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News, June 17: Ryan Seacrest Calls Simon Cowell "Pompous," Zeta-Jones' Stalker Charged, Pat O'Brien Joins "ET" Spinoff, More...

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Jun 18, 2004 | 11:59am EDT

Ryan Seacrest calls Simon Cowell "pompous"

Ryan Seacrest, host of Fox's hit series American Idol, dissed acerbic judge Simon Cowell during a visit to Singapore, where a local version of the program is planned. "I think that he's pompous. I think that he's arrogant. So my feelings about him, and the way that I address him on air, are very real," Seacrest said Wednesday in an interview with the Straits Times newspaper. "I think he says things that are at times a bit too harsh and could probably convey them in a different light so that they don't crush a young person's dream." But the 29-year-old emcee added that Cowell was a good friend and the "most honest" of the show's three judges, according to excerpts published by The Associate Press. A record 65 million phone votes were cast in the finale of the latest American Idol season, which saw 19-year-old single mother Fantasia Barrino crowned the third Idol winner.

Catherine Zeta-Jones' stalker charged

A 33-year-old woman was charged in Los Angeles last week with stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones and making threatening phone calls, Reuters reports. According to a statement released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Dawnette Knight was arrested at her Beverly Hills apartment after a four-month investigation, during which time Zeta-Jones was the target of numerous threatening letters and phone calls. Knight was arraigned on one count of stalking and 25 counts of making "terrorist threats." She remains in custody. The British actress is married to Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas, and won an Academy Award last year for best supporting actress in the hit musical Chicago.

Pat O'Brien joins ET spinoff

Pat O'Brien is leaving Access Hollywood for a new gig as the Los Angeles anchor of The Insider-- a new spinoff of Access Hollywood's rival Entertainment Tonight set to premiere Sept. 13. AH executive producer Rob Silverstein said Wednesday that O'Brien's contract with the show was expiring and his departure was amicable. Sources told Reuters that former Good Morning America correspondent Lara Spencer will serve as O'Brien's New York counterpart on The Insider, while Access Hollywood East Coast correspondent Billy Bush will relocate to Los Angeles to share anchor duties with Nancy O'Dell, who has been with the show since it launched in 1996.

Johnny Ramone's wife says guitarist isn't dying

Johnny Ramone, who has been living with prostate cancer for several years, was recently admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with what his physician called a "complication from the cancer." Ramone’s hospitalization set off a nationwide media deathwatch earlier this week. According to MTV.com, his wife Linda Ramone was so dismayed by the funereal headlines that she authorized Ramone’s doctor to explain his condition to the media--despite the fact that the 55-year-old guitarist refused to issue a corrective press statement. Dr. David Agus told MTV News Wednesday that Ramone is now on a new, experimental therapy and predicts he will be going home in the near term. "He's not dying," Linda said. "He was OK for years, and he's fine now. He's in the hospital, but he's not in ICU. And I think he may be leaving by tomorrow."

Screener issue rises from the ashes

Following a year of controversy over the Motion Picture Assn. of America's (MPAA) controversial screener ban, which bowed under legal action brought on by the indie film community, the issue is once again on the forefront. According to Reuters, Oscar voters could receive specially encoded promotional DVDs during the upcoming awards season. The discs would have to be played on a new system from Dolby Inc. unit Cinea, which would be sent to all members. Last year, major studios resorted to sending out watermarked VHS tapes because DVDs were considered more susceptible to piracy.

Franchise Pictures held accountable

A California jury on Wednesday ordered the production company Franchise Pictures to pay $77 million to Germany's Intertainment AG for padding production costs for about a dozen films such as Sylvester Stallone's Driven, Reuters reports. The legal dispute arose from a 1999 contract, in which Intertainment agreed to fund 47 percent of production costs for about a dozen big-budget U.S. films in return for European distribution rights. In some cases, however, Intertainment unknowingly picked up the entire tab for the big budget films, Intertainment's attorney Scott Edelman told Reuters. Other films included The Whole Nine Yards starring Bruce Willis and The Art of War starring Wesley Snipes.

Transient charged with grisly murders

Keven Lee Graff, a 27-year-old homeless man, has been accused of beheading 91-year-old Robert Lees, a once-blacklisted screenwriter best known for writing Abbott and Costello comedies, as well as stabbing Lees' neighbor, Morley Engleson, to death, Reuters reports. Police say that Graff murdered Lees, then cut off his head and ran with it to Engleson's home. There, police said, he interrupted the physician speaking on the phone and stabbed him to death. Graff was charged with murder with special circumstances, meaning that prosecutors could seek the death penalty against him if he is convicted, Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office told Reuters. Graff was arrested on Monday near the gates of the Paramount Pictures studio in Hollywood, one day after Lees and Engleson were found slain.

Role Call: Chocolate Factory casts kids, Bow Wow in Bounce

Director Tim Burton has rounded out his young cast for his updated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, including Anna Sophia Robb as Violet Beauregarde, Jordan Fry as Mike Teevee, Julia Winter as Veruca Salt and Philip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop. British actor Freddie Highmore had previously been cast in the title role of Charlie, while Johnny Depp will portray Willy Wonka ... Rapper Bow Wow (grown up for being 'Lil Bow Wow) and Chi McBride are teaming up for Roll Bounce, a roller-skating comedy. Set in the '70s, story revolves around X (Bow Wow) and his pals, who rule supreme at their local roller-skating rink, but when the doors close, the boys venture into foreign territory--uptown's Sweetwater Roller Rink, complete with over-the-top skaters and beautiful girls. Through his preparation for the showdown of the season, X manages to find himself and also help his dad (McBride) get back on track.

Kit Bowen contributed to this report.

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