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Weekly's Gone By:WEEK-42-01
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week 26-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

Harry Potter director CHRIS COLUMBUS has promised fans that he has been faithful to the book and is not turning it into another Home Alone, which was his first hit. ``People have been sceptical,'' he tells USA Today. ``They'd say, `Chris Columbus, my God, is he going to turn it into Home Alone?' I promise, no! ``It was a passion for me to be as faithful to the book as possible. These books are incredibly imaginative, classic stories. Why would you need to toy with that?'' Harry Potter, which is due to open on November 16, stars DANIEL RADCLIFFE, of whom Columbus says: ``He's got a sense of wisdom and intelligence and real sort of haunted quality that Harry Potter has.''

The news that JULIA ROBERTS and BENJAMIN BRATT had ended their romance came as surprise to journalists who attended a press conference with theactress in New York last weekend. There, she talked about her love for him and how they share so much together. It was only later that Bratt's spokeswoman confirmed that they had separated - a month ago, according to sources. The break-up is bound to hound Roberts as she does publicity for America's Sweethearts, her upcoming film about a press agent who must deal with the messy split of two stars just as their new film is coming out.

While HALEY JOEL OSMENT's parents are doubtful about allowing the young star to see himself in the often dark and sinister AI, his co-star JUDE LAW has no such qualms. ``Jude's really keen to have a screening in London with our 11-year-old son and some of his friends,'' Law's wife, actress SADIE FROST, told interviewers. ``He thinks they'll be able to hand it. They've already got wild imaginations.'' She said Law, who plays a robot lover named Gigolo Joe, thinks today's children are ready to deal with ``bigger, more adult questions.''

ROBERT VAUGHN, who in the 1960s starred in the television series The ManFrom Uncle, has found a new career as a lecturer. He is one of the stars from Hollywood's ``Golden Age'' who are going to sea to take part in the Renaissance Cruise line's new VIP Speaker Series. Other celebrities lined up to entertain the passengers include JANE POWELL, DICK MOORE, and astronaut SCOTT CARPENTER.

GERARD DEPARDIEU is to portray his fellow countryman, Charles de Gaulle in a film of the former French president's life. ``The part of his life that fascinates me is when he left France during theOccupation to when he returns, when his leadership was in doubt and he was being tested,'' says Depardieu, who has just returned from Cambodia where MATT DILLON directed him in Under The Banyan Tree. ``The film was originally going to be titled City Of Ghosts,'' Depardieu tells the New York Post, ``but the authorities in Cambodia were very sensitive about dead people because of all the problems they have had there, so wechanged it.''

WOODY ALLEN is piling up the movie projects. His latest comedy, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, is not due to open until August, but he has already completed his next picture, Hollywood Ending. Sources say it is a behind-the-scenes look at the film business and, unlike the 1940s-set Scorpion, takes place now. Some scenes were reportedly shot in the New York offices of DreamWorks, the studio distributing the film. Besides Allen, the cast includes TEA LEONI, TREAT WILLIAMS, GEORGE HAMILTON and DEBRA MESSING.

WILL SMITH and TOMMY LEE JONES will be battling oestrogen-fuelled extraterrestrials in Men In Black 2 which is now in production. ``The big lead baddie is a female alien - and we're doing a number of other female creatures for this one as well,'' make-up wizard RICK BAKER tells Entertainment Weekly magazine. FAMKE JANSSEN, who was the villainess in the James Bond film GoldenEye, will play the alien Amazon among a host of familiar foes. ``The worm guys from the first film are coming back in a big way,'' says Baker. ``They're practically the stars of the movie.''

DAVID HASSELLHOFF is preparing for a television comeback with a new version of his 1980s talking car series Knight Rider. The former Baywatch star has already enlisted the return of WILLIAM DANIELS, who provided the original voice of the car, KITT, and scripts are being prepared. The new series will be set further in the future with Michael Knight coming out of retirement and hiring two young assistants. ``I'll be the older, cool boss who oversees this incredibly updated car,'' says Hassellhoff.

JOHN LITHGOW has embarked on what he calls a Perfectly Ridiculous Tour of America with his son Nathan to ``bring back vaudeville for little children''. He is travelling by bus to at least 10 cities to give concerts aimed at entertaining and educating children. ``I'm doing it because I love it,'' he says. ``Kids are the most amazing audience and keeping them captivated is the greatest challenge for a performer.'' Lithgow sees the tour as a tune-up for his opening in the musical Sweet Smell of Success in Chicago in the autumn, in advance of its planned Broadway debut next March. ``I'm not particularly fretful about taking on a singing and dancing role, but the more I do beforehand, the better,'' says Lithgow, who plays the power-mad gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker in the show. A cast of mainly British actors is to provide the voices for the characters in the animated film The Wild Thornberrys, which has just gone into production at Paramount studios.

BRENDA BLETHYN, LYNN REDGRAVE, TIM CURRY and RUPERT EVERETT are among those whose voices will be featured in the film, which is based on a popular US TV series. The story follows the adventures of Eliza Thornberry, a 12-year-old who can talk to animals like Dr Dolittle. She and her family travel the world search for exotic, endangered animals to star in their nature documentaries. Curry and Redgrave will voice Eliza's parents, Blethyn the headmistress of Eliza's boarding school and Everett the villain, Sloan Blackburn.

WOODY HARRELSON was so shaken by the recent bicycle accident of his close friend, hemp activist JOE HICKEY, that he stopped smoking pot for a few days. ``I usually like to walk around in a perpetual fog,'' Harrelson tells Premiere magazine. ``I've been so shaken up lately that I can't even bring myself to smoke weed. It's been four days since I burned one.'' Harrison says he is so involved in his own pro-pot activism that he has put his acting career on hold. ``It's not a priority,'' he says. ``If I lose my career, I don't need it.'' Producers at Universal Pictures plan to cast a top American comic actor in British playwright ANDREW MARSHALL's film, Scary Poppins. The story focuses on a confidence trickster who poses as a nanny to evade capture from other con men and the law.

GEORGE CLOONEY is to make his directing debut with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind now BRYAN SINGER has left the helm to work on X-Men 2. Clooney will also star in the story of game show host CHUCK BARRIS, who claims he was also a CIA assassin while hosting The Gong Show TV series. The project has been in the works for some time an d has attracted the interest of stars like MIKE MYERS, JOHNNY DEPP, BEN STILLER and SEAN PENN. Now it seems certain the project will go ahead, with Clooney taking the role of the government agent who recruits Barris. JOHNNY DEPP is reportedly in line for the Barris role.

ER heart-throb GORAN VISNJIC has signed a lucrative four-year deal that runs through the 11th season of the hit medical drama. Details are not being disclosed but the deal is believed to put Visnjic in the six-figure-per-episode club with the whole contract worth millions of pounds. ``He has been great for the show. He's a wonderful actor and a consummate professional,'' says ER producer and creator JOHN WELLS.

The 28-year-old actor was discovered through his role in Welcome to Sarejevo. Director JOE ROTH is praising CATHERINE ZETA-JONES's performance as a demanding film star in the romantic comedy America's Sweethearts. ``The great thing to me was not only that Catherine could do this comedy so well, but that she did it so unapologetically,'' he said. ``She accepted the fact that her character was very selfish. Catherine is an old-fashioned movie star but at the same time completely modern in her willingness and capability to do absolutely anything.''

JOHN CUSACK co-stars as her estranged movie star husband while JULIA ROBERTS plays her downtrodden assistant. British writer CAROLE MATTHEWS' upcoming novel For Better, For Worse is on the fast track in Hollywood.

Producer BILL MECHANIC is rushing the project into development, hoping to follow up on the success of Bridget Jones's Diary. Described as Bridget Jones meets Sleepless in Seattle, the story follows a newly divorced young woman who finds romance while attending her cousin's wedding in New York. The unexpected success of gangland saga The Fast and The Furious has already seen director ROB COHEN putting a sequel into development. Street-racing is the other theme of the film, which stars VIN DIESEL as the leader of a group of hotrod daredevils. Even though it has only been in release in the US for a week, it has already earned more than the 30 million it cost to make.

Hook a helicopter with a crossbow from a moving Jeep, shin up the attached line, wrestle with the pilot and leap out before it crashes in flames. It was all in a day's work as far as Charlie's Angels stuntwoman DANA LYNN HEE was concerned. But her death-defying feats in the film as stunt double for CAMERON DIAZ have won her an award for Best Aerial Sequence at Hollywood's first World Stunt Academy Awards. ``The sequence was incredibly cool,'' says Hee. ``We got lifted out of a Jeep. We're swinging in the air. Obviously, if the line breaks, you're dead. But it's not as dangerous as other stuff I've done.'' Hee has also risked life and limb in Star Trek Voyager, The X-Files and Baywatch. She has doubled for superstars such as NICOLE KIDMAN, SANDRA BULLOCK and GEENA DAVIS, earning on average a cool 300,000 dollars per year. The 39-year-old stuntwoman has suffered broken bones, countless cases of concussion and enough cuts, scratches and burns for an army platoon. And she still loves what she does. ``I guess I'm kind of nuts,'' she laughs. You can soon see Hee again, this time trapped in a bus and being dangled from a helicopter in JOHN TRAVOLTA's new action movie Swordfish.

X-Files star DAVID DUCHOVNY blames a missing comma on his recent TV quiz show failure. Ivy League-educated Duchovny stumbled on the 500,000-dollar question on the celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The former English teacher was asked to name the film that ends with the line, `Good luck among them, English'. Duchovny's reply was Braveheart, but the correct answer was Witness. The furious star insisted that when the line was displayed on the screen, the comma before the word English was missing. But Duchovny, who appears in sci-fi comedy Evolution, is not registering an official complaint. He says wryly: ``So I wen t home and I was like, `So there was no comma. How much of an egghead, sour grapes idiot do you want to seem by actually complaining about this?'''

While some movie stars may have resorted to cosmetic treatment to halt the march of time, for many the age of 40 still marks that psychological turning point. And it may surprise you to learn that the energetic EDDIE MURPHY, ever-youthful MICHAEL J FOX and ex-ER heart-throb GEORGE CLOONEY have already reached the milestone. Other stars who are turning the big 4-0 this year include Spin City's HEATHER LOCKLEAR and Sopranos boss JAMES GANDOLFINI, not to mention MEG RYAN, WOODY HARRELSON and NYPD Blue's KIM DELANEY. So while some may view 40 as the beginning of the end, these stars are clearly going from strength to strength.

California's energy crisis has seen rolling blackouts sweep across the state, with chat show host JAY LENO vowing to do his part for energy conservation. To defeat the darkness, he has suggested some innovative measures while his Tonight Show with Jay Leno is being filmed. Leno, his guests and the studio audience would don coal miners' hats with little lights on the front. Torches and glow-in-the-dark toys would also feature, while the show's producers have promised a special guest appearance by black chat show host ARSENIO HALL in a segment featuring nocturnal animals.

Boyzone star KEITH DUFFY has landed a movie role as a henchman and driver for a gangland villain in a gangster movie. He will shoot the film, whose working title is The Gift, for STEVEN SPIELBERG's DreamWorks company, according to his co-star TONY THOMPSON. Both Duffy and Thompson, who sings for chart act Phats and Small, seem to be branching out into movies after a solid grounding in pop. Duffy had been hoping to play more gigs with Boyzone later this year for a multi-million pound reunion but frontman RONAN KEATING was too tied up with his solo career.

JENNIFER LOPEZ spent more than three months learning Krav Maga, a form of martial arts used by the Israeli armed forces, for her role in British director MICHAEL APTED's drama Enough. Apted, who directed the 1999 James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough, says Lopez did 95% of her own stunts for the film, in which she plays a working-class waitress who fights back against her abusive husband. British stunt co-ordinator, SIMON CRANE, who also trained ANGELINA JOLIE for Tomb Raider, says: ``Just like Angelina, Jennifer was very keen to do her own stuff. She was very good. It was pretty scary at times.''

The science-fiction author, RAY BRADBURY, will see two of his books, Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, filmed again in the near future. Fahrenheit 451 was first filmed in 1966 by FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT and starred JULIE CHRISTIE and OSKAR WERNER. The Illustrated Man, staring ROD STEIGER and CLAIRE BLOOM was filmed in 1969 - and was hated by the 81-year-old author. ``It was adapted by an estate agent from New Jersey,'' he tells Daily Variety. Both films will be directed by FRANK DARABONT, who has directed two films based on STEPHEN KING stories, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

Frasier star KELSEY GRAMMAR is about to become the highest paid actor in television history, reports Daily Variety. He is on the verge of signing a new contract which will keep him with the show for at least another two years at a record fee of 1.2 million an episode. Grammar, who was previously in Cheers, will have played the Frasier character for almost two decades.

A deal is reportedly also being negotiated to keep his Frasier co-star, DAVID HYDE PIERCE, with the show for at least two more years. BRITNEY SPEARS has some steamy love scenes with French-born model BRYCE DURAND in her new music video, Don't Let Me Be the La st to Know. And Durand says the singer is hardly an innocent child. ``She's a really good kisser,'' he says in the July issue of Bop magazine. ``It was easy and I always felt she was very relaxed.'' But Spears's mother, Lynne, had some initial objections to her daughter rolling around on the beach with 23-year-old Durand, so some editing was done. KATE BECKINSALE, KATE MOSS and CHLOE SEVIGNY are all in contention for the role of EDIE SEDGWICK, in a film about the original New York It girl. Described as a cross between The Sweet Smell of Success and the Great Gatsby, the film will tell the story of Edie, the Andy Warhol disciple, model and actress who was dubbed Girl of the Year in 1965 by writer TOM WOLFE. ``A role like this is rare in Hollywood,'' says CASSIAN ELWES, the agent who is packaging the film. ``It's going to be difficult to find an actress to fill the soul and spirit of Edie Sedgwick.''

Fox Searchlight has already begun its Oscar campaign for the British gangster film Sexy Beast - nine months before the nominations for the next awards. The company is advertising in film industry newspapers and magazines, offering free passes to Oscar, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild voters who want to see the film. ``People always criticise that Oscar campaigning starts too early,'' Fox Searchlight president NANCY UTLEY tells USA Today. ``But the film is out now and we figured why not try to get voters to see it when it's in cinemas with great projection and sound systems?'' The studio's follow-up campaign will press the case of Sexy Beast star BEN KINGSLEY as candidate for a best actor Oscar nomination. He plays a gangster who visits a retired colleague in Spain to persuade him to do one more job.

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