Top Story: Chris Rock To Host MTV Awards
After a four-year hiatus, Chris Rock will return to host the 20th annual MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Rock told The Associated Press that he is going on a cross-country club tour whet his stand-up skills but added that most of the show's comedy comes naturally as the evening progresses. "You watch people host these shows who change outfits eight times in the show. No--watch the show. That's the most important thing," Rock said. "Half the time the presenters don't read what's on the cue cards and you never know when Diana Ross is going to grab Lil' Kim's [breast], and you'd hate to miss that because you're putting on something from Banana Republic." Rock, however, won't announce his comedy show dates ahead of time and tickets will go on sale in each city just 24 hours in advance, the AP reports.
Eastwood's Mystic River Opens NYFF
Actor/director Clint Eastwood's psychological drama Mystic River, which was shown in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, will open the 41st New York Film Festival on Oct. 3, Reuters reports. Eastwood also served as a producer on the project, which is based on Dennis Lehane's best-selling novel and adapted by L.A. Confidential's Brian Helgeland, and composed the film's score. Mystic River, scheduled for release Oct. 10, stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney. The NYFF runs Oct. 2 through Oct. 19.
Man Pleads Guilty to Bootlegging Hulk
A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Wednesday to bootlegging a copy of The Hulk and then making it available in a chat room used to post and trade unauthorized movie copies, the AP reports. Kerry Gonzalez, 24, pleaded guilty to a single count of copyright infringement and could faces six months to a year in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 26. According to court documents, Gonzalez obtained the tape from a friend of an employee at a Manhattan advertising agency that had been given an advance copy of the film.
Commission Investigates Russell Simmons
Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, who is part of a coalition that has been working to convince New York's state legislature to relax the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, is now under investigation for his aggressive lobbying efforts. According to Reuters, the state's lobbying commission is looking into whether Simmons spent more than $2,000 to influence state officials and to see if he gave an illegal gift of a free helicopter ride to Secretary of State Randy Daniels last week. Anyone spending over $2,000 to lobby the state government must register with the commission and make periodic financial disclosures and state officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $75.
Timberlake Joins Rolling Stones' Toronto Concert
Justin Timberlake will join the Rolling Stones in a benefit concert for the city of Toronto on July 30, Launch.com reports. Hosts by actors Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, the eight-hour Molson Canadian Rocks For Toronto concert is being staged to put a positive spotlight on Toronto, which was hard-hit earlier this year by the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic. Others acts on the bill include the Isley Brothers, AC/DC, the Flaming Lips, and the Mexican group La Chicane. Three hundred thousand tickets will go on sale Friday across North America.
UPN Orders Another Round of Top Model
UPN has ordered a second installment of the Tyra Banks-hosted modeling competition series America's Next Top Model, Reuters reports. The hour-long series, which revolves around the elimination-style competition among 12 women to survive a modeling "boot camp," has been a godsend to the network since it premiered May 20. UPN has ordered 10 episodes of the next installment of Top Model and will be a midseason entry during the upcoming 2003-04 season. There is no word yet from the network on a premiere date.
Buddy Ebson Hospitalized
Buddy Ebsen, who portrayed Jed Clampett on the 1960s TV series The Beverly Hillbillies, was admitted into Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Calif. for an undisclosed illness, the AP reports. A hospital spokeswoman said Thursday that the 95-year-old actor's "condition is good." Ebsen, who lives in nearby Palos Verdes Estates, began his TV nine-year career as Clampett in 1962 and later took the title role in the CBS detective drama Barnaby Jones, which ran from 1973 until 1980. He has also written two books, including an autobiography, The Other Side of Oz and Kelly's Quest.
Role Call: Miramax Acquires Pippen, Linney Joins Punisher Cast
On the heels of the acquisition of the film rights to Damn Yankees, Miramax Films announced today that it has acquired the rights to the hit Broadway musical Pippin for development into a feature film. Originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the tuner debuted on Broadway in 1972 and ran for five years ... Laura Harring has joined the cast of the comic-book actioner The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta. The Artisan Entertainment/Marvel Studios project revolves around a vigilante hero who dispenses harsh justice to criminals after his wife and children are slain by the mob. Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh will start shooting the film next month in Florida and is scheduled for release next summer.
Think Johnny Depp would be interested in a role? Variety reports Paramount Pictures plans to make a big-screen version of 21 Jump Street, the popular late-'80s TV series that launched Depp's career and gave the then-fledgling Fox network its first youth audience boost. The film treatment, to be written by series co-creators Stephen J Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh, focuses on a group of 20-something undercover cops who return to high school to crack down on drug dealers roaming the hallways. The series also starred Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson Peete, Dustin Nguyen and Richard Grieco.
Frances Bay, the 83-year-old character actress who was struck by a car Thursday, was listed in critical condition Saturday at a Los Angeles hospital after having part of her right leg amputated. Bay, who has appeared in more than 50 films including Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Planner, also suffered from head injuries due to the accident in which a 17-year-old driver struck her going 30 miles per hour. No charges have been filed as yet.
Paula Poundstone has taken the first step in getting her children back. An appeals court granted the comedian her first unsupervised visit with her three adopted children since she lost custody 17 months ago in her child endangerment case, Reuters reports. She has been visiting the kids, now in a foster home, with a court-appointed monitor nearly every day.
Jethro gets in on some casino action. Max Baer Jr., the actor who played the dumb but lovable Jethro Bodine on the popular '60s show The Beverly Hillbillies, has signed a deal to produce hundreds of penny slot machines featuring the show, AP reports. If this works out, Baer, 64, looks to expand the Hillbillies franchise by coming up with grocery items such as Elly May's buns and Granny's lye soap. Yee-haw!
Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) will direct Warner Bros. Pictures' Strangers, an update of the Patricia Highsmith novel Strangers on a Train. The story, which in 1951 got classic treatment from the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, centers on a tennis pro embroiled in an ugly divorce who wants to kill his wife. He ends up meeting a man on a train who wants to kill his father, and the two make a pact to swap murders. Only one, however, has the guts to carry it out.
The Emmy-nominated miniseries Dinotopia, a fantastical story about dinosaurs and humans living and conversing compatibly, will become a TV series on ABC. The 13-episode series will begin airing Thanksgiving and will be geared toward the young viewing audience that made the miniseries so popular. Meaning, the T. Rexes will still devour humans, they'll just do it off-camera.
Chris Robinson, the lead singer of the Black Crowes who left the popular rock band to pursue a solo career, is now promoting his debut album New Earth Mud. Robinson, 35, who is married to actress Kate Hudson, told Reuters, "I'm not looking for an easy life."
Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and Alicia Keys were on hand Saturday in Cape Town, South Africa, to perform for MTV's Staying Alive Concert and to voice their indignation over the lack of support for the AIDS epidemic currently ravaging Africa. "I don't think you see enough of this story in your face," Combs told reporters. MTV will broadcast the concert globally Dec. 1 as part of a 90-minute World AIDS Day special .
The Associated Press reports Justin Timberlake says despite what the tabloids have reported, he hasn't been making out with women in bars since his breakup with Britney Spears."That's the thing I laugh at--and sometimes I cry about it, too," the 'N Sync singer told Us Weekly for its Sept. 9 issue. "It's happened for at least six months now, this whole image of everybody portraying me as a playboy. That's not me. When I go out, I go out with my group of friends....Any girl who approaches me in a club and tries to win me over, I'm not gonna go for it." The two pop idols split in March after four years as pop's most high-profile couple. Since then, he's been linked with Janet Jackson and dancer Jenna Dewan, but he insists he is single. "Make out in a club? I didn't do that when I was with Britney," Timberlake said. "Why would I do it with somebody I just met?"
Robert Blake is convinced he'll be acquitted in the shooting death of his wife and will one day return to his young daughter "because I didn't do it," the actor said from jail Thursday, AP reports. Speaking from behind glass at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles, the star of the 1970s TV show Baretta talked about his relationship with wife Bonny Lee Bakley and his determination to be acquitted and "walk into the sunset" with his 2-year-old daughter Rose. He said he held no hostility toward his wife and credited Bakley, whom he met in a jazz club and later inadvertently got pregnant, with reviving his spirit, and he acknowledged that Rose became the focus of his life. "I had something to live for."
Don't expect any cosmic concerts from 'N Sync star-turned-space tourist hopeful Lance Bass, who said he wants to use his voice aboard the international space station not for singing but for inspiring a new generation of astronauts and scientists, the AP reports. "The educational aspect of this whole mission is what inspires me the most," Bass said Thursday. "The education that I'm going to be doing is more like physics studies on video, just being able to talk live with people down in their schools on the ham radio. Just letting them...see what it's like to be in zero-gravity, to know what it's like to train to become a cosmonaut/astronaut." As for space motion sickness, "If I get sick, I get sick...but I have a stomach of steel."
Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard will replace Liam Neeson in Morgan Creek Prods.' Horror prequel Exorcist: The Beginning, The Hollywood Reporter reports. The project traces the story of Father Merrin (Skarsgard) and his first encounter with the devil while doing missionary work in post-World War II Africa. While there, Merrin's post-war experiences cause him to lose his faith, and he fights to save his beliefs when he meets the devil. A new production schedule conflicts with Neeson's commitment to the British film Love Actually.
Variety reports that Brad Pitt has jumped ship on director Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain and will likely land at another Warner Bros. project, Troy, playing Greek hero Achilles for director Wolfgang Petersen. The actor apparently expressed concerns about the complex Fountain script, which Aronofsky cowrote. This is the latest problem The Fountain has had: the studio temporarily pulled the plug when the budget crept up, the script had development troubles and co-star Cate Blanchett became pregnant.
Just after CBS announced its planned reality-series revival of The Beverly Hillbillies, Variety reports Fox Broadcasting said it is developing a nonfiction comedy based on another hickfest, Green Acres. The show will take a rich, upper-class family or person--maybe a celebrity--and give them a new spartan lifestyle, most likely in the South. Cameras will follow the upper crust folks as they try to get a job, buy groceries and fit in with average Americans. "I see a limo with a U-Haul attached," said Green Acres executive producer Jon Murray. "It's like when the first George Bush went to the supermarket and (apparently) didn't understand what a scanner was."
American Idol fever was hot, hot, hot Wednesday as the Fox TV talent search narrowed its list of contenders to two, Reuters reports. In a development that fans called a no-brainer, fuchsia-haired finalist Nikki McKibbin was voted off the show, leaving Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini to vie for a major-label recording contract. An estimated 16.7 million people--the show's biggest audience yet--tuned in to see Nikki get nixed, making Idol the most-watched show of the night and likely the most-watched show of the week, according to data-tracking firm Nielsen Media Research. Next Tuesday marks the show's singing finale, followed by Wednesday's two-hour finale broadcast live from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.
Jed Clampett and family returned to television after a decade in syndicated reruns to help solve the energy crisis in their own rustic ways. Buddy Ebsen, Nancy Culp and Donna Douglas reprised their roles as Jed Clampett, Jane Hathaway and Elly May Clampett. Imogene Coca came aboard as Granny's hundred-year-old Maw (Irene Ryan, who had played Granny, had died in 1973), and Ray Young is the new Jethro, in place of Max Baer (who had left acting to get into the production end of films). This pilot to a prospective new "Beverly Hillbillies" series originally was titled "Solving the Energy Crisis."