ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox confirmed reports Tuesday that they will jointly produce a two-hour, celebrity-studded telethon on Friday to benefit families of the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The program will also be offered to the "fifth" networks, UPN and the WB, and to cable outlets, the Big 4 networks said. The program is scheduled to be carried live from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast. It will be seen via tape-delay on the West Coast.
Titled America: A Tribute to Heroes, the program will feature performances by the Dixie Chicks, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Faith Hill and Paul Simon. Celebrities including Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts have also agreed to appear, but it was not clear how they will be integrated into the program.
Gotham City, it seems, still needs a hero. Ben Affleck, currently seen in "Dogma" and the upcoming "Boiler Room," is the latest name to be linked with the "Batman" movies.
According to gossip columnist Liz Smith, Affleck is a "major contender" to play the Caped Crusader in Warner Bros.' latest "Batman" film. The franchise bottomed out in 1997 when Joel Schumacher's "Batman and Robin" earned a (relatively) disappointing $107.3 million at the box office. Batstar George Clooney joked that he may have killed the series.
But au contraire: Warner Bros. is reportedly considering two concepts for the latest sequel: One based on the animated WB show "Batman Beyond," in which an older Bruce Wayne passes his Batsuit to a teen-ager, and another based on the comic miniseries "Batman Year One," which traced Wayne's initial transformation into the Dark Knight. Affleck likely wouldn't fill the job if the first concept flies, since he's too old to be the teen-ager and too young to be a middle-aged Batman. Still, at 27, Affleck would be the youngest of the new-wave Batmen -- Michael Keaton was 37 when he first donned the cowl, Val Kilmer was 35 and Clooney was 36.
HELMING 'TOMB RAIDER': The name Lara Croft doesn't mean much in the movie world -- yet. But the video-game heroine soon will, thanks to Paramount's push to bring her to the big screen. According to Variety, the studio is in advanced talks with Simon West ("Con Air") to direct "Tomb Raider," based on Eidos Interactive's best-selling video games of the same name. Croft's buxom sexiness is the force behind "Tomb Raider's" popularity, and names such as Elizabeth Hurley and Sandra Bullock have been tossed around as possible candidates. The film, on Paramount's fast track, has yet to announce a start date.
COSTNER'S DARK SIDE: Kevin Costner, the quintessential American hero, looks to play a baddie in the indie film "3,000 Miles to Graceland" for Franchise Pictures. According to the Hollywood Reporter, director Demian Lichenstein has been courting Costner to play the killer role for some time, and Costner's reps are trying to fit the picture into his schedule.
IT'S ALL GREEK TO MANN: Golden Globe nominee Michael Mann ("The Insider") is in negotiations to direct "Gates of Fire" for Universal Pictures. Based on Steven Pressfield's Greek epic novel, the film follows the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when 300 Spartan warriors held back rampaging soldiers from the Persian Empire for six days before being massacred. No start date has been set.
SICK DAY: Nicolas Cage's new film "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" is currently minus a director. Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") has dropped out of the production due to illness. The drama, based on Louis de Bernieres' 1994 novel, is about an Italian captain, played by Cage, who has a tumultuous affair with the local doctor's daughter. Universal Pictures and Working Title Films have set the production to begin in April and are now courting director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love") to helm the film.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- So he got to shoot on an island off Thailand for months, flying friends in for visits and soaking up an island paradise. But Leonardo DiCaprio, star of "The Beach," has one little quibble.
Says Leo to the British magazine The Face, "It truly bothered me ... that [Richard, DiCaprio's character] never had any kind of sexual contact with Francoise," a stunning Frenchwoman played by Virginie Ledoyen, with whom he does a little smooching and frolicking in the surf.
"The constant foreplay between the two characters never amounted to anything," the 25-year-old DiCaprio says. "And I really wanted something, whether it be complete and utter rejection or some sort of wild sexual encounter. ... It just had to happen." Well, it just goes to show that even the King of the World can't have it all.
SCANDAL SHEET: Vanity Fair's 13-page article this month has revived controversy over Natalie Wood's mysterious 1981 drowning by suggesting that she and husband Robert Wagner argued on the night of her death.
The story, written by Sam Kashner, says previously unpublished police records appear to contradict statements that there was no fight between Wood and Wagner that night. The report features a new interview with Christopher Walken, who says he and the couple had been drinking on the night of Nov. 28, 1981, and had a conversation in which "you put all your cards on the table." The confessionals snowballed into a marital argument, and Walken "stepped outside for some air" and when he returned, everyone was apologizing and everything seemed fine. Wagner says it was a political discussion.
Wood, 43, was found drowned wearing a nightgown, socks and a jacket after apparently trying to leave her yacht off Catalina Island in California to board an inflatable dinghy. Her death was ruled an accident.
DAS FESTIVAL: In Germany, the 50th Berlin Film Festival kicked off today with a screening of "The Million Dollar Hotel," starring Mel Gibson and Jeremy Davies and co-written by U2 frontman Bono.
In the fest's coming days, French actress Jeanne Moreau, who recently did a diva walk-off during a planned guest appearance on "ER," will receive a special homage, as will Robert De Niro.
Other stars to raid Berlin: George Clooney and Ice Cube, on hand to promote "Three Kings" and the aforementioned Leo, a possible for "The Beach."
HONORS: Legendary writer/director Billy Wilder, who fled Nazi Europe in the 1930s for France (and later the United States), will receive the Federal Republic of Germany's Knight Commander's Cross (badge and star) on March 10. The 93-year-old Wilder is also to be honored by the Producers Guild on March 2 at Los Angeles' Century Plaza on the occasion of his "Some Like it Hot" joining the guild's landmark movie list ...
... Blake Edwards will receive the Art Directors Guild's Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award on Feb. 26 at the Beverly Hilton. The 77-year-old director-writer-producer, who is married to Julie Andrews, is the director of films such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Days of Wine and Roses" and eight "Pink Panther" movies ...
... The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, running today through Sunday in Aspen, Colo., will honor funnyman Robin Williams with its American Film Institute Star Award. Also on the docket: Baltimore-loving director Barry Levinson receiving the AFI Filmmaker Award and career tributes for Jerry Lewis, Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
QUICK TAKES: Martin Lawrence's cop comedy "Big Momma's House" is getting an early move-in date, says The Hollywood Reporter. Twentieth Century Fox is moving the film's release up from October to June 2. It was originally moved to fall after Lawrence was hospitalized Aug. 22 from heat stroke after jogging under heavy clothing in 100 degree heat. He fell into a coma but emerged after three days and began production on the film ...
... James Coburn will join the ranks of presenters at this year's Academy Awards on March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. Coburn won a Best Supporting Actor statue last year for "Affliction," and, as tradition dictates, will likely present this year's Best Supporting Actress award ...
... And if you turn to the Grammys this year, you'll see the following artists perform (no, not together): The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Kid Rock, Britney Spears, Santana, the Backstreet Boys, TLC and Ricky Martin. The Grammys air Feb. 23 on CBS.
LOVE LINES: In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day, we give you the skinny on how to kiss Woody Allen -- straight from the lips of his "Mighty Aphrodite" co-star, Helena Bonham Carter.
"He tells you up front certain ways of kissing, he does not want,'' Bonham Carter tells the UK Sun. "No exchange of liquid is permitted."
As if that weren't enough info, Bonham Carter adds: "There's absolutely no tongue encounter. ... It can be a bit offensive because he makes no effort at all. But he does warn you, and says everyone gets the same treatment. His mouth is a no-go area. It's like kissing the Berlin Wall, really."
Somebody get the Listerine.
Buoyed by the holiday success of "Toy Story 2," the summer hit "Tarzan" and the mega-sleeper "The Sixth Sense," Disney was 1999's studio box-office champion.
The title marks the sixth time in seven years that the Magic Kingdom has captured the biggest slice of the domestic movie market.
Disney product accounted for 17 percent of all ticket sales, grossing more than $1 billion. The Mouse House, which had a rough year on Wall Street, nonetheless ruled Hollywood thanks to a pair of $200 million-plus hits ("Sixth Sense" and "Toy Story 2"), and a couple of kiddie superstars, "Tarzan" ($170.8 mil) and "Inspector Gadget" ($97.4 million).
Disney's dominant box-office performance came despite less-than-great performance from several front-line releases, including "The Insider," the critically acclaimed but commercially tepid tobacco-industry drama, and the family oriented "Bicentennial Man" with Robin Williams.
At No. 2 was Warner Bros. with 14 percent of the market thanks to films such as "The Matrix" ($171.4 million), (the overall disappointing) "Wild Wild West" ($113.7 million), "Analyze This" ($106.7 million), "Pokemon: The First Movie" ($83.6 million) and "The Green Mile" ($78.1 million in 1999 -- and still counting).
Warner Bros. also topped $1 billion in ticket sales -- making 1999 just the second time that two distributors achieved that milestone.
Universal -- a lowly No. 9 among studios in 1998 - climbed to No. 3 in 1999, with a 13 percent market share. Hit titles such as "The Mummy," "Notting Hill" and "American Pie" were credited with the turnaround.
Last year's big studio loser looks to be 20th Century Fox, which despite "Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace" failed to crack the Top Five. Its problem? Lack of non-"Phantom Menace" hits. After the $430 million-grossing "Star Wars" flick, Fox's only other major player was "Entrapment," the action thriller starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. That film was 1999's No. 21 flick with $87.7 million in ticket sales. ("Phantom Menace," of course, was No. 1.)
Paramount, which rode the success of "Titanic" and sailed away with the second-biggest piece of the national market in 1998, slipped to No. 4 in 1999. That studio's catalog of top-grossers included "Runaway Bride," "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," "The General's Daughter" and "Double Jeopardy."