News Roundup: May 17


Top Story

A judge and former prosecutor in New Jersey filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Sopranos creator David Chase, claiming he helped Chase create the hit HBO show and has yet to see any compensation for it. According to The Associated Press, Robert Baer claims he met with Chase several times to give him details about the North Jersey mob and even to critique an early draft of the show’s pilot episode. At the time, they entered into an oral agreement that if the show took off, Baer would be paid.


A woman accused of stalking actor Richard Gere pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment Thursday. Instead of jail time, Ursula Reichert-Habbishaw, 51, agreed to return home to Germany, never to bother Gere again. The divorced mother of four children had faxed or called Gere roughly 1,000 times over the last 14 months, AP reported.

Paul Newman is returning to the stage. He’ll star as the stage manager in a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Conn., near his home. He was chosen by the theater’s artistic director–Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward–after he wowed her by reading one of the speeches.

Hip-hop prince Ja Rule says he may call it quits in a few years. Backstage at the BET Awards on Tuesday night, he told a press conference, “I’m going to retire after two more albums,” to pursue an acting career. He’s in negotiations to star in the sequel to The Fast and the Furious.

‘N Sync member Lance Bass may chuck it all for space exploration. According to Reuters, he recently underwent a minor procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat so he can qualify for a seat aboard a Russian rocket flight to the International Space Station. He claims it’s been his lifelong dream to be an astronaut.

Casting Call

Putting his light saber in the closet for the moment, Stars Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones star Hayden Christensen is in negotiations to play a disgraced journalist in the fact-based drama Shattered Glass. The film centers on Stephen Glass, who was briefly a rising star in the journalistic world but was discovered to have made up sources, quotes and often entire stories.

In the Biz

Limp Bizkit’s lead singer, Fred Durst, has decided to combine a lifelong passion with his feature directorial debut. His project Lords of Dogtown focuses on the birth of the teenage skateboarding revolution (an extreme-sports activity Durst has long been interested in), following a group of young California surfers who take their moves from the ocean to the streets. The film will start shooting this summer.

Looks like Sony Pictures Entertainment’s president and chief operating officer, Mel Harris, will step down from the post when his contract expires in September. Variety reports it is only speculation at this point but that several Sony execs are vying for the position.

Tube News

The Fox network is having to seriously reshuffle its new fall lineup, as two of its signature shows–Ally McBeal and The X-Files–are departing this year. Fox is looking to replace McBeal with another David E. Kelley drama about lawyers and may turn Sundays into strictly a comedy night.

Due to contractual reasons, the U.K. premiere of MTV’s The Osbournes this Sunday has been delayed. MTV apologized to U.K. viewers and promised to have a new and confirmed air date soon.

Comedy legend Lily Tomlin will be joining the cast of NBC’s The West Wing, as the new secretary to President Bartlet (Martin Sheen). She debuts this Wednesday in the series’ season finale.

Music News

Napster, the song-swapping company that changed the music business, is up in arms. Chief Executive Konrad Hilbers and co-founder Shawn Fanning both resigned their posts Tuesday after Napster’s board rejected an agreement to be acquired by German media company Bertelsmann AG.