News, Dec. 22: Thurman Replaces Kidman in “Producers,” Johansson Begins Weapons Training, Scorsese Facing Legal Action, More…

Thurman to take Kidman’s place in Producers

Uma Thurman will take Nicole Kidman‘s place in the forthcoming movie version of The Producers. Kidman was forced to pull out of the role of busty Swedish secretary Ulla in the film – which is due to begin shooting in February (05) – because of scheduling difficulties. South African beauty Charlize Theron was reportedly considered for the role, but producers have opted for fellow blonde Thurman, according to Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will reprise the roles they took to great critical acclaim in the Broadway, New York stage version of Mel Brooks‘ tale of crooked theatre producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.

Johansson begins weapons training

Scarlett Johansson is already undergoing intensive weapons training ahead of her role in action sequel Mission: Impossible III – even though shooting has been postponed until September (05). Cameras were due to start rolling on the movie this year (04), but Tom Cruise‘s commitment to Steven Spielberg‘s War of the Worlds remake and script alterations have forced film chiefs to push back the start date. But sexy Johansson is delighted the delay means she has more time to practice with firearms. She says, “It’s been postponed ’til September while it’s rewritten. But I’m doing weapons training for it! Just pulling the trigger is easy enough, but when you’re loading your magazine and you have a machine gun and a handgun and a shotgun, and you’re trying to figure out how to use them all. “I’m being trained by someone who was in the special forces, so I get to know interesting stuff like how they train the Iraqi army.”

Olsen twin signs up for acting lessons

Teen screen star Ashley Olsen is using university to expand her acting knowledge too – she has signed up for drama classes. Olsen, 18, has been acting with twin sister Mary-Kate since she was a baby and they have both
accumulated fortunes totalling $300 million from TV and movie careers. But Ashley, currently studying at New York University, accepts she still has much to learn. A source tells Star magazine, “(She) has secretly been attending a drama class two days a week at the prestigious William Esper Studio on New York’s
West Side. The class, which costs $295 a month, teaches the Meisner Acting Technique, which centres around students’ exploration of spontaneity and improvisation.”

Scorsese facing legal action

Martin Scorsese is being sued by a movie producer who claims he’s owed money stemming from a film the director agreed to make in 1990. The Aviator moviemaker has been cited in legal papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by Gianni Nunnari, who wants over $42,000 in legal fees from litigation over Silence-a project that never went ahead. Nunnari’s lawyer, Richard Golub, insists the producer stacked up the fees trying to get Scorsese, 62, to take a medical exam required for an insurance policy. Golub also alleges that Scorsese‘s own lawyer, James Janowitz, confessed the celebrated director “is difficult to deal with and doesn’t care about contractual obligations.”

Connery to keep ladies out of book

Sean Connery has warned fans hoping to learn sordid details about his romantic past that he’ll take “those secrets to the grave”. The former James Bond star is currently on a hiatus from his movie career to focus on penning his memoirs. However, Connery–who’s been married to French artist Michelene for 30 years–has left hordes of scandal-hungry gossips disappointed by vowing not to drag his previous conquests into the limelight. He says of the forthcoming challenge, “It’s rather scary, but utterly exhilarating and I’m looking forward to it. “I know everyone’s expecting me to list all the women in my life and make torrid revelations about them. But I never will. I’ll take those secrets to the grave.”

Farrell cried for son

Colin Farrell frequently broke down in tears while shooting historic epic Alexander, because he missed his baby son. Colin Farrell missed the September (04) birth of baby James, his son with model ex-lover Kim Bordenave, because he was filming in Morocco – and he found it hard. The Irish star tells The Scoop, “I was in tears, in the desert in Morocco but I don’t know which that was. It was happiness but it was also sadness and I wanted to be with James and there was disgust that I wasn’t there. “Happiness is a strange idea. It’s a dream. It’s something that when we experience it, it’s very acute but it’s fleeting, I think. I’m sure there are people that live in happiness and are completely content all the time – I’m not one of them.”

Houston’s Oscar confusion

Singing sensation Whitney Houston infuriated Burt Bacharach at rehearsals for the 2000 Academy Awards–by singing the wrong song. The “My Love Is Your Love” singer is currently clean after spending March (04) in rehabilitation for drug addiction, but four years ago (00) she was reportedly not so sober. In Steve Pond’s forthcoming book, The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at The Academy Awards, which exposes a host of Oscar secrets, Pond reveals Houston‘s performance technique angered Bacharach. In the tome, Pond writes, “Houston‘s voice was shaky, she seemed distracted and jittery, and her attitude was casual, almost defiant.” Despite Bacharach, the musical director of the 2000 Oscars, playing “Over the Rainbow” on the piano, Houston began singing “The Way We Were.” Pond continues, “Finally, Bacharach (at wit’s end) slumped over the piano, (putting) his head down on the keys.” Producer Lili Zanuck cancelled Houston‘s appearance at theceremony, explaining, “We didn’t want to work for six months for this to be a show about how f**ked-up Whitney Houston was.”

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