News, May 23: Judge Freezes “Matrix” Director’s Assets, Burton May Helm “Chocolate Factory,” Lions Gate Nabs “Dogville,” More…

Top Story: Judge Freezes Matrix Director’s Assets

A Los Angeles judge froze the business assets of The Matrix Reloaded co-director Larry Wachowski in a bitter divorce fight between the helmer and his estranged wife, Thea Bloom, Reuters reports. According to court documents posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Bloom accused Wachowski of concealing funds from her. “Larry has received large payments (for the Matrix films) that I never saw deposited in our joint accounts,” she said in the court papers. “Larry has been extremely dishonest with me in our personal life, and I believe he is hiding information from me regarding our financial affairs.” The couple wed in October 1993 and Bloom filed for divorce last December. A letter from Wachowski‘s lawyer reveals the filmmaker and his partner, brother Andy, earned upfront payments totaling $16 million to write and direct Warner Bros.’ The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, and stand to earn millions through separate licensing deals for video and online games.

Burton Favored To Remake Chocolate Factory

Eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton, who has directed such films as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Batman, is in talks to helm a new feature adaptation of the 1964 children’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Warner Bros. The story, written by Roald Dahl, revolves around a poor young boy named Charlie Bucket who wins a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. According to Reuters, Burton is expected to discuss the project with the surviving members of the Dahl family, who hold rights to the late author’s works and has the final say over a director for the film.

Lions Gate Nabs Dogville

Lions Gate Films beat out several rivals, including Artisan, Paramount Classics, United Artists and Fine Line, to snag North American distribution rights to the Lars von Trier drama Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman. The film is considered a contender for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, which will be announced Sunday. The asking price for the film jumped from $4 million at the opening of Cannes to $6 million as interest in the film swelled, but Lions Gate is believed to have secured the rights for significantly less, Reuters reports.

Brown Bunny Director Booed at Press Conference

Insulted by the negative reaction to his film road pic The Brown Bunny at the Cannes Film Festival, U.S. director Vincent Gallo has vowed it would be his last film. “I’ll never make another movie again. I mean it,” Gallo told Reuters Friday after he was booed at a press conference. “It is a disaster of a film and it was a waste of time. I apologize to the financiers, but it was never my intention to make a pretentious film, a self-indulgent film, a useless film, an unengaging film,” he mocked. Gallo wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film.

Bowling For Columbine DVD To Include Interview

Documentarian Michael Moore will respond to critics who blasted his Oscar slam of President Bush on the DVD of Bowling for Columbine, Variety reports. The DVD, available Aug. 19, was originally slated for an April 22 release but was delayed to allow the film to continue its strong performance in theaters and to allow more time to produce significant extras. The Columbine DVD will include an interview with Moore about his Oscar victory for the documentary feature and his controversial acceptance speech. A transcript of the speech will also be included, but MGM could not gain clearance from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to include video of the speech.

NBC Still Network To Beat

Thanks to veteran series including Friends, ER and Law & Order, NBC won the adults 18-49 title in the 2002-03 season that ended Wednesday, despite a fierce comeback from Fox. The peacock network also beat out CBS among adults 25-54. CBS, however, emerged as the most-watched network overall for the second time in three seasons. According to Variety, CBS’ Thursday night drama CSI was the top drama in total viewers, averaging 26.2 million weekly.

Rod Stewart Divorces Rachel Hunter

Rocker Rod Stewart is divorcing his estranged wife, model Rachel Hunter, Reuters reports. “I’ve paid my dues to the institution of marriage and have no interest in clinging to the past,” the twice-married Stewart was quoted as saying in Britain’s Sun newspaper. “I have decided to get a divorce. When I get back to L.A. it will all be finalized.” The 57-year old singer split from Hunter, 34, four years ago, and both have since had widely publicized relationships. Hunter is best known for her liaison with British pop star Robbie Williams, while Stewart has been widely photographed with girlfriend Penny Lancaster.

Lawyer for Diana Ross Wants Breath Test Thrown Out

An attorney in Diana Ross‘ drunken driving case is asking a judge to throw out breath test results and statements the singer made to police on the night she was arrested. Police said the singer, who was arrested Dec. 30, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent. But defense attorney Stephen Paul Barnard has filed a motion arguing that police conducted a search without a warrant, which “raises the issue of the legality of the arrest and subsequent search and seizure.” Prosecutors said the argument is misplaced because under Arizona law, anyone arrested for drunken driving automatically consents to blood-alcohol content testing, the AP reports.

Role Call: Tim Story Helms “Ralph”

Director Tim Story (Barbershop) is in negotiations to develop and direct the comedy Ralph for Universal Pictures. The project is loosely based on an episode of the animated cartoon series Pookie Poo on Urban Entertainment’s Web site. The pic revolves about a black man who, tired of being made to feel invisible, makes a wish and winds up in a parallel world where he is the only man of his race in existence. No start date has b