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News, May 13: Miramax Backs Michael Moore's 9/11 Film, Judge Restrains Bullock's Stalker, Lucas Leaps Into Digital Animation, More...

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May 13, 2003 | 9:33am EDT

Top Story: Miramax Backs Michael Moore's 9/11 Film

Miramax films is stepping in to back Michael Moore's next project, Fahrenheit 911, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters Monday. The documentary, slated for release in the fall of 2004, will depict what has happened to America since the events of September 11, 2001. It will also touch on the personal relationship between President George H. W. Bush and the family of terrorist Osama bin Laden, as well as the events that led Bush and bin Laden to become mortal enemies. Actor Mel Gibson's Icon Productions originally paid an eight-figure sum plus potential backend for the rights to the documentary, but later dropped out of the financing deal. According to Reuters, Miramax will provide a few million dollars in temporary "bridge" funding, which offers the studio less risk and a lower return than longer-term financing. Moore's last film, Bowling for Columbine, won an Oscar in March for best documentary.

Director Claims To Have Blueprint for B.O. Hits

A British academic said she has found the perfect recipe to make a box office hit. London University's Sue Clayton told a crowd at the Cannes Film Festival Tuesday that the blueprint for the perfect film is 30 percent action, 17 percent comedy, 13 percent good-versus-evil, 12 percent sex/romance, 10 percent special effects, 10 percent plot and eight percent music. Clayton's study is based on watching and breaking down the components of a range of hit films. What film matched the recipe the closest? Pixar Animations' Toy Story 2.

Judge Restrains Bullock's Stalker

A Los Angeles judge Friday granted a restraining order sought by Sandra Bullock against a 34-year-old mentally ill man she says has stalked her in three states for more than a year. According to Reuters, Thomas James Weldon, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and refuses to take medication, has inundated Bullock's family, agent and production company with faxes, e-mails and voicemail messages, asking for money and intimacy with the actress. Weldon has been ordered not to contact Bullock and to stay at least 200 yards from her until a June 6 hearing in the matter.

NBC Seeks Huge Ad Rates for Friends Finale

NBC is asking for $2 million per 30-second advertisement spots for the two-hour series finale of Friends, set to air in May 2004. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network, which generally charges about $450,000 for a 30-second spot for the show, will likely come up with other promotional tie-in opportunities for advertisers who pay the hefty $2 million fee. NBC is shelling out $10 million per episode for the last 18 original episodes of Friends.

The Smoking Gun Coming to TV

Cabler Court TV is debuting a new show in August based on The Smoking Gun Web site, Reuters reports. TSG (www.thesmokinggun.com) is known for posting often embarrassing but public court documents in cases involving celebrities and the quasi-famous. The Smoking Gun TV will be hosted by Mo Roca, who is currently the senior political correspondent for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The first two episodes will premiere on Court TV Aug. 20.

NBC, MTV Renew Daly Shows

NBC has picked up Carson Daly's talk show Last Call with Carson Daly for the next year, while MTV has renewed Total Request Live for the next two years, The Associated Press reports. Daly has been hosting the afternoon video countdown show TRL since 1998, but has appeared less frequently on the program since developing the late-night talker. The new contract at MTV calls for Daly to continue hosting and serving as an executive producer on TRL, as well as produce special events including Spring Break and Spankin' New Music Week.

George Lucas Leaps Into Digital Animation

Star Wars creator George Lucas is forming a new division, Lucasfilm Animation, to make computer-animated films. A spokeswoman for Lucas told Reuters the new unit, an offshoot of Lucas' special effects company Industrial Light & Magic, is still in its beginning stages and does not even have a project to talk about. Lucas, however, is no stranger to digital animation. In 1986, Lucas sold Lucasfilms' computer graphics division to Apple Computer's Steve Jobs for $10 million. The company, now known as Pixar Animation, has a market capitalization of roughly $3.2 billion and produced films such as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.

Michael Jackson Sues Universal Music

Pop oddity Michael Jackson filed a lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Universal Music Group, claiming the record company owes him royalties for the re-release of songs he made with the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist from 1969 to 1976. The recordings were made for Motown Records, which was later acquired by Universal Music Group. Jackson seeks an accounting of royalties owed and unspecified damages. He also wants a 1980 agreement that forfeited his right to royalties for songs released before that time voided and ownership of his Motown master recordings.

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