Although she showed up in court ready to testify, Jennifer Aniston didn't have to bare her soul--or anything else, for that matter--on the witness stand in the lawsuit she filed against a men's magazine publisher that ran photos of her sunbathing topless in her backyard.
Instead, the sexy sitcom star relied on her Friends with law degrees, who suddenly settled the matter just as it was about to be heard by a federal judge. Husband Brad Pitt also showed up to provide moral support and a victory hug.
Dressed in a shiny, striped white blouse, khaki pants and wedge-heeled sandals with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, a tense-looking Aniston arrived sans Pitt in a media-jammed fifth-floor courtroom in Downtown Los Angeles' federal court building shortly after 9 a.m., flanked by an assemblage of attorneys, bailiffs and private security guards.
As her security guards took positions at opposite ends of the courtroom, the 33-year-old actress sat quietly for about 15 minutes with her attorneys until they and the defense legal team were suddenly summoned into a private conference in the judge's chambers, a meeting that lasted over two and a half hours.
Meanwhile, the media waited in the courtroom, occasionally getting a glimpse of the defense's potential exhibits. Several large poster boards featuring glamorous images of Aniston published in popular magazines such as US Weekly were assembled, along with dozens of black three-ring binders appearing to bear similar photographs.
In August 2000, Aniston sued Man's World Publications and Crescent Publishing Group, claiming the publishers had no right to publish a photo of her, according to court documents, "reclining topless in her back yard, wearing only her panties." The photo was allegedly taken by a "stalkerazzi" who climbed a neighbor's wall to snap the shots with a telephoto lens on Feb. 28, 1999.
Aniston's suit says the actress first saw the topless shot published in the September 1999 issue of Celebrity Skin and later in the December 1999 issue of High Society. She sued after the publishers (who teased the photos with headlines reading "Friends Stars X-Posed" and "Rachel Gets Raunchy--Her Shocking XXX-Rated Vacation") allegedly ignored a "cease and desist" letter sent by her legal team.
The photo--in which, despite being shot through backyard foliage, Aniston is clearly recognizable sunbathing nude from the waist up--first appeared in the April 1999 issues of the Italian magazine Eva Tremila and the English newspaper Daily Sport, as well as the May 31-June 6 issue of French magazine Voici and the December 1999 issue of Celebrity Sleuth.
Aniston has already settled with Eva Tremila and Celebrity Sleuth, was awarded $1,000 in a judgment in her lawsuit against Voici, and has suits still pending against the Daily Sport and the photographer, Francois Navarre.
Because of the prior publication of the photo, Judge Ronald S.W. Lew threw out Aniston's claim on publication of private information, but agreed to hear her lawyers' arguments on counts of common law misappropriation of the right of publicity, constructive trust and punitive damages.
Although he allowed the case to go forward, Lew denied Aniston's bid to have the case heard before a jury, telling her to produce any and all images in which she has appeared "partially nude" to see how revealing they actually are. She was also ordered to produce TV and movie contracts to determine if she'd ever employed a "no nudity" clause.
Despite the possibility that a barrage of scantily clad images of herself could be entered into evidence by the defense to dispute the invasion of privacy claim, the actress--through her attorney Jay Lavely, who represented Pitt in his 1997 nude photo lawsuit against Playgirl--publicly announced her intention to testify in the case a week prior to her court appearance.
During the hastily assembled legal conference, Lew made a brief appearance in the courtroom. "Why are you here?" he asked the press jokingly. "I don't understand all the pandemonium."
The judge, best known for presiding over the highly publicized "Mexican Mafia" case in 1997, had previously ruled on another case involving a naked "celebrity." In 2001 he decreed that artist Tom Forsythe was within his constitutional rights to photograph Barbie (yes, the doll), in the altogether for his offbeat parodies on consumer culture after toymaker Mattel filed a million-dollar copyright infringement suit against him.
Around noon, Aniston re-entered the courtroom accompanied by her attorney and Pitt, wearing a sleek, gray designer suit and an open-collared white short and sporting the long, shaggy beard he's grown over the last several months for an upcoming film. Lew took the stand and announced that both sides had "perfected a settlement that is confidential on the record...The matter will be dismissed and is dismissed at this time."
A beaming Aniston and clearly pleased Pitt thanked their legal team and were escorted to a private chamber off the courtroom. Minutes later, flanked by security guards, Pitt wrapped an arm over his wife's shoulders as the couple, who celebrate their second wedding anniversary on July 29, was allowed to leave the federal building.
Outside the courthouse, Lavely met the media but insisted he was unable to provide any specifics of the settlement, as per the confidentiality order. "It's best for both sides, and it's an amicable settlement," he said. He did confirm that both Aniston and Pitt personally took part in the settlement proceedings.
When asked if Aniston planned to continue sunbathing topless in her Beverly Hills backyard, Lavely's co-counsel Kevin James laughed and said, "You'll have to ask her."
FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) is cold on the trail of Texas' notorious "God's Hand" serial killer until he's paid a mysterious call by solemn Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey). It seems Meiks could bust the case wide open--he declares that "God's Hand"'s handiwork is that of his brother Adam and he's got a long and complicated tale to tell that'll explain it. Doyle's ears perk up and he and Meiks embark on a trip to the rose garden where Meiks claims Adam buried his victims and then killed himself. On the way Meiks reveals his gory story. It involves the boys' kindly father (Bill Paxton) who was a sensitive caring man--until he went insane one day claiming God had chosen him and his family to kill all the "demons" that inhabit Earth disguised as real people like their neighbors. Dad regularly makes a list and checks it twice for all the demon folk he needs to exterminate on any given Sunday but he's not on this holy mission alone--his sons are "God's hands" as well and together they must hunt down the demons and destroy them. In a weird variation on Cain and Abel 12-year-old Fenton rebels against Dad (killing others isn't exactly his idea of a fun after-school activity) while little brother Adam is happy to join in.
Because the movie is told mostly in flashback McConaughey is relegated mostly to voiceover and a few present-day scenes in which he acts frighteningly morose and gives the sense that there's more to his story than first meets the eye. Because most of the story takes place in 1979 the boys are the ones who really make this film work. Fenton the younger (Matthew O'Leary) is a real find--he clearly struggles with his love for his father whom he knows has gone over the edge and his repulsion for the deeds Dad is determined to have the family carry out. Wrestling with his own demons he finally is able to settle on a solution for how to stop the horror. Little Adam (Jeremy Sumpter) is quite good as the innocent youngster who adores his dad and hangs on his every word seeking only his approval and refusing to believe he has lost his mind. Paxton effectively bridges the transitions between gentle loving father and insane murderer insisting the boys finish all their veggies and revealing his next victim in one breath. He's like those killers on the news about whom people say "But…he was such a nice quiet guy." The performance almost verges on funny if it weren't so horrific.
Paxton makes an auspicious directing debut with this tight little movie keeping the action going and the plot flowing and letting you completely get to know the characters as they exist in their own eras. He deftly avoids choppy flashbacks and the potentially confusing story is perfectly clear yet no less gripping. The killing scenes are absolutely squirm-in-your-seat nightmarish but thankfully we don't see all the grisly details as with so many slasher flicks. Instead we're shown everything right up to the point of death and we're spared the splattering blood and guts. It's just enough to make you cringe and cover your eyes and ultimately far worse to imagine the outcome than to see it all in special effects and makeup. Frailty is also scarier than the typical slasher flick bloodfest--it's way more frightening to imagine the nice guy next door committing such crimes than a made-up character wearing a hockey mask or razors on his gloves. The movie also comes up with a startling twist that you don't see coming right away. But--without revealing too much--the movie falls apart at the end with some enormous problems. Sometimes directors try to explain too much; we won't so we'll just leave it at that.
Randolph Smiley (Robin Williams) is on top of his game--he's the eponymous star of the highest rated kid's TV show Rainbow Randolph has his own Times Square billboard and makes lots of money. Until that is he gets caught taking bribes from stage parents. Suddenly he becomes the social pariah of the millennium and of course gets canned. Losing Rainbow Randolph however leaves the network in a bind. Now they have to find a squeaky-clean replacement pronto. Enter Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his alter-ego Smoochy an abnormally large fuschia rhino who sings children's songs about kicking drug habits and stepdads who aren't mean but simply adjusting. With his naivete unwavering ethics and unflagging ambition to make the world a better place he becomes the new number one show. Sheldon soon learns however how cutthroat children's entertainment can be as the powers that be try to corrupt his ideals. Meanwhile a homeless Randolph makes it his number-one priority to destroy the bastard who stole his life. Who's going to get Smoochy first the corrupt businessmen or crazy Rainbow Randy? Stay tuned...
When you hear the Smoochy cast list--Williams Danny DeVito Jon Stewart Catherine Keener--you automatically think mondo laughs. Added to the list is Norton who may not be known for his comedic talents but certainly adds credibility to the movie especially given that he rarely picks bad scripts. Luckily no one disappoints. Norton plays the straight guy with aplomb and shines brilliantly when singing his sappy yet lesson-filled songs. Keener whom we haven't seen since her Oscar-nominated turn in Being John Malkovich is also a standout as the jaded development VP who falls for Sheldon's sweet manner. She has an uncanny way of delivering lines that bite to the bone. And then there's Williams--as always he has extraordinary moments of sheer hilarity in the film. This isn't one of those films where the comedian has to attempt to act or simply be reined in by the director (as some have done) to give a good performance. Director DeVito (who also plays the greedy agent) is wise enough to simply turn the camera on the comedian and let him go. Just wish we could have seen more of him.
Ever wonder what it would be like to kill Barney? We're betting DeVito thought about it quite often--and things never turn out good for that purple dinosaur. The premise of Smoochy is one of the funnier ones in recent memory and seems to follow the dark comedic path DeVito has chosen in his other directorial efforts including War of the Roses and Throw Momma From the Train. Unfortunately Smoochy doesn't quite hold up to its hype (or its trailers) because basically it focuses on the wrong character. It's got some great moments granted especially when Smoochy is on his show. But instead of being about Randy's obsession to do away with his replacement the film chooses to follow Mopes and deal with the dirty business of making a kid's show which appears to involve the Mob (whatever). Smoochy would have been a lot funnier if Randolph could have finally succeeded in his quest instead of getting all sappy.
February 17, 2002 9:47am EST
Anne Robinson, host of the popular TV quiz show The Weakest Link, was met by some 150 members of the League Against Cruel Sports near London on Saturday. Robinson was headlining an event to raise money for the Vale of White Horse hunt, Reuters reports. Protesters waved banners and wore masks of the tough-talking host while chanting, "Weakest link, cruelest link." The league does not believe that Robinson, an avid supporter of fox hunting, should be using her celebrity status to support hunting.
Winners of the Golden and Silver bear awards for best film, best director, best actor and best actress will be announced Sunday evening as the Berlin Film Festival draws to a close. Out of the 23 films from around the world that competed, Catherine Deneuve's 8 Femmes (Eight Women) was picked by German film critics as the best film, Reuters reports.
Paul McCartney has reportedly been offered $4 million to play a gig at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. According to BBC News, McCartney is being lined up to replace the canceled fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, which was to take place on April 6.
It seems as though Backstreet Boy Nick Carter has gotten off the street and taken to the water. Carter bought a 13-meter offshore racer with two 750-horsepower engines, which he plans to race in the American Power Boat Association's 2002 circuit in the United States and Canada. The 22-year-old, however, will not be in the boat--his father, Bob Carter, will be the pilot. The Nick Carter Racing team will debut April 28 in Daytona Beach, Fla., The Associated Press reports.
Tennis vixen Anna Kournikova has dumped her beau, Russian hockey player Sergei Fedorov, and replaced him with Latin pop crooner Enrique Iglesias. The two met while filming Iglesias' video "Escape" a few months ago and were seen "canoodling" while shopping on Fifth Avenue recently, PageSix.com reports.
Olivia Harrison, George Harrison's widow, has barred her former brother-in-law from selling items she alleges he stole from the late Beatle's Bel-Air home in the 1970s. Carl Roles, who was once married to Olivia's sister, Linda Arias, claims he received permission to remove the items from the house and denies he ever tried to sell them. The memorabilia includes records, photographs and 10 boxes of clothing, the AP reports.
Blaming excessive costs, the BBC has quit talks to buy future episodes of The Simpsons. Although it is one of BBC2's biggest family draws, the network said rival channels have pushed the price of licensing fees to ludicrous levels. According to Ananova, episodes of the show will continue airing on BBC until the end of 2006.
An exhibit entitled Secrets from the CIA, KGB and Hollywood opened at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Los Angeles on Saturday, displaying real and fictional spy gadgets. Among the 4,000 props and gizmos on display are the shoe phone used by Don Adams in TV's Get Smart and the tarantula that threatened James Bond in Dr. No.
Country singer Waylon Jennings was laid to rest Friday, following a private graveside service in Mesa, Ariz., the AP reports. Jennings died Wednesday at his home after a long battle with diabetes-related health problems. His widow, Jessi Colter, said she hopes to disclose plans for a public memorial service in Nashville next week.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.