News for 5/18/2005

'Scrubs' Star Steals Into 'Optimist'

LOS ANGELES ( - "Scrubs" star Donald Faison has a taste for crime.

After wrapping his role as a petty crook in "Venus & Vegas," the actor will join the cast of the indie feature "The Optimist" and thief, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Leelee Sobieski also joins the cast that already includes Shane West and Rade Serbedzija.

Directed by Marius Balchunas, "Optimist" revolves around two car thieves (Faison, West) who take over a home owned by a family of Russian immigrants. The father (Serbedzija) is a Russian-Jewish clarinetist and has problems handling his daughter (Sobieski) who isn't content to be at home and eventually falls for West's character.

The film marks a reunion between Serbedzija and Sobieski after playing father and daughter in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

Sobieski, 22, has appeared in "Deep Impact," "Never Been Kissed," "Here on Earth" "Joy Ride" and "The Glass House."

Faison, 30, stars as Dr. "Turk" on the NBC medical sitcom "Scrubs," which will return in the fall. He currently stars opposite Anthony Anderson in "King's Ransom," and his other film credits include "Clueless," "Waiting to Exhale," "Can't Hardly Wait," "Remember the Titans" and "Uptown Girls."

Weekend Boxoffice

'Monster-In-Law' Scores Big at Box Office

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jane Fonda's return to the big screen as Jennifer Lopez's villainous prospective mother-in-law took the top box office spot over the weekend.

The comedy "Monster-in-Law" earned $23.1 million in its debut weekend. Another comedic take on familial combat, "Kicking & Screaming," starring Will Ferrell, opened in second place with $20.1 million, while the Jet Li action film "Unleashed" opened in third place with $10.9 million.

The top 20 movies at North American theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. and Nielsen EDI Inc. are:

1. "Monster-In-Law," New Line, $23,105,133, 3,424 locations, $6,748 average, $23,105,133, one week.

2. "Kicking & Screaming," Universal, $20,159,925, 3,455 locations, $5,835 average, $20,159,925, one week.

3. "Unleashed," Focus, $10,900,901, 1,957 locations, $5,570 average, $10,900,901, one week.

4. "Kingdom of Heaven," Fox, $9,625,509, 3,219 locations, $2,990 average, $35,097,419, two weeks.

5. "Crash," Lions Gate, $7,021,391, 1,876 locations, $3,743 average, $19,614,256, two weeks.

6. "House of Wax," Warner Bros., $6,563,440, 3,111 locations, $2,110 average, $21,946,754, two weeks.

7. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Disney, $5,049,938, 2,770 locations, $1,823 average, $43,516,918, three weeks.

8. "The Interpreter," Universal, $4,592,505, 2,602 locations, $1,765 average, $61,161,945, four weeks.

9. "XXX: State of the Union," Sony/Revolution, $2,134,772, 2,387 locations, $894 average, $24,340,577, three weeks.

10. "Mind Hunters," Dimension, $1,911,358, 1,040 locations, $1,838 average, $1,911,358, one week.

11. "Sahara," Paramount, $1,806,454, 1,565 locations, $1,154 average, $64,363,595, six weeks.

12. "The Amityville Horror," MGM, $1,624,161, 1,434 locations, $1,133 average, $63,084,329, five weeks.

13. "A Lot Like Love," Disney, $1,053,981, 1,522 locations, $692 average, $20,824,529, four weeks.

14. "Fever Pitch," Fox, $813,631, 975 locations, $834 average, $40,538,872, six weeks.

15. "Robots," Fox, $622,702, 737 locations, $845 average, $125,614,860, 10 weeks.

16. "Kung Fu Hustle," Sony Pictures Classic, $501,981, 347 locations, $1,447 average, $15,781,313, six weeks.

17. "Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room," Magnolia, $372,405, 119 locations, $3,129 average, $1,608,707, four weeks.

18. "Guess Who," Sony, $352,758, 545 locations, $647 average, $67,761,238, eight weeks.

19. "Sin City," Dimension, $346,914, 343 locations, $1,011 average, $72,951,893, seven weeks.

20. "The Pacifier," Disney, $327,536, 482 locations, $680 average, $109,965,244, 11 weeks.

Eddie Murphy Multitasking in Norbit

Source: Variety

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story director Rawson Marshall Thurber is coming onboard the Eddie Murphy comedy Norbit (formerly titled Death Do Us Part) at DreamWorks Pictures.

In the film, in which he'll play multiple characters, Murphy stars as Norbit, a meek guy pressed into marrying a monstrous woman (also played by Murphy). When he subsequently meets the woman of his dreams, he has to figure out a way to be with her.

The original script was written by Eddie and Charlie Murphy, with a rewrite by Guess Who screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn - who recently were hired by DreamWorks to write the bigscreen version of Baywatch.

Foxx and Usher Aboard Dreamgirls

Source: Variety

DreamWorks has set Jamie Foxx and Usher to join Beyonce in Dreamgirls, the Bill Condon-directed adaptation of the stage musical, says Variety. Condon (Chicago) also wrote the script.

The trade says the studio is circling Eddie Murphy to play singer James "Thunder" Early for the film, which begins production in January in Los Angeles.

Foxx will play the role of Curtis Taylor Jr., the Svengali-like manager who leads female singing group the Dreamettes to stardom as the Dreams. The musical was the thinly veiled story of the Supremes, and the model for Taylor was Berry Gordy.

Usher will play choreographer C.C. White. Murphy is being courted to play a character that's one part James Brown, one part Marvin Gaye -- a charismatic womanizer and R&B star who gives the Dreamettes their first big break when he invites them to sing backup for him.

Still to be cast are the remaining member of the Dreams. The filmmakers will be conducting a nationwide search for Effie, the chubby girl with an outsized voice. They will likely choose an unknown actress, who'll get the chance to belt out the most memorable songs in the musical.

News for 5/11/2005

Uchenna, Joyce Agu Win 'Amazing Race'

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Rob and Amber who? Married couple Uchenna and Joyce Agu outraced a pair of former "Survivor" contestants and a former prisoner of war and his beauty queen girlfriend to win the seventh edition of CBS' "The Amazing Race" and the $1 million prize.

"It's so amazing, if I can use that word," Joyce told The Associated Press while grinning and giggling at the CBS season finale party.

Uchenna, 40, and Joyce, 44, from Houston, lugged boats in London, balanced water jugs on their heads in Africa and weighed complete strangers in Turkey _ among other silly and strenuous tasks _ in order to reach the finish line. Unlike previous seasons of "Amazing Race," the racers didn't travel around the globe, instead they semi-circled from Long Beach, Calif., through South America, Africa, India, Europe and the Caribbean to their final destination in Miami.

Because the Agus arrived last during a non-elimination leg before the home stretch, the couple was stripped of all their belongings and cash per the reality show's nefarious rules. The Agus begged their way to the finish line but didn't have enough money to pay their cab driver. Although they were only steps away the finish line and the $1 million prize, the Agus continued to beg from nearby strangers until they paid their cab fare.

"It was all about honor," said Uchenna. "That cab driver was going to get his money."

During an earlier stretch of the race in Jodhpur, India, Joyce agreed to shave her head as part of a Fast Forward challenge, allowing the Agus to skip to end of the leg. Uchenna cites that bold "sacrifice" as one of the turning points in the race.

"Once you shave it off, you have nothing to hide behind," said Joyce. "People can actually see your soul. It's so bizarre. I'm glad I did it."

Much of the seventh season of "Amazing Race" was dominated by recently wed former "Survivor" contestants Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano, 29, and Amber Brkich, 26, who placed second in the race. Dating couple Ron Young, 28, from Villa Rica, Ga., and Kelly McCorkle, 26, from Greenville, S.C., placed third.

"We thought they were regular people like us," said Joyce of Mariano and Brkich. "Really, it was an eye opening experience when we got on the race and saw that their notoriety was so amazing and people all over the world recognized them. We tried to ignore all that and do our own race just to spite what was happening with them and obviously it still paid off."

Uchenna, an energy broker who once worked for Enron, and Joyce, a sales manager who once worked for WorldCom, plan to use their earnings for "bills, bills, bills" and to take their family on their own amazing trip. The Agus, who've tried unsuccessfully to have a child in the past, also said they would use their $1 million prize toward a baby.

"My doctors offered us a free round of in vitro (fertilization)," said Joyce. "So after all this is over, if it doesn't work out, we have the money. We can adopt."

Freeman Is Master of His Domain (Name)

LOS ANGELES ( - Morgan Freeman, who recently won the supporting actor Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby," has triumphed over a cybersquatter seeking to trade on his good name.

Arbitrators for the World Intellectual Property Organization ruled on Tuesday, May 10 that the actor will now have control over the Internet domain name, reports the AP

Mighty LLC, the company that registered that name, used it "for its commercial benefit to lure Internet users to its Web site," says arbitrator Peter Nitter.

Freeman also registered his name with the Screen Actors Guild in 1964 and is awaiting an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark his name.

The actor is one of many celebrities who have won back their domain names through United Nations arbitration, including Julia Roberts, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Eminem, Pamela Anderson, Spike Lee and Pierce Brosnan.

Since domain names can be purchased for a pittance, cybersquatters have tried to take advantage by directing commercial traffic to these misleading sites or demanding thousands of dollars from those wanting to control their names. In 1999, the UN ruled this a form of blackmail and began an arbitration system through which people can petition the use of their domain name without shelling out large amounts of money.

Freeman has also been nominated for his roles in "Street Smart," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Shawshank Redemption." He next stars in "Unleashed," which hits theaters Friday, May 13 and in the upcoming "Batman Begins," which will be released Wednesday, June 15.

More Casting for Madea's Family Reunion

Source: tells us that in addition to Blair Underwood, Boris Kodjoe, Henry Simmons, Lynn Whitfield, Jenifer Lewis and Tangi Miller are set to star in Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, which Lions Gate Films will release on February 24, 2006.

Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) returns as Madea, the gun-toting grandma, who tries to hold a family reunion, a funeral for her sister, and a wedding for her granddaughter all at the same time. The film is based on Perry's 2002 play.

Perry wrote and will direct the dramedy.

News for 5/8/2005

New Line is Remaking All of Me

Source: Variety

New Line Cinema is planning a remake of the 1984 comedy All of Me, which starred Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin, and set screenwriters Brent Goldberg and David Wagner to write a modern take on the story.

Variety says the studio is aiming to cast Wanda Sykes in the Tomlin role of a dying heiress who tries to transfer her soul to a young woman but instead finds herself possessing the right side of the body of her lawyer, played by Martin in the original.

The writers are planning to keep the conceit and spirit of the original but update the technology involved and comedy, as well as give it a more hip sensibility.

Goldberg and Wagner most recently wrote The Other Guy for Disney with Adam Shankman attached to direct. Other credits include The Girl Next Door and National Lampoon's Van Wilder.

Everybody's Buckled In for Another 'Rush Hour'

LOS ANGELES ( In 1998, "Rush Hour" made Chris Tucker a star. In 2001, "Rush Hour 2" confirmed the actor's A-list status. Apparently, though, Tucker has been in no rush to keep the franchise moving.

After several years of delays and deliberations, Tucker is close to signing a two-picture deal with New Line Pictures, a pact that would finally allow "Rush Hour 3" to get off the ground. New Line would hope to have the "Rush Hour" sequel in production as soon as possible to have the film ready for summer 2006.

According to Variety, Tucker would ink a contract worth $40 million over two films, with one of the projects being "Rush Hour 3." As soon as the Tucker deal is finalized, contracts will activate paying Jackie Chan nearly $20 million and bringing director Brett Ratner $7.5 million. The trade paper estimates that the sequel will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.

New Line can feel comfortable in that kind of hefty expenditure despite the long delay in "Rush Hour" installments. The original film was a surprise hit in 1998, bringing in $144 million domestically. The sequel arrived with substantially more hype and delivered a $226 million domestic gross. In total, the two films have brought in some $576 million in theatrical grosses.

While Chan and Ratner have parlayed their "Rush Hour" success into at least a dozen films, with various diminishing returns, Tucker has gone in the opposite direction. Although he has circled several projects, including a concert film, the "Rush Hour" films are his only credits in the past seven years. On the other hand, Variety claims he's become a regular houseguest of Jordan's King Abdullah, so he's got that going for him.

Jeff Nathanson, who wrote "Rush Hour 2," has already pitched the sequel to the film's principals and will begin writing as soon as Tucker is confirmed.

Touchstone TV Diggs 'Kevin Hill' Star

LOS ANGELES ( "Kevin Hill" may or may not be back next season, but producer Touchstone TV wants to stay in business with the show's star.

Taye Diggs, who plays Kevin Hill in the UPN series, has signed a development deal with the studio. He and his manager, Abe Hoch, will form a company called O-Tay Productions that will bring series projects to Touchstone (a unit of Disney).

"[Touchstone has] proven to be great creative partners this season, and we are thrilled about the opportunity they're providing us," Hoch tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The deal is for one year, with an option for a second. Diggs and Hoch, who receive producer credits on "Kevin Hill," will serve as executive producers on any project they bring to Touchstone that goes into development.

With UPN's upfront presentation for next season two weeks away, the future of "Kevin Hill" remains up in the air. Although the show gathered mostly positive reviews early on and debuted to nearly 4 million viewers -- a solid number for UPN -- some of its buzz has faded. It's averaging 2.76 million viewers for the season.

Diggs is currently at work on the feature-film adaptation of the musical "Rent," where he'll reprise his Broadway role of Benny.

Weekend Boxoffice

'Kingdom of Heaven' Tops Box Office

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The epic battle tale "Kingdom of Heaven" fought its way to the top of the box office, taking in $20 million in its debut weekend, but the film did little to boost slumping revenues at the start of the summer movie season.

The film by "Gladiator" director Ridley Scott features heartthrob Orlando Bloom as a warrior in Jerusalem between the Second and Third Crusades. The R-rated movie was followed in the rankings by another new R-rated movie, "House of Wax," which brought in $12.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"Kingdom of Heaven" features Bloom as blacksmith-turned-warrior Balian who joins his knightly father in Jerusalem. The film also features Liam Neeson as Balian's father, the knight Godfrey of Ibelin, as well as Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson.

"House of Wax," featuring Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton in a remake of the Vincent Price horror tale, is the latest from producer Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment.

The other notable new movie this weekend was "Crash," which features Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges in intertwining stories examining racial stereotypes in Los Angeles. The R-rated film played in 1,864 theaters and finished fourth with $9.1 million.

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" dropped to third place with nearly $9.13 million after debuting last weekend at the top spot.

Hollywood's box office slump continued with revenues down for the 11th straight weekend compared with the same weekend last year, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The top 12 movies grossed $76.9 million, down 24 percent from last year at this time when "Van Helsing" and "Mean Girls" were the top movies.

"It was quite an underwhelming week," Dergarabedian said. "This is theoretically the first weekend of the summer and it doesn't feel like one."

Though "Kingdom of Heaven" pulled in $20 million, it paled in comparison to other recent blockbusters that opened during the first weekend of May, Dergarabedian said. "Van Helsing" opened last year with a three-day haul of $51.7 million, while "X2: X-Men United" opened in 2003 with $85.6 million. In 2002, "Spider-Man" debuted the same weekend and collected a whopping $114.8 million.

"Kingdom of Heaven" played in wide release at 3,216 theaters and averaged $6,219 per cinema, said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution at Twentieth Century Fox. It also opened in nearly 100 international markets and earned an additional $56 million, Snyder said.

"It's a great start and we're very pleased," Snyder said.

Box office watchers anticipate that Hollywood's slide will end May 19 when the final installment in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy debuts.

"Believe me, when 'Star Wars' comes out, people will drop everything and come to the theater," Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Kingdom of Heaven," $20 million.
2. "House of Wax," $12.2 million.
3. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," $9.1 million.
4. "Crash," $9.1 million.
5. "The Interpreter," $7.5 million.
6: "XXX: State of the Union," $5.4 million.
7. "The Amityville Horror," $3.2 million.
8. "Sahara," $3.1 million.
9. "A Lot Like Love," $3 million.
10. "Fever Pitch," $2 million.

News for 5/4/2005

Muccino Helming Will Smith's Happyness

Source: Production Weekly

Italian helmer Gabriele Muccino has come aboard to direct Will Smith in Columbia Pictures' The Pursuit of Happyness. The project is based on the true-life rags-to-riches tale of investment banker Chris Gardner.

Gardner's story, which aired as a segment on ABC's 20/20 in January, has gained national attention and was hotly pursued by several Hollywood producers and studios. It is a real-life tale of survival over life's toughest challenges. After a chain of circumstances left Gardner jobless and homeless at age 30, he found himself and his baby son living in a bathroom at a San Francisco train station.

Despite the negative situation, Gardner continued to fight toward his goal of becoming a broker, eventually landing a job as a trainee and rising through the ranks at such companies as Dean Witter and Bear Stearns to his current standing -- partner and owner of the Chicago-based minority brokerage firm Gardner Rich & Co. and self-made millionaire.

Steve Conrad, who wrote The Weather Man, penned the film's script. The project will begin filming in the San Francisco area this August.

'Ray' Producers Have Broadway on Their Minds

LOS ANGELES ( Earlier this year, the Golden Globes placed "Ray" in the musical/comedy category, so it's no surprise that the Oscar-winning film's producers are dreaming of Broadway.

Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin have reportedly secured the dramatico-musical rights to Ray Charles' life from the late singer's estate and the associated Ray Charles Enterprises.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the proposed stage musical will cover Charles' entire career, rather than the slightly more limited scope of the feature. Music from Charles' catalogue will be used to illustrate anecdotes from Charles' personal and profession life, though the project isn't expected to dwell on the drug use and infidelities that were already somewhat sanitized for the Universal feature.

"This will be a celebration of Ray, somebody I got to be very close to over the years, someone I respected and someone whose company I enjoyed," Benjamin says.

Released last fall, "Ray" earned five Oscar nominations, including best picture. Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award (and virtually every other honor imaginable) for his performance in the title role. As of now, the film's director, Taylor Hackford, isn't involved with the musical, nor is Universal Pictures.

The film's producers are looking for playwrights to do the adaptation.

Diggs Awaits 'Kevin Hill's' Fate

By Jay Bobbin

LOS ANGELES ( - After an initial wave of raves, "Kevin Hill" has faced an uphill climb, as has the actor who shoulders the title role.

The Wednesday UPN series about a suave New York lawyer, whose "player" lifestyle has been altered by his sudden inheritance of his late cousin's baby daughter, premiered last fall with much media attention toward star Taye Diggs. He recently earned an NAACP Image Award for his work on the drama, and he feels positive about getting a second-year renewal ... although nothing is certain until UPN announces its fall lineup May 19, the day after "Kevin Hill" airs its season finale.

Also a producer of the show, Diggs admits, "When it comes to my own progress, I tend to become very impatient, so my gut instinct is to say I was a bit disappointed that the show didn't do on some levels what I had expected it to. After speaking to the higher-ups and all the people who tend to be your cheerleaders, I was informed that many shows are just finding their 'legs' their first year out. That it looks like we're going to get a second year is an amazing accomplishment, so my feelings are kind of torn.

"I got to become very close with the cast," Diggs adds, "and I think we all did some very good work. We made some changes in the writing and the direction of the show very late in the season, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out next year. I feel we've been given an amazing canvas. When you take a character like Kevin -- who's something of a misogynist and a homophobe -- and you slap him in the face with a 10-month-old baby, I think that's the stuff award-winning shows are made of." At the same time, Diggs concedes the baby's presence may have robbed "Kevin Hill" of some of its edginess early on: "All of us got caught up, I think, in the softness of having a baby on the set. I think we could have gone farther, and it took us a good amount of time to realize that we'd become kind of a 'nice' show."

Eventually, one script found Kevin challenged for custody of baby Sarah, which Diggs believes was the point where "the show began to change and become more cutting-edge. I wanted to immediately turn it on a dime, but I realized we did have an audience, so the changes had to be more gradual."

Among other recent signs of bringing "Kevin Hill" up to speed: the concern of fellow attorney Veronica Carter (Kate Levering) -- one of Kevin's many flames, before he started working alongside her -- that she had become pregnant by Dame Ruiz (Jon Seda), Kevin's best friend; Veronica's resulting lawsuit against a manufacturer of contraceptives; and Kevin's interest in a woman who, it turned out, had been involved with George Weiss (Patrick Breen), Sarah's gay nanny.

Along with "Veronica Mars," UPN's Tuesday mystery series about a young amateur sleuth, "Kevin Hill" has been crucial to the network as it tries to broaden its image and attract a wider range of advertisers. "I'm always wanting to raise the bar," Diggs maintains, "but I decided from the beginning that it wasn't a good idea to point the finger at myself and say, 'You have this responsibility.' Otherwise, I might crumble. I just try to do the work that's put in front of me and hope that everything goes OK."

The day after "Kevin Hill" completed its first-year shooting, Diggs reported to the set of "Rent," the movie version of the award-winning stage musical in which he also appeared. While he has co-starred in films such as "Chicago" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," Diggs is especially pleased to revisit "Rent" because of the good things it brought him initially, including the co-star who would become his wife, Tony Award winner Idina Menzel ("Wicked").

It can help to have a spouse who's also in show business, since Diggs reports Menzel -- a guest star in the season's final two "Kevin Hill" episodes -- has been very understanding about his work with a virtual parade of attractive women. He deems her "unbelievably supportive. She's dealt with me being away all week in Toronto, then with turning on the TV and seeing me with a bunch of different women. She's got my back 100 percent, and I definitely appreciate that."

One of the big challenges for "Kevin Hill," should the show get its anticipated second year, will be to keep Kevin flawed yet appealing. "He doesn't all of a sudden become this graduated, perfect person who's learned his lesson," Diggs insists. "He never really gets used to the baby, or to working in an otherwise all-female law firm, or to having a homosexual helping to raise his child. We've wanted to make sure it's always a process for him, because that's where the dramatic conflict comes from."

Weekend Boxoffice

'Hitchhiker's Guide' Takes $21.7M in Debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) - "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" caught a nice ride with movie-goers, who made it the No. 1 weekend choice at theaters with a $21.1 million debut.

Ice Cube's action thriller "XXX: State of the Union" opened weakly with $12.7 million, coming in third for the weekend.

The top 20 movies at North American theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. and Nielsen EDI Inc. are:

1. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Disney, $21,103,203, 3,133 locations, $6,736 average, $21,103,203, one week.

2. "The Interpreter," Universal, $13,833,815, 2,764 locations, $5,005 average, $43,152,385, two weeks.

3. "XXX: State of the Union," Sony, $12,712,272, 3,480 locations, $3,653 average, $12,712,272, one week.

4. "The Amityville Horror," MGM, $7,862,157, 3,058 locations, $2,571 average, $54,816,999, three weeks.

5. "Sahara," Paramount, $5,708,332, 3,112 locations, $1,834 average, $56,885,831, four weeks.

6. "A Lot Like Love," Disney, $5,084,727, 2,502 locations, $2,032 average, $14,561,119, two weeks.

7. "Fever Pitch," Fox, $3,532,813, 2,192 locations, $1,612 average, $36,317,491, four weeks.

8. "Kung Fu Hustle," Sony Pictures Classic, $3,317,955, 2,440 locations, $1,360 average, $12,653,318, four weeks.

9. "Robots," Fox, $2,269,605, 1,782 locations, $1,274 average, $123,300,061, eight weeks.

10. "Guess Who," Sony, $2,151,446, 1,863 locations, $1,155 average, $65,434,348, six weeks.

11. "Sin City," Dimension, $2,011,933, 1,665 locations, $1,208 average, $70,605,067, five weeks.

12. "The Pacifier," Disney, $1,351,787, 1,224 locations, $1,104 average, $108,377,223, nine weeks.

13. "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous," Warner Bros., $1,037,380, 1,108 locations, $936 average, $45,942,267, six weeks.

14. "Beauty Shop," MGM, $901,489, 905 locations, $996 average, $35,426,139, five weeks.

15. "King's Ransom," New Line, $831,925, 1,508 locations, $552 average, $3,499,259, two weeks.

16. "Millions," Fox Searchlight, $600,918, 340 locations, $1,767 average, $4,615,070, eight weeks.

17. "The Upside of Anger," New Line, $600,022, 816 locations, $735 average, $17,717,325, eight weeks.

18. "Hitch," Sony, $447,498, 461 locations, $971 average, $177,207,898, 12 weeks.

19. "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," Magnolia, $411,960, 49 locations, $8,407 average, $523,774, two weeks.

20. "Ice Princess," Disney, $352,011, 458 locations, $769 average, $23,583,376, seven weeks.

News for 5/1/2005

'Ray,' 'ER,' 'Lost' Shine at Prisms

By Gail Schiller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Ray" and TV hits "Desperate Housewives," "ER" and "Lost" were among the winners Thursday at the ninth annual Prism Awards, which recognize accurate depictions of drug, alcohol and tobacco use in entertainment.

Presented by the Entertainment Industries Council in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, FX, News Corp. and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the PRISM Awards were handed out at a gala dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The awards ceremony will air Sept. 4 as a one-hour special on the FX Network.

Other award winners included Jamie Foxx for performance in a feature film for "Ray"; Katey Sagal for performance in a comedy series for "8 Simple Rules"; Ray Liotta for performance in a drama episode for "ER"; and Christine Lahti for performance in a drama story line for "Jack & Bobby."

UPN's "One on One" won for TV comedy episode; "ER" won for TV drama episode; and "Lost" and "Queer as Folk" tied for TV drama multi-episode story line. While "Ray" won for wide-release feature film, "A Love Song for Bobby Long" won for limited-release feature film.

"All My Children" won the Prism Award for TV daytime drama multi-episode story line, Lifetime's "Gracie's Choice" won for TV movie or miniseries, and "Dr. Phil" won for TV talk show episode. "Desperate Housewives" won for TV comedy multi-episode story line for episodes dealing with Lynette's Ritalin addiction.

Hughley to Spend 'Weekends' at Comedy Central

By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Comedy Central is expanding its 11-11:30 p.m. talk show franchise to seven nights.

The cable network has picked up D.L. Hughley's half-hour talk show pilot, ordering 39 episodes of the project hosted by the actor-comedian and executive produced by late-night talk show veteran Robert Morton, who has worked with David Letterman since his NBC show.

Tentatively titled "Weekends at the D.L.," the talker will run at 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday for 13 weeks.

The show, which will be unveiled officially at Comedy Central's upfront presentation Tuesday in New York, complements the network's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," which runs in the time slot Monday-Thursday.

No decision has been made on a companion piece for the Stewart-hosted mocu-newscast to run at 11:30 p.m., with several projects, including a talk show hosted by Adam Carolla, in the running.

Lauren Corrao, senior vp original programing and head of development at Comedy Central, called the decision to put a talk show on weekend nights "a bold new programing move" but said "Weekends at the D.L." is the perfect project for that.

"This show has a different vibe than a lot of the other shows on Comedy Central," she said. "It's got a party atmosphere, (Hughley) gets guests stopping by, there is a live band on the set, so it has this party vibe that you get on the weekends, and we feel like it's going to break through all the clutter."

The pilot, titled "At the D.L." featured guests Tracy Morgan, Jenny McCarthy and Cedric the Entertainer.

The show also includes a monologue by Hughley as well as field pieces.

"Weekends at the D.L." is targeted to premiere in middle or late summer, possibly by the end of July, Corrao said. On Sunday, the show might be preceded by a block of repeats of Comedy Central's hit "Chappelle's Show," which returns with original episodes Tuesday nights next month.

While Hughley, much like Chappelle, is going to bring in the black urban audience, the goal for the show is to broaden Comedy Central's demographic, Corrao said.

"I think it's a great marketing opportunity for us and a chance to reach a new audience, especially on the weekends (when) it's not an overly served audience at that time," she said.

Djimon Hounsou Seeks Redemption

Source: BlackFilm

BlackFilm reports that Djimon Hounsou will be going back to his roots and do an indie film called Redemption, directed by Melvin James (Honeybee, A Miami Tail). Pre-production begins in May, with filming to commence in June. The film is produced by Dave Neustein of D & D Films.

Mos Def Walks 16 Blocks with Willis

Source: Variety

Rapper/actor Mos Def (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) has been cast opposite Bruce Willis in 16 Blocks, directed by Richard Donner for Millennium Films and Willis' Cheyenne Productions.

Based on a pitch by Richard Wenk, the mismatched buddy film follows a troubled NYPD officer who's forced to take a happy, but down-on-his-luck witness 16 blocks from the police station to 100 Centre Street, although no one wants the duo to make it.

The story is a redemptive tale for characters who are polar opposites. The cop, a dark guy and a heart attack waiting to happen, who is escorting this witness who is a 14-time loser with a sunny outlook.

Mos Def previously starred in The Woodsman and The Italian Job.

News for 4/26/2005

Weekend Boxoffice

'Interpreter' Wins Weekend in Debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn's thriller "The Interpreter" earned top dollar at the weekend box office, debuting with $22.8 million.

The top 20 movies at North American theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. and Nielsen EDI Inc.:

1. "The Interpreter," Universal, $22,822,455, 2,758 locations, $8,275 average, $22,822,455, one week.

2. "The Amityville Horror," MGM, $13,707,999, 3,323 locations, $4,125 average, $43,316,733, two weeks.

3. "Sahara," Paramount, $9,027,885, 3,200 locations, $2,821 average, $48,947,382, three weeks.

4. "A Lot Like Love," Disney, $7,576,593, 2,502 locations, $3,028 average, $7,576,593, one week.

5. "Kung Fu Hustle," Sony Pictures Classic, $6,749,572, 2,503 locations, $2,697 average, $7,483,773, three weeks.

6. "Fever Pitch," Fox, $5,509,381, 2,875 locations, $1,916 average, $31,510,601, three weeks.

7. "Sin City," Dimension, $3,726,675, 2,343 locations, $1,591 average, $67,263,575, four weeks.

8. "Guess Who," Sony, $3,513,837, 2,484 locations, $1,415 average, $62,388,926, five weeks.

9. "Robots," Fox, $3,417,363, 2,072 locations, $1,649 average, $120,285,570, seven weeks.

10. "King's Ransom," New Line, $2,137,685, 1,508 locations, $1,418 average, $2,137,685, one week.

11. "The Pacifier," Disney, $2,106,224, 1,552 locations, $1,357 average, $106,567,199, eight weeks.

12. "Beauty Shop," MGM, $1,961,024, 1,632 locations, $1,202 average, $34,041,927, four weeks.

13. "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous," Warner Bros., $1,807,426, 1,968 locations, $918 average, $44,392,461, five weeks.

14. "The Upside of Anger," New Line, $994,481, 1,103 locations, $902 average, $16,741,153, seven weeks.

15. "Hitch," Sony, $738,440, 768 locations, $962 average, $176,561,382, 11 weeks.

16. "Millions," Fox Searchlight, $667,848, 313 locations, $2,134 average, $3,819,202, seven weeks.

17. "Ice Princess," Disney, $582,535, 659 locations, $884 average, $23,084,134, six weeks.

18. "The Ring 2," DreamWorks, $558,682, 888 locations, $629 average, $75,316,113, six weeks.

19. "Hostage," Miramax, $322,573, 492 locations, $656 average, $34,033,731, seven weeks.

20. "Million Dollar Baby," Warner Bros., $309,289, 455 locations, $680 average, $99,252,599, 19 weeks.

Dennis Haysbert clocks back in on '24'

By Bill Keveney

LOS ANGELES Hail to the former chief.

24 gets a bracing shot of leadership Monday (Fox, 9 ET/PT) when Dennis Haysbert returns as David Palmer, a former president called back into action to advise a shaky interim commander in chief.

Palmer "helps to keep things in balance and helps with tough decisions," says Haysbert, who will appear in the final six episodes of this fourth season.

The return of a decisive leader such as Palmer will be "a very welcome thing" for counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), says Haysbert. Bauer has had his frustrations this season with dithering bosses, including the weak-kneed vice president Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), forced into the top job after the sitting president was incapacitated.

Bauer and Palmer bonded in the first season, when Palmer was a presidential candidate and foreign enemies tried to force Bauer to assassinate him. He ended up saving Palmer, and the two have worked closely almost always over Bauer's ever-present, ever-charged cell phone to save the world since then. "We finally get that one-two punch going again," Haysbert says.

Haysbert, whose Palmer chose not to seek a second term at the end of last season, is one of a number of past 24 regulars to return for parts of a season. "It's something we've done every single year. People grow to like these characters," executive producer Howard Gordon says. "When we can insinuate them back into the story, we love it. That familiarity is worth something."

The producers wanted to find a way to bring back Haysbert, with his tall, commanding presence and deep, authoritative voice. So they critically injured his presidential successor, John Keeler (Geoff Pierson), having him improbably survive an air-to-air missile strike and plane crash. Killing him would have been a more controversial choice and wasn't necessary to achieve the producers' goal, Gordon says.

"Dennis has been an absolute mainstay of the show. He's really one of my favorites," Gordon says. "I think he's often called Mr. President. He's even been approached to run for office." One early idea had Palmer strapping on a gun and joining Bauer in the field. "We felt that was a little far-fetched," Gordon says.

It's not as if Haysbert, 50, has been entirely gone from 24. As an Allstate spokesman, he regularly appears in commercials during the show, which is up 26% this season with an average 12.3 million viewers.

In the time away from 24, Haysbert acted in a CBS pilot, The Unit, the story of a military anti-terrorism unit being produced by The Shield's Shawn Ryan and playwright David Mamet. He also will appear in the upcoming feature film Jarhead, based on a Marine's experience in the 1991 Gulf War, and an ABC miniseries about ancient Rome, Empire.

Haysbert says he would have liked to appear for the full 24 season, but the six episodes will help Palmer "get a little closure," he says. "I still feel like a regular. It's just that I was out of the loop for a while."

The Rock Rolls into 'Southland'

LOS ANGELES ( - The Rock will join Seann William Scott and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the futuristic "Southland Tales" for director Richard Kelly.

The dark story is set on Independence Day 2008 in a Los Angeles that's on the verge of crumbling from social, economic and environmental upheaval. The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, will play Boxer Santaros, an action star who has lost his memory. His life intersects with Krysta Now (Gellar), an adult film star set on creating a reality TV show, and Hermosa Beach cop David Clark (Scott), who holds the key to a vast conspiracy.

"Dwayne, Seann and Sarah each have an adventurous spirit and I am honored that they have put their faith in me," says Kelly. "The film is going to be a strange hybrid of the sensibilities of Andy Warhol and Philip K. Dick."

Kelly, best known for the cult-favorite film "Donnie Darko," will begin production in the Southland of today at the beginning of August. Critically acclaimed musician Moby will compose the film's music.

Kelly's vision for "Southland" will also extend to a graphic novel that will include six volumes that will cover the prequel saga and three volumes that will cover the story found in the film. In addition, an elaborate website is planned that will create "a more epic multimedia experience for those interested in taking the plunge."

The Rock, last seen as a gay bouncer in "Be Cool," will recoup his testosterone in the upcoming sci-fi horror "Doom." Scott, who starred opposite The Rock in the action film "The Rundown," next stars as Bo Duke in the big-screen adaptation of "The Dukes of Hazzard." Gellar, who starred in the American version of the Japanese horror film "The Grudge," has segued into another scary movie, "Revolver."

News for 4/19/2005

Chi McBride is Going to Prison

Source: Variety

Chi McBride (Boston Public) is set to star in You Are Going to Prison opposite Dax Shepard and Will Arnett, says Variety.

McBride will portray a powerful and musically talented inmate in a maximum-security prison in the tale of a career criminal and an entitled rich guy stuck together in a cell.

Principal photography is set to begin later this month at Joliet Prison near Chicago, with Bob Odenkirk directing a script by Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Michael Patrick Jann.

Cannon Sits in Driver's Seat for New Line's 'Cars'

By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Miracle Cars" has made a believer out of New Line Cinema and actor Nick Cannon, who starred in 2002's "Drumline."

Cannon will topline the comedy, which is based on the true story of Robert Gomez and James Nichols, two 19-year-olds who committed the largest auto fraud in U.S. history. While working as security guards in Carson, Calif., the duo sold $21 million worth of nonexistent cars to thousands of churchgoers who thought they were buying cars at bargain prices from a wealthy Christian's estate.

Producer Andy Cohen found the story in Car and Driver magazine and brought it to screenwriter Don D. Scott, who wrote the MGM hits "Barbershop" and "Barbershop 2: Back in Business."

After visiting Gomez in prison to acquire his life rights, they optioned the magazine article and the subsequent book from author John Phillips III, editor-at-large of Car and Driver. Phillips will serve as a consultant on the film project, with Scott penning the script. The book, "God Wants You to Roll," was published last month by Carroll & Graf.

Cohen and Scott then approached Cannon with the project, and he agreed to come on board. The actor, whose credits include "Shall We Dance" and "Men in Black II," is set to star in Universal's "Extra Protection," which he wrote and will executive produce. He wrote, starred in and executive produced the upcoming action-comedy "The Underclassman" for Miramax and has Fox 2000's "Roll Bounce" and the indie "Jump Shot" in the wings. He also is in production on "Wild'n Out," which he created and will executive produce for MTV.

Cohen has "Magic Kingdom for Sale," based on the Terry Brooks book by the same name, set up at Universal.

Scott is writing the animated feature "The Big Nasty" for Sony.

Foster Works 'Inside' Job for Lee

LOS ANGELES ( - Jodie Foster will team up with fellow Oscar winner Denzel Washington.

The 42-year-old actress has signed on to star in Spike Lee's "Inside Man," report news sources.

The project centers on a cop who is trying to outwit a bank robber in a tense hostage situation. Foster will play an attorney who complicates the standoff.

"Sin City's" Clive Owen will also star.

Lee will begin shooting the project, based on a screenplay by Russell Gewirtz, in early summer.

Foster won two best actress Oscars for her roles in "The Accused" and "Silence of the Lambs." Her recent credits include "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys," "Panic Room" and a small part in "A Very Long Engagement." She'll next star as a mother whose daughter disappears on a transatlantic flight in "Flight Plan," which will be released in the fall.

Tyrese 'Waist Deep' in Gang Film

LOS ANGELES ( - "Fast and the Furious" star Tyrese will once again play an ex-con in his next project.

The singer/model/actor will star in Focus Features' "Waist Deep," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The project centers on an ex-convict whose car is hijacked with his son inside, pushing him to retaliate against gang leaders with the help of a young woman.

Vondie Curtis-Hall will direct the project, based on his own screenplay. Production is scheduled to begin in August in Los Angeles.

Tyrese's film credits also "Baby Boy" and the "Flight of the Phoenix" remake. His upcoming films include "Four Brothers" alongside Mark Wahlberg and "Annapolis."

More Jump Over the Hedge

Source: BlackFilm

Over the Hedge co-director tells BlackFilm that Nick Nolte, Catherine O'Hara, William Shatner, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy, Wanda Sykes and Avril Lavigne have joined the voice cast of the DreamWorks animated comedy.

In the May 19, 2006 feature, Bruce Willis will voice the mischievous con-artist raccoon R.J., and Garry Shandling will be the voice of the sensitive turtle named Verne. When R.J., Verne and their woodland friends find a suburban housing development encroaching on their forest home, Verne's first instinct is to retreat into his shell and leave, but the ever-opportunistic R.J. sees a treasure trove to be had from his unsuspecting new neighbors. Together, Verne and R.J. form an unlikely friendship as they learn to co-exist with -- and even exploit -- this strange new world called suburbia.

Avril Lavigne is making her big screen debut playing William Shatner's daughter.

TV's Byron Allen Bids $2.2 Bln for Paxson

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television executive Byron Allen said his Entertainment Studios Corp aims to acquire struggling Paxson Communications Corp for $2.2 billion in cash and retool Paxson's TV network for black audiences.

Allen, widely remembered as the star of 1980s TV show "Real People," told Reuters he is working with investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston and several undisclosed private equity firms to establish financing, but no company had yet committed to an offer.

"This is an asset (Paxson) that has a great deal of unleashed potential," he said. "The goal is to take one of the largest groups of television stations and turn it toward African Americans."

He said it was "hard to say" when a formal bid might be made and declined to comment further on possible timing.

"It's something that we definitely are aggressively pursuing," Allen said. "It would be history for a group of broadcast TV stations to be dedicated to African Americans.

If successful, the major competition would be cable TV network BET, which is owned by Viacom Inc, but Allen said he felt there was more than enough room for two networks aimed at black Americans.

"No one network can speak to any one group of people," he said.

He said an offer would be "all cash," with roughly $2 billion used to pay off Paxson senior debt and preferred stock and the remaining $200 million for equity holders.

Allen is perhaps best known for his work on "Real People" because it was so widely-watched, but he has transformed his celebrity into success as a TV executive.

Entertainment Studios produces 15 shows that are syndicated to local stations around the United States. Its flagship, "Entertainers with Byron Allen" which profiles celebrities, reaches more than 92 percent of U.S. homes.

Other shows it makes include "The American Athlete," 'Kickin' It with Byron Allen" and "Recipe TV Featuring the World's Greatest Chefs."

Paxson operates a network of 60 broadcast TV stations that reach nearly 90 percent of all U.S. households, and counts General Electric-owned NBC Universal, which operates the NBC television network, as one of its major investors.

But it has struggled over the years to gain market share from its competitors with its slate of mostly family-oriented programing