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week 14-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES is being mentioned as a possible contender for one of the two starring roles in the film musical Chicago. Other actresses in contention who can also sing and dance include CAMERON DIAZ, GWYNETH PALTROW, JENNIFER LOPEZ and NICOLE KIDMAN. The long-delayed film, set in Chicago in the 1920s, is to begin shooting with a script written by Oscar-winning Gods and Monsters writer BILL CONDON.

Miramax boss HARVEY WEINSTEIN is financing the project and heading the search for the two actresses to play Velma and Roxie, a vaudevillian and chorus girl. Both committed murders and became famous in the story about a legal system riddled with corruption. The original BOB FOSSE musical won two Tony Awards in 1977 and a Broadway revival two decades later won six more.

HEATH LEDGER is heading back to Australia for a six-month rest now he has finished filming The Four Feathers in Morocco for director SHEKHAR KAPUR. ``It was hairy and heavy,'' he says of the long and gruelling shooting schedule. ``But the movie is wonderful.'' The actor plays an army officer who resigns his post just before battle in the British Empire's reconquest of Sudan at the end of the 19th century. He is given four white feathers by his friends and fiancee as symbols of what they believe to be his cowardice. Ledger, who has been working almost non-stop for 18 months, said in an interview in Los Angeles just before boarding a plane home: ``Now it's time for me to chill out. ``I've been dreaming of warm sun and surf. I just want to sit in the ocean on my surf board.''

BILLY IDOL, the one-time punk rock icon, is back in the recording studio and the public eye after several years of inactivity. He is working on his first album in seven years and is the subject of a Behind the Music documentary to be screened on the VH1 music network. ``Maybe it just looks like a lot of action after a lot of inaction, '' says Idol, whose hits include Rebel Yell and White Wedding. ``Mainly, I got caught up in a situation where I was on Chrysalis, which was an independent record company but it was sold to one of those big, faceless corporations,'' he tells US columnist MARILYN BECK. ``They sacked everybody I knew and moved their head offices to New York. I work best with people who are seriously into making music, not washing machines.'' Idol, whose turbulent life has included brushes with the law and a near-fatal motorcycle crash, says he does not know how the TV documentary will turn out. ``They always dig for as much dirt as they can get,'' he says. He agreed to be interviewed for it because of what he calls ``the witness dynamic''. He explains: ``It's better I tell them what they want than have them make me look like a liar.''

The Brazilian actress SONIA BRAGA is to join the women on the hit television series Sex and the City in a recurring role. She says she was offered the role because of her friend CHRIS NOTH, who plays Mr Big on the show. ``I don't know much about the role but the promise is that I'm going to have some sex. That's why I took it,'' she tells columnist MARILYN BECK. Braga, whose films include Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Milagro Beanfield War, added: ``I said, `I'm not going to be the Hispanic mother who cares so much about the kids she doesn't even think about sex anymore, am I? No? OK, then!'''

The Oscar-winning British film producer JAKE EBERTS is developing a TV documentary about the German-Jewish actor-director KURT GERRON which he hopes to turn into a feature film. Gerron, who acted in The Blue Angel with MARLENE DIETRICH, and directed 20 films, was coerced into making a 1944 propaganda film for his Nazi captors while imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Hundreds of prisoners were enlisted in the project as actors and extras because the camp housed many prominent Jewish performers and artists. Eberts, whose films include Chariots of Fire, Chicken Run and The Legend of Bagger Vance, begins work next week on the documentary. He will film interviews with concentration camp survivors in the Czech Republic, Holland, Denmark, Germany and Israel, and aims to begin production on the feature film in April 2002. ``We believe that this largely unknown story deserves to be told, '' he tells the Hollywood Reporter. ``We are launching both a documentary and feature because the character's main dilemma - a Jewish director drafted to create a piece of propaganda for the Nazis - has tremendous dramatic possibilities. ``We want to document the project to hear from the survivors of this extraordinary piece of history while they're still with us to tell the story first hand.''

JODIE FOSTER's pregnancy has caused her to postpone her long-running plans to film the Depression era circus story Flora Plum. The 38-year-old actress and film-maker is expecting her second child in November. As with her first child, Charlie, who will be three in July, she is not revealing the name of the father. ``I enjoyed being pregnant with Charlie and I look forward to this experience again,'' the double Oscar-winner told gossip columnist LIZ SMITH. ``I am into all the health foods, yoga and the rest of it.'' Flora Plum was about to go before the cameras last year with Foster producing and directing, but the film's star RUSSELL CROWE had to back out because of a shoulder injury. Attempts to get the production back on track failed, so Foster accepted other acting roles. She is filming The Panic Room in Los Angeles, having stepped in to replace the injured Nicole Kidman. When she finishes in June she is planning to take a year off work.

JENNIFER LOPEZ has abandoned her plans to portray Mexican artist FRIDA KAHLO because a rival production starring SALMA HAYEK is already under way. Hayek's Frida, which is being directed by JULIE TAYMOR, has an all-star cast, including the British actor ALFRED MOLINA, as Kahlo's husband DIEGO RIVERA, GEOFFREY RUSH, EDWARD NORTON and ASHLEY JUDD. Instead, Lopez is negotiating to star as an FBI agent for British film-maker TONY SCOTT in the crime thriller Taking Lives. She is expected to earn more than 10 million dollars for the film, in which she will portray an FBI profiler on the trail of a prolific murderer who kills strangers and assumes their identities. Scott has wanted to make the film for several years and previously tried to hire GWYNETH PALTROW and CATE BLANCHETT for the starring role. Lopez is currently working with another British director, MICHAEL APTED, on the drama-thriller Enough.

JOHN LE CARRE was initially opposed to the idea of casting PIERCE BROSNAN as the seedy British spy in the film adaptation of his novel The Tailor of Panama. Le Carre disliked The Thomas Crown Affair and is bored by the JAMES BOND films, he told the Los Angeles Times. But he quickly changed his mind after meeting Brosnan in the California town of Ojai. ``When I walked with Pierce, I thought there was so much of a man there,'' he said. ``With his classical training and background, he saw the part as a showcase for rage. ``It is daring for him to go against the Bond image. He made a fool of Bond in the post-Cold War world with this role. He removed the hypocritical padding from Bond to reveal him in his nakedness.''

ROBERT CARLYLE, who has appeared in mainly dramatic roles since The Full Monty, is returning to comedy. The Scottish actor is to play an out-of-luck British director in Das Cowboy, about the making of a western movie full of colourful characters. An Italian porn queen, a Japanese samurai and an American cowboy star hired out of a Los Angeles retirement home all feature. Filming will take place in Spain and London.

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER's 1975 musical comedy By Jeeves has been filmed for television. Starring veteran British stage actor MARTIN JARVIS as Jeeves, it will have its premiere on Canadian television later this year. It is likely to be shown in Britain and then the US. By Jeeves is the fourth Lloyd Webber musical to be filmed for TV, following Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Starlight Express will be filmed later this year. The flashily dressed drug baron Superfly is returning to the big screen in a script written by Oscar-wining Schindler's List screenwriter STEVE ZAILLIAN. A 1972 film about the heroin kingpin and a 1973 sequel both starred RON O'NEAL. No casting has yet been announced for the new version, which is based on an article in New York magazine.

FRANK LUCAS, who earned his Superfly nickname because of the way he dressed, made a fortune by travelling to Asia's Golden Triangle and shipping heroin back to the US in the coffins of soldiers killed in Vietnam. He was trailed by lawman RICHIE ROBERTS, who finally helped bring him to justice. The two then worked together to expose the crooked cops who made importing heroin so easy.

Romancing a superhero isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to Spiderman co-star KIRSTEN DUNST. ``I've been in the pouring rain in skimpy outfits, night shooting, getting my close-ups at 6.30am and seriously hard stuff,'' says 18-year-old Dunst, who plays Mary Jane opposite TOBEY MAGUIRE's Spiderman. The actress tells Entertainment Weekly that kissing a man in a spider suit tough. ``Tobey was inside his Spiderman suit and I had to pull down his mask to his lips,'' she says. ``He was gasping for breath in between kisses because he was hanging upside down and we were in the rain. It was not a romantic kind of feeling.''

GWYNETH PALTROW and her former boyfriend JASON BLUM got together again in New York to go and see TOM STOPPARD's play The Invention of Love. Blum 31, is the film producer Paltrow dated in 1997, shortly after she and Brad Pitt broke up. After the play they went on to a party where they chatted with Stoppard, who co-wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, and the British actor ALAN RICKMAN. A mutual confidante says Paltrow and Blum are ``just old friends. They were catching up''.

KATE HUDSON, who won an Oscar nomination for her role as Penny Lane in Almost Famous, is already a Hollywood producer. The daughter of Goldie Hawn, Hudson is to produce and star in the romantic comedy Last Call for the Walt Disney Co. No leading man has yet been cast for the story of two escorts from heaven - one of them Hudson - sent to earth to pick up a racist disc jockey whose time is up. It will be Hudson's next project after SHEKHAR KAPUR's Four Feathers.

PAUL McCARTNEY has bought COURTNEY LOVE's home in the Hollywood Hills for about 3 million. The former Beatle bought the French country-style home on two acres because he was tired of staying in hotels whenever he is in Los Angeles, according to friends. Before deciding to buy it, McCartney had been leasing the house from Love, who is now spending more time in New York. Love bought the house from ELLEN DeGENERES in 1997. The property appeals to celebrities because of its seclusion and privacy. Built in 1938 and recently renovated, it has a long gated driveway and stone walls surrounding it.

Composer LESLIE BRICUSSE delayed his trip to England to discuss his upcoming musical Noah's Ark to attend the closing party of celebrity chef WOLFGANG PUCK's famous Spago restaurant in Hollywood. ``It was a great going away party,'' joked the London-born Bricusse who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 20 years. As well as Noah's Ark, Bricusse is working on a musical version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Meanwhile, he and QUINCY JONES have written 12 songs for Sammy, a musical based on the life of SAMMY DAVIS JR, which they hope will open on Broadway in October 2002.


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