News, Mar. 4: “Spider-Man 3” in Works, Basinger vs. Baldwin Settled, Spielberg Holds Comments on “Passion,” More…

Top Story: Spidey 3 on the Way!

Although they are snarled in a web of litigation over Spider-Man licensing fees and revenue, Sony Pictures and comic book publisher Marvel Enterprises Inc. are already looking ahead at a third Spider-Man blockbuster, Reuters reports. “[The] best-case scenario I can tell you is [the film will be released] 2006. It is a big movie, and we would rather play it safe and talk about 2007 at this point,” Marvel’s film chief Avi Arad told Reuters. Spider-Man was the highest grossing film of 2002, amassing over $800 million in worldwide ticket sales, and it still holds the box office record for the biggest three-day domestic debut ever with $115 million in ticket sales. Spider-Man 2 is set to hit theaters July 2.

Basinger, Baldwin Settle Child Custody Dispute

Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin resolved their child custody battle over their 8-year-old daughter, Ireland, The Associated Press reports. Baldwin, who lives in New York, was seeking an “equal share” of parenting with Basinger, who lives in California, while the actress was asking for sole custody, with visitation rights for Baldwin. A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Baldwin, the television program Celebrity Justice reported.

Spielberg Sidesteps Passion Questions

Steven Spielberg is not responding to questions about Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ. At a press conference to promote the DVD release of his Oscar-winning Holocaust movie Schindler’s List, Reuters reports the director said he was “too smart” to answer any questions about the controversial film, which has been called anti-Semitic, since he had yet to see it. “I certainly am not going to comment based on circumstantial evidence from what I’ve been hearing and feeling in the last seven or eight days,” Spielberg said. “When I do see the film, the first person who will hear from me will be Mel Gibson and no one else,” he added. Spielberg did comment that in the decade since the release of Schindler’s List, the world has become a “very sad place again,” which shows that people “don’t really learn that much from history, and they need to.”

Rowling Gives Hints to Next Book

J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly popular Harry Potter books, says she won’t give any secrets away about her last two books in the series but promises fans that even tougher times await the young wizard. “In Book Six, the wizarding world is really at war again and he has to master his own feelings to make himself useful,” Reuters reports Rowling said in a live Web chat Thursday. “If personally I was Harry Potter, I would hide because I know what is coming,” she said. Rowling also added there would be no prequels. “You won’t need them. By the time I’ve finished you’ll have all the back story you need.”

NBC Files Countersuit Against Will & Grace Creators

NBC has filed a counterclaim to Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick‘s lawsuit, in which they allege the network shortchanged them in renewing the hit sitcom. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the network, in turn, accused the duo of being “duplicitous” in their dealings at the negotiation table. NBC’s cross-complaint maintains that Kohan and Mutchnick and their “handlers” had always planned to sue the network over the license fee deal struck in 2002 for Will & Grace, even though NBC claims they involved the creators and their attorneys and agents in the license fee renegotiations that took place in late 2001 and early 2002.

UPN Signs Up Missy Elliot

Calling all aspiring rappers. UPN announced it will launch a new “dramality” series tentatively called the Missy Elliott Project, in which the superstar rapper will tour the country with a group of aspiring rap stars, advising them as they compete in weekly elimination challenges as well as meeting industry bigwigs while the show’s cameras chronicle their every move, Reuters reports.

DeGeneres Tops Daytime Emmy Nominations

Ellen DeGeneres‘ new talk show was nominated for 12 Daytime Emmy Awards, the most of any daytime talk show, AP reports, including best host. Joining her in that category are Dr. Phil McGraw; Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa of Live!; and The View crew of Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters. Vieira was also nominated for best game show host for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and will compete against veterans Bob Barker of The Price is Right and Alex Trebek of Jeopardy!. The Young and the Restless led the soap opera pack with 16 nods, All My Children and As the World Turns earned 14 apiece, with 12 for General Hospital and Guiding Light. The 31st annual Daytime Emmy Awards are set to air on NBC May 21 from New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Newest Batman Shooting Now

Memento director Christopher Nolan has commenced production in Iceland on his highly anticipated superhero feature Batman Begins. The film stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman; Michael Caine as his trusted butler, Alfred; Katie Holmes as Wayne’s childhood friend, Rachel; Liam Neeson as Wayne’s mentor, Henri Ducard; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a former Wayne Enterprises board member and sidelined employee; Ken Watanabe as the villainous Ra’s Al Ghul; and Gary Oldman, who just signed on as Lt. James Gordon, a detective on the Gotham police force.