News, Sept. 8: Bacall Says Kidman Is No Screen Legend, Spike Lee Doesn’t Hold Grudge Against Wenders, Jackson Admits Settling Past Claims, More…

Bacall says Kidman is no screen ‘legend’

Lauren Bacall, who was in Venice, Italy with Nicole Kidman to promote their new film Birth, said in an interview she considers her 37-year-old co-star a friend, but not a screen legend. Bacall, who was once married to Humphrey Bogart and has starred in films such as The Big Sleep and Key Largo, became irritated Wednesday when an interviewer for Britain’s GMTV referred to Kidman as “a legend,” The Associated Press reports. “She’s not a legend,” Bacall said, cutting off reporter Jenni Falconer in mid-sentence. “She’s a beginner. What is this ‘legend’? She can’t be a legend at whatever age she is. She can’t be a legend, you have to be older.” The 79-year-old Bacall insisted she and Kidman get along famously. “I love working with a young actress,” she said. “Nicole and I worked together on Dogville and we were friends when we started this. That laid the groundwork for our fabulous relationship on screen and off.” In Birth, Kidman plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy. Bacall also griped when the interviewer asked the film’s cast and crew who they would like to come back as if they could be reincarnated. “It’s not a fascinating question,” she said. “No offense.”

Spike Lee doesn’t hold grudge against Wim Wenders

Filmmaker Spike Lee rebuffed speculations he could use his position on the jury of the Venice Film Festival to take revenge on director Wim Wenders for denying Do the Right Thing the Palme d’Or at Cannes 15 years ago. “That was 1989, it’s history,” Lee told Reuters in an interview. At the time, the Cannes jury–headed by Wenders–awarded Sex, Lies, and Videotape the top prize. Lee accused the judges of bigotry and reportedly joked: “Somewhere in my closet I have a Louisville Slugger with (Wenders) name on it.” At Venice, Wenders is competing with Land of Plenty, which takes a critical look at post-Sept. 11 America.

Jackson acknowledges settling past claims

Michael Jackson, who is facing child-molestation allegations, launched a preemptive strike last Friday by releasing six-paragraph statement acknowledging he had reached financial settlements in the past–just hours before Dateline NBC broadcast a extensive report alleging the singer paid the son of a Neverland Ranch employee $2 million in 1990 to avoid a child-molestation accusation. Although he made no direct reference to the broadcast, Jackson said he felt the need to “respond to untruths and sensationalism” and questioned the timing and motive of this report. “Years ago, I settled with certain individuals because I was concerned about my family and the media scrutiny that would have ensued if I fought the matter in court,” the 45-year-old entertainer said. “These people wanted to exploit my concern for children by threatening to destroy what I believe in and what I do. I have been a vulnerable target for those who want money.”

Dirty Shame gets NC-17 rating

The producer of the upcoming Fine Line comedy A Dirty Shame has accused the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) of bowing to political pressure by giving the film an NC-17 rating, Reuters reports. “I think that even just two years ago, the MPAA would have given (Dirty Shame) an R,” Christine Vachon said. “I think the pressure has to do with the current administration, and (there is) this encroaching feeling constantly of the notion of family values.” The film, in which a horde of sex addicts invades a blue-collar neighborhood in Baltimore, was handed the NC-17 tag because of “pervasive sexual content.” Vachon added that the NC-17 rating practically wipes out a film’s commercial potential because some theaters will not screen it, some papers will not carry ads for it, and Blockbuster does not stock NC-17 films. A Dirty Shame premieres Sept. 24.

Sony still in the running to buy MGM

Sony Corp. announced Wednesday it was still in negotiations to buy the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. film studio, Reuters reports. Sony is in talks to buy MGM for around $5 billion with partners Texas Pacific Group and Providence Equity Partners, but the two sides have been unable to hammer out an agreement. MGM has been in protracted merger talks with the group led by Sony as well as, more recently, with Time Warner. Sources close to the talks have told Reuters Time Warner is now seen as the more likely candidate to buy MGM.

Time delay scheduled for NFL kickoff

Stemming from the “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl in February, ABC and the NFL announced there will be a 10-second delay in the telecast of the hour-long NFL Opening Kickoff, the live musical event airing Thursday, to rule out any misbehavior. Performers include Mary J. Blige, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz and Toby Keith, along with a newly reunited Destiny’s Child. The season’s first game has last year’s champions, the New England Patriots, playing host to the Indianapolis Colts.

Barr, Carey headline New York Comedy Festival

Roseanne Barr, Drew Carey, Denis Leary, Paul Mooney, Mo’Nique and New York’s shock-jock team Opie and Anthony will light up the inaugural New York Comedy Festival (Nov. 9-13), organizers told the Hollywood Reporter. Opie and Anthony, who recently unveiled plans for a new show on XM Satellite Radio, will host The Passion of Opie & Anthony live from the festival. Starring in the show will be such comedians as Jim Norton, Rich Vos and Jim Breuer. According to the Reporter, the radio DJs were fired by Infinity Broadcasting in August 2002 after they broadcast a couple purportedly having sex in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Kit Bowen contributed to this report.