News Roundup: Feb. 27


Top Story

Will Barbara Walters manage to make Tom Cruise cry? We’ll see when the veteran newswoman airs her 21st annual pre-Academy Awards show on ABC March 24. She’ll be talking to Cruise, Monster’s Ball Best Actress nominee Halle Berry and Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker. The special will air at 7 p.m. EST and will play immediately after the Oscars on the west coast.

In more Cruise news, the charismatic star has signed on to play a colonel in The Last Samurai. In the story, his character assists 19th-century Japanese samurai in new fighting techniques. Edward Zwick (Legends of the Fall) will be directing.

In General

In the season finale of NBC’s Friends, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) will give birth in a rather long and drawn-out labor–it’s a guarantee, say show creators Kevin Bright and Marta Kaufmann. She won’t die in childbirth, however, despite a recent tabloid report. Bright told Reuters, “This year, we know Rachel is going to have a baby,” and Kaufmann quickly added, “And she’s not dying in childbirth.” Whew, that’s a relief!

Musician Bob Dylan is making his way to the big screen for the first time in 15 years, starring in a film tentatively titled Masked and Anonymous for Intermedia Films. The 60-year-old will play Jack Fate, a “wandering troubadour who is brought out of prison by his former manager for one last concert,” Variety reported. It’ll be a stretch for him, but we have every confidence he can pull it off.

After the California Supreme Court overturned the “Son of Sam” law last week, allowing convicted criminals to sell their life stories to the media, Hollywood Reporter reported that Showtime was given the go-ahead to start production on Stealing Sinatra. The cable film, which will star David Arquette, William H. Macy and Thomas Ian Nicholas, is based on kidnapper Barry Keenan’s account of the 1963 kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. It may also get a theatrical release before it premieres on Showtime.

Late Night talk show host Conan O’Brien should be feeling the love now. His contract with NBC has been extended for four more years, which will give O’Brien nearly $8 million a year. O’Brien, who decided to stay with NBC after being approached by Fox, said in a statement, “I’m very excited to be staying at NBC. By my 13th year, we should really know if this thing works or not.”

Cynthia Nixon, the winsome actress who plays cynical lawyer Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s Sex and the City, is speaking up to get more funds allocated toward New York public schools. The New York Gov. George Pataki and his administration is appealing a landmark 2001 state court decision that ordered the state to spend more than $1 billion more on New York City schools, the Associated Press reported. “If Miranda were real, I would try to persuade her to send her son to a public school because I believe in them,” Nixon told AP in Albany on Tuesday, as she lobbied state legislature.

NBC wins the gold with the Winter Olympics. The peacock network came in first place in both total viewers and the coveted 18-49 demographic, winning the Nielsen race for all 17 nights of the Olympics. Fox and CBS shared second place in the 18-49 demographic, and CBS also took second in total viewership.

Bond has a new TV home. TNN, CBS and UPN–all owned by Viacom, Inc.–have joined forces to buy the exclusive two-year television rights to the first 15 James Bond films from MGM. The approximately $30 million pact was made after the titles became available when both ABC and TBS declined to renew their deals for the Bond flicks.

Hip-hop star Lil’ Romeo will star in the film Shorty, produced by his father, Master P, about a diminutive alien who lands on Earth and becomes a rapping, hip-hopping partner with a 12-year-old (Lil’ Romeo). They try and enter a MTV talent contest. You watch, it’ll probably make a lot of money at the box office.