News Roundup: June 27


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Actor Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf the Grey in Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy, said the title for the second film will not be changed despite an online petition urging the director to rename it. Fans apparently wanted the film, titled The Two Towers, renamed after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center last year. But McKellen wrote in his online journal at, “The notion that the title should be changed in respect to New York City’s sensibilities has rightly been resisted.” The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which stars McKellen, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee and Sean Astin, will be released in the United States on Dec. 18.


Grammy-winning R&B singer R. Kelly pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of child pornography during a brief hearing Wednesday at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. Kelly was arrested in Florida on June 5 in connection with a videotape he allegedly made with an underage girl and remains free on bond pending an Aug. 7 hearing, Reuters reports. If convicted, the 35-year-old singer could face up to 15 years in prison.


Penelope Spheeris will direct a film based on Sex Pistol frontman Johnny Rotten’s autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rotten, whose real name is John Lydon, will be active as the film’s creative consultant and will oversee the development of the film and the script.

Warner Bros. is planning a feature film based on Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall‘s Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which has grossed more than $12 million and produced a best-selling live album. According to Variety, the as-yet-untitled movie will be directed by C.B. Harding, who helmed last season’s MTV reality series The Osbournes.

Dubbed one of the richest deals in history, filmmaker Ivan Reitman‘s production company, The Montecito Picture Company, has acquired The Ugly Americans from three former Seinfeld scribes for an astonishing $3 million, Variety reports. The script, written by Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, caused fever-pitch bidding among studios, including Universal, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema and Revolution.

Dennis Quaid is in talks to star in 20th Century Fox’s big-budget feature The Day After Tomorrow, a high-concept film about the disastrous effects of global warming, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Budgeted somewhere upward of $100 million, the film will be directed by Roland Emmerich, who helmed The Patriot, Godzilla and Independence Day.

New Line Cinema’s family-friendly drama Secondhand Lions is scheduled to begin shooting in late September in Texas, Variety reports. Oscar winners Robert Duvall and Michael Caine will star as eccentric great-uncles taking care of Haley Joel Osment one summer. The studio is aiming for a late 2003 or early 2004 release.


The Sci Fi Channel is jumping on the reality-TV bandwagon this fall by introducing a new weekly primetime half-hour show titled Scare Tactics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show, billed as a sci-fi version of Candid Camera, will be hosted by former Charmed star Shannen Doherty.