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Weekly's Gone By:WEEK-42-01
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week 21-01
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

QUEEN OF THE MATERIAL WORLD Miramax has offered one million dollars for the film rights to a forthcoming book about MADONNA. The movie would be based on British author DOUGLAS THOMPSON's book, Madonna: Queen of the World, according to publisher JOHN BLAKE. The film company has reportedly lined up Sex and the City actress SARAH JESSICA PARKER to portray Madonna on screen. The updated and revised version of the book is due to be released on July 1 to coincide with Madonna's concert tour.

Director BRAD SILBERLING is denying his latest film, Baby's in Black, is based on the murder of his girlfriend, actress REBECCA SCHAEFFER. ``I was fortunate to have had Rebecca in my life and I'm very comfortable with there being a public understanding that this is an emotional basis for the film,'' he tells Daily Variety. ``But I want to defuse expectations that this is her family's story.'' Silberling had been dating Schaeffer, the star of TV series My Sister Sam, for two years when the 21-year-old actress was shot dead by a stalker in 1989. He is now married to Judging Amy star AMY BRENNERMAN. Baby's in Black centres on a young man grieving for his murdered fiancee at her parent's home when he falls in love with another woman. DUSTIN HOFFMAN and SUSAN SARANDON star as the parents and JAKE GYLLENHAAL plays the fiance. The word ``dirty'' has been deleted from one character's outburst against the Japanese in the version of Pearl Harbor to be shown in Japan. A Walt Disney studio official said the word had been deleted out of sensitivity to ``international audiences'' and acknowledged that other ``very small changes'' had been made.

Producer JERRY BRUCKHEIMER, in interviews about Pearl Harbor, said the film tries to show both countries' points of view. ``It's all about perspective,'' he said. ``We tried to show their point of view versus our point of view.'' After surviving Pearl Harbor, BEN AFFLECK is in discussions to star in the dramatic comedy Surviving Christmas. He will play a man faced with spending Christmas alone who returns to his childhood home and convinces the family living there to take him in. Production is expected to begin after he finishes filming the TOM CLANCY story The Sum of All Fears, in which he takes over the role of CIA agent Jack Ryan from HARRISON FORD.

GEORGE CLOONEY has taken a few days off from filming the Las Vegas casino bank robbery story Ocean's Eleven. He used the time to fly to Cleveland to crack a safe in his next film, Collinwood, which has already started production. Clooney not only stars in Collinwood, but is also producing it with his Ocean's Eleven director, the Oscar-winning STEVEN SODERBERGH.

British band Travis will tour America for this sixth time this summer, with their single Sing on the verge of becoming their first major US hit. Travis's new album, The Invisible Band, is to be released on June 12 and the influential Los Angeles Times predicts it will be a big hit. ``After the anger and decadence of 90s pop-rock, Travis's sunny, optimistic embrace may be just what audiences are looking for today,'' writes the newspaper's critic.

POLLY ANTHONY, president of Epic Records Group, the band's US label, is also a fan. ``What has always struck me about this band is its absolute sincerity, a quality that makes them inspirational and uplifting without being saccharine,'' she says. LEO LINES UP FRAUDSTER ROLE LEONARDO DI CAPRIO, who recently finished filming Gangs of New York for director MARTIN SCORSESE, has already chosen his next project. He is negotiating to star in Catch Me If You Can, the true tale of Frank Abagnale Jr, an imposter who impersonated so many people and forged so many cheques that he was the only teenager ever on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.

Chocolat director LASSE HALLSTROM, who previously worked with DiCaprio on What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, is likely to direct the film. ANTHONY HOPKINS' latest film has ground to a standstill because ALEC BALDWIN, who is making his directing debut, is refusing to continue until financial problems are settled. The Devil and Daniel Webster has finished filming but Baldwin tells Daily Variety he will not edit the project until the producers come up with more money. He said that he and others were not paid during the last month of production and he had to hire a lawyer to get his money. Baldwin also co-stars in the film as a writer who sells his soul to the devil, played by JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT. Hopkins is the lawyer who argues on behalf of the writer's soul. The two men behind the hit film The Exorcist are suing Warner Bros, claiming they have been cheated out of profits from the re-release of the film last year.

Director WILLIAM FRIEDKIN and WILLIAM BLATTY, who wrote the best-selling book and the film screenplay, claim the studio gave the rights to the new Exorcist to its cable television stations for nothing. The film earned 70 million worldwide when it was released again last year, making it the second most successful re-release after the Star Wars series. According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Friedkin and Blatty spent years persuading Warner Bros to re-release the film. Blatty outlined an arrangement of new scenes and Friedkin spent s everal months re-editing the film. Both men are seeking unspecified damages.

TONY CURTIS is considering more plastic surgery to prepare himself for his role in the stage musical Some Like It Hot, which opens in Las Vegas in July. ``If I need a little screw tightening up in my face, I'll get it,'' he says. Curtis, who turns 76 next month, is taking dancing lessons for the role of Osgood Fielding III, who was played in the hit 1959 film by JOE E BROWN. As for singing, he says: ``I'll do it like REX HARRISON did in My Fair Lady.'' The son of fashion designer RALPH LAUREN is getting into the film business. ANDREW LAUREN, whose father designed the clothes for the cast of 1974's The Great Gatsby, is producing an updated remake of the film, called G. Instead of dealing with socialites on Long Island during the 1920s, Lauren Jr's version is set against the backdrop of the hip-hop culture. It stars RICHARD T JONES and BLAIR UNDERWOOD in the story of a rap mogul who built an empire to win back the woman he loves. Filming is now under way in the Hamptons on Long Island, which will set the scene where hip-hop has become the rage.

Scottish actor GERARD BUTLER has landed the starring role in the big-budget film Timeline, which is based on the MICHAEL CRICHTON novel. Butler will play Andre Marek, the site manager of an archaeological dig in France who is recruited to travel back in time to the 14th century to rescue a school teacher. The role is a major Hollywood breakthrough for Butler, who made his feature film debut in Mrs Brown and starred in the title role in the unsuccessful Dracula 2000.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS and CATHERINE ZETA-JONES are talking to JOHN McTIERNAN about him directing them in their next project, Smoke and Mirrors. Die Hard director McTiernan is free to take over the film because his pl ans to direct Basic Instinct II fell through when SHARON STONE did not approve his wish to team her with BENJAMIN BRATT. Scripts for Smoke and Mirrors, the story of 19th-century illusionist JEAN ROBERT HOUDIN, have been passed around Hollywood since 1993. Both MEL GIBSON and SEAN CONNERY were said to be interested in starring in the project at different times. It is only with the involvement of such high-profile stars and Douglas's producer brother Joel that the film is now going ahead. The two stars will play Houdin and his female assistant, who were sent to Algeria by the French government to expose a sorcerer who was trying to incite an anti-Colonial revolution. Filming is due to begin this autumn in north Africa.

JEREMY NORTHAM displays his previously unrevealed singing talents in Gosford Park, which ROBERT ALTMAN is filming in England. He plays the composer-actor IVOR NOVELLO and, according to sources, unveils a fine singing voice. Altman describes his film, which features an ensemble cast of well-known British actors, as Rules of Engagement meets Ten Little Indians. Those appearing in the film also include MAGGIE SMITH, EILEEN ATKINS, HELEN MIRREN, DEREK JACOBI, MICHAEL GAMBON and RICHARD E GRANT.

JENNIFER LOPEZ's family are making sure her title as the world's sexiest woman, conferred upon her by FHM magazine, does not go to her head. ``They just laughed and said, `You're the world's sexiest woman? Ha, that's funny','' the actress-singer told USA Today. ``The family really keeps me grounded.'' She said her new boyfriend, CHRIS JUDD, was not intimidated by her title, either. ` `He's not fazed by any of this,'' she said. ``We'd rather be home in bed.''

KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS will not be giving interviews to promote her new film, Life As a House, in which she stars with Kevin Kline, despite favourable reports. Instead, the British actress who lives in Paris will be appearing on the French stage in Racine's Berenice. Rehearsals begin in June, the play opens in the provinces in July and makes its Paris debut in September.

New star JOSH HARTNETT found acting in the big-budget blockbuster Pearl Harbour to be very different to his previous role in the low-budget film The Virgin Suicides. ``There were big bombs going off and I didn't have to think about my motivation,'' he said. ``All I had to do was run towards the fire. You just go ahead and do it. ``In The Virgin Suicides I was talking to the director SOFIA COPPOLA every day and we were as close as brother and sister.'' Hartnett, who has been in Hawaii promoting Pearl Harbour, is now filming the Somalian war story Black Hawk Down for the British director RIDLEY SCOTT.

JUDE LAW's character in the much-anticipated sci-fi saga AI, is like ``a washing machine with a heart of gold'', according to writer-director STEVEN SPIELBERG. The British actor plays a robot named Gigolo Joe who is designed to service the sexual needs of the dwindling human population. STANLEY KUBRICK had been developing the tale for nearly 30 years until his death, and Spielberg then took over. ``He looks like perfection,'' Spielberg says of Law in an interview with the New York Times. ``When his mother and father had him, he must have been a perfect child. He's an Adonis. He has tremendous fire in his eyes, electric eyes. I thought, `Gee, electric eyes! Not bad for a robot!'''

A 50 million, 4,000-seat theatre is being built at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas especially for CELINE DION, who has signed a three-year contract to perform five nights a week at the hotel casino. The deal, which will pay the 33-year-old Canadian singer around 30 million, is no more than she would earn from a 40-date world tour but it allows her to remain at home to care for her new child, born in January. The promoters expect to bring in as much as 200 million from ticket sales over the term of the contract, which begins in 2003. Dion will be prohibited from perfoming in any other concerts during the three years she is at Caesars Palace.

British house-music pioneer PAUL OAKENFOLD has provided the music for the new JOHN TRAVOLTA hi-tech spy thriller Swordfish. ``I've added electronic music with traditional score, merging both sounds so musically, it's going to be quite `out there' for a big Hollywood picture,'' he tells the Los Angeles Times.

BEN KINGSLEY was not inclined to do another Holocaust-related project when he was approached to play the part of Anne Frank's father Otto in the two-part television mini-series Anne Frank. Aft er Schindler's List and Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story, another one seemed simply ``much too painful'', he said during promotional interviews. But he was eventually convinced by the ``extreme maturity, honesty and passion'' of the project. ``I walked on to the set and saw a group of orphans with yellow stars on and there was no preparation needed,'' he said. ``My heart had already changed beats.'' The Cartwright family will be riding the ranges of the Ponderosa again when the long-running western drama Bonanza returns to television this autumn. Called Ponderosa, the new series will revolve around Ben Cartwright's early years as a widower raising three sons on a ranch in the Nevada wilds. No actors have yet been named to take over the roles originally played by LORNE GREENE (Ben), with PERNELL ROBERTS, DAN BLOCKER and MICHAEL LANDON as his sons. The new series will air in the US in the same 9pm time slot on Sundays that the original had.

KATE BECKINSALE spent time in a military hospital to learn the basics of nursing in preparation for her role as a wartime nurse in the 100 million blockbuster Pearl Harbour. ``When we were in Hawaii I was allowed to give some shots to people, although not with drugs, just saline,'' said the British actress. ``So, in a scene where I have to perform inoculations there were some poor naked volunteer bottoms that I pierced. ``By the end of the scene I'd become really confident, but then the last one leaped into the air. They were really brave.''

MEL GIBSON is negotiating to star in Signs, the next supernatural mystery from M NIGHT SHYAMALAN. The writer-director's last two films, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, grossed more than 600 million worldwide and starred BRUCE WILLIS. But he has sent his script for Signs to Gibson, who is interested in taking the starring role, reports Daily Variety. He would play a Pennsylvania farmer who is baffled by the appearance of mysterious crop circles on his land.

STEVEN SPIELBERG has ordered his staff to begin developing a sequel to Jurassic Park III, even before its summer release. His spokesman, MARV LEVY, confirmed the film-maker is anxious to continue the franchise, although he will not direct any more of the series. Spielberg directed the first two films and produced the third, leaving the directing duties to JOE JOHNSTON. Sources say he is pleased with Johnston's work on Jurassic Park III and would like him to direct the fourth film. Jurassic Park III stars WILLIAM H MACY, SAM NEILL, LAURA DERN and TEA LEONI.

JULIA ROBERTS wanted the least glamourous role in America's Sweethearts, the story of a celebrity couple trying to hide the break-up of their marriage, according to director JOE ROTH. He had offered her role of the movie star but Roberts said she had already played that part in Notting Hill. Instead, she took the role of the star's sister, an overweight ugly duckling totally dominated by her sister, played by CATHERINE ZETA-JONES. ``Julia said she wanted to play the only sane person in an insane world, which is what her character is like, surrounded by all the other characters in the story,'' Roth told the New York Times.

DAVID DUCHOVNY, JULIANNE MOORE and ORLANDO JONES have been under incredible pressure on the set of their new sci-fi comedy movie Evolution, director IVAN REITMAN admits. ``It's a big, complicated movie with a lot of special, big-time effects,'' Reitman explains. ``The goal has been to get it out there before it was caught in the middle of heavy summer competition.'' Reitman is famous for the smash-hit Ghostbuster films and promises Evolution will bring the Ghostbusters humour and SFX to ``the next level''.

ROBERT REDFORD is parting with two of his homes, a 6 million beach house and adjoining lot in Malibu and his 10 million New York penthouse. The actor, who lives most of the year at his Sundance property in Utah, is said to be looking for another home in Malibu, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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