News for 8/7/2005


'Barbershop' goes to TV at a fast clip

By Bill Keveney
USA TODAY


This isn't your theater's Barbershop— but it's close.

Showtime's other new comedy series (premiering Aug. 14, 10 p.m. ET/PT) approximates the hit film. Most of the same characters fill the chairs at the shop in a black neighborhood in Chicago. But this Barbershop features different actors, new characters and changes in tone and plot.

Executive producer John Ridley (Undercover Brother) says the bloodline is "a double-edged sword." It makes the new series identifiable but puts pressure on to freshen the concept. TV allows for more character development, however. "You can do stories that are a little more serialized. You don't necessarily have to wrap everything up," he says.

Barbershop retains its core characters, led by shop owner Calvin (Omar Gooding taking over for Ice Cube). Calvin's wife, Jen (Anna Brown), has a larger role, and there's a new barber, Romadal (Dan White), a thug who has done time.

Barbershop won't hesitate to handle hot issues, from race relations and steroids to gender identification, Ridley says. "We want to be able to be political, but we don't want it, on a weekly basis, to be on race and politics and polemics. We want it to be a lot more fun."



'Afro Samurai' Slashes to Big Screen


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com)- Takashi Okazaki's "Afro Samurai" is heading to the big screen with Samuel L. Jackson reportedly committing as star and producer.

Set in a dystopic future, "Afro Samurai" is the story of a young man who witnesses the death of his father and vows revenge on the killer, known as "Justice."

The first short manga of "Afro Samurai" appeared in Japan in 1999 and, with Jackson's help, the property is getting a heavy push domestically. It was announced earlier this year that an animated version of "Afro Samurai," with vocal work by Jackson, will be produced for Spike TV and will them be exported to Japan.

The film will be produced by Gonzo, Fuji Television Network and the Mosaic Media Group, with The Firm executive producing.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Afro Samurai" is aiming for a 2007 release, with production beginning some time next year.

"Afro Samurai" will just have to get in line behind Jackson's myriad other projects. The "Pulp Fiction" Oscar nominee has already appeared on the big screen this year in "Coach Carter," "XXX: State of the Union" and "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," with "The Man" set to hit theaters early this fall. Other upcoming Jackson films include "Freedomland," "Pacific Air Flight 121" and "Black Snake Moan."



Weekend Boxoffice

'Dukes' Are Boss at Weekend Box Office

By ALICIA CHANG
The Associated Press


LOS ANGELES -- The good ol' boys of "The Dukes of Hazzard" crashed past another pair of joke-cracking buddies to the top of the weekend box office.

The adventure comedy, which stars Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott as the mischievous Duke cousins, rounded up $30.6 million in its first three days of release, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn's "The Wedding Crashers," which held the top spot last weekend after two weeks as runner-up, slipped back to No. 2 with $16.5 million. Johnny Depp's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" dropped to third with $10.6 million.

Set in a southern county called Hazzard, "Dukes" chronicles the adventures of Bo and Luke, who try to save the family farm from crooked politician Boss Hogg with the help of their orange 1969 Dodge Charger and denim short shorts-wearing cousin Daisy, played in her film debut by singer Jessica Simpson.

The film weathered largely nasty reviews with a savvy marketing campaign. Its stars appeared on GQ magazine covers two months in a row, and Simpson drew attention with a sexy video for her cover of "These Boots are Made for Walkin'." Willie Nelson, who plays Uncle Jesse in the film, also makes a cameo in the video.

"The combination of the cast and the name recognition of the television show combined with the sex appeal and car chases was irresistible to movie-goers," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office-tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The audience for "The Dukes of Hazzard" was evenly split in gender and two-thirds were under age 25, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros.

"I was very pleased with the opening. It exceeded our expectations," Fellman said.

The little big film of the summer, "March of the Penguins," was No. 6 after taking in $6.9 million over the weekend for a cumulative total of $26.2 million. It became the second highest-grossing non-concert and non-IMAX documentary ever, surpassing Michael Moore's "Bowling For Columbine," which had $21.6 million _ but still far from Moore's $119 million "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"There's really no way to figure where this thing's gonna end. These numbers keep going up," said Steven Friedlander of Warner Independent Pictures, which released the Morgan Freeman-narrated "Penguins."

The superhero action comedy "Sky High," starring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston, came in fourth with $9 million. The romantic comedy "Must Love Dogs," featuring Diane Lane and John Cusack, remained steady at fifth with $7.4 million.

After a two-week downturn, the box office saw a slight uptick this weekend. The top 12 movies grossed $102.5 million, up about 5 percent from the same weekend last year, when Tom Cruise's "Collateral" was No. 1 with $24.7 million.

"Broken Flowers," which opened in limited release in 27 theaters, had a strong showing with $745,000. The Jim Jarmusch film stars Bill Murray as a lonely single man who embarks on a cross-country road trip to track down four old lovers.

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

1. "The Dukes of Hazzard," $30.6 million
2. "The Wedding Crashers," $16.5 million
3. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," $10.6 million
4. "Sky High," $9.0 million
5. "Must Love Dogs," $7.4 million
6. "March of the Penguins," $6.9 million
7. "Stealth," $5.8 million
8. "Fantastic Four," $4.1 million
9. "War of the Worlds," $3.6 million
10. "The Island," $3.1 million



News for 8/1/2005


Weekend Boxoffice

'Wedding Crashers' Bumps Wonka From No. 1

By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn caught the box-office bouquet as their comedy "Wedding Crashers" pulled a switch with a $20.5 million weekend, becoming the No. 1 movie after two weekends in second place.

Johnny Depp's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the top movie the previous two weekends, slipped to No. 2 with $16.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The two holdovers fended off new wide releases whose fair to poor debuts had Hollywood revenues sagging again as a box-office dry spell continued.

Leading the newcomers was "Sky High," featuring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston in an action comedy set at a high school for superheroes that debuted in third place with $14.6 million.

"Stealth," about Navy pilots (Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx) taking on a rogue drone plane, crashed and burned, finishing at No. 4 with $13.5 million. With an estimated $100 million production budget, "Stealth" will prove a costly money-loser for distributor Sony.

The date flick "Must Love Dogs," a romance starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, came in fifth with $13.05 million.

The top 12 movies took in $112.1 million, down a steep 21 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Village" led the box office with a $50.7 million opening. For the year, movie attendance is down about 10 percent compared to 2004.

It was the second-straight weekend that new movies failed to dislodge "Wedding Crashers" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"Audiences are so desperate to find a film they like, they're just hanging on to the same movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"Wedding Crashers" lifted its domestic total to $116.1 million. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has taken in $148.1 million.

"Stealth," directed by Rob Cohen ("The Fast and the Furious"), was the second-straight flick from an established action director to flop. "The Island," from director Michael Bay ("Armageddon"), tanked a week earlier.

"Action just doesn't seem to be what the public is buying this summer," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony, which released "Stealth." "Comedy seems to be king."

"Wedding Crashers" has filled that bill, casting Wilson and Vaughn as cads who intrude on strangers' weddings to pick up women. While the box-office haul for many big movies falls 50 percent or more in subsequent weekends, revenues for "Wedding Crashers" dipped only 20 percent this weekend.

Audiences looking to laugh also swarmed to "The Aristocrats," which had a stellar debut in limited release, taking in $260,000 in just four New York City and Los Angeles theaters. The documentary by comics Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette features comedians discussing and telling a classic filthy joke.

"The Aristocrats" expands to the top 15 markets on Aug. 12.

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

1. "Wedding Crashers," $20.5 million.
2. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," $16.4 million.
3. "Sky High," $14.6 million.
4. "Stealth," $13.5 million.
5. "Must Love Dogs," $13.05 million.
6. "Fantastic Four," $6.8 million.
7. "The Island," $5.6 million.
8. "War of the Worlds," $5.44 million.
9. "Bad News Bears," $5.43 million.
10. "March of the Penguins," $4.2 million.



'Oz' Vet Gets 'Lost'


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Remember back in the pilot of "Lost" when the survivors of the plane wreck thought they were the only people on a scary island? Little did they know that their deserted abode had a higher population than Manhattan. Former "Oz" co-star Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the latest actor to be found on "Lost."

According to the good folks at ABC, Adewale will play Emeka "a mysterious man whose presence on the island -- and intentions -- will be revealed in one of the early episodes in the upcoming second season." Whee.

Other new additions to the "Lost" cast for its second season include Michelle Rodriguez.

Adewale spent several seasons on HBO's "Oz" playing murderous drug addict Simon Adebisi. He was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards for the role. Adewale's other credits include the features "Congo," "The Mummy Returns" and "The Bourne Identity."



News for 7/21/2005


Chris Rock Talks About His New Sitcom


By JANICE RHOSHALLE LITTLEJOHN
For The Associated Press


Chris Rock thought of other titles for his upcoming sitcom "Everybody Hates Chris": "Mad about Chris Rock" ... "Rockfeld."

But then the title he settled on "just popped in my head," he said Thursday, livening up one of the Television Critics Association's summer sessions.

The comedian will narrate the series, inspired by his experiences in the 1980s in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The show — part of UPN's Thursday night comedy slate in the fall — also will focus on Rock's trials while attending a predominantly white junior high school.

Tyler James Williams, 12, stars in the title role.

"I was at Michael Jackson's house, and this kid runs out, `Wait, save me!" Rock joked about how he found the actor.

A tad more seriously, Rock said: "Tyler was the funniest kid we could find. He's the funniest kid in the country. Trust me. There's a lot of unfunny kids out there. They need to work on their comedy."

Rock expects to be hands-on with the show, "going through scripts, making sure I like all the jokes, trying to be there for pretty much all of the tapings."

The irreverent tone of the comedian's standup is evident throughout the pilot episode, including use of the N-word.

"I'll do whatever the network will let me do," Rock told reporters. "If they let me use the F-word I'll use that too."



Twosome pass bar for 'Boston Legal'

By Kimberly Speight


Two more actors are joining "Boston Legal" as regulars when ABC's Emmy-nominated drama returns for its second season in the fall.

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Justin Mentell will play junior associates in the law firm at the center of the David E. Kelley series, which likely will have its second-season premiere at the end of September.

Bathe will portray Sara Holt, a brilliant woman who is sometimes given bizarre assignments. The actress' TV credits include appearances on NBC's "ER" and UPN's "Girlfriends" and "Half & Half."

Mentell will take the role of Garrett Wells, an ambitious young lawyer who sometimes doesn't know when to back off. His credits include Fox Searchlight Pictures' upcoming film "Roll Bounce."

Julie Bowen (NBC's "Ed") was previously announced as an addition to the cast. She'll play Denise Bauer, a tough, smart senior associate who is on the track to making partner and won't let anything -- including a messy divorce -- stand in her way.



News for 7/19/2005


'The Gospel' Coming To Theaters Everywhere


Principal photography wrapped up last month for The Gospel, a "contemporary spiritual drama," from Georgia-based Rainforest Films, according to the film's website.

Shot entirely on location in Atlanta, the film stars Boris Kodjoe (Showtime's Soul Food, Love & Basketball) as a hot R&B recording artist who's at the top of his career, yet estranged from his family who are southern Christian leaders in his hometown church. When Kodjoe's character, David, learns that his father (Clifton Powell), the Bishop of their church is ill and near death, he returns home, only to discover that his childhood rival (Idris Elba) is poised to become his father's successor at the church and has married his cousin (Nona Gaye) as well. While being met with hostility from family members, David also discovers disloyalty within the music empire he is building- all while struggling to make peace with his family, God and himself.

I came from such a different background and such different experiences," says Kodjoe (who was born in Vienna) regarding his participation in the film. "Germans don't have that sort of fiery mentality of expression, they don't have that religious experience that people here have in terms of feeling the Holy Ghost or just dancing and singing along in Church, I never saw that until I came over here. So that to me represented a great opportunity to sort of tap into something that I hadn't known before, and do research, and watch people and performances, so it's been an incredible ride for me."

Co-starring alongside Kodjoe in The Gospel are Tamyra (American Idol, Boston Public), Omar Gooding (Baby Boy), Keisha Knight Pulliam (The Cosby Show), and gospel superstars Donnie McClurkin and Hezekiah Walker.

The Gospel also features original music by performer/producer Kirk Franklin, with performances by Yolanda Adams, Martha Munizzi, and Delores "Mom" Winans. The soundtrack is scheduled to release in the fall.

"We were able to assemble this amazing cast because our actors and heavyweights in the gospel industry like Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams read the story and said it felt genuine to them- that it was a drama about faith that they could relate to," says writer/director Rob Hardy, who likens The Gospel to the Biblical story of the prodigal son, with elements loosely based on his own life.

Fellow producer, Will Packer, a longtime collaborator and friend of Hardy's says the two of them, together with the film's executive producers Holly Davis-Carter and Fred Hammond, shared the desire to bring a dramatic, faith-based film to the screen.

"This is a labor of love for us because we believe in the values espoused in this film," says Packer, a southerner who was raised in a church with predominantly African Americans. "Because no matter what trials and tribulations you go through, with faith you can overcome them if you lean on that higher power."

And it's that message, says Davis-Carter, a veteran Hollywood talent manager turned producer, that motivated her to help them get this film made.

"We believe there's a need for more stories about morality, redemption, faith, hope and recovery," she says. "Those values are what this film's all about and what people will respond to very deeply."

The Gospel is scheduled to hit theaters in October.

For more information, go to www.gospelmovie.com.



Brett Ratner to Direct Murphy and Rock

Source: Variety


Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour" films, Money Talks) is set to direct an untitled heist drama being planned as a screen vehicle for Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. Screenwriters Adam Cooper and Bill Collage are negotiating to write the screenplay for Imagine Entertainment. Brian Grazer will produce the Universal release.

The comedy is about a couple of blue-collar guys who aspire to pull off the perfect heist. Murphy came up with the idea and expressed a desire to work with Rock, who is coming off The Longest Yard and voicing Madagascar.

Cooper and Collage will write the film while Ratner directs X-Men 3 for 20th Century Fox.



Louis Gossett Jr. in New Film


Academy-Award winner Louis Gossett Jr., best known as the drill sergeant in "An Officer and a Gentleman," will play a Miami police detective battling drug traffickers in a movie set to begin filming next month in Jamaica.

The Jamaican portion of "Caribbean Manhunt" is scheduled to last through November, at which point the crew will move to Miami to finish the project, Gossett said Saturday while in Barbados for a celebrity golf tournament.

He will star alongside Morris Chestnut, who will play a fellow Miami detective called to fight against South American smugglers shipping drugs through the Caribbean.

Gossett won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1982 film "An Officer and a Gentleman," which starred Richard Gere. His other roles include the "Iron Eagle" movies and the TV series "Roots."



Weekend Boxoffice

A Sweet Score for "Charlie"

By Bridget Byrne
E! Online


The Candy Man can--and how!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cranked out a very sweet $56.2 million to lead the weekend movie list.

With Wedding Crashers also bashing in big--$33.9 million in second place, per studio tallies--the overall box office was up for a second weekend in a row compared to this time last year after a record 19 straight down weekends.

The second big-screen take on Roald Dahl's dandy candy tale, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as eccentric confection tycoon Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as golden ticket winner Charlie Bucket, was unwrapped at 3,770 sites. The PG-13 Warner Bros. release attracted the family audience, averaging a filling $14,901 per theater.

The result was at the high end of Industry expectations and didn't seem to have been seriously dented by the competition for the 'tween crowd in the book stores, where Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold a whopping 6.9 million copies and accounted for about $140 million in revenue. (For Warners, which owns the movie rights to the Harry franchise, the news is doubly delicious.)

The Oompa-Loompa-powered debut marked a personal best for Depp, topping the $46.6 million debut for 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Pleasing the older crowd was Wedding Crashers, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. The R-rated New Line comedy romp, broken in at 2,925 sites, averaged $11,590 per theater, also above projections.

Dropping 59 percent from its superlative number one opening last week was Fantastic Four, a result Fox admitted was not unexpected considering Charlie drew the family audience and Wedding Crashes the adults. Still, the comic book caper managed to rake in $22.8 million in third place and has now grossed $100.2 million.

In limited release, director Don Roos' ensemble indie drama Happy Endings, starring Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern, opened at 52 sites, where it averaged $4,617 for $240,075.

In very limited release, The Warrior, a period action drama about revenge and redemption on the Himalayan frontier starring Irfan Khan and directed by Asif Kapadia, opened at just four sites, where it averaged $3,533 for $14,130.

Overall the top 12 movies grossed $155.7 million, 12 percent higher than last weekend and 11 percent over this time last year, when I, Robot debuted with $52.1 million.

Continuing their strong runs were Paramount's War of the Worlds (in fourth with $15.2 million), Warners' Batman Begins (in fifth with $6 million) and Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (in sixth with $5.2 million), each of which has grossed well over the $150 million mark. So too has DreamWorks' Madagascar, which occupied the 10 slot with $2.3 million to bring its current gross to $183.1 million.

In 11th place was Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, which grossed $1.7 million for a nine-week tally of $373.9 million. That's one of the reasons that Fox has now grossed $1 billion this year in domestic box office, the second fastest distributor to achieve that goal, which Sony reached four days sooner in Spider-Man-led 2002.

In 12th place, March of the Penguins continued to ice all comers in the limited release market. Now at 132 sites it its fourth week, the Warner Independent Picture documentary grew 40 percent, averaging $11,478 per screen for $1.5 million, and has now hatched $4 million.
Here's a rundown of the top 10 films, based on final studio tallies compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, $56.2 million
2. Wedding Crashers, $33.9 million
3. Fantastic Four, $22.8 million
4. War of the Worlds, $15.2 million
5. Batman Begins, $6 million
6. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, $5.2 million
7. Dark Water, $4.6 million
8. Herbie: Fully Loaded, $3.6 million
9. Bewitched, $2.6 million
10. Madagascar, $2.3 million



News for 7/16/2005


Rapper LL Cool J targets women with film deal

By Nicole Sperling


LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In a bid to attract black female moviegoers, Lions Gate Films has signed a multipicture deal with rapper/actor LL Cool J, whose first project will be an urban version of "Fatal Attraction."

LL Cool J, a.k.a. James Todd Smith, will play an everyman who gets into serious trouble when he engages in an extramarital affair.

"What we are looking to do with LL is to get high-quality material that will attract talent," said Michael Paseornek, president of production at Lions Gate. "We are not looking to develop gimmicks but make real movies. LL has a huge following and is very credible with women."

The musclebound rap pioneer's feature credits include 2003's "Deliver Us From Eva," which marked his headlining debut, "Deep Blue Sea" and "Mindhunters."

Lions Gate plans to develop two other projects at the same time as its version of "Fatal Attraction." Under the multiyear deal, LL Cool J will get a producer's credit on each film.

"This is the perfect transition for me as I can now pour all my energy and creative juices into this fresh and exciting producing venture," LL Cool J said in a statement.

The projects -- budgeted at less than $10 million, similar to Lions Gate's deal with actor/playwright Tyler Perry ("Diary of a Mad Black Woman") -- are looking to serve the black female market, which Lions Gate thinks is an underserved and often ignored segment.

"We'd love to make two of these a year," Paseornek said. "And we'll keep them coming if the marketplace responds."



'Desperate Housewives' Gets 15 Emmy Nods

By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Prime-time TV soap operas rarely bring home Emmys. "Dallas," "Knots Landing" and "Dynasty" never won best-series awards. "Dynasty" set a record as the biggest also-ran in Emmy history with 24 losses and no wins. But "Desperate Housewives," a dark satire about life in suburbia, may have found a way to finesse the system.

ABC's freshman hit _ which cleaned up Thursday with 15 Emmy nominations _ asked to be considered in the comedy series category, usually home to half-hour sitcoms.

The ploy worked for another so-called dramedy, the legal farce "Ally McBeal," which was named best comedy series in 1999 on its second try.

"The proof of how sneaky those `Desperate Housewives' really are is they pulled an 'Ally McBeal,'" said Tom O'Neil, author of "The Emmys" and host of goldderby.com, a Web site that handicaps the Emmys and other awards.

"I'm going, `Geez, we should have gone over there, too,'" joked David Shore, the creator of Fox's drama "House." The series received five nominations, including a best dramatic actor bid for star Hugh Laurie and a writing nomination for an episode by Shore.

ABC's show is competing in a field that includes last year's winner, the quirky "Arrested Development," and "Will & Grace," which matched "Desperate Housewives" with its 15 nominations Thursday.

Also named in the category were "Scrubs" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," which wrapped after nine seasons and received a hearty farewell of 13 bids.

Wisteria Lane, home of the housewives, should be abuzz with the fact that only three of its stars, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman, were nominated for best comedy series actress. Eva Longoria, who was also snubbed by the Golden Globe Awards, was conspicuously missing from the Emmy list as well.

Also overlooked was Nicollette Sheridan, who had gotten a Golden Globe supporting-actress nod for the show.

Maybe the sexually frisky characters played by Longoria and Sheridan were just too hot for Emmy voters to handle, suggested O'Neil.

It's also interesting that, in an industry regularly accused of bias against older actresses, the nominated "Housewives" are all 40 or older; Longoria is 30.

"I'm sad about it," Cross told The Associated Press. "I really thought Nicollette was a shoo-in. In terms of Eva, my prediction is she's leaving us all in the dust."

The lucky nominees might restrain their glee. The only nighttime soap star to win in a lead-acting category was Barbara Bel Geddes, who played the matriarch of "Dallas," as even Larry Hagman's deliciously villainous turn as J.R. Ewing in the 1978-91 soap failed to snag Emmy gold.

The drama category pits another freshman ABC hit, "Lost," against the sophomore Western drama "Deadwood," "Six Feet Under," "24" and "The West Wing,"

Last year's winner, "The Sopranos," isn't in the fight because it sat out last season. That appears to leave an opening for the spooky "Lost," about air crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island, but the show's thriller elements might give Emmy voters pause.

A prestige drama such as "The West Wing," which rebounded in quality last season and has claimed four consecutive best drama trophies, or a gritty groundbreaker like "Deadwood" might stand a better chance.

Proving that it can be tough for a big-cast show to lay claim to a lead actor nomination, "Lost" was blanked in the category. Naveen Andrews, who plays tough and sexy Sayid, and Terry O'Quinn, the inscrutable Locke, received best supporting actor bids.

The Emmy recognition of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" was a bonus for ABC, which was pulled out of a ratings slump by the two new series. "Desperate Housewives" finished the season as the fourth-most-watched program, averaging nearly 24 million weekly viewers, while "Lost" was No. 14 with an average 16 million viewers.

Television's most popular show, Fox's singing contest "American Idol," has a chance to finally win an Emmy. It was nominated again in the reality competition program category, facing "The Amazing Race," "Survivor," "Project Runway" and "The Apprentice."

The 57th Emmy Awards are scheduled to air Sept. 18 on CBS. A host has yet to be announced for the Shrine Auditorium ceremony in which 27 awards will be presented.

Other Emmy nominations to note:

_ Premium cable channel HBO once again dominated the made-for-TV movie category with two of its films: "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" and "Warm Springs," each garnering 16 bids to top all nominees. (HBO was the leading network with 93 nominations. CBS was second with 59 nominations, followed by NBC with 54, ABC with 51 and Fox with 49.)

_ Ossie Davis received a posthumous nomination as guest actor in a drama series for his appearance on "The L Word." The actor, director and civil rights activist died in February at 87.

_ Two sets of spouses were nominated. William H. Macy, who is married to Huffman of "Desperate Housewives," got his own acting nod for the TV movie "The Wool Cap." Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, who co-starred in "Empire Falls," both received supporting actor nominations for the HBO project.

_ Alan Alda scored a hat trick this year, adding an Emmy bid for his supporting role in "The West Wing" to his nominations for an Academy Award ("The Aviator") and a Tony Award ("Glengarry Glen Ross").

_ If "Project Greenlight" wins for best reality program, executive producers Ben Affleck and Mattf Damon could add an Emmy to the Oscar they received for writing the film "Good Will Hunting."


List of Primetime Emmy Nominations

By The Associated Press


(AP) - Nominees in major categories for the 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards announced Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:

Drama Series: "Deadwood," HBO; "Lost," ABC; "Six Feet Under," HBO; "24," Fox; "The West Wing," NBC.

Comedy Series: "Arrested Development," Fox; "Desperate Housewives," ABC; "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; "Scrubs," NBC; "Will & Grace," NBC.

Miniseries: "Elvis," CBS; "Empire Falls," HBO; "The 4400," USA; "The Lost Prince (Masterpiece Theatre)," PBS.

Made-for-TV Movie: "Lackawanna Blues," HBO; "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," HBO; "The Office Special," BBC America; "Warm Springs," HBO; "The Wool Cap," TNT.

Variety, Music or Comedy Series: "Da Ali G Show," HBO; "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central; "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," NBC; "Late Show With David Letterman," CBS; "Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO.

Variety, Music or Comedy Special: "77th Annual Academy Awards," ABC; "Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth," Showtime; "Everybody Loves Raymond _ The Last Laugh," CBS; "The Games of The XXVIII Olympiad _ Opening Ceremony," NBC; "58th Annual Tony Awards (2004)," CBS.

Actor, Drama Series: James Spader, "Boston Legal," ABC; Ian McShane, "Deadwood," HBO; Hugh Laurie, "House," Fox; Hank Azaria, "Huff," Showtime; Kiefer Sutherland, "24," Fox.

Actress, Drama Series: Jennifer Garner, "Alias," ABC; Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," NBC; Patricia Arquette, "Medium," NBC; Glenn Close, "The Shield," FX; Frances Conroy, "Six Feet Under," HBO.

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: William Shatner, "Boston Legal," ABC; Oliver Platt, "Huff," Showtime; Naveen Andrews, "Lost," ABC; Terry O'Quinn, "Lost," ABC; Alan Alda, "The West Wing," NBC.

Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Sandra Oh, "Grey's Anatomy," ABC; Blythe Danner, "Huff," Showtime; Tyne Daly, "Judging Amy," CBS; CCH Pounder, "The Shield," FX; Stockard Channing, "The West Wing," NBC.

Actor, Comedy Series: Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development," Fox; Ray Romano, "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; Tony Shalhoub, "Monk," USA; Zach Braff, "Scrubs," NBC; Eric McCormack, "Will & Grace," NBC.

Actress, Comedy Series: Marcia Cross, "Desperate Housewives," ABC; Teri Hatcher, "Desperate Housewives," ABC; Felicity Huffman, "Desperate Housewives," ABC; Patricia Heaton, "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm In The Middle," Fox.

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Jeffrey Tambor, "Arrested Development," Fox; Jeremy Piven, "Entourage," HBO; Peter Boyle, "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; Brad Garrett, "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace," NBC.

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Jessica Walter, "Arrested Development," Fox; Doris Roberts, "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS; Holland Taylor, "Two And A Half Men," CBS; Conchata Ferrell, "Two And A Half Men," CBS; Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace," NBC.

Actor, Miniseries or a Movie: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, "Elvis," CBS; Ed Harris, "Empire Falls," HBO; Geoffrey Rush, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," HBO; Kenneth Branagh, "Warm Springs," HBO; William H. Macy, "The Wool Cap," TNT.

Actress, Miniseries or a Movie: Blythe Danner, "Back When We Were Grownups (Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation)," CBS; Debra Winger, "Dawn Anna," Lifetime Television; S. Epatha Merkerson, "Lackawanna Blues," HBO; Halle Berry, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," ABC; Cynthia Nixon, "Warm Springs," HBO.

Supporting Actor, Miniseries or a Movie: Randy Quaid, "Elvis," CBS; Paul Newman, "Empire Falls," HBO; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Empire Falls," HBO; Christopher Plummer, "Our Fathers," Showtime; Brian Dennehy, "Our Fathers," Showtime.

Supporting Actress, Miniseries or a Movie: Camryn Manheim, "Elvis," CBS; Joanne Woodward, "Empire Falls," HBO; Charlize Theron, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," HBO; Jane Alexander, "Warm Springs," HBO; Kathy Bates, "Warm Springs," HBO.

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences



Singleton Hustles From Golden Boy to Mentor

By Daniel Fienberg


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com)- On July 14, 1991 "Boyz n the Hood" was released on only 829 screens, amidst worries that the film's incendiary subject matter would spark riots. Instead, the film struck a chord, ultimately grossing nearly $60 million domestically (roughly 10 times its production budget) and transforming its 23-year-old director John Singleton into a sensation.

"I never had anyone to look up to in the business, who could help me and guide me through the process of what I needed to do until I actually made a movie," says Singleton. "That's when I started talking to guys like Spielberg and Francis Coppola and Lucas, my idols, but those were just casual conversations with those guys, learning what I could, I hadn't anybody to just work with me."

Singleton has gone on to direct a number of successful features, alternating between big studio offerings like "Shaft" and "2 Fast 2 Furious" and smaller, more personal, films like 2001's underappreciated "Baby Boy." He has enough clout that he is in position to turn around and mentor young filmmakers like Craig Brewer, whose "Hustle & Flow" is positioned as a late-summer sleeper.

Brewer's script, the story of a small-time Memphis pimp (Terrence Dashon Howard) who finds his artistic voice in rap, came to Singleton through Stephanie Allain, one of the Columbia Pictures creative executives who nurtured "Boyz." Taken by the script's vivid characters and intensely personal setting, Singleton agreed to come on board as an executive producer.

"I told Craig, 'I'm gonna get your movie made, don't worry. I'm gonna go in here with these studio executives and they're just gonna bow down to my presence and they're gonna wanna make the movie in five minutes,'" Singleton says with a laugh.

Singleton went to every studio in town, studios that had already rejected the script, and repitched the movie and was rejected every time.

"After a few months of that, I was like 'F*** this s***, I'm gonna have to greenlight this thing myself,'" he explains of the decision to put up his own money. "I pretty much believe in betting on myself. I've been involved with 10 movies and only one hasn't been profitable."

Singleton and Brewer spent a long time watching movies like "Midnight Cowboy" and "Taxi Driver" to discover the gritty tone that "Hustle & Flow" would take. Ultimately, though, the film's main catalyst was shooting in Memphis in the middle of the summer.

"It was hot, it was muggy, it was real," Singleton recalls. "It was what the movie was. It was a love affair. We fought the mosquitoes off and all the hustlers and people trying to get money out of us and all kinds of scandals and we made the movie."

It was enough of an achievement to get the film shot, to come in on budget and to weather unexpected extracurricular problems like co-star Anthony Anderson's arrest on sexual assault charges (later thrown out by a judge), but how would audiences at the Sundance Film Festival respond? Would an audience of executives, publicists, critics and film buffs warm up to the personal plight of a rhyme-spitting hustler? "Hustle & Flow" won an audience award and a cinematography prize and launched a bidding war -- ultimately won by Paramount Classics and MTV Films -- among the same studios that had previously rejected the script.

"It was beautiful," Singleton says. "Nobody wanted to make this picture. By making this film the way we did and having it spark is such a vindication. They [the studios] think that they know everything, but they don't. If they did, then the business wouldn't be in the condition that it is right now."

Suddenly, even though it's facing the kinds of explosive $100-plus million blockbusters that normally characterize the season, "Hustle & Flow" is getting a relentless MTV publicity push and it's being eyed as ideal counter-programming to films like "The Island" and "Stealth." Singleton is already looking forward to his next collaboration with Brewer, a drama teasingly titled "Black Snake Moan" and set to star Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci.

"We're pushing the envelope even further," Singleton promises. "It's about a white trash nymphomaniac being helped by a broken hearted bluesman. It's uniquely Craig Brewer."

"Hustle & Flow" hits theaters everywhere on Friday, July 22.



Filmmaker Hudlin Gets with BET Program


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) BET, coming off a big ratings splash with its annual awards show, has hired writer and director Reginald Hudlin to beef up its original programming.

Hudlin, whose directing credits include "House Party" and "Boomerang," has taken the post of president of entertainment for the cable network. He'll be in charge of all programming at the network -- not just entertainment but sports, news and public affairs as well.

"I am thrilled to have one of Hollywood's brightest and most creative minds join us," BET President and CEO Debra Lee says. "Reginald joins us at a point when BET is celebrating its 25th anniversary; distribution is at an all-time high; and our viewership continues to grow. It's the ideal circumstance to which an executive with his track record can bring additional creativity and vision."

The hiring of Hudlin could signal a change in direction for BET, which largely features syndicated programming along with a few unscripted original series. The network has faced criticism in the past for a lack of quality programming for African Americans.

Some of those barbs have come from Aaron McGruder, creator of the comic strip "The Boondocks" -- with whom Hudlin is working on a Cartoon Network series based on the strip. Hudlin's other TV credits include "The Bernie Mac Show" and the pilot of UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris."

For his part, Hudlin says he's hoping to help BET realize its potential for growth. "I'm grateful for Debra, [BET founder] Bob [Johnson] and Tom's [Viacom co-president/CEO Tom Freston] confidence in my ability to shape the creative future of the network," he says. "I look forward to working with them as we guide BET to the next step in its evolution with a wide range of original programming."



'Jury' Director Hops Aboard Universal's 'Express'


LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com)- Universal Pictures has recruited veteran television and film helmer Gary Fleder to direct "The Express," a biopic of college football legend Ernie Davis, the Elmira Express.

Recruited to Syracuse as the running back successor to Jim Brown, Davis helped shatter racial barriers in college football, becoming the first African-American player to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. Davis was the first pick in the NFL draft and was traded from Washington to Cleveland, where he was expected to team up with Brown. Instead, he was diagnosed with leukemia and died at the age of 23.

Davis may not have played a down for the Browns, but the team still retired the No. 45 in his honor.

Jeffrey Lieber ("Lost," "Tuck Everlasting") wrote the script, which is based on "Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express," by Robert Gallagher. John Davis ("I, Robot") will produce.

Fleder's directing credits include the thrillers "Runaway Jury," "Don't Say a Word" and "Kiss the Girls." He's also directed the pilots for the ABC dramas "Blind Justice" and "The Evidence."