News, June 26: Chris Rock To Host MTV Video Awards, Eastwood’s “Mystic River” Opens NYFF, Miramax Acquires Musical “Pippen,” More…

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, 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.