Pop singer-turned-reality TV star Jessica Simpson has signed a development deal with ABC to star in a comedy series project targeted for fall 2004. According to The Hollywood Reporter, producers Ted Harbert and Joe Simpson, the singer's father and manager respectively, are considering a concept for the half-hour sitcom in which Simpson will play a character loosely based on herself, a pop star whose squeaky-clean image has made her an American sweetheart. "She was delightful in a room, she was charming and poised and funny, and the networks responded, but ABC's been wonderful through this," Harbert told The Reporter. "We think Jessica exudes that all-American charm that I think ABC identifies themselves with, and, in our mind, it is a perfect fit that can go on any of their comedy nights." Simpson's last two albums haven't matched the success of her 1999 debut album Sweet Kisses, but the singer recently struck gold with Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, her MTV reality series with husband Nick Lachey, which was recently picked up by the music cabler for a second season.
Douglas, Zeta-Jones Awarded $24,250 in Damages
Hollywood couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas won just $24,250 in damages from the UK's Hello! magazine Friday--a far cry from the $831,000 they wanted from the tabloid for having published unauthorized photos of their wedding. Judge John Lindsay ruled that Hello! could be blamed for publishing the photos but not for the distress caused by the intrusion of the uninvited photographer, Reuters reports. He did, however, rule that rival OK! magazine was entitled to damages of about $1.7 million because Hello! had spoiled their exclusive deal with the couple.
Revlon Renews Berry Contract
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, who stars in the upcoming thriller Gothika, has renewed her contract to appear as a spokeswoman for Revlon Inc., the company announced Friday. The Associated Press reports Berry recently finished an advertising campaign for the New York-based Revlon's summer 2004 collection. Other Revlon spokeswomen include Julianne Moore, Jaime King, Karen Duffy and Eva Mendes.
Couple Sues Justin Guarini
A Bethlehem, Penn., couple filed a $100,000 lawsuit Friday against Justin Guarini, alleging the American Idol runner-up drove his truck into the rear of their car. The lawsuit, filed in Northampton County Court, contends that Guarini was looking at papers and took his eyes off the road when the vehicles collided on March 12, 2002. According to the AP, Bethlehem police cited Guarini for following too closely to the couple's car. He filed papers to appeal the ticket but decided it wasn't worth leaving Los Angeles to appear in court and paid the $25 fine and $75 in court costs instead.
Bruce Almighty Banned in Egypt
Egyptian authorities have banned the comedy Bruce Almighty, which stars Jim Carrey as a TV reporter who gets to be God for a week, because they say the comedy infringes on God's sacredness. "The name of the movie--Bruce Almighty--indicates that there is someone who can do anything and everything," Madkour Thabit, head of the state-run censorship body responsible for audio and visual productions, said in a statement faxed to the AP. "Such traits belong only to God." In June, Egyptian censors also banned The Matrix Reloaded because it challenged the topics of existence and creation.
Boxer Suing Stallone Over Rocky Films
Chuck Wepner, the 65 year-old boxer who was the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone's Rocky films, plans to file a lawsuit in New Jersey State Court next week against the actor for illegally using his name to promote the films and other merchandise, the AP reports. Wepner fought Muhammad Ali in March 1975 and went 15 rounds before he was knocked out. Stallone was at the fight and went on to write the screenplay for the 1976 pic Rocky, which went on to win Academy Awards for best picture, film editing and directing. Wepner, who is seeking $15 million in damages from the right of publicity claim, said he waited almost 28 years before filing the suit because he always expected Stallone to compensate him.
Piracy Forces Early Release of 50 Cent Album
The debut album from the 50 Cent-led group G Unit was moved four days due to piracy, Billboard.com reports. Beg for Mercy will now be issued Nov. 14 by Interscope. "What can you expect when you're the hottest rapper around?," 50 Cent said in a statement. "The streets are used to gettin' my music the unconventional way. So if they want it why not give 'em the real deal as soon as you can?" To reward those who buy the album, Interscope will insert four "golden tickets" in the first million copies of Beg for Mercy, with winners receiving a chain necklace with a diamond-encrusted G Unit medallion valued at $12,500.
Duran Duran Kicks Off Comeback Tour
Duran Duran will kick off a tour with all its original members for the first time in 18 years on Nov. 8, Billboard.com reports. But organizers say Duran Duran is only playing 17 theater dates for its 2003 tour in order to create enough buzz and avoid being labeled "a nostalgia act." During the summer, the original five members, guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and vocalist Simon LeBon, played some warm-up shows in Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas--all of them sell-outs. On Nov. 4, EMI rolled out the DVD anthology Greatest, which contains the group's classic videos, and a new album is targeted for release in early 2004.
Role Call: Guzman and Ferguson Join Lemony Cast, Murphy in Box
Luis Guzman and