News, July 15: “Sopranos” Frontrunners for Emmys, “Exorcist” Suit Settled at 11th Hour, Diana Ross Breath Test Results Admissible, More…

Top Story: Sopranos Frontrunners for Emmys

With three previous nominations and nothing to show for them, could this be the year HBO’s critically acclaimed series The Sopranos finally gets its Emmy for best drama? Nominations for the 55th annual Emmy Awards will be announced Thursday and fortunately for the network, the mob drama is looking like an early frontrunner for television’s highest honors. The Sopranos, which returned last season after a yearlong production hiatus with a fresh crop of episodes, faces stiff competition from NBC’s three-time winner The West Wing; returning NBC nominee Law & Order; Fox’s espionage thriller 24; last year’s most nominated show, HBO’s funereal drama Six Feet Under; CBS’ ratings hit CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; and HBO’s newcomer series The Wire.The 55th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 21 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and will be telecast on Fox.

Exorcist Settled at 11th Hour

Warner Bros. and Exorcist director William Friedkin and author William Blatty announced Monday they settled their lawsuit over profit participation–just one day before the trial was scheduled to begin in L.A. Superior Court. According to Variety, neither side disclosed any of the financial details of the settlement. The case revolved around Friedkin‘s and Blatty‘s profits on The Exorcist–The Version You’ve Never Seen. The duo claimed the studio breached its fiduciary duty by self-dealing the rights for a newer version of the film. They also claimed the studio would sell the rights to its sister cable TV networks TNT and TBS for little to no profit.

Diana Ross Breath Tests OK’d

A judge has ruled that results of breath tests taken during Diana Ross‘s arrest on suspicion of drunk driving Dec. 30 in Tucson, Ariz., are admissible as evidence in court, AP reports. Ross, 59, has pleaded innocent to the three DUI-related charges. Her lawyer was seeking to have the tests results thrown out on the grounds that police didn’t have a search warrant and intimidated Ross into taking the test, but the judge denied the motion, saying the singer didn’t look scared. Officers on the scene wrote in their report the singer was unable to walk a straight line and fell while trying to stand on one leg and count to 10.

Firm Offers IPO To Finance Film

Civilian Pictures Inc., an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Civilian Capital, plans an initial public offering of shares in a company whose sole purpose will be to produce a movie based on the novel Billy Dead, Reuters reports. The Los Angeles firm said on its Web site ( it would offer 900,000 shares at $8.75 per share for Billy Dead Inc. Investors must purchase at least 100 shares. The company hopes to raise about $7.3 million to make the pic. Barry Poltermann, Civilian’s founder and chief executive, says, “You should purchase shares only if you can afford a complete loss” since indie films are a risky venture.

ABC Gets Lesson in Reality

At the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Hollywood Monday, ABC executives said they walked away from the 2002-03 season with two valuable lessons: 1) don’t move an established drama, and 2) reality TV is not a cure-all. ABC Entertainment Television Group chairman Lloyd Braun admitted that the network’s decision to switch the hit legal drama The Practice from Sundays to Mondays not only ticked off the show’s writer/producer David E. Kelley, but led to a plunge in the ratings (the series will be back at its 10 p.m. Sunday slot for the 2003-04 season). Braun also said the network learned from last spring’s reality series Are You Hot?: The Search for America’s Sexiest People that reality TV actually has to be good to make it. One show the alphabet net is revamping is the drama pilot 111 Gramercy Park, like an Upstairs, Downstairs set in New York’s posh Upper West Side.

Will the Real Shady Please Stand Up?

Eminem is facing a lawsuit from a Nevada-based sports apparel company over the use of the name Shady Ltd. for the rapper’s new clothing line, reports. Shady Inc., which sells T-shirts and hats in Nevada stores and over the Internet, claims that they’ve been using the name, which they trademarked in 2001, for four years. The company filed a lawsuit in January in Nevada federal court after learning Eminem intended to launch a clothing line using the Shady name. Eminem, who is also known as Slim Shady, has since launched his Shady Ltd. clothing line in more than 400 stores.

Role Call: Betty Thomas Helms Smoker, Weaver Joins Woods

I Spy director Betty Thomas will helm The Smoker for Paramount Pictures. The pic, developed as a potential starring vehicle for Natalie Portman, is about a senior at a prestigious all-girls school who wants to arrange her own marriage–to her English teacher … Sigourney Weaver joins Ashton Kutcher, Joaquin Phoenix and William Hurt in writer/director M. Night Shyamalan‘s The WoodsJohnny Messner is in negotiations to star in Anacondas, a sequel to the 1997 horror-thriller Anaconda. Messner joins Morris Chestnut, Nicholas Gonzalez, Eugene Byrd, Salli Richardson, Kadee Strickland and newcomer Carl Yune in the film’s cast.