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week 13-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

SALMA HAYEK has been learning to paint and has acquired a pet monkey in preparation for her role as the bisexual Mexican artist FRIDA KAHLO. Hayek, who co-produces and stars in Frida, is ahead of JENNIFER LOPEZ as they vie to be first on the screen with a film about the tortured painter. Lopez does not start filming The Two Fridas until September while Hayek, who has been working on the project for six years, begins shooting her film in Mexico City next week. Co-starring with her will be the British actor ALFRED MOLINA as her husband DIEGO RIVERA and GEOFFREY RUSH as the Russian revolutionary LEON TROTSKY.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and MICHAEL DOUGLAS plan to spent the next three months at their home in Majorca with baby Dylan. The Welsh actress has just finished work on America's Sweethearts with JULIA ROBERTS, and Douglas has only two days' work remaining on the thriller Don't Say a Word, which he is filming in Toronto. They will not return to their Los Angeles home until June, when Zeta-Jones is due to begin promotional appearances for America's Sweethearts.

BRITNEY SPEARS has learned how to cry on cue for her first film role, in which the 19-year-old singer plays a student on the road with two friends. ``We all have inner demons, things that make us upset, and I just picture them and put them in my throat,'' she tells the May issue of Glamour magazine. ``I use a different demon every time - like, if I'm stressed out about something, or I miss my mom.'' She says her busy schedule means she does not have as much time as she would like to spend with her 'N Sync boyfriend JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. ``We try to soak up as much time as we can, but it still doesn't seem enough,'' she says. ``We go out to dinner and try and have a normal relationship.''

The heirs to Gone With the Wind author MARGARET MITCHELL are trying to stop the publication of a new novel which retells part of the epic Civil War romance from a slave's perspective. The Wind Done Gone, by ALICE RANDALL, is narrated by a slave at Tara. Descendants of Mitchell, who died in 1949, have filed a lawsuit in Atlanta, Georgia, claiming the book violates the copyright of the original by incorporating many plot scenes, lines and characters. The original Gone With the Wind was published in 1936 and the film version had its premiere in 1939. Both sparked criticisms from civil rights leaders for their patronising attitudes towards the story's black characters.

NIGEL COLE, who directed last year's acclaimed drugs comedy Saving Grace, has been hired by the Walt Disney Company to direct the Women's Institute story The Calendar Girls. Based on a true incident last year, Calendar Girls tells of what happened when a group of middle-aged women posed naked for a charity calendar. Most of the women who posed for the calendar will be actively involved in the making of the film.

British actor ALFRED MOLINA may have a new career in US television portraying AGATHA CHRISTIE's detective Hercule Poirot. He has just finished the made-for-television film Murder on the Orient Express for the CBS network. If the ratings are good he will be in demand to continue as the Belgian supersleuth in other planned television adaptations of Christie's works. The new Murder on the Orient Express differs greatly from the 1974 film which starred ALBERT FINNEY. It has been updated and was filmed in Yorkshire. It co-stars MEREDITH BAXTER, LESLIE CARON and PETER STRAUSS.

RUSSELL CROWE could team up again with his Gladiator director RIDLEY SCOTT for a Walt Disney Company epic based on the exploits of the 17th-century pirate Captain William Kidd. Scott, who will be working with producer JERRY BRUCKHEIMER on the project, is said to want to work with Crowe again but the actor has numerous other commitments. If he is unavailable, TOM CRUISE, MEL GIBSON and HUGH JACKMAN are names also being mentioned in connection with the role.

BENICIO DEL TORO, who won the best supporting actor Oscar for playing a Mexican drug cop in Traffic, is to portray an assassin in his next role. Del Toro begins work later this month on The Hunted in which he co-stars with TOMMY LEE JONES. He plays an FBI deep-woods tracker on the trail of Del Toro's character who has made a sport of hunting humans.

TOM HANKS is unhappy with the moustache he has grown for his next film, The Road to Perdition. ``It's for the role. I would never do this for myself,'' he says. ``But my body is a canvas.'' Hanks, who lost and regained more than one stone in weight for Cast Away plays a hitman seeking revenge for the murder of his wife in the film, which is being directed by British Oscar winner SAM MENDES.

JENNIFER LOPEZ has been learning Krav Maga, the fighting system taught to Israeli forces, for her role as an abused wife who seeks revenge in the drama Enough. Lopez, who will be heading to England to promote her multi-platinum album J.Lo when she finishes filming, tells Daily Variety she is pleased to be playing the role of a victim. ``It's important,'' she says. ``When a woman falls in love, she gives up everything. And when she's betrayed...'' British director MICHAEL APTED says of the story: ``It's too important a subject to trivialise.''

Some of American's most famous comedians are backing Laugh.com, a website and record company dealing exclusively in comedy. PHYLLIS DILLER, GEORGE CARLIN, NORM CROSBY and RICH LITTLE are among the backers of the site, which will produce and sell comedy albums on the net and through traditional retail stores. Its first release will be a new comedy album from 82-year-old Academy Award-winning actor and comedian RED BUTTONS. But he admits he is not exactly an expert on the internet, and says: ``I've just learned to use the phone.''

The British actress SADIE FROST is following her husband, JUDE LAW, into the trenches of the Second World War for her next project. She is to co-star with LEELEE SOBIESKI, JAMES WOODS and DONALD SUTHERLAND in the TV mini-series Uprising, about the Warsaw ghetto insurrection. Filming begins in Slovakia early next month. Last year Frost spent four months with her husband in Germany near the Polish border where he filmed Enemy at the Gates, which portrayed the Battle of Stalingrad.

Although they have not yet decided on a joint movie project, MADONNA and her husband director GUY RITCHIE are continuing to work together. The couple, who teamed up for Madonna's latest video What It Feels Like for a Girl, in which she portrayed a deranged woman at the wheel of a car, are to collaborate on a commercial for BMW. No details are being released about how much they are being paid but it is likely to be one of the most expensive commercials ever made.

New best friends PAMELA ANDERSON and ELIZABETH HURLEY are hinting that they would like to do a film together. The couple caused a sensation for their outfits when they arrived together at ELTON JOHN's post-Oscar party. ``We had dinner last night and hit it off,'' Hurley told reporters. ``Maybe we should do a movie together.''

BILLY CRYSTAL, who turned over the Academy Awards emceeing duties to STEVE MARTIN because he was too busy, may return in the future. ``I'm not ruling myself out of doing the show again. I'm not giving up,'' he tells syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck. ``I just simply had too much going on this year.'' Crystal wrote and co-stars in American Sweethearts with CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and JULIA ROBERTS and has just finished directing the baseball film. He also did the voiceovers for the film Monsters Inc and is planning to work with Michael Douglas on a remake of the 1979 comedy The In-Laws.

JULIA ROBERTS and her boyfriend BENJAMIN BRATT left each other the morning after her best actress Oscar win and will be apart for the next two months. The actress begins works with fellow Oscar winner and Erin Brockovich director STEVEN SODERBERGH on the remake of Ocean's Eleven, while Bratt heads for Montreal to begin filming Abandon. It marks the directing debut of yet another of this year's Oscar winners, STEPHEN GAGHAN, who won for his Traffic screenplay. Bratt will play an alcoholic detective opposite co-star KATIE HOLMES in the story of a college student who wonders if she is responsible for two disappearances, including that of her lover.

Oscar winner RUSSELL CROWE, who is just starting work on A Beautiful Mind, will not play his character as a bisexual, despite a biography which claims he was. Crowe portrays JOHN FORBES NASH JR, a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who overcame schizophrenia. The film is based on a biography by SYLVIA NASAR, who describes a series of ``emotional attachments'' Nash had to other male students and his dismissal from a government think-tank after his arrest on indecent exposure charges. Nash, who is 72, denies he is bisexual, says producer BRIAN GRAZER, so that alleged aspect of his character is being omitted from the film. Grazer believes Crowe is the ideal actor for the role. ``He can say so much without even speaking,'' he says. ``Russell has met with John Nash and I think he's got his character down, pretty much perfectly.''

The little Mexican town of Real de Catorce is benefiting from being the location for much of the new BRAD PITT-JULIA ROBERTS film The Mexican. As soon as the film-makers arrived, the town in Mexico's north-central highlands, which had been waiting for telephone service for the past 20 years, was instantly connected. Locals are also expecting a boom in tourism and already the hotel where Roberts stayed is advertising her suite for $250 a night.

ROWAN ATKINSON is set to star with JACKIE CHAN in Highbinders, an action comedy due to film in Australia. Because it is being shot outside the US, neither actor is American and financing is coming from Hong Kong, the film will not be affected by the upcoming summer Screen Actors' Guild strike. The film is about a Chinese immigration officer who is killed and returns from the dead with superpowers.

STEVEN SPIELBERG reveals he offered the starring role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to STEVE McQUEEN, who turned it down, saying he wouldn't be able to cry on cue. The role went to RICHARD DREYFUSS, who cried when his character entered the alien spaceship. Spielberg tells the story in a 100-minute documentary which is part of a new collector's edition of the film that will be released on DVD in May. It will also include 11 scenes that were deleted from the original film.

JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT has taken a big step on the way to shedding her good-girl image with her new film Heartbreakers. ``In this movie I am the Girl Next Door gone very bad,'' Hewitt tells USA Today. ``My clothing is way more risque than anything I would ever wear.'' Hewitt, who made her name playing sweet Sarah on the TV family drama Party of Five, co-stars with SIGOURNEY WEAVER in the comedy about a mother-daughter team of confidence tricksters.

British director RIDLEY SCOTT's Roman epic Gladiator scooped the Oscar for best film award at the glittering annual Academy Awards. While the film won five titles, Scott missed out on the best director award on a disappointing night for British talent. RUSSELL CROWE was named best actor for Gladiator, while JULIA ROBERTS took the best actress prize for Erin Brockovich - both winning their first Oscars. Gladiator's haul included one of the few consolation prizes for Britain with JANTY YATES picking up an award for costume design. But ALBERT FINNEY was again left empty-handed after his fifth nomination. His role as a lawyer in Erin Brockovich was beaten to best supporting actor by BENICIO DEL TORO for his performance as a Mexican drug cop in Traffic. British film Billy Elliot had been shortlisted for three awards but its helmsman STEPHEN DALDRY lost out to STEVEN SODERBERGH who was named best director for Traffic. Soderbergh, whose film took four titles, said: ``Suddenly going to work tomorrow doesn't seem like such a great idea.'' The film-maker had been due to resume work on his remake of Ocean's Eleven. It was also a night of triumph for ANG LEE's Taiwanese martial arts fantasy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which landed four Oscars. They were best foreign-language film, best original music, best art direction and best cinematography.

Oscar-winner RUSSELL CROWE and ED HARRIS start work together on A Beautiful Mind in what producer BRIAN GRAZER admits is a delicate situation. Crowe plays the paranoid schizophrenic mathematics prodigy JOHN FORBES NASH JR, who won a Nobel Prize for his work but who lived on the streets. Harris, who was Oscar-nominated for playing the tortured painter JACKSON POLLOCK, has a supporting role as a powerful US military officer who tried to persuade Nash to help crack intelligence codes in the Cold War. ``It's an amazing coincidence,'' says Grazer of the stars' nominations for best actor.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, ANTONIO BANDERAS and ANTHONY HOPKINS are being asked to reunite for a sequel to the hit film The Mask of Zorro. The original 1998 film, which launched Zeta-Jones as an international star, grossed nearly 200 million worldwide. Director MARTIN CAMPBELL, who began his career directing the British TV series Minder and Bergerac, has agreed to return for another adventure of the masked avenger, and a script is currently being written.

The British comedy writing team of DICK CLEMENT and IAN LA FRENAIS have written Jailhouse Rock, a new musical based on the 1957 Elvis Presley film. Clement and La Frenais have written the script for the show, which will include JERRY LEIBER and MIKE STOLLER's songs from the movie with additional music from a mystery Grammy-winning composer. Like the 1957 movie, the story will focus on a pair of star-crossed lovers, one of whom begins a journey to rock stardom while serving time for a crime he didn't commit. Jailhouse Rock will have its first public performance in Los Angeles in September and there are plans for a national tour and Broadway production to follow.

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA is to release a new version of his classic 1979 Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now with many new scenes added. At three hours 17 minutes, it is 53 minutes longer than the original and will contain more of MARLON BRANDO and more humorous scenes, according to COPPOLA. There is also more detail of MARTIN SHEEN and his fellow soldiers. ``We re-edited the film from the original, unedited raw footage and the themes merge more clearly and the film is funnier, more romantic and more political, with more historical perspective,'' he tells Daily Variety. ``We felt now that some of the real unusual things we had in the original cut would bring it back to a level of avant garde and length that it lacked.''

TOM HANKS is deciding whether to star in and produce the drama Khe Sanh, about how a priest's faith is challenged by his experiences in the Vietnam war. The screenplay has been written by WILLIAM BROYLES JR, who wrote Cast Away, for which Hanks was Oscar-nominated for a best actor. It will be directed by another of this year's Oscar nominees, EDWARD ZWICK, who produced the best picture contender Traffic. Khe Sanh is told through the eyes of Ray Stubbe, a Navy Chaplain who served at Khe Sang through one of the most bitterly fought battles of the war. Stubbe, who held as many as a dozen prayer sessions daily, kept a diary of his time in Vietnam which is the basis for the film.

BILLY BOB THORNTON has replaced ROBERT DE NIRO in the role of a Southern racist who falls in love with the widow of an executed criminal in Monster's Ball. De Niro dropped out when his friend SEAN PENN changed his mind and decided not to direct it. HALLE BERRY, who will soon be returning as Storm in X-Men, will play the dead man's widow.


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