NEWSMAKERS: Iger named Disney chief

There’s a new player in Disney’s executive game of musical chairs. Chief Michael Eisner has named ABC chief Robert Iger as president, filling the hole left by Michael Ovitz when he jumped ship in 1996, says The Associated Press.

Iger‘s appointment, along with other managerial promotions, is expected to help the entertainment giant overcome its recent troubles, which included sagging stock prices and the departure of Disney studio chief Joe Roth. Seems things are already in turnaround: Disney also announced a 7 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.

INDUSTRIAL COUPLE: Time Warner, which already seems to own everything, is making another deal — this time with British music giant EMI. It was announced today that the two would merge music businesses to create a new monster — er, company, worth $20 billion.

Time Warner, whose labels include Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic and Rhino and is home to Madonna and Alanis Morissette, will now be able to add EMI’s Garth Brooks, the Beastie Boys and legacies such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to its family.

The new giant will be called Warner EMI Music, according to Daily Variety. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year. No word if this marriage will result in some new duets: for instance, guitar crooner Jewel giving props with rapper Master P, or the Spice Girls with that other seasoning group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

GOLDEN COUPLE? The most intriguing pair at Sunday’s Golden Globes was Jodie Foster and Russell Crowe, who arrived at the ceremony cozily hand-in-hand. Those who watched the broadcast through its credits also caught a glimpse of Crowe, 35, pointing and smiling at the camera, then pulling Foster, 37, in for a whisper or nuzzle, we couldn’t tell. Was it staged?

“That was the intention,” the best dramatic actor nominee (“The Insider“) told the New York Daily News of the sensation they created. Foster joked, “He paid me.”

For the record, Foster‘s rep says the two are friends and might be pairing up for a film. Well, let’s hope it’s a love story, because they did look mighty fine together.

GOLDEN COUPLE, PART II: We told you last week the rumor about Jim Carrey, 37, giving Renée Zellweger, 30, a $200,000 diamond “friendship ring.” The couple was asked about the ring — and their status — at the Golden Globes. “Yeah, wasn’t it nice?” Zellweger said on the red carpet, holding out her hand — only to show no ring in sight. The two laughed about it but would only say that they’re “friends.” Still, 22 million people saw the Golden Globe winner (for “Man on the Moon“) give his “friend” a big smooch on the lips before accepting his award.

LITTLE MAN FARROW: Mia Farrow‘s son might be heading off to college. But she’ll have to drive him, since he’s only 12 years old. Seamus Farrow has applied to attend Columbia University in the fall and already takes college classes in Massachusetts. But his mother worries about it; not the difficulty level, but the arduous commute to New York City from their home in Bridgewater, Conn.

“It’s such a long ride,” she told the New York Daily News. “Part of me would like to put it off, but he’s intent on going.”

CELTIC PRIDE: Gabriel Byrne is proud to be an Irishman — so proud, in fact, that he’s taking shots at everyone else going Irish.

The 49-year-old actor, who last played Satan in the actioner “End of Days,” is a bit perturbed about his homeland’s use in Hollywood and speaks his mind in an interview in Irish America magazine. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing that Mel Gibson and Steven Spielberg came to Ireland to shoot ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” he said. “Spielberg shot there because it was cheap, and he got to use the Irish Army. I don’t like to see the country being used as a cheap location for huge multi-million dollar movies.”

He also isn’t keen on non-Irish actors playing Irish characters. “There are a lot of really brilliant Irish actors and actresses that never get a chance to do anything.” Despite his love for Frank McCourt’s book “Angela’s Ashes,” he fired off about the film adaptation. “An Irish movie?” said Byrne. “It’s directed by an Englishman, Alan Parker. The screenplay is by an American writer (Laura Jones). It has a Scottish actor (Robert Carlyle) playing the father and an English actress (Emily Watson) playing the mother.” We’re just glad no one asked him to rate Brad Pitt‘s much-criticized brogue in “The Devil’s Own.” —