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ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

America's E! Entertainment TV channel has hired PRINCE EDWARD to add another documentary series to its schedule. The new series, Royalty A-Z, will be produced by his Ardent Productions company and will feature interviews with servants and friends of the Royal Family as well as a look inside the royal homes. It is due to make its debut in April 2002 to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of the Queen's ascent to the throne. E! executive GREG BRANNAN said the Prince is expected to provide E! with unprecedented access to the royal family. ``Not only will we have the ultimate access to the Royal Family and their friends, but I believe that you'll be surprised at the type of documentary style Ardent will add to E!'s own definitive insider style,'' he said.

The two stars of The Matrix sequels, KEANU REEVES and CARRIE-ANNE MOSS, have injured themselves training for their stunts. Moss hurt her knee and had to spend six weeks on crutches while Reeves has a cast on his foot although he hopes to have it removed in time for Sunday's Golden Globes awards. Filming is due to begin shortly on the two Matrix sequels, with Matrix 2 due out next year and Matrix 3 in 2003.

STEVEN SPIELBERG is working long hours to edit his latest film A.I. before beginning work with TOM CRUISE on his next project, Minority Report. It marks a drastic change of pace for Spielberg, who took more than two years off after making Saving Private Ryan but now has two films in production at once. Cruise is also working harder than usual and will only have two weeks off after finishing Vanilla Sky for CAMERON CROWE before joining Spielberg.

MICHAEL CAINE had eight costume changes and wore three different wigs during the two weeks he worked on director FRED SCHEPISI's Last Orders. In the film, based on GRAHAM SWIFT's Booker Prize winning novel, Caine plays a recently deceased man. His long-time friends - TOM COURTENAY, BOB HOSKINS and DAVID HEMMINGS - and his son, played by RAY WINSTONE, carry his ashes from London to the coast. The story spans 40 years, with Caine's younger self being played by newcomer JJ FIELD. ``He's better looking than me, which is marvellous,'' Caine tells Premiere magazine. ``And he's a good actor, which is more important.'' Caine is taking a holiday before beginning work with BRENDAN FRASER in Vietnam on the remake of GRAHAM GREENE's novel The Quiet American.

BOB NEWHART had to learn how to be a bad golfer for his role in the comedy golfing film Doc Waddems. Newhart is an accomplished golfer with a handicap of nine but he had to play a ``differ'' in the film. ``It's the closest I've ever come to method acting,'' he said. ``I had to come up with a swing that wasn't my own.'' The actor-comedian went to his local golf club and watched players teeing off. ``I would make mental notes of terrible swings and what terrible golfers do and then incorporate them,'' says Newhart.

The French film icon LESLIE CARON is less than happy with her role in director LASSE HALLSTROM's acclaimed Chocolat. The 70-year-old actress, who is making promotional appearances for the film in America, says of her role as one of the French village women: ``It's very small. ``I have no real scenes and no significant lines. I appear always with these other old ladies, sort of as a disapproving Greek chorus, '' she tells syndicated columnist Liz Smith. ``That was all right - I was doing it for Lasse. But then they had to stick that damn white wig on my head! I don't think anybody even knows I'm in the picture.''

Notting Hill writer RICHARD CURTIS and producers DUNCAN KENWORTHY and ERIC FELLNER are being sued by a screenwriter who claims they stole his idea for the 1999 hit film. In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Nick Villiers says he was a long-time friend and business partner of Fellner, to whom he gave a manuscript for a project called Cheek in 1988. Villiers claims he revised Cheek several times at Fellner's suggestion over a nine-year period, including a version for a television series that never materialised. Their friendship ended with the release of Notting Hill which, he says, has numerous similarities to Cheek. These include the theme of an ordinary Englishman who meets and has a romance with the biggest star in the world. His lawsuit seeks damages for breach of a confidential relationship, fraud and misappropriation.

The giant black actor MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN is set to join DWAYNE ``THE ROCK'' JOHNSON in The Scorpion King, the prequel to The Mummy Returns. The Rock, who makes his acting debut in a small role in The Mummy Returns, has been given the starring role in The Scorpion. He plays an assassin who becomes the reluctant leader of an army that battles an evil warlord. Duncan, who was Oscar-nominated for The Green Mile and is filming Planet of the Apes, would play a warrior.

CHRISTOPHER LAWFORD is following in the footsteps of his late father, the British actor PETER LAWFORD, by appearing in Ocean's Eleven. Lawford senior starred in the 1960 film with fellow Rat Packers FRANK SINATRA, DEAN MARTIN and SAMMY DAVIS JR. Now director STEVEN SODERBERGH is finding a role for Christopher in the new version he is due to begin filming next month with GEORGE CLOONEY, MATT DAMON and JULIA ROBERTS. Christopher can be seen on screen as a pilot in Thirteen Days, a film about his uncles, President JOHN F KENNEDY and former senator ROBERT KENNEDY.

ROBERT STACK, who played a memorably comic pilot in the 1980 spoof Airplane!, is to return to the role in a new comedy, View From the Top. Stack has a cameo role in the film, which stars GWYNETH PALTROW as a budding airline stewardess. KELLY PRESTON, CHRISTINA APPLEGATE and CANDICE BERGEN play fellow stewardesses.

BRAD PITT, who played an Irish gypsy fighter in Snatch, is urging director GUY RITCHIE to make a western. ``I want him to reinvent the American western,'' Pitt tells Premiere magazine. ``He's like SAM PECKINPAH. Peckinpah's a legend but Guy's heading that way.'' Pitt, who asked the British writer-director for a part in Snatch after seeing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, thinks Ritchie will be at the forefront of a new wave in film-making. ``We're talking about artists and pioneers... and Guy will be a part of that,'' he said.

SHARON STONE reportedly wants to play LANA TURNER in a film about the actress and her gangster lover JOHNNY STOMPANATO. Stone is said to want RICHARD GERE to star with her in the story of the ill-fated romance that ended when Stompanato was stabbed to death. Meanwhile, Stone, 42, is still waiting for a leading man to star opposite her in Basic Instinct 2.

CHARLTON HESTON, who starred as the captured astronaut in 1967's Planet of the Apes, is returning for a cameo role in the new version of the sci-fi adventure being filmed at Sony studios. This time the 76-year-old actor is playing one of the apes and spent four hours being transformed by Oscar-winning make-up artist Rick Baker for his day's work on the film. The new version stars MARK WAHLBERG as the stranded pilot while the main ape roles are played by TIM ROTH, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, KRIS KRISTOFFERSON and MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN.

As soon as she finishes her promotional duties for Hannibal, JULIANNE MOORE will be heading to Newfoundland. There she will start production with KEVIN SPACEY to start on the much-delayed film of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shipping News. The drama centres on a newspaperman who saves his two daughters and moves with them to Canada after his wife sells them into prostitution. It was originally to have starred JOHN TRAVOLTA and his wife KELLY PRESTON. BILLY BOB THORNTON was then in talks to star and direct but producer IRWIN WINKLER and director LASSE HALLSTROM have now settled on Spacey and Moore.

JOHN MALKOVICH is to take the role of a gangster originally intended for DUSTIN HOFFMAN in the love story And Now Ladies and Gentleman. The French director CLAUDE LELOUCH says he wrote the gangster role with Hoffman in mind but has now settled on Malkovich. In the story the gangster falls in love with a bar-room singer to be played by the French performer PATRICIA KAAS.

JANE FONDA's 10-year break from acting will end when she appears in a gala benefit performance of the successful off-Broadway play The Vagina Monologues. Fonda, who has also contributed one million dollars to the event, is to take the stage to act in the final scene, reports the New York Daily News. Her name appears among a star-studded list of women, including OPRAH WINFREY, CALISTA FLOCKHART, WINONA RYDER, GLENN CLOSE and ALI MacGRAW. They will gather at New York's Madison Square Garden on February 10 for a rally demanding an end to violence against women, dubbed V-Day. The play's performance will mark highlight of the event.

JULIE ANDREWS and CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, who starred together in The Sound of Music, are teaming up again for the drama On Golden Pond. They are due to begin rehearsals soon for the TV production of the famous play. A 1981 film of the story of a crotchety retired professor and his wife starred KATHERINE HEPBURN and HENRY FONDA.

An international cast is being assembled for the political thriller Code: Baltic Storm, which goes into production this summer in Malta, Germany and Denmark. The film is based on the 1994 sinking of the Estonia, which cost the lives of more than 900 passengers. It was written by Canadian JA GEODET, directed by Poland's FELIKS FALK and co-produced by Danish film-maker TIMO LAHTINEN. Based on the theory that the sinking was no accident, it speculates a foreign power caused it to stop an advanced weapons system from being smuggled into the US.

KURT RUSSELL is the latest actor to turn down the male lead in Basic Instinct 2. The 1992 original thriller starred SHARON STONE and MICHAEL DOUGLAS, but he declined to reprise his the role. Although Sharon Stone has signed on for the sequel, the producers are having difficulty in finding a co-star. Another choice, ROBERT DOWNEY JR, is facing drug charges. An MGM spokeswoman insists the project is still going ahead and the search for a leading man will continue. The comedy film Orange County seems to be teeming with offspring of the famous.

TOM HANKS's son COLIN HANKS and SISSY SPACEK's daughter SCHUYLER FISK are two of the leading actors directed by JAKE KASDAN, the son of The Big Chill director LAWRENCE KASDAN. Hanks plays a high school student whose aspirations to go to college are endangered when his exam papers become mixed up with those of his underachieving classmate.

AL PACINO is about to become the father of twins. His girlfriend BEVERLY D'ANGELO is expected to give birth before Sunday, when Pacino is due to receive the Cecil B DeMille award at the Golden Globes ceremony. Pacino's next appearance on screen will be with KIM BASINGER and TEA LEONI in the drama People I Know. He will play a veteran New York press agent whose famous actor-client, to be played by RYAN O'NEAL, becomes involved in a scandal. Ben Cartwright and his sons will soon be riding back on to the small screen in The Ponderosa, a prequel to the classic Bonanza series which ran from 1959-1973. No casting has yet been announced for the series, which will be launched with a two-hour pilot episode. The original starred LORNE GREENE, MICHAEL LANDON and PERNELL ROBERTS.

British screenwriter SIMON MOORE predicts the six-hour television mini-series Dinotopia will be ``one of the biggest TV events of all time''. Moore, who also wrote the mini-series Gulliver's Travels and The 10th Kingdom, based his script on Jim Gurney's popular children's book series. They tell of clothes-wearing dinosaurs living peacefully with humans on a fantasy continent. The plot will feature two boys who survive a plane crash and are amazed to discover the Dinotopia world. ``The effects budget on this is 20 million dollars which for a TV show is a lot of money,'' Moore tells USA Today.

JULIA ROBERTS is rich, beautiful and tipped to win an Oscar this year for her performance in Erin Brokovich. But the actress's friends know she's secretly going to the dogs. After every big movie role, Roberts heads out to the pound and adopts another stray mutt. The soft-hearted actress has got seven former strays who have the run of her mansion and often sleep on her bed.

BRUCE WILLIS is the world's top film star according to a newly-created index which could affect actors' salaries and roles. The index,, tracks the top 100 male and female stars based on box office performances of their films. Willis is followed by TOM HANKS, JULIA ROBERTS and MEL GIBSON. Although JOHN TRAVOLTA earns 20 million dollars a film, his box-office receipts don't even get him into the top 20. KEVIN COSTNER is even lower while SAMUEL L JACKSON ranks higher than HARRISON FORD. Aside from Roberts, CAMERON DIAZ is the only other actress ranked in the top 20. KATE WINSLET just dropped from that position because she has chosen to follow Titanic with smaller films that have not been big box-office successes.

ANG LEE's latest film, the Oscar-tipped Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is to bring the comic book character The Hulk to the big screen. The big-budget, special effects-laden project has been written by X-Men scriptwriter DAVID HAYTER. It centres on research scientist Bruce Banner and his monstrous green-skinned alter ego, the Hulk. No casting has yet been announced for the film, which will be set in Berkeley, California, with the misunderstood Hulk being pursued by the military while attempting to ward off evil forces.

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