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week 08-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

ALBERT FINNEY will be reunited at next month's Academy Award ceremonies with Ed Masry, the lawyer he plays in Erin Brockovich, the role that wonhim his Oscar nomination. Masry, despite the fact he has been on kidney dialysis three days a week for the past year, will be attending the awards ceremony and says: ``I haven't seen Albert Finney for about six months and I'm looking forward to getting together with him again.''

The release date of British director JOHN MADDEN'S Captain Corelli's Mandolin has been pushed back from April to some time in August. The film, which stars NICOLAS CAGE and PENELOPE CRUZ, is still being edited and Universal Pictures marketing division wants time for word to spread about the film. ``Our experience indicates that adult films that are more serious and literate take more time to build awareness,'' Universal Pictures Distribution president Nikki Rocco tells the Hollywood Reporter. ``We wanted to give our marketing team ample time to screen it for the press and opinion-makers.'' The romantic drama, based on the novel by LOUIS DE BERNIERES, is set on a Greek island occupied by the Italian Army during World War 11.

Director BRYAN SINGER, who made the film hit X-Men, is to supervise a relaunch of the cult television series Battlestar Galacica. Before beginning work on the X-Men sequel, Singer will reinvent the Battlestar Galactica series, which ran on US TV for two years from 1978. He will be the executive producer of the series and will also direct the pilot episode. ``The lesson I learned on X-Men is to have a healthy respect for the fan base of sci-fi fantasy franchises and I'm confident that the Galactica brand is a sleeping giant,'' he tells Daily Variety. ``It was a show I watched during its initial run, from the pilot to the final episode.'' Singer has time to work on the series because the film he had planned todirect, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, with JOHNNY DEPP and GEORGE CLOONEY, will not begin production until later this year.

JODIE FOSTER has achieved a long-held ambition to play a villain with her latest role of Sister Assumpta, a peg-legged, motor-cycle-riding nun in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. The film, which her company is producing, concerns two boys who vow to wreak vengeance on Sister Assumpta for terrorising her students.

Latino singing sensation RICKY MARTIN is set to make his big-screen acting debut as a revolutionary in the political thriller The Assassination. The former Menudo star, who has previously only acted on soap operas, is in final talks to star as a CHE GUEVARA-like rebel bent on toppling Dominican strongman RAFAEL TRUJILLO, who was assassinated in 1961. Martin will also perform the title song of the film, which co-stars ANTHONY QUINN as Trujillo and JAMES COBURN as the US ambassador. Oscar nominee ED HARRIS is in talks to play a CIA operative who promises Martin's character weapons and support.

MICHAEL JACKSON has postponed the filming of his big-screen thriller The Nightmare of Edgar Allan Poe until the end of this year. Production was due to begin last autumn but Jackson still has not found a co-star or a director for the project, in which he will play the horror writer. Sources say he has also spent longer than he intended on his new album, which he has now been working on for two years. The album's producer, GARY PUDNEY, said the first single from it will be released in April and Jackson will then begin making five videos for the album.

BEN KINGSLEY is negotiating with the Walt Disney Co to star in a film of the children's book Tuck Everlasting. The British Oscar-winner would play a greedy stranger known as ``the man in the yellow suit''. He learns a 10-year-old girl's secret that a neighbouring family, the Tucks, have a spring whose water prevents people from ever growing older. Filming is due to begin in April in Baltimore. The Australian actor HUGH JACKMAN has been taking a course of stunt driving for his role in the thriller Swordfish, with JOHN TRAVOLTA and VINNIE JONES. ``I'm living out my boyhood fantasies. I spent the weekend going 130 mph down runways,'' he tells Premiere magazine. After Swordfish and the time-travelling comedy Kate and Leopold, Jackman will be returning as Wolfman in the much-anticipated X-Men sequel. ``I'm really looking forward to donning my mutton chops and claws again and slicing and dicing a little more,'' he says.

GARY OLDMAN, who fell out with director ROD LURIE on The Contender and with producer DINO DE LAURENTIIS on Hannibal, has had enough of Hollywood. ``It's a sad time, I think, for movies,'' the British actor is quoted as saying in the New York Daily News. ``There is a premium on fame and celebrity. That's what it's about - covers of magazines.'' The British actor, who refused to be credited on both The Contender and Hannibal, added: ``If I didn't have the burning need to act I would completely walk away from the industry.''

Two British actors, RHYS IFANS and JULIAN SANDS, have joined their fellow countryman, director MIKE FIGGIS, in Venice for his film Hotel. They complete an ensemble cast which includes LUCY LIU, SAFFRON BURROWS, SALMA HAYEK and DAVID SCHWIMMER. Figgis has devised a system by which the film will feature four frames of simultaneous on-screen action. These comprise shooting a period movie, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the film, a murder plot and a look at the maid service. The overlapping storylines converge and culminate during the Venice Carnival.

SAM MENDES will not give any more interviews for the next two years. The British director, who is about to start filming The Road to Perdition with TOM HANKS and JUDE LAW, told Departures magazine: ``There will be no more public statements from me for two years.'' Mendes, who won an Oscar for his first film, American Beauty, said: ``I don't want to be a cultural commentator or write a novel or have my own TV programme. ``And I certainly don't want - as someone asked me yesterday - to give an opinion on, `What has happened to Tony Blair?''' The director, who still runs the Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden, added: ``The truth is, I have a fairly rigid job to do, which is to make sure this theatre works and to make good plays and films.''

MINNIE DRIVER could have a new career as a singer following a guest appearance on a new TV series in which she showed off her vocal talents. The British actress, who was Oscar-nominated for Good Will Hunting, joins a musical guest star list including STEVIE NICKS, JOE WALSH, VINCE NEILL and BRET MICHAELS - and outshines them all on The Chris Isaak Show. ``People are just going to be blown away when they see what she did with her singing,'' predicts Isaak, the former lead singer of The Cars. ``They'll think that because it's a TV show we probably did 300 takes but it was just her and my band and they filmed it with one camera in one take. She has this fantastic voice.'' The Chris Isaak Show takes a behind-the-scenes look at Isaak's life and each episode features live performances.

Britain's SAMANTHA MORTON has beaten better known actresses for the coveted female lead in STEVEN SPIELBERG's sci-fi drama Minority Report. Morton, who last week won the London Film Critics Circle award for her work in Sweet and Lowdown, will star alongside TOM CRUISE and COLIN FARRELL. She plays a woman who becomes involved with a detective, played by Cruise, who is being hunted for a murder he hasn't yet committed. ANGELINA JOLIE is ``feeding refugees in Africa'' with her husband BILLY BOB THORNTON, according to a friend of the couple. The actress, who has just finished filming Tomb Raider in England, is spending several weeks in Africa handing out food and clothing to the needy. Jolie was due to star in Beyond Borders, a postponed film about United Nations relief workers, but it seems she is playing the role in real life. Her publicist has not commented on the report, while Thornton's representative says: ``They are on vacation.''

KURT RUSSELL will return to LA to film The Plague Season as soon as he finishes work in New York on CAMERON CROWE's Vanilla Sky. Written by LA Confidential author JAMES ELLROY eight years ago, the drama is set in Los Angeles during the week leading up to the 1992 riots. Russell will play a seasoned Los Angeles detective investigating a brutal, racially charged robbery-homicide.

ROD STEWART and his manager ARNOLD STEIFEL are planning a Broadway musical based on the singer's 1971 hit Maggie May, according to a report. To be called Wake Up Maggie, the show will be set in 1960s London and will contain several new numbers. ``It's loosely inspired by Rod's life,'' Steifel tells the New York Daily News. ``He used to date a girl from a posh neighbourhood. At the end of the night Rod, who was poor, would have her drop him off at a fancy house and then run back to his home in north London.''

A British director claims STEVEN SODERBERGH's Oscar-nominated drug thriller Traffic is almost ``exactly the same'' as one of his works. ALASTAIR REID directed the award-winning mini-series Traffik for British TV 12 years ago, which formed the basis of Traffic's adaptation. ``They must have pored over the video of our film for months studying it,'' he tells the Los Angeles Times. ``It was a bit like going to an art auction and seeing your own long-lost paintings come up for sale. It was a strange feeling.'' But he added: ``It's very engrossing. I enjoyed it.'' Traffik starred BILL PATERSON, LINDSAY DUNCAN and JULIA ORMOND, while Traffic featured in the same roles MICHAEL DOUGLAS, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES and ERIKA CHRISTENSEN.

GEORGE CLOONEY and Oscar-nominated director STEVEN SODERBERGH will be reunited when they jointly produce The Good German. Against the backdrop of post-Second World War Berlin, Clooney plays a journalist who returns to search for the woman he left behind, and finds himself drawn into a murder mystery. He and Soderbergh are currently working together in Las Vegas on a remake of Ocean's Eleven. FRANK SINATRA originally played the role assumed by Clooney, who won a Golden Globe for his performance in the comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The aborted film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind has allowed Clooney to fit The Good German into his schedule.

KATE HUDSON, who has been nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as a groupie in Almost Famous, gave her stepfather KURT RUSSELL tips on working with director CAMERON CROWE. Crowe, who is directing Russell in Vanilla Sky, says: ``He got the code book on me from Kate, so he knows exactly what I'm going to do. And he has every nuance of the part.'' Russell plays a prison psychiatrist assigned to TOM CRUISE's character.

MEL GIBSON and American comic actor TIM ALLEN are teaming up to develop a comedy film together called StarChild. Allen will be the star and both men will produce the sci-fi spoof which follows a socially challenged CIA agent who helps a friendly alien return home, saving him from the aftermath of an interplanetary war. Allen is familiar with galaxy-related projects, having previously starred in Galaxy Quest and supplied the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films.

JANE LEEVES, the British actress who has played Daphne on the TV series Frasier since 1992, returns to work this week after giving birth on January 9 to a 9lb 12oz baby girl, Isabella. Her absence from the series was explained by a storyline that Daphne had gained so much weight she had gone to a health spa. ``I'll be taking Isabella with me to work and she's going to be with me the whole time,'' she tells US Weekly magazine. ``I couldn't go back to work, otherwise.'' In the script, when one of the characters is asked how Daphne is doing, he says: ``She's lost 9lbs 12oz.'' Leeves says: ``That's lovely, because I'll save all these tapes for Isabella when she's older.''

SUSAN SARANDON, the Oscar-winning actress whose car bears a bumper sticker saying Kill your Television Set, has joined the list of Friends guest stars. She plays a soap opera star who is dropped from the series and has a steamy off-screen duet with Joey, played by MATT LeBLANC. Her real-life daughter Eva plays her screen child. Friends is one of the few TV shows Sarandon allows her children to watch, and she tells USA Today: ``It's funny, original and well-acted. The basis of it seems very warm-hearted.'' Other celebrities who have made, or are set to make, guest appearances on the show include BRUCE WILLIS, TOM SELLECK and BRAD PITT.

BILLY BOB THORNTON's 21-year-old daughter claims she has hardly seen him since he married ANGELINA JOLIE last year. ``He's pretty much made me feel like I've been shut off,'' says AMANDA SPENCE, Thornton's daughter from his first wife MELISSA LEE GATLIN. ``I don't want to cry but it's not fair to watch him on TV every day and I can't even get a call,'' she tells the TV show Inside Edition tonight. Spence was 18 months old when Thronton left her mother but she says she has not spoken to him for the past five months, since she gave birth to his first grandchild. ``I talked to him when I was in labour with my daughter and that's the last time I've spoken to him,'' she says. The 45-year-old Thronton, who also has two sons with his fourth wife, PIETRA CHERNIAK, has not commented on his daughter's allegations.

Actors JOHNNY DEPP and GEORGE CLOONEY, along with director BRYAN SINGER, have been left to look for another film now financiers have pulled out of backing their Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. ``It's a shame,'' Singer told the Hollywood Reporter from Montreal, where the crew is pulling down the set. ``It's a great project, a brilliant script and we've got the very best people here.'' The 25 million-pound project is based on the autobiography of American talk show host CHUCK BARRIS, who claimed to also work as a CIA recruiter. Depp was to have played Barris and Clooney was going to appear as a CIA man.

JULIANNE MOORE is lending some of her star power to her brother, PETER MOORE SMITH. The actress, who plays Clarice Starling in Hannibal, has announced she plans to star in a film version of Peter's novel Raveling. Set in New York, the thriller is about a schizophrenic who believes his sister has been murdered by his older brother. ``I don't know if it will end up being easier or fun keeping things all in the family,'' she tells the New York Daily News. ``I guess I will just have to find out.''

JON STEWART, the comedian who has signed to host Wednesday's Grammy Awards was the producers' sixth choice for the job, according to the New York Daily News. CHER and JIM CARREY turned it down, WHOOPI GOLDBERG had health worries, JENNIFER LOPEZ was busy and GARRY SHANDLING, who did the job last year and recently hosted the Emmys, said he'd had enough of awards shows.

NICOLE KIDMAN is not letting her divorce battle with TOM CRUISE divert her from her career. According to several reports the Australian-born actress is in talks to star in a film version of ROBERT HELLENGA's novel, The Sixteen Pleasures, about the discovery of a 16th-century erotic text in a Carmelite convent. She is also reportedly negotiating to take the lead in a stage play Lady From the Sea, about a woman trapped in an unfulfilling marriage.

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