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Weekly's Gone By:WEEK-42-01
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week 24-01
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The forthcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy is going to surpass even Star Wars, according one of its key actors JOHN RHYS-DAVIES. A recent 25-minute press screening of director PETER JACKSON's three-film version of JRR TOLKIEN's classic fantasy novel rendered assembled critics speechless, Empire magazine reported. A montage of scenes showed staggering special effects, jaw-dropping New Zealand scenery and pulsating battles between the forces of good and evil. ``I know I sound insufferable, but this is going to be bigger than Star Wars,'' proclaims Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli the dwarf. He sets out with his companions, which include the hobbits Frodo, Merry and Pippin and Gandalf the wizard, on the quest to destroy the earth's most powerful magic ring that the forces of evil covet. The star-studded cast also includes SEAN BEAN, ELIJAH WOOD, CATE BLANCHETT, LIV TYLER, SIR IAN McKELLEN and CHRISTOPHER LEE. The first instalment, The Fellowship of the Ring, is due for release in December with Two Towers and Return of the King hitting screens in 2002 and 2003. Jackson, whose movies include Heavenly Creatures and Forgotten Silver, said: ``You can say this is not solely a film for Tolkien fans, it's a film made by Tolkien fans.''

SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS is in talks to play masked cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter for a third time. The 63-year-old actor has been asked to play his most famous role again in an adaptation of the original book about Hannibal, Red Dragon, Daily Variety reported. Earlier this year he horrified audiences by playing the world's most notorious cannibal in Hannibal, which came after he first played the character in The Silence of the Lambs, winning an Oscar for the role in 1992. Daily Variety reported the film studio which made Hannibal is already adapting Red Dragon into a film script, using the same writer who wrote the script for The Silence of the Lambs. The story introduces Hannibal when he is arrested for the first time by an ex-FBI agent who almost became one of his victims. It has already been made into a film, called Manhunter, released in 1986 and starring British actor BRIAN COX as Dr Lecter. But Sir Anthony took over the famous role in 1991 when he acted alongside JODIE FOSTER. Hannibal has proved a hit around the world, with the film so far taking almost 180 million at box offices, a success which puts it on a par with The Silence of the Lambs. Director BRETT RATNER is also in talks to helm Red Dragon and is likely to be paid 2.8 million for overseeing the project.

Two radio DJs created panic with a hoax which claimed BRITNEY SPEARS and boyfriend JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE had died in a car crash. Distraught fans flooded emergency services phone lines in Los Angeles after the claim was made on Dallas radio station KEGL-FM by two shock-jocks who call themselves Kramer and Twitch. The broadcasters told listeners to the rock music station both stars had been killed in a crash in California, prompting a rumour which spread via the internet to New Zealand, the Los Angeles Times reported. More than 100 worried fans called the Los Angeles fire department to ask what had happened. Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the department, told the newspaper: ``It really spoiled my night.'' And the department received so many calls it played a recorded message to callers saying it had ``no knowledge of a well-known singer and her boyfriend'' being killed. Police and hospitals were also flooded with calls from fans asking after Spears, 19, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, who is a member of US boy band 'N Sync. The radio hoaxers have already had a brush with controversy, being suspended in February for angering listeners when they said drivers should run over motorcyclists and cyclists or hit them with open doors.

Pop act Atomic Kitten have revealed they were secretly dumped by their record company - just days before they released their No 1 hit Whole Again. The band were dropped for just a day, as their manager persuaded the record label, Innocent, they were making a mistake, singer NATASHA HAMILTON said. She told pop magazine Smash Hits that the threat of losing their record deal piled on the pressure for the song to do well - but it went on to become the longest reigning No 1 of the year so far. Music pundits were surprised the song came from nowhere to score such a huge hit, as there had been speculation their career may have been over. Hamilton said: ``At first we were a little stressed. We had a single coming out and we were like, `This has to do well or we'll be dropped again'. ``But then we discussed it and thought, at the end of the day if they want to drop us, hopefully, another record company will want to sign us.'' The group are set to make a cameo appearance on Channel 5's Aussie soap Home and Away when it films in London next week.

Pop idol Robbie Williams is turning crooner with an album of big band cover versions later this year. The singer is delving into the standards of Frank Sinatra and his ilk to record a stop-gap release before a new album of his own material, which is pencilled in until 2003. Williams, 27, is known to be a fan of Ol' Blue Eyes and covered a track for the movie Bridget Jones's Diary. A spokeswoman for Williams said: ``They will be big band covers. He's already done Have You Met Miss Jones? for the Bridget Jones soundtrack, so it's an extension of that. ``There will be more songs by artists of that ilk. Whether it is people like Matt Monro we don't know at this point.'' Williams's next single features the track The Road To Mandalay, although it is not the track of a similar title from Sinatra's classic album Come Fly With Me. Each of Williams's previous albums has topped the charts, although his pal George Michael found in 1999 that his covers release Songs From The Last Century failed to sell as well as past efforts.

It must be difficult to find surprise gifts when you are married to a Hollywood star - after all these really are the men who have everything. But Friends star COURTNEY COX ARQUETTE has aking cooking lessons so she can bake him the rhubarb pie that is ``his favourite food in the world''. The plain-talking British actor SIR IAN McKELLEN has pointed out that just because he is gay, it hasn't stopped him playing a wide assortment of parts in his long career. He says: ``I've played happily married men and homosexual rapists. I've played a whole range of characters. ``It seems to give lie to the generally accepted notion that if you're gay you won't be accepted in non-gay parts. ``I always thought that was nonsense, except in the case of Hollywood movie stars. I never had any ambition to be that. Few people are. ``Anyone with ambition to be a Hollywood movie star is bound to be disappointed.''

Hollywood star JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME was not always a film action man - he once had a far more menial job delivering pizzas. But even in those early days, Van Damme showed speedy reactions. He remembers: ``I was good. I was on time.'' Ah, the folly of youth.

Exorcist actress LINDA BLAIR says now she realizes just how naive she was when she gained worldwide fame as the child star of the film. ``I believed everybody,'' says Blair, ``and it broke my mother's heart.'' At the age of 14, Blair won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for her role as Regan McNeil, a girl possessed by demons, but instead of becoming a major star as everyone predicted, she went on to appear in a series of B movies and did nude photo shoots. ``My mom told me, `You don't understand. People are taking advantage of you.' And I thought, `No, you're wrong.' And when you grow up, you realize that adults are always right,'' the actress sighs. Blair now hosts an American TV show called `The Scariest Places on Earth.'

There are reports from Hollywood that CUBA GOODING JR's Oscar from Jerry Maguire can no longer grace his mantelpiece. The actor was apparently having a party at his house to celebrate the success of his new movie Pearl Harbor and he decided to show off his statuette. Clowning around and re-enacting his ``Show me the money!'' scene from the movie, the horrified actor felt the statuette slip from his grasp, hit the floor and shatter. Gooding called the Academy Awards people for a replacement, but they informed him that Oscars were only ever replaced if they had been stolen. The star was so broken-hearted that the Academy has promised to repair his Oscar for him - if he promises to keep it in a safe place from now on.

As this summer shapes up to be a season of blockbusters, there are plenty of gigantic projects under way for release next year. The Sum of All Fears, the latest Jack Ryan movie, sees a much younger hero in the form of BEN AFFLECK replacing HARRISON FORD. Ryan's mentor is to be played by MORGAN FREEMAN in the film that will feature at least one nuclear explosion, easily taking the budget beyond 100 million dollars. Men In Black 2 is also set for release next summer, with WILL SMITH and TOMMY LEE JONES returning as the alien busters. ROSARIO DAWSON has signed up to play Smith's love interest, while X-Men's FAMKE JANSSEN is the evil Serleena bent on thwarting the men in black. Its US release has been scheduled for next July, putting it head to head with STEVEN SPIELBERG's Minority Report, a police thriller starring TOM CRUISE and COLIN FARRELL. Other likely blockbusters include Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, set for release this autumn, and next su mmer's Spider Man, starring TOBEY MAGUIRE and WILLIAM DAFOE.

STEVEN SPIELBERG's DreamWorks studio is shaping up to be a major rival to Disney in the field of computer animation with the release of Shrek. The fairytale follows the fortunes of Shrek, a reclusive ogre, voiced by MIKE MYERS, whose peaceful swamp is suddenly invaded by all manner of characters. He soon realises they have been banished from the kingdom of Lord Farquaad (JOHN LITHGOW), a tyrannical midget with a fierce temper. Joining forces with a chatterbox donkey (EDDIE MURPHY), Shrek must rescue Princess Fiona (CAMERON DIAZ) who is imprisoned in a tower protected by a female dragon. Full of fairytale parodies and some crude humour, Shrek also contains a number of digs aimed at DreamWorks' rival Disney, whose animated hits include Toy Story and Toy Story 2. The multi-million dollar picture is set to open in Britain on June 29 and has received a special West End preview, attended by such stars as former All Saint NICOLE APPLETON and TV presenter MELINDA MESSENGER.

US record labels are in a bidding war to sign up a single featuring The Weakest Link host Anne Robinson. A number of major American labels are hoping to secure the track by Echobass Featuring Ratpack, which will be released here next month. The garage track features samples of Robinson's catchphrases from the quiz show, which has proved to be a ratings winner on the other side of the Atlantic. A spokeswoman for the act said: ``Various major labels are now in a bidding war to sign up the rights. ``The plan is to release it just before Christmas. Who knows, it could be the Christmas number one.'' The track has already been going down well in clubs and the team behind the track is expecting it to be a big chart hit. Robinson, who has already bought a new outfit of leather jacket and spike heels for any Top Of The Pops appearances, can be heard saying lines such as ``it's votes that count'' and ``you are the weakest link, goodbye''. The quiz host said of her contribution to the track: ``Robinson the dancefloor diva, why not? I'm sure the Weakest Link is going to be as big a hit in the clubs as it is on TV.''

When it comes to views on relationships, ROD STEWART's 21-year-old daughter Kimberly is proving to be something of a chip off the old block. The aspiring actress, Stewart's daughter from his first marriage to ALANA HAMILTON, said she would like to marry but could not see it lasting forever. Her remarks echo her father's recent comments on marriage, when the twice hitched singer suggested that wedding vows should be renewed like dog licences. In an interview with Hello! magazine, Kimberly expressed her doubts that marriages today could succeed. ``I'm sure I'll get married in my twenties - and I probably won't spend the rest of my life with that person. ``I can't think of one marriage that has stayed together... it just doesn't happen. ``I think marriage is almost taken too seriously. That could just be because I'm young. But I think I'm going to make up my own marriage vows,'' she said. Stewart's marriage to Alana Hamilton lasted five years. They also have a son, 20-year-old Sean. He had two children with his second wife, model RACHEL HUNTER, but that marriage also broke down. And the 56-year-old has a daughter by former model KELLY EMBERG. He is currently involved with 29-year-old photographer PENNY LANCASTER. In a recent interview, he said: ``It is such a rarity for people to stay together.''

SIR PAUL McCARTNEY has told how his 30-year marriage to late wife Linda still puts a strain on his new love HEATHER MILLS. The Beatles legend said he continues to keep Linda's memory alive as he appeared on US television to launch his new book of poems. ``She's all around me. Everybody I know knows her and remembers her, so I talk a lot about her,'' he told CNN's LARRY KING. He said the attention had been tough for 33 year-old Mills. ``I think she's handled it particularly well. It's obviously not easy when someone's loved someone for 30 years. I think it's different if it was a divorce.'' He said his book, entitled Blackbird Singing, included some poems about Linda. ``We loved each other. Quite simple. We'd both sown our wild oats before we got together and we were kind of fed up with playing the field.'' Later, sitting beside Mills, he told what first attracted him to the former model. ``I was at an awards ceremony and Heather was giving a speech. I thought, wow, she looks good. It was a looks thing.'' Sir Paul also revealed that he recently visited fellow Beatle GEORGE HARRISON, who is recovering from surgery for throat cancer. He said he did not want to reveal too much about Harrison's condition in case he wanted to keep it private, but that he was doing well.

Action man ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER seems to be trying to throw the media spotlight on his work in a bid to revive his career. The actor is hyping his new movie Collateral Damage and has just announced plans to start shooting the long-awaited Terminator 3 by late 2001 or early 2002. American history X star EDWARD FURLONG will also return, reprising his role as John Connor. Schwarzenegger has also announced that he has finally signed a deal to make True Lies 2.

Details are beginning to emerge about the top-secret movie that is bringing CATHERINE ZETA-JONES back to film in her native Wales. The plot, conceived by the star's own brother LYNDON JONES, tells the story of a Welsh rugby team that reluctantly hires their manager's gay son as their new coach. The film is called Coming Out. But what no one has yet been able to discover is the role Zeta-Jones will be playing in the film. It started out as just a family outing to the zoo for SHARON STONE, husband PHIL BRONSTEIN and baby Roan. But while his wife watched in horror, Bronstein's foot was grabbed in the teeth of a 5ft-long Komodo dragon. Bronstein had been invited into the cage at the Los Angeles zoo by keepers to inspect the giant Indonesian lizard. The keepers had even insisted that Bronstein remove his white tennis shoes, explaining that the lizard might mistake them for the white rats on which it is fed. But it appeared the beast found newspaperman Bronstein's bare feet even more appetising. Surgeons had to stitch up gashes in his foot, reattach tendons and rebuild his big toe, which was completely crushed. Stone says: ``We certainly don't blame the people at the zoo.''

The 16-year-old daughter of Spin Ci ty star CHARLIE SHEEN has been arrested for burglary. The girl, whose name has not been released because of her age, has been charged with breaking into a clothes shop called Stella Maris in Malibu, California. She has been released by the police into the custody of her mother, who no longer lives with Sheen.

How can you tell when a Hollywood marriage is officially over? When one of the parties changes the name of their private plane. And that's what happened to superstars TOM CRUISE and NICOLE KIDMAN. The actor has just arranged for the name of their plane to be changed from Sweet Nic to Sweet Bella. But Bella isn't the new lady in Cruise's life - the plane is now called after the couple's five-year-old daughter Isabella.

007 star PIERCE BROSNAN wants to spice up the sex scenes in the James Bond movies, claiming they're licensed to thrill - but don't deliver. ``The sex could be done in a much more exciting way without being damaging to children,'' the actor insists. ``In The World is Not Enough, SOPHIE MARCEAU and I had to do 15 takes of our bedroom scene because we saw a nipple. ``It's crazy! It's okay to shoot someone - but don't show her nipples.'' Former Bond star ROGER MOORE agrees with Brosnan, saying: ``Those love scenes were so tame. The raciest thing about Octopussy and The Man with the Golden Gun were the titles.''

Superstar BRAD PITT and his wife JENNIFER ANISTON are so frequently chased by the press that he has now taken to filming the paparazzi. The actor has had surveillance cameras mounted in his silver Range Rover to film anyone in pursuit.

With the writers' strike resolved, Hollywood is heaving a sigh of relief and kicking some delayed high-profile projects into high gear. Among them is the sequel to cult classic Easy Rider, the dope-smoking, rebel biker movie starring PETER FONDA, JACK NICHOLSON and DENNIS HOPPER. The film is being produced by MARTIN LANDAU, who says: ``It's basically about a sequel 30 years later. ``It's about the sons of Peter Fonda's and Jack Nicholson's characters, who wind up together. ``Fonda's character has been in jail, wrongly accused of Nicholson's murder, and word comes to both sons that the real murderer is still out there.'' Describing the sons' characters, Landau says: ``One is a biker and the other is lawyer in New York. ``They go on the road and cover the same tracks their fathers did, trying to track down the real murderer, so it deals with the changes of the times.'' Those wacky aliens have finally said goodbye to the 3rd Rock from the Sun as the sci-fi sitcom comes to an end after five successful years.

Actor JOHN LITHGOW, who played group patriarch Dick Solomon, says: ``It was 138 episodes, laughing all the way. ``The feeling is melancholy, we really did love it right up to the end. But I am on to the next thing, and I'm quite excited about a big project.'' Lithgow has been busy providing the voice of the villainous Lord Farquaad in the DreamWorks animated picture Shrek. That off-screen role took three years to complete, and Lithgow had to recording snatches of dialogue in an isolated sound booth, never even running into his co-stars CAMERON DIAZ and EDDIE MURPHY. But the project that has got Lithgow all excited is a Broadway musical based on 1950s cult movie The Sweet Smell of Success. He will be taking the role of JJ Hunsecker, a vicious gossip columnist, played in the original by Burt Lancaster. The music is by MARVIN HAMLISCH and the production is being directed by NICHOLAS HYNTER. Lithgow says: ``It would have happened much earlier if it wasn't for my commitment to 3rd Rock. They've been waiting for me to come free.''

Friends star DAVID SCHWIMMER is putting down new roots in LA, prompting speculation that he is going to marry is girlfriend MILI AVITAL. Only weeks after his co-star COURTENEY COX and her husband DAVID ARQUETTE bought a beachfront mansion, Schwimmer has splashed out 5.5 million dollars for a house in elegant Hancock Park. The 11,000 square foot house has nine bedrooms and includes a sitting room, dressing room, a tennis court, a pool/spa, a three-car garage, gardens and a guest house. Schwimmer has played Ross Geller on the mega-hit sitcom for seven years and receives a 750,000 dollar fee per episode plus additional profit sharing from the series re-runs. He is also appearing on the series Band of Brothers, which airs on HBO on the US in September, and co-starred in TV series Picking Up the Pieces in May.

A remake of cult classic The Stepford Wives is under way at last, with screenwriter PAUL RUDNICK hired to write the script. The film is being produced by SCOTT RUDIN with DONALD DE LINE and EDGAR SCHERICK, who produced the 1975 original that starred KATHERINE ROSS. This new version, like its famous predecessor, will be based on IRA LEVIN's horror novel about a town full of robot-like housewives, programmed to be subservient to their husbands. Developments are still at any early stage, however, with casting of the lead roles and the choice of director yet to be settled.

Staff at a chic San Francisco restaurant were stunned to see movie superstar KEANU REEVES at their restaurant, alone and, from the way he kept checking his watch and refusing to order, apparently stood-up. They were even more amazed when his ``date'' turned up later, muttering apologies and presenting Reeves with one dozen red roses - it was his Matrix co-star LAWRENCE FISHBURNE.

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