News Roundup: Aug. 29


Top Story

Australia’s statistics agency is experiencing firsthand the power of film in faith and culture. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday that more than 70,000 Star Wars fans had written “Jedi” or something related in response to an optional question about their faith during last year’s national census. Jedi, of course, is a mythical faith followed by some of the characters in George LucasStar Wars films. According to The Associated Press, the prank started last year when Star Wars fans circulated an e-mail throughout Australia, saying the government would be forced to recognize Jedi as an official religion if at least 10,000 people named it on the census. The bureau, however, isn’t laughing. After finding out about the campaign, the statistics agency announced that respondents may face a fine of 1,000 Australian dollars (the equivalent of $540 US) fine for providing false information.


Roseanne is seeking to legally reinstate her full maiden name, City News Service reports. The actress/comedian–who became a single-name star after her 1994 divorce from her second husband, Tom Arnold–is currently involved in a divorce action from her third husband, former bodyguard Benjamin Thomas. According to court papers, Roseanne now wants to be known as Roseanne Cherri Barr, “which is more recognized in the entertainment industry.”


Lions Gate Films plans to release Rob Zombie‘s controversial horror flick House of 1000 Corpses in the first quarter of 2003, Variety reports. Originally, Universal Pictures had slated the movie for release last summer, but Zombie was forced to buy it back from the studio after Universal executives refused to release the film because of its “visceral tone and intensity.” MGM was at one time in talks to pick up the film, but backed out of the deal a few days after Zombie let slip that negotiations were underway during an interview on MTV’s Movie House.

Actor Michael Madsen, otherwise known as Reservoir Dogs‘ Mr. Blonde, no longer will need to raise $12 million through a British tax scheme to finance his UK heist pic Red Light Runners, Variety reports. Germany’s Fierce Entertainment has inked a deal that secures 70 percent of the picture’s funding and guarantees shooting will start as scheduled in November. Runners stars Madsen, Minnie Driver, Vinnie Jones and Martin Kemp.

Actress Kelly Preston has joined the cast of Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures’ Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. Directed by Bo Welch, the film is set to begin production this fall, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cat in the Hat stars Mike Myers as the mischievous feline.

Rapper Ludacris has joined the cast of Universal Pictures’ The Fast and the Furious 2 for director John Singleton, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ludacris will play Taj, a friend of Paul Walker‘s character, who is also an undercover agent assigned to bring down a drug trafficker who has eluded authorities. The film, slated to begin production in Miami this fall, also stars Tyrese, Eva Mendes and Cole Hauser.


You win some, you lose some. While Ludacris was inking his deal to star in The Fast and the Furious 2, Pepsi-Cola was busy pulling off the air its 30-second TV spot featuring the rapper because of consumer complaints about his sexually explicit lyrics. Reuters reports the move comes after columnist Bill O’Reilly called for viewers of his Fox News Channel show The O’Reilly Factor to boycott the beverage company for using Ludacris to promote its products.


Following the runaway success of Fox’s American Idol, it was bound to happen: CBS has ordered nine episodes of an updated take of its syndicated 1980s-1990s talent show Star Search, Variety reports. The original series, hosted by Ed McMahon, put the limelight on future stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ray Romano, Rosie O’Donnell, Jenny Jones, Martin Lawrence, Dennis Miller and Usher. Auditions will be held in 10 cities over the next three months for possible contestants. The show is being targeted for a midseason 2003 bow.