Simon Fuller, creator of U.K. talent show Pop Idol and its U.S. spinoff American Idol, is suing his former collaborators, including Simon Cowell, claiming that Cowell's new project, The X Factor, is a rip-off of the Idol format, Reuters reports. The X Factor, which premiered on U.K. broadcaster ITV last Saturday, follows a panel of judges--including the infamously acerbic Cowell as well as Sharon Osbourne--who select wannabe stars from hundreds of hopefuls. In its later stages, the show pits the judges against one another when each has to act as a mentor to their preferred candidate. Fuller's production company 19 TV said in a statement it sued the makers of The X Factor, Cowell and Fremantle Media, for copyright infringement and breach of contract. In response, a statement was issued Friday by Fremantle Media on behalf of itself and Cowell, saying it hopes to resolve the matter amicably, but would defend any legal action "vigorously" in court. It insisted that the shows are quite different, Reuters reports.
Tape released of former Jackson accuser's dad
NBC's Dateline has acquired tapes revolving around the 1993 case of child molestation against Michael Jackson, The Associated Press reports, in which the accuser's father talks about the case. The show played the tapes Friday, which they received from the boy's uncle a decade after the singer reached a settlement with the boy that included an agreement not to discuss the case. The boy's father said on one recording that he initially thought Jackson was harmless, and even felt bad for him. "He's childlike. He's a child. Nothing to fear. You put that together with the way he looks ... and you feel sorry for him. OK. And you know that he--this tells you that he grew up an intensely lonely person." The father eventually grew more suspicious of the singer. Authorities were investigating the allegations when the singer reached a settlement with his accuser, paying him a sum reported at $15 million to $20 million.
Leigh's Drake wins in Venice
Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, the tale of a good Samaritan abortionist, was the Venice International Film Festival's big winner, scooping the Golden Lion and also the best actress award for Imelda Staunton, Variety reports. "In a cynical world, it is a wonderful thing, and most reassuring, when low budget, serious committed, independent, European films are recognized," said Leigh. Other winners included Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside, about a quadriplegic who wants to die by euthanasia, which took the Jury Grand Prize and gave its star, Javier Bardem, the Coppa Volpi for best actor. The Special Director's prize went to Korean helmer Kim Ki-duk's 3-iron, a romance in which a nomadic serial squatter falls in love with a woman he finds in one of the houses he breaks into.
Grace wins in Deauville
Maria Full of Grace, a documentary-like tale of the travails of a teenage drug runner from Colombia from first-time filmmaker Joshua Marston, took the top prize at the Deauville Film Festival in France, AP reports. Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon as a child molester trying to build a new life after 12 years in prison, won the festival's jury prize. The 30-year-old festival at the Normandy resort, which started Sept. 3, is a European showcase for mainly American movies.
C-3PO actor talks Revenge of the Sith
Anthony Daniels, best known for voicing Star Wars robot C-3PO, said the final installment in the prequel's trilogy is his favorite. "I finished filming on the last film last week," the 58-year-old actor told Reuters in an interview. "The first film spoke to everyone on the planet. It still works as a funny, bright movie. It still has legs." Revenge of the Sith, set for release in May 2005, tells the back story of the original Star Wars movie about a battle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. Anthony added the final scenes were emotionally tough on him. "He (C-3PO) has been a best friend for me. He is going to live forever in the ether." The worldwide DVD launch of the first three movies, meanwhile, is set for Sept. 21.
P. Diddy looks for all-girl band
For the third season of Sean P. Diddy Combs' MTV reality series Making the Band, the music mogul has decided to search for the next girl band. In the show's second installment, Combs developed the now-disbanded hip-hop group Da Band, who could never seem to get their act together. Auditions for singers and musicians for the as-yet-unnamed group are scheduled for the first two weeks in October in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, AP reports. The second incarnation of Making the Band will premiere next year on MTV.
Broadway lyricist Ebb dies
Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics for the hit Broadway musicals Chicago and Cabaret as well as the big-city anthem New York, New York, died of a heart attack Saturday at his home in New York. Ebb was believed to be 76, although he was "sweetly vague" about his age, director Scott Ellis, who worked with him on several shows, told the AP. At the time of his death, Ebbs and longtime collaborator John Kander were working on several projects including revising Over and Over, a musical version of Thornton Wilder's classic The Skin of Our Teeth and a murder-mystery musical called Curtains. Funeral services will be Tuesday.