News Roundup, Jan. 14: “Survivor”…Battle of the Sexes?

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CBS has a new twist in store for the sixth edition of its popular reality TV series Survivor, and it’s all about the girls vs. the boys. A month before the show is set to debut, the network screened 12 minutes of the premiere of Survivor: The Amazon for critics, revealing two tribes, Tambaqui (men) and Jaburu (women). While Survivor producers thought the format change was necessary to keep the show unpredictable, host Jeff Probst said the same-sex grouping presented its own challenges. Initially, Probst told The Associated Press, women couldn’t flaunt “string bikinis to show off” and gain advantage. “Keeping them separated, the sexual tension kept building. When they met for challenges, it was like a mixer,” he said. Survivor: The Amazon debuts on Feb. 13 with a 90-minute premiere.


It seems Nia Vardalos, the star and writer of the sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, isn’t sharing the wealth, at least according to her former management company. Marathon Entertainment filed a lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging Vardalos reneged on several oral agreements to pay the company from the film’s proceeds, Variety reports. Her attorney said the allegations were without merit and that the company has already been paid commission on all monies that Vardalos has received.

Director Kinji Fukasaku, who helmed the 1970s historical drama Tora! Tora! Tora!, died of cancer over the weekend in Tokyo, Variety reports. He was 72. Fukasaku gained international recognition for the war epic, a reconstruction from both sides of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor. His last project was 2002’s apocalyptic thriller Battle Royale, featuring brutal killings among high school students, which became a surprise hit at the Japanese box office.

Filmmaker Maurice Pialat, who directed the 1987 religious psychodrama Under Satan’s Sun, died Saturday in Paris of kidney failure at the age of 77, Variety reports. Pialat made a total of 10 feature films in his career. Under Satan’s Sun, which starred Gerard Depardieu as a priest battling temptation, won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or.

The partner of opera star Luciano Pavarotti gave birth to twins in a hospital in Bologna, Italy, Monday, but a baby boy died of complications involved in the pregnancy, a hospital spokeswoman told Reuters Tuesday. Nicoletta Mantovani, 33, and the baby girl are said to be doing fine. The girl is the first child for Mantovani but the fourth for Pavarotti. The 67-year-old tenor has three daughters from his former wife.


Get ready for Ocean’s Twelve. Director Steven Soderbergh and actor George Clooney are eyeing a possible March 2004 start date to film the sequel to the 2001 Las Vegas crime caper. According to Variety, Warner Bros. is looking to lock down star Brad Pitt and other stars from Ocean’s Eleven, as well as new additions. The studio asked screenwriter George Nolfi to give his pre-existing Honor Among Thieves script an Ocean’s Eleven twist for the sequel, which could be set for a possible holiday 2004 release.


U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska denied a bid Monday by CBS to stop rival ABC from airing a competing series, I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, which it called a Survivor rip-off. CBS filed the copyright infringement suit in November seeking a court order to stop ABC from airing the show in the United States, but Preska refused the motion after finding that the shows were not substantially similar, Reuters reports.

CBS, meanwhile, plans to cancel the popular drama Touched by an Angel, AP reports. The TV series stars Roma Downey as a helpful angel on Earth, along with Della Reese, John Dye and Valerie Bertinelli. The May finale will include scenes showing heaven, which executive producer Martha Williamson said has yet to be depicted on the show. Touched by an Angel premiered in Sept. 1994.

While no deal is done, NBC and producer Warner Bros. TV have moved closer to a pact to keep the White House drama The West Wing on the network. Insiders told Variety that NBC will likely pay Warner Bros. a license fee of about $4 million to $5 million per episode–more than double what the network currently shells out for the show. The two sides are still hammering out terms of an agreement.