News Roundup: March 18


Top Story

Director Steven Spielberg wanted this E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial to be something extra special. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the film’s release this Friday will have more than 140 shots reworked, including making the little alien more lifelike and replacing the figurine of Elliot riding his flying bicycle in front of the moon with a real child. Bill George, who supervised the special effects changes for Industrial Light & Magic told The Associated Press, “What worked in 1982 doesn’t quite hold up.”

In General

Singer Sir Elton John, actors Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson and other British celebrities signed a petition to free 23 gay Egyptians who are imprisoned because of their “habitual practice of debauchery” after attending a boat party in Cairo, Reuters reported. The campaign, led by Michael Cashman, British Labor member of the European Parliament, will try and change Egyptian policies on homosexuality, which the mainly Muslim majority considers taboo.

While promoting her new movie Showtime on ABC’s Good Morning America Thursday, actress Rene Russo, 48, publicly thanked Rosie O’Donnell for her outspoken opposition to a Florida ban on gay adoption and admitted she herself had been raised by lesbian friends of her mother after her father left. “I wanted to call my mom to say, look, mom, I’m going on national television to say thank you for all your friends, because she was just pretty much abandoned and a lot of her friends came and helped her to raise me and my sister,” Russo said on the show.

Britain’s Prince William’s life is coming to the small screen. Walt Disney Co. will be producing a television movie entitled Prince William, which will follow the then 15-year-old young prince from the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car wreck in 1997 to the present. No one has been cast, but Disney-owned ABC hopes to air the movie by fall on Wonderful World of Disney.

Do we want to keep Watching Ellie? Maybe not. Since the NBC show starring Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus debuted Feb. 26, the ratings have been sliding steadily, fueling speculation that it will be yanked soon and become another notch in the legendary Seinfeld curse. NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker told the Daily News, however, “We feel very positive. It’s been a solid performer. Obviously, it’s too early to make any announcements.” Sure. He’s paid to say that.

Just when you thought it was safe to turn your TV back on, there is going to be more celebrity boxing. Because of the success of last Wednesday’s special, which drew in 15.5 million people, Fox is going in for round two. Someone of the “boxers” being considered are Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire bride Darva Conger and Joey Buttafuoco, whose wife was shot by his lover, Amy Fisher.

A British court heard testimony regarding charges against REM guitarist Peter Buck, who apparently had a little too much to drink on a British Airways flight in April 2001, created a disturbance and assaulted one of the cabin crew in a fit of rage. Buck is denying any misconduct.

Anglophile Madonna will be performing the theme song to the next James Bond flick Die Another Day, the 20th in the series, due to be released Nov. 22. She may also put in a cameo, if she can work it into her schedule.

Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer for the heavy metal band Skid Row, has been arrested for making “terrorist threats” and drug possession Wednesday. In what started as a bar fight, Bach got into an altercation with a Middleton, New Jersey bartender and threatened to get a gun to shoot him. When authorities arrived, they took the singer into custody after finding two bags of marijuana in his possession. A court date remains to be set.