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Weekly's Gone By:WEEK-42-01
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week 32-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

Girl trio Atomic Kitten's chart-topping cover version of the Bangles' Eternal Flame coincides with a comeback by the US-based pop-rock band. The multi-platinum selling all-girl group, famous for hits like Walk Like an Egyptian and Manic Monday, are heading back into the studio to record their first album since 1989. ``We're in the process of sorting through the 30-plus songs we've written over the past couple of years,'' says guitarist Vicki Peterson. Last year the band, which also features her sister Debbi Peterson on drums, vocalist Susanna Hoffs and bassist Michael Steele, reunited after a nine-year split. And all believe they're better than ever, older and wiser. ``We think we know a little bit more about how to balance our lives and our work and how not to get so absorbed by it all that you lose sight of who you are, why you're there and who y our friends are,'' Peterson says.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER is considering a return to comedy for the first time since Jingle All The Way five years ago. The muscleman is on the verge of signing on to star in Ump, a black comedy about a hit man who becomes a hero of the townsfolk while hiding out in a small town. Schwarzenegger, whose Collateral Damage is due for release next month, would film Ump before returning to cyborg duty next year in Terminator 3.

In a true story that resembles a film script, a shop assistant in the gift shop at Sony Pictures studios will star in a drama to be directed by DENZEL WASHINGTON. DEREK LUKE, who sold trinkets to tourists, was spotted by Washington and will play the title role in The Antwone Fisher Story. ANTWONE FISHER, a former security guard at Sony, revealed his abusive childhood in the memoir Finding Fish and then turned it into a screenplay.

ADAM SANDLER and The Sopranos star JAMES GANDOLFINI are both contenders for the role of ROBERT DE NIRO's room-mate in th e comedy drama Scared Guys. De Niro and his co-star will portray agoraphobics who are forced to leave their apartment for the first time in years to stop an assassination.

Filming WILL SMITH's Ali in Africa was a troubled time for the cast and crew, according to MYKELTI WILLIAMSON, who portrays the flamboyant boxing promoter DON KING. ``The anticipation was high but once we got there we were all very sad,'' Williamson told an interviewer. ``We experienced tremendous theft. Anything you left in your room disappeared, even small things like toothbrushes. I'm really having a difficult time admitting it but I can't say Africa was wonderful. ``The people need help. It's heartbreaking.''

ANGELINA JOLIE, with no film commitments in the near future, plans to go with her husband, BILLY BOB THORNTON, on his concert tour of the US. ``I'll be a wife and a groupie at the same time,'' says Jolie, who has just finished shooting Life, Or Something Like It and whose Original Sin has just been released in the US.

The riddle of why RUSSELL CROWE has been turning down a series of big money film offers has been solved with the news he will produce, direct, write and star in a film about Australians in the Second World War. The New Zealand-born actor, who grew up in Australia, is to focus on filming The Long Green Shore, a drama about an Australian battalion that arrives on the beaches of New Guinea with orders to beat back the Japanese. Sources say he could play the commander or any one of about a doz en other roles, including the narrator. Crowe has rewritten an existing script from the book by JOHN HEPWORTH and expects to begin production next spring in the South Pacific.

Bridget Jones's Diary star RENEE ZELLWEGER is poised to join CATHERINE ZETA-JONES as a murdering dancer-singer in Chicago, the Miramax film version of the awa rd-winning musical. The actress reportedly auditioned for the film's director, ROB MARSHALL, in New York last week and, according to Daily Variety, demonstrated enough singing and dancing ability to win the role of Roxie. Zeta-Jones, who began her career as a singer and dancer, is to play Velma.

An offer is out to KEVIN SPACEY to play the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, who defends the two women on separate murder charges and changes loyalties when one becomes more popular in the press than the other. MA DONNA is to provide the voice of a zoo animal for DreamWorks' animated feature film Madagascar. The film, viewed as a follow-up to the studio's highly successful Shrek, will also feature the voices of BEN STILLER, CHRIS ROCK and JASON ALEXANDER. It centres on four zoo animals who are sent by ship back to their native homeland by an animal rights group but survive a shipwreck and find themselves in Madagascar.

Madonna, currently on a world concert tour, is expected to record her role before beginning work w ith her husband, director GUY RITCHIE, on a feature film they plan to make together. FilmFour, the film unit of Channel 4, has snapped up the film rights to ELMORE LEONARD's new novel Tishomingo Blues and plans to put the project into immediate development. The book, which will be published next year, is a contemporary crime caper about a carnival high-diver who witn esses a murder and becomes involved with the Mafia and a group of Civil War re-enactors. Leonard, who describes it as being ``the book I've had the most fun writing'', will be a co-producer and partner with FilmFour on the project. ``When I met the people at FilmFour I couldn't believe there were film-makers this good at what they do who are still having fun,'' Leonard told Daily Variety. ``This is as promising a starting point as I've ever had.''

ANNE HECHE has signed a one-year, one million-dollar deal to star in her own weekly television series. The actress, who recently finished filming John Q with DENZEL WASHINGTON, wants to do a comedy but it has not yet been decided whether she will do a half-hour or a one-hour show, says Daily Variety. The idea of her own television series reportedly appealed to Heche after she guest-starred in several episodes o f Ally McBeal.

Irish film-maker JIM SHERIDAN has chosen the African-born actor DJIMON HOUNSOU to star in his semi-autobiographical romantic drama East of Harlem. Hounsou, who co-starred in Gladiator, will play a troubled Harlem-based artist who befriends a newly-arrived Irish immigrant who dreams of becoming an actor. The immigrant will be played by Paddy Considine. The film is due to begin shooting this month in Dublin and New York, when Hounsou returns from France where he is filming the action-thriller Le Boulet.

Former Rolling Stone BILL WYMAN is about to embark on his first US tour since he left the band in 1992. Wyman, w hose new band the Rhythm Kings includes singer-keyboardists GARY BROOKER of Procol Harem and GEORGIE FAME, has no regrets about leaving the Stones and says: ``It's been the happiest time in my life since I left.'' The bass guita rist, who has just finished the second volume of his autobiography, Stone Alone, tells the Washington Post: ``I've never regretted my decision for one minute. ``I didn't have any more objectives to aim for in the band. I thought it was the right time to go, when we were at the top, to move on and do other things and try to achieve something personally.''

TOM CRUISE's new girlfriend, actress PENELOPE CRUZ, is in no hurry to become the next Mrs Cruise. ``Getting married would scare me,'' she says in the September issue of Vanity Fair. ``That is always a scary thing when you really open your heart to someone.'' Cruz played Cruise's lover in Vanilla Sky and has since been seen out with him several times. She says she would not ``have a problem'' having children out of wedlock, but adds: ``I haven't decided yet.''

BEN AFFLECK's publicist has denied a re port that the actor was on a ``boozy gambling binge'', winning 500,000 in a Las Vegas casino a few days before entering an alcoholic rehabilitation centre last week. The Pearl Harbour star, who was with his friend MATT DAMON, made the money playing three 15,000 blackjack hands at a time, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It says Affleck gave away more than 100,000 in tips. But Affleck's publicist, DAVID POLLICK, denounced the story as ``inaccurate and irresponsible''. Affleck, whose father is a recovering alcoholic who now works as a counsellor, voluntarily checked himself into the Promises rehabilitation centre in Malibu for treatment last Tuesday.

Rush Hour 2 star JACKIE CHAN is to have the JERRY LEWIS role in a remake of the comedian's 1960 film The Bellboy. The new script sets the story in Las Vegas and filming is likely to begin after Chan and CHRIS TUCK ER star together again in Rush Hour 3.

The release date of MARIAH CAREY's new film Glitter has been postponed for nearly a month from August 31 until September 21 to give the singer time to recover from her breakdown. The decision was made by executives at 20th Century Fox who want Carey to be well enough to publicise the film when it is released. The troubled Carey is still in hospital and ``resti ng comfortably'' according to her publicist, nearly two weeks after she suffered an ``emotional and physical breakdown''. Glitter was produced by Carey and marks her first leading role. She plays an aspiring singer who embarks on a meteoric rise to fame.

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO has signed a three-year production deal with British producer GRAHAM KING, who heads the Initial Entertainment Group. ``Leo is one of the number one actors in the world and to be involved with him and his projects is a lucrative and exciting prospect,'' said King, whose company co-produced Gangs of New York with DiCaprio's company. With the backing of King, who also co-produced Traffic and the upcoming Ali, DiCaprio will develop projects in which he will serve as both producer and star.

Former supermodel REBECCA ROMIJN-STAMOS says she much pref ers acting to modelling because she does not always have to loo k cheerful. ``It was nice to walk around the movie set in a dark mood,'' she tells Glamour magazine. ``Nobody told me to smile or cheer up like they do when I'm modelling a bikini on the beach. People know how I look done up glamazon-style. It's more fun to change my look.'' But Romijn-Stamos, who co-stars in the upcoming futuristic thriller Rollerball, says that while posing in beachwear is one thing, taking her top off in public is quite another. She says she ``freaked'' when Rollerball director JOHN McTIERNAN asked her to appear topless on camera, before adding: ``We hashed it out and shot it in silhouette.''

BRUCE WILLIS has bought a strip of beachfront property valued at around 5 million on the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean, according to the Wall Street Journal. Willis, 46, reportedly plans to build a 7,500 square ft main house with a co uple of two-bedroom guest cottages. Construction is due to begin next month. When he is not staying there, Willis intends to rent the property out to holidaymakers, who can expect to pay around 9,000 a night, says the Journal. The story of Bettie Page, a legendary showbusiness figure who shocked America in the 1940s, is coming to the screen.

LIV TYLER is reportedly the leading contender for the role of Page, a sexy, free-spirited actress and model who was brought before a Senate committee investigating juvenile delinquency. She became a poster girl for freedom of speech. ``I've been trying to get her rights for years,'' said producer MARK WOLPER, who is working on the film with Page documentarian MARK MORI, whom the former pin-up girl entrusted with her life story. ``She was at the forefront of a major shift in morality in the US and she led a strange and salacious li fe. We want a very edgy film that tells it the way it was.'' Page, who in 1955 was a Playboy centrefold and named Miss Pin-Up of the World, is now 78 years old and lives in seclusion in Florida.

Veteran director JOHN FRANKENHEIMER is to direct the next instalment of The Exorcist, a prequel that has yet to be titled. The script, adapted from WILLIAM PETER BLATTY's original The Exorcist novel, will trace the story of Father Merrin - played in the 1973 film by MAX VON SYDOW - back to his first encounter with the devil during missionary work in post-Second World War Africa. There has been no announcement yet on casting, although it is expected LINDA BLAIR may be offered a cameo role. JASON MILLER, who played the pivotal role of Father Karras, died earlier this year.

LIZA MINNELLI is trying to stop an off-Broadway tribute to her career from ever getting staged. According to co-writer JESSE VARGAS, the cast of a show celebrating Liza's music had been rehearsing for six months and were set to hold an audition for investors when Minnelli sent a warning through her bodyguard. ``He gave no explanation but only threatened legal action if the show wasn't stopped,'' Vargas told the New York Post. ``Anyone can tell you that Liza's career is over.''

TOM CRUISE's girlfriend, PENELOPE CRUZ, will portray a male rapist who undergoes an enforced sex change operation in Tarantula. She plans to make the film with Spanish director PEDRO ALMODOVAR and ANTONIO BANDERAS, who says: ``It's kind of a reflection of Frankenstein in modern days. ``It's also a reflection on relationships between men and women, which has been a constant in Almodovar's world.'' It will be the first time Banderas and Cruz have worked together although both began their careers in Spain and both are veterans of Almodovar productions.

Snatch star JASON STATHAM is to appear in The Transporter, a film co-written by the French writer-director LUC BESSON. Statham, who has been dubbed the British BRUCE WILLIS, will play a character whose job it is to deliver packages, no questions asked. But complicati ons arise when he breaks the rules and begins asking questions. The film, which will mark the English language directing debut of COREY YUEN, a veteran of 25 Hong Kong martial arts films, will begin shooting in Paris and the south of France in October. Statham currently has two US-made films awaiting release - The One, in which he co-stars with JET LI, and The Ghosts of Mars, with ICE CUBE and NATASHA HENSTRIDGE.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR has gone back to work and is filming a music video for the ELTON JOHN song I Want Love, according to Daily Variety. He lip-synchs to Sir Elton's voice on the song, a single from the British singer's new CD called Songs From the West Coast. Downey's agent said the actor, who is spending one year in a live-in drug rehabilitation programme as part of a deal with prosecutors, has received several offers for major film and television roles. He is also Emmy-nominated for his supporting role on the television series Ally McBeal.

DAVID LISS's novel about the London stock exchange in th e 1720s, Conspiracy of Paper, is to be adapted for the screen by ROBERT NELSON JACOBS, who was Oscar-nominated for writing the screenplay for Chocolat. Miramax has bought the film rights to the thriller and is reportedly hiring the Chocolat team of director LASSE HALLSTROM and producer LESLIE HOLLERAN to bring it to the screen. The two are currently working for Miramax on The Shipping News, which was also written by Jacobs, and stars KEVIN SPACEY, JULIANNE MOORE and JUDI DENCH.

DARREN STAR, the man who created the hit television series Sex and the City, is moving into feature films with Shutterbabe, the life story of sex kitten photojournalist DEBORAH KOGAN. Star has bought the rights to her mem oir, Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War and is writing the script for the film. Shutterbabe tells of Kogan's career as a freelance photographer, visiting war zones from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and collecting lovers along the way.

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