News, Aug. 8: Maria Shriver Takes Job Leave To Help Hubby, Jessica Lange on Goodwill Tour, a Bevy of Hosts Take on Emmys, More…

Top Story: Shriver Leaves NBC to Support Hubby

Maria Shriver has opted to take a leave of absence from her NBC News post while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaigns for governor of California through Oct. 7, Reuters reports. A network spokeswoman told Reuters Shriver requested the leave to avoid any potential appearances of conflict of interest between her job as a correspondent and contributing anchor to Dateline and her new role as the wife of an aspiring politician. The spokeswoman also said it was too soon to say what avenues Shriver will take if Schwarzenegger wins the recall election.

Jolie’s Forest Project Approved

The Cambodian government approved a forest conservation project in two former Khmer Rouge areas that will be funded by actress Angelina Jolie, The Associated Press reports. The Tomb Raider star will donate up to $1.5 million over the next five years to help educate villagers about conservation awareness, draw demarcation lines to protect forest and wildlife sanctuaries, and train local rangers, said Mounh Sarath, executive director of Cambodian Vision in Development, to AP.

Lange Becomes Goodwill Ambassador

Jessica Lange, a newly appointed goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children’s Fund, traveled to Congo, Africa, earlier this week, touring refugee camps, AP reports. The refugees, mostly women and children, were forced to flee their homes as a byproduct of a bitter five-year civil war raging in the area. “The stories that these women tell are absolutely horrific, but the thing that moved me most was the extraordinary spirit of these people,” the Oscar-winning actress told AP Thursday after hearing how rape is used as a weapon in the civil violence.

Omar Sharif Arrested for Head-Butting Cop

Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl) was convicted of assaulting a police officer at a casino near Paris, AP reports. Le Parisien reported Sharif got into a scuffle with one of the casino’s patrons and when an officer intervened, Sharif allegedly insulted and head-butted him. The 71-year-old Egyptian actor received a one-month suspended sentence and was fined $1,700, AP reports.

Gay Musicians Want to Break Into Country Music

Several musicians showed up in cowboy hats and jeans to audition in New York Thursday for a new reality show that will search for the first openly gay country music star, Reuters reports. The show, tentatively titled America Pride, hopes to break some of those barriers surrounding homosexuality in the country music arena. The producers have not found a network to run the show as yet, Reuters reports.

The Next Great Hip-Hopper

Attention: Calling all wanna-be hip-hop artists! Showtime and Interscope Records are developing a new reality show designed to look for the next hottest prospect in hip-hop, USA Today reports. The six-part series called Interscope Presents The Next, described as a cross between 8 Mile and American Idol, is expected to begin airing in October and will be part talent contest and part documentary, with each episode culminating in one-on-one rap battles.

Cache of Comic Hosts to Handle Emmys

Rather than just one host, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will have a bevy of comics to emcee this year’s Emmys, Reuters reports. Comics who hosted the Emmy telecasts during the past three years, including Garry Shandling, Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien, will be among this year’s hosts, along with Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett, Saturday Night Live‘s Darrell Hammond, Wanda Sykes of Fox’s Wanda at Large, George Lopez, Martin Short and Jon Stewart. More stars are expected to be added in the coming weeks. “We’ve searched high and low to find the funniest people in California who are not running for governor,” ATAS chairman Bryce Zabel quipped to Reuters. “It was a challenge, but this all-star comedy team promises to make America laugh without asking for a campaign contribution.” The Emmys will air Sept. 21 on Fox.

Role Call: Ratner Rides Into Sunset

Director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) has taken over the helm of New Line Cinema’s After the Sunset after director John Stockwell bowed out in July over “creative differences.” Variety reports the film–which stars Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson–follows a retired jewel thief (Brosnan) living on a Caribbean island with his gal pal (Hayek). Harrelson plays an FBI agent who tracks him down.