News, March 28: Chris Rock Takes on Drudge, Charity Rejects Susan Sarandon, Madonna Blasts Homogenized Pop, More…

Top Story: Chris Rock Takes on Drudge

Comedian Chris Rock, whose directorial debut Head of State hits theaters this weekend, wants fans to know that contrary to reports from media gossip Matt Drudge, he “never had any intention of bashing President Bush” for launching the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Reuters reports. Drudge reported last week that DreamWorks executives feared Rock, who once said of Bush, “He’s not stupid, he’s just drunk,” might spark a public backlash against the film if he made public comments ridiculing the president or the war in Iraq. “I never met Matt Drudge, but if I see Matt Drudge, I’m going to take my red-blooded American foot and put it up his un-American [backside] for trying to disrupt the opening of my movie,” Rock said in a statement on Thursday. The comedian, who mentioned the date of the film’s opening three times in his statement, wants everyone to know Head of State opens Friday–that’s this Friday, March 28, in theaters across the country. Did we say Friday?

Charity Rejects Susan Sarandon

The United Way of Tampa Bay, Florida, has canceled an upcoming event featuring actress Susan Sarandon after getting some three dozen complaints about her antiwar views, The Associated Press reports. Sarandon had been scheduled as the keynote speaker at the April 11 event aimed at inspiring volunteerism in the community. But the United Way said it received phone calls, e-mails and letters criticizing Sarandon‘s selection because of her antiwar views. Robin Carson, chairwoman of the board of directors, said the event had the potential to become “divisive.”

“Wanda” Nets Big Ratings for Fox

Fox’s new comedy Wanda at Large received strong Nielsen ratings Wednesday, leading its 9:30 p.m. time slot in most categories by retaining 67 percent of its 18-49 lead-in from the second half hour of American Idol. Wanda‘s numbers represent Fox’s best comedy premiere among adults 18-49 since the debut of Grounded for Life in January 2001 and its largest overall audience for a comedy bow since Malcolm in the Middle in January 2000, Variety reports.

Madonna Blasts Homogenized Pop

Madonna says manufactured pop acts and TV talent searches are homogenizing the music world. “I arrived at a different time, before the time of Svengalis holding talent searches–finding a girl that looks right and can carry a tune and then figuring a way to market her,” the star is quoted as saying in the May issue of British music magazine Q. Madonna, 44, was also critical of young hopefuls who crave celebrity for its own sake. “It’s the allure of this beautiful life. Drive this car, you’re gonna be popular,” she told Q. “It’s a very powerful illusion and people are caught up in it, including myself–or I was.”

Harry Potter Fan Pays Lots for Book

A Harry Potter fan has paid $8,000 through an online auction for a signed copy of the latest, unreleased fifth installment of the boy wizard’s adventures, the AP reports. The British charity group Sense sparked frenzied bidding when it announced the sale of a copy of the long-awaited book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which has yet to be printed. Bids for the book, due out on June 21, started at $1.60 when the auction kicked off more than a week ago before quickly jumping to the closing price.

Role Call: Spielberg Remakes “Mitty,” “The Mask” Lives On

Paramount and DreamWorks have agreed to co-finance the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for director Steven Spielberg as a possible Jim Carrey vehicle … Uma Thurman has signed on to star opposite Ben Affleck in the sci-fi thriller Paycheck for director John Woo. The film, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, is another project co-financed by DreamWorks and Paramount … Jamie Kennedy is in preliminary negotiations to star in New Line Cinema’s Son of the Mask, a follow-up to the 1994 blockbuster The Mask. Son of the Mask revolves around an aspiring cartoonist who is not ready for fatherhood but finds himself raising a baby endowed with the powers of the mask of Loki…Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini will rejoin their canine co-star and director Raja Gosnell in the Scooby-Doo sequel. Their second mystery adventure is set for release on March 26, 2004.