CBS Defends Firing “CSI” Stars, Shyamalan Documentary a Hoax, “Superman” Finds Director, More…

CBS defends firing CSI stars

CBS chief Leslie Moonves defended the network’s firing of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation stars Jorja Fox and George Eads, describing the decision as a move to help the TV industry draw the fiscal line. The two stars were canned last week after they failed to report for work on the upcoming season (while star Marg Helgenberger reported to work as scheduled). Deals with Fox and Eads, who had been on the show since its debut four years ago, had two more seasons to go on their existing contracts. The actors reportedly wanted a raise in their $100,000-per-episode pay. Moonves told the Television Critics Association on Sunday discussions had been under way with their lawyers and there were certain “veiled threats about their not showing up.” He said their contracts were renegotiated after two years and a raise was offered for this fifth season, even though there was no contractual obligation to do so. “There comes a point where we feel a contract is a contract,” Moonves said. Moonves added Fox and Eads have not been recast but hinted it was possible cast members Eric Szmanda and Paul Guilfoyle might play bigger roles, The Associated Press reports. When asked to comment, Carmine Giovinazzo, who stars in the CSI spinoff CSI NY, said: “I’d be shining Moonves‘ shoes and caddying for him every weekend if I was making that much money.”

Sci Fi’s Shyamalan documentary a hoax

The Sci Fi Channel admitted that it perpetuated a fictitious feud with filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan in order to promote its three-hour mockumentary The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan. It all started in December, when Sci Fi announced The Sixth Sense director had agreed to participate in a documentary about his life to coincide with the release of The Village on July 30. Last month, network reps said Shyamalan walked off the documentary when the questions got too personal and said they would never work with the director again. Sci Fi prexy Bonnie Hammer told the AP Friday she was in on the hoax from the start and takes responsibility for deceiving the public. “Perhaps we might have taken the guerilla campaign one step too far,” she said. “We thought it would create controversy.”

Superman finally finds a director

X-Men director Bryan Singer has signed on to helm Warner Bros.’ next Superman movie, Reuters reports. Although there is no scheduled start date for the project, Singer‘s commitment throws his next two projects, WB’s Logan’s Run and Fox’s X-Men 3, into limbo. Superman‘s script will likely be the project’s most time-consuming element, which will inevitably determine any production start. He was scheduled to direct the third X-Men installment for a May 5, 2006 release. Singer replaces Charlie’s Angels director McG, who dropped out last week ago over budget and location issues. Directors Tim Burton and Brett Ratner were also at one point attached to the project.

M-I:3 looking for new director

Paramount Pictures, meanwhile, has hit a snag with its 2005 summer tentpole, Mission: Impossible 3. Reuters reports helmer Joe Carnahan has dropped out of the director’s seat because of “creative differences.” But Rob Friedman, vice chairman of the Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group, said shooting on the blockbuster Tom Cruise franchise will begin as planned next month in Berlin. The news comes shortly after Paramount announced it was shifting the film’s release date by seven weeks, moving it from its May slot to June 29, 2005. In M-I:3, Cruise reprises his role as secret agent Ethan Hunt, with Scarlett Johansson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kenneth Branagh and Ving Rhames rounding out the cast. Brian De Palma directed the 1996 original, while John Woo helmed the 2000 sequel.

Ulrich and Mustain feud heats up–again

Former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, who was fired from the band in the early ’80s and went on to form Megadeth, isn’t happy with the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Mustain told Record Collector magazine last week he considered the inclusion of a scene in which he and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich hash out their differences a “final betrayal” because he had asked that the band cut it from the film. Ulrich told the group considered Mustain’s request to cut the scene but decided it was too important to leave out. Ulrich also said he was shocked by Mustaine’s on-camera outburst: “I was stunned by the fact that when he looked back on his 15 years of being in a very successful hard rock band called Megadeth, that the main thing that he saw in that rear-view mirror was Metallica.”

CBS to fight Super Bowl fines

CBS prexy Leslie Moonves was busy Sunday defending CBS’ firing of two CSI stars, but he also took time to tell the Television Critics Association that the network would fight any fines leveled against its television stations over Janet Jackson’s startling Super Bowl performance. CBS could face a Federal Communications Commission fine of $550,000 or a maximum penalty of $27,500 for each of 20 CBS-owned stations, the AP reports. “We think the idea of a fine for that is patently ridiculous and we’re not going to stand for it,” Moonves said. “We’re going to take that to the courts if it happens. … It’s perilously dangerous.” Moonves said that while the network regretted the Jackson incident and has added a five-second precautionary delay for live events, such an approach is not feasible for news or sports, the AP reports.

Data visits Enterprise

Brent Spiner, best know for his role as Lt. Cmdr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, is set to make an appearance on UPN’s Star Trek: Enterprise this fall. In a guest-starring role sure to lure die-hard Trekkies, Spiner will playing the great-great-grandfather of Dr. Noonien Soong–the creator of Data. Spiner previously played Dr. Soong in an episode of Next Generation. According to Reuters, there has been a lot of speculation about Star Trek veteran William Shatner possibly be beaming onto Enterprise, but sources indicated there are no immediate plans for a guest appearance. The show was originally scheduled for 9 p.m. Fridays in the fall, but will now air at 8 p.m., most likely to avoid going head-to-head with the Sci Fi network’s veteran series, Stargate: SG1.

Fan Web sites in catfight

The fan Web site Ain’t-It-Cool-News, which is known for trashing films before they are released via anonymous reviews, appears to have been the butt of a joke last week. Variety reports members of posted three fake reviews for 20th Century Fox’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Alien vs. Predator without having seen the film. Ain’t-It-Cool quickly posted the reviews, along with two that appear to be real. then revealed the plot in a rambling post on its Web site, along with a racist and personal attack on Ain’t-It-Cool West Coast editor Drew McWeeny, who removed the reviews soon thereafter. But according to McWeeny, Ain’t-It-Cool the ruse won’t get the Web site to start playing by Hollywood’s rules. “There’s a democracy to what we do that gives a voice to the average filmgoer, even people who get excited in a theater and write for the first time,” McWeeny told Variety.