News, March 31: Peter Jackson Takes on King Kong, NBC Fires News Reporter Peter Arnett, David Letterman is Back, More…

Top Story: Peter Jackson Goes Ape-Crazy!

Now that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is behind him, Peter Jackson is moving on to bigger and better things–namely a big monkey named King Kong. The director is fulfilling his childhood dream of remaking the classic King Kong story about a giant ape who wreaks havoc on New York City. “I’m making movies today because I saw this film when I was nine years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age,” Jackson said in the statement issued on Monday, AFP reports. The new version will be filmed in New Zealand.

Reporter Arnett Fired Over War Comments

NBC and MSNBC has officially severed ties with veteran news reporter Peter Arnett after he told an Iraqi television crew the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein had failed, Reuters reports. “I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war, that there have been delays in implementing policy, there have been surprises,” Arnett told NBC’s Today show. “But clearly by giving that interview I created a firestorm in the United States and for that I am truly sorry.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter became widely known for his dramatic live reports during the bombing of Baghdad on the opening days of the 1991 Gulf War.

He’s Baaaaaack!

David Letterman will return to his popular CBS late-night show this week after fully recovering from a case of shingles, Reuters reports. The 55-year-old comedian has been off the show since Feb. 25 when he complained on air about a visible inflammation of his right eye. The ratings during Letterman‘s absence–where guests such as Bruce Willis and Regis Philbin took over hosting duties–were spotty but the network hopes for a big tune-in for Letterman‘s first night back Monday.

South Park Will Go On

Comedy Central has renewed their deal with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for another two-years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the pact calls for Parker and Stone to produce 15 episodes per season next spring. Originals will be spread out through the spring and fall. The deal also includes an option for a third year that would take the duo through 2006.

Cher Criticizes Jacko

Cher has had it with Michael Jackson. The singer-actress once hailed Jackson as a “great artist” but now has a different opinion about him personally. “I don’t really care what he does to his face. He could just erase it as far as I’m concerned,” Cher told TV Guide for its April 5 issue. “But I don’t like him anymore. And it’s because of his children. I cannot imagine putting my children through what he put his children through.”

Diva Ross Wants To Tell It All

Diana Ross plans to write a memoir detailing her most recent woes, including being picked up for drunk driving in Arizona, the breakup of her marriage and her disastrous Supremes reunion tour, The Associated Press reports. Upside Down: Wrong Turns, Right Turns and the Road Ahead is scheduled for release this spring from ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Ross has also agreed to a one-hour interview on Fox, scheduled to air in May.

Playwright Nick Enright Dies

Australian playwright/screenwriter Nick Enright, best known for co-writing the 1993 Lorenzo’s Oil for which is he got an Oscar nomination, died Sunday of cancer in Sydney, Australia. He was 52.

Role Call: Scooby-Doo Part II; Bates Joins 80 Days

Ro-boy-o-boy-o-boy! Warner Bros. announced Monday that production on the sequel to their hit Scooby-Doo–with original cast members Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard–will begin April 14. In the new mystery, Scooby and the gang confront an anonymous villain who is plotting to take over the city of Coolsville by creating Mystery, Inc. classic foes such as Captain Cutler and the 10,000 Volt Ghost…meanwhile, Oscar nominee Kathy Bates has joined the cast of Around the World in 80 Days. Based on the Jules Verne classic, the remake stars Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan as Passepartout, two adventurers on a journey to circle the globe in 80 days. Bates will play Queen Victoria.