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week 47-00
ShowBiz Weekly: news from the UK & US...

ROBERT DOWNEY JR is the favourite contender to take the role of Albert DeSalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler, in a new film about the infamous serial killer. A 1968 film starred TONY CURTIS as the Strangler, but the new version will be based on an article in Talk magazine which casts doubt on DeSalvo's confession and names the person purported to be the real killer.

PETE SAMPRAS was an attentive onlooker on the set of the upcoming romantic comedy Buying the Cow, which co-stars his new bride, BRIDGETTE WILSON. Actor JERRY O'CONNELL, who had a sultry love scene with Bridgette, says: ``It was great, except Sampras was right there. We had this joke when we were getting ready to shoot the scene. I kept saying, `Look out for low-flying tennis balls.'''

A museum is to be built in Hollywood to house the memorabilia of THE BEATLES, FRANK SINATRA and other stars who recorded on the Capitol label. The record company will build the museum on land next to the landmark Capitol Tower. ``Too often pop music doesn't get the recognition that other forms of music gets,'' said Capitol president Roy Lott.

A big-budget comedy film called Till Death Do Us Part is likely to undergo a name change for British release to avoid confusion with the famous 1960s television series. The planned film, which will star MICHAEL DOUGLAS and BILLY CRYSTAL, is an update of the 1979 comedy The In-Laws, which starred PETER FALK and ALAN ARKIN. The plot focuses on a mismatched pair of fathers whose offspring are planning to marry. The home life of monsters will be explored in a new animated comedy from the Walt Disney, Monsters Inc, which features the voices of BILLY CRYSTAL and JOHN GOODMAN. The studio recently screened a rough cut of Monsters Inc and, says Roy Disney, ``we're all still kind of laughing out loud''. He said the film ``is about the monsters that live behind your closet door when you're a kid. They have a whole world back there where they work and go home to their wives and children''. It will not be released until late next year as the studio has the animated films The Emperor's New Groove and Atlantis awaiting release.

BRAD PITT, currently in London filming Spy Game, is reportedly interested in portraying a celebrity chef in Seared, a project which would reunite him with director DAVID FINCHER. Fincher, who previously directed the actor in Seven and The Fight Club, is developing the film which is loosely based on chef ANTHONY BOURDAIN's book Kitchen Confidential and centres on the rise to fame of a New York chef.

Now that MACAULAY CULKIN is a hit on the London stage, his estranged father and former manager KIT CULKIN is trying to forge a reconciliation. The 20-year-old actor says his father sent him a congratulatory telegram after the opening night of his play Madame Melville telling him: ``You will, as always, be wonderful.'' ``I thought it was very funny that it's been about four years since I've heard from him and he's made contact with me just because I'm getting back to work,'' Macaulay tells interviewer Barbara Walters on the television programme 20/20. ``That says a lot about the person.'' He says he has no interest in a rapprochement with his father whom, he claims, made him live under spartan conditions in their New York apartment. ``I don't think he's willing to say some of the things he should say,'' said Macaulay. ``He did some things that were wrong and he doesn't know that.''

MELANIE GRIFFITH is following a 12-step programme devoted to ``fellowship and reading'' according to an official at the hospital where she is undergoing treatment for a drug problem. The 43-year-old actress, who is married to ANTONIO BANDERAS, said in a written statement that she had entered the programme at the non-profit Daniel Freeman Hospital in Redondo Beach, California, to break her addiction to a prescription drug she has been taking for a neck injury. The Working Girl Oscar nominee was previously treated for drug addiction in 1988.

ROB LOWE is happy to report he is back in demand as a big-screen leading man following his success on the hit television series West Wing. ``There are a lot of offers and I've been very busy picking the movie I'll do next,'' he says. ``It's wonderful to have all these opportunities though there is the matter of having enough gas to do them justice. After a season of 22 shows, you're pretty much running on fumes.'' Among the projects he is lining up are a satirical comedy and a remake of the Oscar Wilde tale The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Author STEPHEN KING has joined the Rock Bottom Remainders, an all-star band that has kicked off a three-city tour to raise money for children. King plays guitar with the Remainders - a publishing industry term for books that don't sell - alongside fellow authors DAVE BARRY, AMY TAN, RIDLEY PEARSON and SCOTT TUROW. ROGER McGUINN of the Byrds and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening are also expected to sing along on the tour. Proceeds from the concerts will go to America Scores, which supports after-school soccer and writing programmes for inner-city kids.

Former ER actress JULIA MARGULIES and KYRA SEDGWICK, who play lesbian lovers in the new film What's Cooking? were so determined to be authentic that they went to gay bars as a couple before filming began. The writer-director, GURINDER CHADHA, who previously filmed Bhaji on the Beach, said: ``They were wonderful... totally committed to their roles.'' Chadha, who grew up in London, based the film on how four different families - Jewish, Latino, Vietnamese and African-American - celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in their Los Angeles homes. ``I've attended expatriate Thanksgiving dinners in London and it's the one day Americans feel very homesick,'' says Chadha, who is married to an American.

South Park creators TREY PARKER and MATT STONE are anxious for the US presidential election to come to a decisive end so they can begin work on their new TV show. The new series, First Family, will be based on the family of whichever candidate is elected to the White House. It is scheduled to go on the air in February but until they know who the new president will be, Parker and Stone cannot start writing scripts and planning the shows. Meanwhile, they have included an election parody in South Park in which the election for kindergarten president is too close to call so a recount is held.

A new film about ELVIS PRESLEY is to be released, featuring previously unseen footage from some of his Las Vegas performances. The 50,000 feet of footage, which includes 25 songs, was left over from the 1970 film Elvis: That's The Way It is, and has been preserved in studio vaults, first at MGM and then at Warner Bros. The new film, which will be shown on television in America and in cinemas in the rest of the world, will be called Elvis That's The Way It Is - Special Edition.

MICHAEL MYERS is temporarily abandoning his Austin Powers character to play a real-life game show host in the film Confessions. To be directed by X-Men director Bryan Singer, Confessions is based on the autobiography of Gong Show host CHUCK BARRIS, who purportedly was also a CIA hitman.

RUPERT EVERETT and JUDI DENCH will star in another film adaptation of OSCAR WILDE's classic play The Importance of Being Earnest, which will be released worldwide by Miramax Films. The comedy of mistaken identity set in English high society in the 1890s was previously filmed in 1952 with MICHAEL REDGRAVE and EDITH EVANS in the leading roles. The new version will be directed by OLIVER PARKER, who previously worked with Everett on another Wilde project, An Ideal Husband. Instead of having a honeymoon, ROD STEIGER and his new bride JOAN BENEDICT are in Salt Lake City where he is co-starring in the film Pool Hall Junkies. ``We've been honeymooning for two years,'' says the 75-year-old Oscar-winning actor. He plays a pool hall manager in the film, which also stars CHRISTOPHER WALKEN and CLINT EASTWOOD's daughter ALISON EASTWOOD.

British film-maker MIKE NEWELL is to direct The Poetess, a true story by writer WILL DAVIES about his years as a Cambridge University student. Newell, whose films include Four Weddings and a Funeral and High Fidelity is taking over from American director CURTIS HANSON, who will now be an executive producer on the project. The story focuses on a girl student who was discovered by a professor to have a great talent for writing poetry.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES wants two more children according to her fiance MICHAEL DOUGLAS, whom she will marry this weekend in New York. ``Catherine wants three so that will need negotiating,'' Douglas tells the New York Daily News. Douglas, who watched the Welsh actress deliver their first child, Dylan, in August, added: ``I've got to talk about that third one.'' Meanwhile, she is supervising the redecoration of the New York apartment he has owned for the past 15 years. ``She's comfortable and feels secure enough with herself and our relationship that there's no, `I can't be here, your ex-wife used to be here,''' he said. ``As things go on and we get more kids, there'll be things we have to do.''

MEL GIBSON is relieved to leave behind historic battle sagas and star instead in a romantic comedy What Women Want. ``Patriot was all guys and this was all women,'' Gibson tells USA Today. ``I had a blast. It was indoors, Armani suits, no knee breeches, no potholes to step in and no explosions.'' In What Women Want Gibson plays a sexist advertising executive who finds he has the ability to read women's minds. ``It addresses a situation that concerns most of us - the differences between the sexes,'' he says.

PATRICK STEWART has signed up to star in the 10th film to be based on the Star Trek television series. The British actor, who plays Capt Jean-Luc Picard, is the first crew member Paramount Pictures has signed and is also the biggest box-office draw of the Next Generation cast, having recently starred in X-Men. The next Star Trek film will be the fourth led by Stewart and is being written by Gladiator screenwriter John Logan.

GLENN CLOSE insisted that Walt Disney hire the high-priced Oscar-winning playwright TOM STOPPARD to polish the script of 102 Dalmatians and provide her character, Cruella De Ville, with a fitting exit. ``They wanted her to be really humiliated and pathetic in the end and I said, `I won't do that,''' she tells the Los Angeles Times. ``I don't think it's funny. She deserves some respect.'' Thanks to the British playwright's intervention, she says, Cruella will rise again. ``She's invincible. Evil is never really conquered, you just have to watch out for it,'' she says.

BEN AFFLECK and MATT DAMON, who last starred together in Kevin Smith's Dogma are teaming up to work with the film-maker again in his next project, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Smith says it will be the fourth and final chapter in his New Jersey chronicles, following Clerks, Chasing Amy and Mallrats. As well as Affleck and Damon it will feature Smith and his sidekick Jason Mewes returning in their roles as the slackers Silent Bob and Jay. Filming is due to start in January.

RICHARD ZANUCK hopes to persuade Jane Fonda to return to the cameras in a project he will produce. They have been friends since 1962 when she starred in The Chapman Report which was one of Zanuck's first productions and only Fonda's third film. ``I wish she would return to films. She's a great actress and looks absolutely terrific,'' says Zanuck, who is producing a new version of Planet of the Apes which begins filming this week. ``I want to develop a film for her.''

Fighting broke out on the set of the latest ISMAIL MERCHANT and JAMES IVORY film, The Golden Bowl, according to Ivory, who directed the period story based on a Henry James novel. ``A great English house is the last place you would expect to see people beating each other up and yelling,'' Ivory told the New York Post. ``But I was present at the historic moment.'' The director would not confirm the participants but the newspaper reports that MICHAEL SHEEN - the husband of actress KATE BECKINSALE - punched her co-star JEREMY NORTHAM after Northam berated her acting. Ivory said: ``I was so busy looking at some footage that I didn't notice that nobody was on the set because they were outside fighting. No one had bothered to come in and say, `I think there's going to be a little interruption here.''' The next day, he says, Northam and Beckinsale had their biggest scene together and ``they were very well-behaved, in the best tradition of English acting''.

CHRIS O'DONNELL is glad to be back in Southern California after spending the New Zealand winter hanging off cliff faces in the mountainous regions of Mount Cook and Queenstown for his latest film, Vertical Limit. ``It was pretty intense because there were maybe four or five hours in a day when we could shoot those mountain scenes and it was the middle of winter,'' he says. He and fellow actors BILL PAXTON and SCOTT GLENN went through a one-month training course with professional climbers before filming began. ``The time on the mountain was so precious you had to know what you were going to do,'' he said. ``If you walked through the snow you couldn't film it again because you had messed up the snow with footprints.'' He said the film, directed by MARTIN CAMPBELL, who directed the James Bond adventure GoldenEye, is ``non-stop, in-your-face action and there were scenes where we were really putting ourselves at risk in insane situations''.

MADONNA, who has been house-hunting in London, has sold her Hollywood Hills home which she has had on the market for the past five months. The buyer is JENNA ELFMAN, who stars in the hit sitcom Dharma and Greg. She and her husband paid three million pounds for the three-bedroom Mediterranean-style house on two acres of land. Madonna had owned the property since 1996. JR Ewing is back and he's telling all.

LARRY HAGMAN, who has kept a low-profile since the television series Dallas came to an end, will soon be back in the public eye with his book, Hello, Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life. In it, the 69-year-old actor says he will include stories about the Dallas set, his experimentation with the drug LSD, his recent liver transplant and adventures with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, among other things. When the book is published he plans to support it with a travelling stage show based on his life.

CUBA GOODING put in several weeks of intensive training for his role as the US Navy's first black diver in Men of Honour, but even so he was never comfortable under water. ``I'd done no diving of any kind before this and I don't want to do any more,'' said the Oscar-winning actor. ``When you get down in an environment as deep as I went you realise that humans aren't supposed to be under water. ``The things it does to your joints, the time it takes to surface and decompress - I'd rather swim on top and then go back into the house and watch TV.'' Nevertheless, the real-life character he played was Carl Breashear, who was full of praise on the set every day. ``Cuba portrayed me very well,'' he said. ``He was energetic, he had a good attitude and he was upbeat all the time.''

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