doctors tell me I am fit and ready." Osbourne, 55, was seriously injured Dec. 8 after crashing an all-terrain vehicle at his estate in Buckinghamshire, southern England and spent a week on a ventilator.
O'Donnell Plans Gay Cruise to Bahamas
Former talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell announced plans Thursday for what is billed as "the first gay cruise with family values," Reutters reports. O'Donnell said the first offering from R Family Vacations would be a weeklong cruise on the new Norwegian Dawn cruise liner, which will depart New York for the Bahamas on July 11. On the cruise, passengers will be able to attend discussion groups on adoption, artificial insemination, surrogacy, and other topics of particular interest to gay and lesbian parents. O'Donnell founded the company with her partner Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky, formerly of gay travel agency Atlantis.
Gandolfini Conflicted About Sopranos' Role
During HBO's presentation at the winter press tour of the Television Critics Association in Hollywood, The Soprano star James Gandolfini said has mixed feelings about playing mob boss Tony Soprano. "I'm not ready to say goodbye to the character, but I'm not going to miss him," he said. "Having gone through something similar personally, it was difficult having to dredge those things up. Sometimes it was very hard to do some of those scenes," Gandolfini, whose real-life marriage ended in divorce in December 2002, said. Earlier this week, Gandolfini revealed he was engaged to a woman he met on the set of the 2001 comedy, The Mexican. The Sopranos returns to HBO for 10 more episodes starting March 7.
Bourne Identity Top-Renting Home Video of 2003
According to year-end figures issued Thursday, the spy thriller The Bourne Identity, which stars Matt Damon as a amnesiac CIA assassin on the run, was the top-renting U.S. home video of 2003. Rentrack Corp., which tracks point-of-retail data for the industry, said the combined revenues from DVD and VHS rentals of The Bourne Identity--released on video last January--totaled nearly $79.2 million for the year, Reuters reports. Director Steven Spielberg's con-artist caper Catch Me If You Can, which was released on video in May 2003, came in at No. 2 with rental revenues of $75.5 million, followed by M. Night Shyamalan's crop circle sci-fi thriller Signs, which placed third in the rankings with rentals totaling more than $74.9 million since its video release in January 2003.
Wayne Brady Canceled
The Wayne Brady Show, which earned two Daytime Emmy Awards last year, has been canceled. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show, which has been averaging a lowly 1.0 rating this season, will remain in production through May and will continue to air for the balance of its second season. The future of The Wayne Brady Show had been in jeopardy for several months now, especially since its Disney-owned syndicator, Buena Vista Television, committed to a new daytime show hosted by Tony Danza to debut in the fall. This week also saw the cancellation of Crossing Over with John Edward, now in its third season, due to low ratings.
Role Call: Jackson in Miss Castaway, Hauser Enters Cave
Strange, but true: Michael Jackson is in a movie titled Miss Castaway, about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash-land on a deserted island and find Noah's Ark. According to the AP, Jackson plays a force sent by the pope in a beam of light to dispense wisdom to the stranded women. The film also stars Joe Millionaire Evan Marriott. No word on when or how the movie will be released ... 2 Fast 2 Furious villain Cole Hauser is set to star in the horror thriller Cave for Screen Gems. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film revolves around a group of cave explorers who get trapped in a cave during a deep-sea ocean dive and mysteriously mutate into primeval beings. The project will be a directorial debut for Bruce Hunt, who helmed the second and third units on The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions.
For those who opted not to watch the drawn-out two-hour series finale of Fox's limited-run reality show Joe Millionaire, here's a brief recap of the night's anticlimactic events. Evan Marriott picked animal-lover Zora over fetish poster girl Sarah, then told her the truth: He wasn't worth $50 million but was really a $19,000-per-year heavy-equipment operator. "I'm sorry I lied to you, but I wanted to find someone who loved me for who I am, not for what I may or may not have," Evan said. So he was looking for someone who loved … a liar? Must have been reciprocal, because after acknowledging regrets over Marriott's deceptive scheme, Zora told him, "The good news is, I really was turned off by the fact that you inherited all that money." (Would she have preferred $5 million as opposed to $50 million?) Marriott then put a diamond ring on her right hand and Zora toasted to the adventure "after France." Fox then delivered the "shocking" twist it had been unrelentingly promising viewers for days: Resident butler Paul Hogan surprised them both with, surprise, surprise, a million-dollar check delivered on a silver tray. The network plans to milk the series further by airing Joe Millionaire: The Aftermath, a one-hour special that will reunite Evan and Zora for the first time since filming ended in France.
Actor Peter O'Toole, who has never won an Oscar despite being nominated seven times, has agreed to accept an honorary Academy Award after politely balking because he thought the honor meant his career was over, an Oscar official told The Associated Press. O'Toole's manager, Johnnie Planco, declined to confirm the Academy's announcement, saying the matter was being kept a surprise.
Billy Bob Thornton, who won an Academy Award for his 1997 film Sling Blade, will be honored Saturday with the Horton Foote Special Achievement Award for Screenplay Writing, the AP reports. The award is part of the 14th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, which begins Wednesday and features writing seminars, screenings, signings and publishing tips. The award honors Foote, who won Oscars for his screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies.
The Golden Bear for best film at the 53rd Berlin International Film Festival went to Michael Winterbottom's refugee drama In This World, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The film beat out Hollywood heavyweights such as The Hours, Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Spike Jonze won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear for Adaptation, while Sam Rockwell earned the Silver Bear for best actor for his portrayal of Gong Show host Chuck Barris in Confessions. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore walked away with a joint best actress Silver Bears for their ensemble performances in The Hours.
The American Society of Cinematographers on Sunday gave its annual award for best film photography to Conrad L. Hall, who died in January at age 76, for his work last year on drama Road to Perdition, Reuters reports. Hall, who was considered a master of directing the way a movie is photographed, died of complications from bladder cancer on Jan. 4. His son Conrad W. Hall accepted the award.
Cedric the Entertainer has become one of the first actors to sign on to the sequel to MGM's hit comedy Barbershop. The studio, meanwhile, is still negotiating with the movie's original's star Ice Cube, according to Variety. Negotiations have taken longer than expected because the film's stars are demanding salary hikes to make the follow-up. Tim Story, the film's original director, is already on board to shoot from a script still being penned by Don D. Scott. The film is slated for release later this year.
More on Joe. According to Nielsen numbers, Fox's Joe Millionaire finale, which aired 8 to 10 p.m. EST Monday, drew an average 34.6 million viewers, a number that soared to 40 million in the second hour. According to Fox, the numbers--close to that of last year's Academy Awards broadcast of 41.8 million--make this the highest series telecast on any network since CBS' premiere of Survivor II in January 2001. The numbers also surpassed the 11.9 million audience for the 9-10 p.m. airing of Dateline NBC's special, Michael Jackson Unmasked, the AP reports.
NBC will release its new crime drama Kingpin on DVD on Feb. 16--two days before the series finishes its limited six-episode prime time run. NBC told Reuters the Kingpin DVD would include behind-the-scenes footage, cast interviews and explicit footage not seen on broadcast TV. The show, about a Mexican drug lord and his family, has been characterized by many as network TV's answer to HBO's popular crime drama The Sopranos.
Paul McCartney announced plans Tuesday to kick off his first British tour in 10 years in April, with three-hour gigs featuring 22 Beatles songs from "All My Loving" to "Let It Be." His "Back in the World" tour will also hit European cities in France, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia. Beatles fans will also be happy to hear that a reunion performance by McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison filmed in 1994 will be released on DVD in March. The session is the only time the three played together after the Beatles split in 1970.