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week 16-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and JULIA ROBERTS will be fighting dinosaurs this summer when their film America's Sweethearts is released on the same day as Jurassic Park III. Both films will be released in the US on July 20 to take advantage of the summer holidays. America's Sweethearts, which also stars JOHN CUSACK and BILLY CRYSTAL, was due to be released at the beginning of the month but was pushed back because it was not going to be ready. ``We're up against Jurassic, but we think there's a great advantage to having a Julia Roberts comedy in that slot,'' said JEFF BLACK, marketing chief at Sony Pictures, which is releasing America's Sweethearts. ``Midsummer is always a great opportunity for a romantic comedy with big movie stars,'' he tells Daily Variety. ``I presume Sony thinks that they're counter-planning,'' said NIKKI ROCCO of Universal Pictures, which is releasing Jurassic Park III. ``Good for them, and we're not worried.''

The British director NICHOLAS HYTNER's long-awaited stage musical The Sweet Smell of Success has finally been given an opening date. The first public performance will be in Chicago on December 7 and the production will then move to Broadway in March next year before transferring to London. Co-produced by Chocolat producer DAVID BROWN, the musical is said to have the best score ever by stage veteran MARVIN HAMLISCH. Hytner, who directed the Broadway musicals Miss Saigon and Carousel, has hired JOHN LITHGOW to star as the powerful Walter Winchell-type gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker. The role was originally played in the 1957 movie by BURT LANCASTER. The sleazy press agent Sydney Falco, played in the film by TONY CURTIS, will be portrayed by BRIAN DARCY JAMES, who appeared in the Broadway musical Titanic.

JERRY HALL has been preparing for her role in The Vagina Monologues on the London stage by temporarily reuniting with her ex-husband MICK JAGGER. Hall, Jagger and their children spent the past week at their family compound on the Caribbean island of Mustique, according to the New York Daily News. It quotes a source as saying: ``They're not getting back together but every now and then Jerry says she grants him a conjugal visit.'' While Jagger is mulling the idea of a 2002 Rolling Stones tour, Hall is due to begin rehearsal this month for the London production the play.

JACKIE COLLINS has finished the sequel to her best-selling Hollywood Wives, which is due to be published in June. Collins says today's Hollywood wives, unlike the past generation, ``want to have their own production companies, star in their own movies and they think they are just as important as their famous husbands''. Sources say the book, Hollywood Wives: The Next Generation, will set Hollywood gossips trying to guess the real-life identities of some of the characters, including the female producer who slept her way to success and the elegant blonde gay man living with a prominent studio executive. Hollywood Wives was made into a 1995 mini-series which featured ANGIE DICKINSON, ANTHONY HOPKINS and ROD STEIGER, and the sequel is almost certain to follow the same path to television prime-time.

COLIN FIRTH, who co-stars with RENEE ZELLWEGER in Bridget Jones's Diary, is working with another American actress trying to master a British accent. Firth predicts REESE WITHERSPOON, like Zellweger, will easily pass for a Brit. ``She is an extremely talented actress and she'll have no problems,'' said Firth, who is on a quick promotional visit to New York. He and Witherspooon have just begun filming Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, with RUPERT EVERETT and JUDI DENCH. JULIA ROBERTS and comedian ADAM SANDLER are forming an unlikely team to produce a comedy film about Niagara, the drink touted as the female version of Viagra. It is not known whether they intend to star together in the film although their production companies will work together on the project. The film will be based on a report on the internet by journalist SUZI PARKER about Niagara, which, she says, is a 4.5-dollar (3.25) drink that ``makes women feel relaxed and tingly in the right places''. It has reportedly become all the rage around Little Rock, Arkansas.

RENEE ZELLWEGER is not committing herself to starring in a sequel to the highly successful Bridget Jones's Diary. Producers are anxious to develop a sequel from HELEN FIELDING's follow-up book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, but Zellweger has said she may not want to spend another seven months in London. Learning to speak with an English accent and immersing herself in the life of a London girl for the role was ``an incredible experience'', she said, but she has not indicated she would be prepared to repeat it.

KATHLEEN TURNER will make a guest appearance in an hour-long episode of Friends, playing the cross-dressing father of MATTHEW PERRY's character, Chandler. ``I enjoyed it, I like challenges,'' said the actress, who also sings in the episode. MORGAN FAIRCHILD plays her wife, Chandler's mother. In an additional casting twist, ALEXIS ARQUETTE, the brother of Friends co-star COURTENEY COX and a real-life cross-dresser, has a role as a waitress.

The Scottish actor EWEN BREMNER collapsed from exhaustion at a military training camp while preparing for the film Pearl Harbour, in which he plays a US sailor. Bremner, who previously appeared in Trainspotting, found the boot camp training with his co-stars BEN AFFLECK, JOSH HARTNETT and WILLIAM LEE SCOTT tough going. ``I was hallucinating, I couldn't walk properly and my temperature was going bananas,'' he tells Premiere magazine. ``They were sending someone to check on me every 15 minutes as I slept to see if I was still breathing.''

HUGH JACKMAN spent a week with an etiquette coach in England learning to behave like a 19th-century duke for his role in the time travelling comedy Kate and Leopold. The Australian actor found he preferred the old ways to the new and tells US Weekly magazine: ``Compared with people in the 1800s we live permanently eating pizza in front of the TV. ``Their formality was a way of slowing down and paying attention to the other person.'' In Kate and Leopold Jackman plays an English nobleman transported into present-day New York, where he falls for MEG RYAN. He also has the thriller Swordfish, in which he stars with JOHN TRAVOLTA and VINNIE JONES, awaiting release and is due to start work on an X-Men sequel before the end of the year.

The West Wing star ROB LOWE will have the leading role in a two-hour television film based on the BBC mini-series Framed. The Americanised version of the Lynda La Plante story sees Lowe as a New York detective. His ethical code is tested when a jailed witness in a money-laundering scheme offers him millions of dollars for arranging her escape. In the British version the role was played by TIMOTHY DALTON.

Sopranos star JAMES GANDOLFINI shocked many of his TV fans when he signed on to play a gay character in The Mexican starring BRAD PITT and JULIA ROBERTS. But Gandolfini insists: ``Love is love whether you're gay or straight. The gay character that I play is non-stereotypical when one thinks about how gay men are portrayed in films. ``That is why I took the role. It is one of the best gay roles I've seen in films. ``His sexuality is not really even brought into the picture until he eyes someone in a bar and Julia Roberts's character asks him point blank is he is gay since he's staring at the guy. ``When it is brought up, it is done in a very tasteful way.''

MICHAEL JACKSON plans to give his long-awaited new album a memorable debut at a New York concert in September that will celebrate his 30 years as a solo artist. The concert will also feature a reunion of Jackson and his brothers, TITO, JERMAINE, JACKIE, MARLON and RANDY, marking the first time they have performed since the 1980s. They will sing a medley of classic Jackson 5 tunes. Others taking part include WHITNEY HOUSTON, BRITNEY SPEARS, MARC ANTHONY, 'N SYNC and SHAGGY. The concert, to be held at Madison Square Garden, will be taped for broadcast on television later.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director ANG LEE intends to use a computer-generated star for his next film, The Incredible Hulk, based on the Marvel Comics character. ``The Hulk is not human,'' says Lee. ``He's 9-12ft feet tall and weighs 1,500lb. You can't have a big guy, paint him green and put comic book pants on him. I guess I'll go with digital.''

SYLVESTER STALLONE rewrote the script of his new film Driven to give himself a smaller role, according to the film's producer, ELIE SAMAHA. ``Sly's a smart businessman,'' he tells the Wall Street Journal. ``He knew it would be more compelling to a make more of an ensemble piece that would appeal to a young, hip teenage crowd.'' In Driven, which is directed by RENNY HARLIN, Stallone, 54, plays a veteran racing driver who is hired to guide the career of a young hotshot.

Author JOHN IRVING, who won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of his book Cider House Rules, is to turn another of his novels into a film script.The Fourth Hand will be directed by Cider House Rules director LASSE HALLSTROM, and GEORGE CLOONEY is being mentioned as the possible star of the film. He would play handsome television reporter Patrick Wallingford, whose hand is bitten off by a lion during a live report. He becomes involved with a childless woman who will give him the hand of her recently deceased husband if he helps her to conceive a child.

TATUM O'NEAL is returning to the big screen in her first starring role for more than a decade. The 37-year-old actress, who won an Oscar in 1974 for her film debut in Paper Moon, will join the British actors TIM CURRY and JULIAN SANDS in The Scoundrel's Wife. She will play a small town widow who comes under suspicion of helping the Germans in the drama, set in 1942 Louisiana. O'Neal, the former wife of JOHN McENROE, has not worked for the past 10 years because she has been raising three children and struggling with drug addiction.

ALAN BATES is to star with SHIRLEY MacLAINE in an American television mini-series based on the Salem witch trials. The British actor will play SIR WILLIAM PHIPPS, the governor of the New England colonies in Innocent Blood: The True Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Phipps tolerates the trials until his wife is suspected of being a witch. Producers of the four-hour mini-series say it will accurately portray the grim events surrounding the 1692 series of investigations and persecutions in Salem, Massachusetts, that caused 19 women to be hanged as witches and many others to be imprisoned. MacLaine will play the devout nurse Rebecca, who is also denounced as a witch.

FAMKE JANSSEN, who played the villainess with the thighs of steel in the James Bond adventure Golden Eye, is negotiating to play another on-screen bad girl in the sequel to Men in Black. Janssen will play the evil bombshell Serleena in the comedy-adventure, which will see the original stars, WILL SMITH and TOMMY LEE JONES, back in their roles as Agent J and Agent K respectively. Production is due to begin in June if the planned actors' strike is averted. A sequel to the black comedy American Psycho is ready to go before the cameras but without its original star.

CHRISTIAN BALE will not be returning in the role of Wall Street psychotic and serial killer Patrick Bateman, who was created by author BRETT EASTON ELLIS in his best-selling novel of the same name. Instead this psycho will be a girl college student, played by MILA KUNIS, who kills everybody standing in the way of her becoming a professor's teaching assistant. ``It's a darkly satirical script in the spirit of the original American Psycho,'' said MICHAEL PASEORNKET, president of Lions Gate Productions, who tells Daily Variety he sees a number of future American Psycho sequels. ``The title provides for a lot of built-in marketing,'' he said.

The British director DANNY BOYLE, whose most recent job was directing LEONARDO DiCAPRIO in The Beach, has backed out of his new project because of ``creative differences''. Boyle was to direct the high-action suspense thriller Tick-Tock but changed his mind after meeting with the producers and Columbia Pictures executives. No replacement has yet been hired although the film, about a young amnesiac FBI agent desperately searching for a serial bomber in Los Angeles, is due to begin filming this autumn.

GOLDIE HAWN plans to make her directing debut with Ashes to Ashes, which she has written and intends to star in. She describes it as being about ``a pretty nasty gal who has to take her ex-husband's ashes to Nepal''. She is also looking for projects for her own production company, which she has merged with her children, OLIVER and KATE HUDSON, and long-time companion KURT RUSSELL, to form Cosmic Entertainment. JANE FONDA says her husband TED TURNER needed a baby-sitter rather than a wife. ``He needs someone to be there 100% of the time. He thinks that's love,'' she says in an 20-page profile of Turner in New Yorker magazine. ``It's not love. It's baby-sitting. We went in different directions. I grew up.'' Their nine-year marriage ended last year and even though she still cares about him, Fonda, 63, says the burden of living with Turner became too much to bear. ``Older age is about slowing down and growing vertically, not horizontally,'' she says. ``That's not Ted.'' Turner, an atheist, tells the magazine that Fonda's desire to delve more deeply into religion came as a surprise to him. ``I had absolutely no warning about it,'' he says. ``She didn't tell me she was thinking about doing it. Obviously we weren't communicating very well at that time.''

Former Sex Pistols frontman JOHNNY ROTTEN has landed a role in the pilot for a new American television comedy series. Rotten, now using his real name of JOHN LYDON, will play the Grim Reaper in Bad News Mr Swanson, about a man who ditches all his responsibilities because he believes he is dying of cancer. The Grim Reaper becomes a taunting presence in the dying man's life, cajoling him into taking risks and having fun. ``If you're looking for a rock star to play Death you can't do much better than John Lydon,'' says producer GAVIN POLONE.

PIERCE BROSNAN is firmly denying reports that WHITNEY HOUSTON has been approached by 007 producers about becoming the next Bond girl. ``That's news to me,'' says Brosnan. ``I don't know her. But I think she's got a great voice. I think she's got talent out there as an actress.'' Brosnan, who is getting rave reviews for his performance in the Tailor of Panama, confirms he has turned down the starring role in Basic Instinct 2 - for the second time. ``I just didn't want to go there,'' he says. Many studios will spend millions of dollars shooting a film - and then leave it gathering dust, often never putting it on to cinemas screens. Some of the most recent films you may never get to see include Pluto Nash.

EDDIE MURPHY's long-awaited sci-fi comedy was due out this year, but now it may go straight to video if it doesn't get shelved for good. Town & Country, the romantic comedy starring WARREN BEATTY and DIANE KEATON, was due for release this April. But it was shot three years ago and the release has already been delayed 13 times. Original Sin, starring ANTONIO BANDERAS and ANGELINA JOLIE, generated a storm of publicity amid rumours of an affair between the co-stars. The film was due out last winter, but the studio will say only ``maybe'' to a release this summer.

Eye See You is an indication of how much SYLVESTER STALLONE's star power has faded. The picture should have been in cinemas over a year ago. But there is still no sign of a release. If you were thinking of auditioning for a role on top TV sitcom Friends, there's something you should know. The show's producers have decreed that no woman who wears a dress bigger than a size 8 can appear as a guest star on the programme. The studio whisper is that anyone wearing a size 10 or over will make stars JENNIFER ANISTON, COURTENEY COX and LISA KUDROW look unhealthily skinny. It's got to be an actress's worst nightmare.

Former model REBECCA ROMIJN-STAMOS was so thrilled when she got a chance to appear in a movie with AL PACINO that she showed up for work even when she had a streaming cold. They were moving into a clinch when, to Romijn-Stamos's horror, a drip fell unexpectedly out of her nose - and landed on the rather shorter Pacino's face. The mortified actress fell over herself apologising, but Pacino just stood there stonily while someone cleaned him up and repaired the damage. Romijn-Stamos wailed to a friend: ``I'd rather he'd yelled at me! Anything would have been better than silence!''

Country singer GARTH BROOKS is going through a bitter divorce, ending his touring days and wondering if his career has amounted to anything. No wonder he's sounding like one of his own songs when he says: ``I don't have any faith in myself as a husband. I've done my career - `burn bright, burn fast'. ``I wasn't going to be someone we could really appreciate, like BILLY JOEL and JAMES TAYLOR, and know their stuff was timeless. I knew my stuff was going to be up and gone.''

When RINGO STARR tried to return a 15-dollar thermos flask to a shop in Aspen, Colorado, the teenage assistant asked to see his receipt. When the former Beatle explained he'd lost it, the shop assistant asked him his name. ``Richard Starkey,'' said Starr, giving his real name. The young man was not impressed and refused to take the item back until another customer blurted out: ``Wow, you're Ringo Starr! How does it feel not to be recognised?''


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