News Roundup: March 20

Top Story

Ron Howard (the Oscar-nominated director of A Beautiful Mind) is currently scouting locations in Texas for his upcoming feature film based on the legendary, fateful battle at the Alamo. Howard says he plans to deal with some complex issues of the combatants at the Texas landmark heretofore untold on screen, including Jim Bowie’s slave trading, Davy Crockett’s bigotry and the alleged infighting between the NBA’s David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

In General

Madonna‘s been open about her sex life before, but now it’s turning audiences off. Featured in hubby Guy Ritchie‘s new film based on 1974’s Swept Away, Madonna gets beaten up as a prelude to lovemaking, which, according to, is making viewers upset. Incredibly, this is an improvement for Madonna, whose acting in her previous movies made viewers VERY upset.

Not that you asked, but we have more from the world of Madonna. Seems the actress/pop diva, who demanded a cameo in return for singing the theme song of the latest James Bond flick, has withdrawn completely from any involvement in the movie. Given the last news item, perhaps the James Bond series just isn’t misogynistic enough.

Kenneth Branagh, the man voted by his high-school class as most likely to channel Shakespeare, has returned to the bard’s work on stage for the first time in 10 years. Branagh can be seen in the lead role of Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Crucible Theater in the northern English town of Sheffield. No word if Branagh has yet been able to turn Sheffield’s winter of discontent into a glorious summer, but word has it that he’d give up his kingdom for a horse.

Mary Tyler Moore‘s character from her eponymous hit TV show is to be honored May 8 with a bronze statue in Minneapolis, where the show’s story was based. An eight-foot-high statue of newswoman Mary Richards tossing her hat into the air will grace the downtown corner of 7th Street and the Nicollet Mall, pleasing not only fans of the ’70s sitcom, but also pigeons from both of the Twin Cities.

Bill Maher hosts a show called Politically Incorrect, and his latest statements to the Seattle Times prove that label true about himself, as well. “Look, I’m not gonna lie,” Maher opined, “I knew back in September our days were numbered. But what is a little galling is that for six years on ABC, we had to live with Nightline as the ultimate sacred cow. You could never ask Ted Koppel to do anything. He never asked viewers to watch Politically Incorrect after his show; instead, he’d tell them to go to Suddenly, he’s not a sacred cow–he’s a slaughtered cow.” If Koppel‘s a slaughtered cow, wouldn’t that make Maher little more than gristle?

It’s still signing season for TV pilots. Helen Mirren, nominated by the Academy for her work in Gosford Park, is set to star in CBS’ Georgetown; The WB has gotten Jennie Garth, formerly of Beverly Hills, 90210, to relocate to New York for an untitled comedy with Amanda Bynes (Big Fat Liar), and Murphy Brown‘s Grant Shaud is heading to Fox for Oliver Beene. ABC’s big move for the week was…nothing!

Fox is gonzo for eras past (That ’70s Show, That ’80s Show) and, according to, is planning a retrospective of seminal ’70s sitcom Three’s Company; just don’t expect John Ritter to host. “I can’t see sitting in rocking chairs and going, ‘Remember the time we sat on that f—ing dog, and Mr. Furley came in and kicked you in the nuts?'” Ritter told Ah, how we miss Don Knotts.

Billy Baldwin, star of Backdraft and brother to Alec, Stephen, Daniel, Jermaine and Tito, is jumping to the small screen in CBS’ grammatically challenged R.U.S./H.. Yet another cop drama, R.U.S./H. is the story of a special L.A. unit that’s based in the tough neighborhood of South Central.

Keys auction house in London has told Reuters that it expects letters hand-written by the late Princess Diana to her former housekeeper could go for as much as $28,430 (approximately), when they are auctioned off later this week. Princess Diana passed away in a Paris car crash in 1997. In related news, correspondence written by editor Noah Davis to his imaginary friend Fred was receently purchased for 42 cents. (Thanks, Mom!)

Music giant EMI Group is cutting almost 1,800 people from its worldwide workforce, the Associated Press reports. Contraction began in April 2001, when EMI had 9,338 employees. By September 2002, that number will be reduced to 7,600. No word if Mariah Carey‘s release is counted in this number, but we’re willing to bet that not many other employees will receive the same $28 million golden parachute the sultry songbird did.

Food infected with sewage pollution has been blamed for the mystery illness that graced some attendees of the March 2 event in Beverly Hills honoring scientific and technical achievement in cinema. Investigators aren’t sure how the virus spread, nor do they know what arugula really is.