News, Feb. 28: “Mad Max” Delayed Due to Iraqi Crisis; Letterman Has Shingles; Playboy Searches for Starbucks Hotties and More…

Top Story: Mad Max Movie Delayed

Variety reports that due to the possibility of war with Iraq, 20th Century Fox has decided to delay the production start of Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth installment of the Mel Gibson/George Miller action adventure series. Production was to begin in Namibia in July but now may wait until the fall.
“Any time you do a show like this, it is a massive undertaking with enormous prep time,” Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, told Variety. “In this case, it is about the movement of huge vehicles and a mass of people, and with the pending war and all the potential logistical consequences, we had the latitude to wait and let some of this stuff blow over before going into full-bore production. What we do have firmly in place is Mel Gibson and George Miller.” The film is still scheduled for a summer 2004 release.

Letterman’s Condition Due to Shingles

Reuters reports the eye infection that prompted David Letterman to take a few days off, was diagnosed Thursday as a symptom of shingles, a viral infection related to chicken pox. Actor Bruce Willis filled in as host Wednesday, with tennis pro John McEnroe and Regis Philbin taking on the guest-host duties Thursday and Friday.

Rather’s Chat with Saddam Beats Walter’s Blake Interview

It’s easy to tell what’s on everyone’s mind these days. According to Variety, Dan Rather‘s talk with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on CBS’ 60 Minutes II reigned in 17 million viewers Wednesday, beating Barbara Walter‘s interview with jailbird Robert Blake on ABC’s 20/20, which took in 12.1 million viewers.

Calling All Starbucks Hotties

Playboy is looking for the “Women of Starbucks,” babes who serve steamed lattes at the local Starbucks, for a layout in an upcoming issue. However tempting this may sound, the Seattle-based Starbucks isn’t all that thrilled about it. In a chilly official statement, the company says, “Starbucks Coffee Company is aware that Playboy Enterprises has issued a call for entries for a ‘Women of Starbucks’ section in a future magazine. Starbucks is not affiliated with this project and does not endorse it.”

NBC Stars Voice Opposite Positions

Two politically active NBC stars–the very Democratic Martin Sheen of The West Wing and the very Republican Fred Thompson of Law & Order–will appear in dueling public service spots regarding Iraq. “Mr. Sheen and Mr. Fred Thompson are both acting in their capacity as private citizens. We respect their opinions and their right to freedom of speech,” Variety reports NBC said in a statement.

Great White Singer Wants Immunity

Jack Russell, the lead singer for the rock band Great White, whose pyrotechnics may have sparked a recent Rhode Island night club fire that took 97 lives, plans to ask for immunity from prosecution before testifying to a grand jury, AP reports. About 60 people are still in the hospital after the blaze, 35 of them in critical condition.

Naomi Campbell Gets Appeal

AP reports the House of Lords has agreed to hear an appeal from supermodel Naomi Campbell. Campbell won a breach of confidentiality case against the London tabloid The Daily Mirror, which reported her alleged drug problems, but the Mirror took the case to the appeals court and had the decision was overturned. Campbell is challenging that ruling.

Bass Judges Talented Kid

Even though he can’t go into space, ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass still wants to be a part of something special. That’s why he’ll be one of the judges on the NBC four-part reality series The Search for the Most Talented Kid in America, where young people will compete for a grand prize, AP reports. The show debuts March 21.

ROLE CALL: Downey Jr., Soderberg Team Up

Robert Downey Jr. and Alan Arkin are set to star in Eros, a short segment directed by Steven Soderbergh for a trilogy of shorts which also includes segments from directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar-wai. Variety reports both actors were wooed by Soderbergh after the Oscar-winning Traffic director agreed to sub for Pedro Almodovar in the erotic-themed film.