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

ER's Dr Mark Greene could die of cancer as scriptwriters plan his exit from the programme, according to sources at hit series. ANTHONY EDWARDS has announced he wants to leave the show when his contract expires next year season for family reasons. ``I love to act but I don't want to act every day for 10 months a year and not see my kids,'' said 38-year-old Edwards. His decision reportedly came as a surprise to the show's producers, and he follows GEORGE CLOONEY and JULIANNA MARGULIES, who have both left the show in the past year.

The former supermodel ELLE MACPHERSON shares a passionate on-screen kiss with STEVEN SPIELBERG's wife in the film A Girl Thing. Macpherson plays a tough lawyer on a first date with a woman, played by actress KATE CAPSHAW. She tells US Weekly: ``Kissing Kate Capshaw wasn't difficult. She's a very good kisser.'' Meanwhile, Capshaw said: ``Does Steven mind me kissing someone else? Yes - resoundingly yes. But he's very supportive.''

The Sundance Film Festival has seen MICK JAGGER as a producer, drumming up interest in the 20 million-dollar movie Enigma. So far there is no US distributor for the film which tells how British mathematicians cracked Nazi coded messages during the Second World War. Playwright TOM STOPPARD penned the film, MICHAEL APTED took the helm, while KATE WINSLET, DOUGRAY SCOTT and JEREMY NORTHAM are the main stars. Apted has said Paramount Pictures declined to back the film because of its complicated story and possible eventual expense. Meanwhile, Jagger said of the film: ``It doesn't have a distributor, it's not from a big studio, it's made with independent money and in England.''

Salsa sensation MARC ANTHONY has turned down a major film role to take the smaller role of SALMA HAYEK's lover. Anthony, who previously appeared in Bringing Out the Dead, will play a college professor in the movie In the Time of Butterflies. It is based on the true story of three sisters slain in 1960 for their opposition to Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. ``They wanted me to play a husband but I picked a smaller, more poignant role,'' he tells the New York Daily News. ``Bragging rights, you know. I'm a Latino man and she's the hottest Latina out there.''

'N Sync members LANCE BASS and JOEY FATONE are to star in a romantic comedy, On the Line, which is set for production in March. They will play best friends on the trail of a woman they met on a commuter train. Bass will also be one of the producers of the project, along with 'N Sync manager JOHNNY WRIGHT.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR has signed to appear in a dozen more episodes of the TV series Ally McBeal as the love interest of CALISTA FLOCKHART's character. The 35-year-old actor, whose guest appearances on the series this season boosted ratings and won him a Golden Globe award, is due in court again next Monday on drug charges. If convicted he faces 56 months in jail. Depending upon what happens in court, he is expected to be back on the Ally McBeal set later next week.

With a Golden Globe award for the Chinese martial arts drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, director ANG LEE is now turning to different pastures. Lee, who has helmed diverse films like Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm, will next direct Same Old Song a contemporary musical set in New York. ``It's really a very small romantic comedy with musical elements,'' he says. ``I want to do something refreshing.'' To prepare himself, Lee has been watching a wide range of musicals ranging from ERNST LUBITSCH films to Hong Kong operettas to Indian musicals. ``It's a new genre for me. I've never done it so there's a process of learning,'' he tells USA Today.

RHYS IFANS is to co-star with KEVIN SPACEY in The Shipping News. The Welsh-born actor will play an English newspaperman named Nutbeem who is the foreign editor of a Newfoundland newspaper called the Gammy Bird. Ifans, who played Hugh Grant's room-mate in Notting Hill and then appeared in Little Nicky and The Replacements begins work on the film in March. Spacey plays a newspaper reporter who moves to the Newfoundland coast after his cheating wife is killed in a car accident. He then falls in love with a lonely single mother played by JULIANNE MOORE. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by E Annie Proulx, The Shipping News is being directed by LASSE HALLSTROM.

A low-budget film featuring BRITNEY SPEARS playing an airline flight attendant is due to be released in late spring. Longshot, which was filmed in 1999 also features Spears' boyfriend, 'N Sync's JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, in a cameo role as a parking valet. But her role is a small one. ``We only had her for half an hour,'' says Longshot director LIONEL MARTIN. ``She plays a flight attendant and the captain of the plane is KENNY ROGERS. The movie has a bit of that Airplane! feel.'' The singer makes her first full-length feature film debut later this year in an as yet untitled film financed by her record label, Jive Records. The film will follow her and two friends across America to a music contest.

KIM BASINGER has lodged a protest with New York's famous Stage Deli because the restaurant has named a bacon and chicken sandwich after her. Basinger, 47, is a strict vegetarian, a vocal animal rights activist and supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has also protested to the restaurant. But the Stage's manager, Gil Kashkin, told the New York Post: ``Like we do with every celebrity, we asked her what her favourite foods were and she told us chicken and bacon.''

Screenwriter JOE ESZTERHAS has signed a deal to write two books, and one will be an expose of what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood. Eszterhas's films include Basic Instinct and Showgirls, and his last book was the controversial American Rhapsody. He has promised to have this book ready in time for the Oscars next year.

Miramax Films's controversial film O is to be released this spring after sitting on the shelf for more than a year. Set at a private school, this version of William Shakespeare's Othello has a rape scene and a bloody ending in which four of the leading characters die. Its release was originally delayed because of the Columbine high school massacre in Colorado. Then came the presidential campaign in which Vice President Al Gore and running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, sought to crack down on Hollywood violence. Miramax believes such a long delay has helped the film. Its then unknown young stars, JULIA STILES and JOSH HARNETT, are now becoming big names. O will be released shortly after Pearl Harbour, the big-budget Second World War drama in which Harnett co-stars with BEN AFFLECK.

Yet another star name has been added to the celebrity-studded cast of the Ocean's Eleven remake. ANDY GARCIA is to play the owner of a casino which is the target of a gang of robbers led by GEORGE CLOONEY's Danny Ocean. Garcia's character is seeing Ocean's girlfriend, who will be played by JULIA ROBERTS in the reworked version of the 1960 film which starred FRANK SINATRA and his Rat Pack. The new version, directed by STEVEN SODERBERGH, also stars BRAD PITT, MATT DAMON and CHRISTOPHER LAWFORD.

NATASCHA McELHONE, whose leading men have so far included ROBERT DE NIRO, HARRISON FORD and JIM CARREY, will be escaping the British winter next month. The London-born actress will be going on location to Cambodia and Thailand to star with MATT DILLON and JAMES CAAN in Beneath the Banyan Trees. Dillon makes his directorial debut, also playing an American con man involved in a failed insurance racket, while McElhone will be his love interest. Filming begins on February 12 in Cambodia for five weeks, then moves to Thailand for another three. TREVOR NUNN has persuaded GLENN CLOSE to make her London debut as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. The director also wants NICOLE KIDMAN to return to the British stage after her acclaimed performance in The Blue Room. He is hoping to tempt her to star in Ibsen's The Lady From the Sea. Kidman has just finished filming the supernatural thriller The Others in Spain.

CYBILL SHEPHERD has been sacked as the host of her daily TV talk show Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. The show has suffered from low ratings ever since it went on the air last year. It was the Moonlighting actress's first venture as a talk show host. She is being replaced by a panel of five people, including former Penthouse Pet, SAM PHILLIPS, and JOHN DE LOREAN's ex-wife, CHRISTINE FERRARE. ``Cybill was fine but the format of the show just didn't work,'' said a spokesman.

ROBIN WILLIAMS is joining ANTONIO BANDERAS and RENEE ZELLWEGER to star in the story of the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Williams will play the role of Marquis in the romantic comedy Lovers, Liars and Thieves. He and fellow thief Phoebe, played by Zellweger, convince a Louvre carpenter - Banderas - that the Mona Lisa belongs in Italy. The film, which is due to begin shooting in Europe on April 2, has been in development for six years. Williams has just finished filming the suspense drama One Hour Photo and the black comedy Death to Smoochy. Zellweger as Bridget Jones's Diary awaiting release while Banderas recently finished co-starring with ANGELINA JOLIE in Original Sin.

Billy Elliott director STEPHEN DALDRY is packing the cast of his first Hollywood film, The Hours, with well-known actors and actresses. His three stars, MERYL STREEP, NICOLE KIDMAN and JULIANNE MOORE, will join British stage actors EILEEN ATKINS and STEVEN DILLANE, along with Emmy winner ALLISON JANNEY, CLAIRE DANES and ED HARRIS. The story of three women in different eras begins shooting in London and New York next month.

Snatch star JASON STATHAM, now in Hollywood demand, has signed to co-star with the martial arts expert JET LI in the sci-fi thriller The One. The British actor will play a futuristic agent who patrols the universe trying to stop a renegade played by Li from going on a killing spree. He has just finished filming The Ghosts of Mars with ICE CUBE and NATASHA HENSTRIDGE.

RON SILVER will play boxing trainer ANGELO DUNDEE in the MUHAMMAD ALI film biography Ali. WILL SMITH stars as the former heavyweight champion and, director MICHAEL MANN is looking for stars to make cameo appearances as MALCOLM X, MARTIN LUTHER KING and boxing fan IDI AMIN. SAMUEL L JACKSON is denying rumours that he will play the REV JESSE JACKSON. ``No chance at all on that one,'' he says.

BILLY CONNOLLY is heading for Australia to join JUDY DAVIS in The Man Who Sued God, which begins shooting in Sydney next month. The Scottish comedian, whose wife Pamela is Australian, will play a fisherman whose boat is struck by lightning. When insurers refuse reimbursement, deeming the incident an ``act of God'', he tries to sue God. Connolly was recently seen in the comedy An Everlasting Piece and has Beautiful Joe with SHARON STONE awaiting release.

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