News for 3/6/2007

Weekend Boxoffice

Biker romp 'Wild Hogs' debuts at No. 1

Associated Press Writer

The biker buddy comedy "Wild Hogs" and its ensemble cast of John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and Tim Allen was the weekend box office champ with a $38 million take, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It was Walt Disney Co.'s biggest March opening ever. It was also the largest-ever debut for the 53-year-old Travolta as well as the best non-animated movie debut for Allen, who is also 53. Macy turns 57 next week and Lawrence turns 42 next month.

"It's so easy to see in the material how much fun they were having together. The audience was looking for that first great comedy of the year," said Disney president of distribution Chuck Viane.

"Wild Hogs" performed well beyond expectations, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. It had been expected to be No. 1 with earnings in the $25 million range, he said.

"It's just astonishing," Dergarabedian said. "It was the perfect vehicle for these four stars. A combination of star power, great concept and great marketing was responsible.

"This is not an Oscar contender, but it's a fun time at the movies. You know, sometimes it's just about escapism."

No other films were even close.

The No. 2 movie was the thriller "Zodiac," which debuted with $13.1 million. "Ghost Rider" fell to No. 3 in its third week of release with $11.5 million, "Bridge to Terabithia" was fourth with $8.6 million, and "The Number 23" dropped to fifth with $7.1 million in its second week.

Eddie Murphy's "Norbit" continued to draw crowds, placing sixth in its fourth week of release with a $6.4 million take that boosted its cumulative tally to $83 million.

"Music & Lyrics" was No. 7 with $4.9 million and the new movie "Black Snake Moan," about an aging black man who chains a young white woman to a radiator to cure her of her demons, only took in $4 million for eighth place.

Rounding out the Top 10 was ninth place "Reno 911!: Miami" with $3.8 million and "Breach" with $3.5 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Wild Hogs," $38 million.
2. "Zodiac," $13.1 million.
3. "Ghost Rider," $11.5 million.
4. "Bridge to Terabithia," $8.6 million.
5. "The Number 23," $7.1 million.
6. "Norbit," $6.4 million.
7. "Music & Lyrics," $4.9 million.
8. "Black Snake Moan," $4 million.
9. "Reno 911!: Miami" $3.8 million.
10. "Breach," $3.5 million

Premiere folds
Magazine will continue online


Hachette Filipacchi pulled the plug on Premiere on Monday, confirming widespread rumors that the embattled movie mag would be shuttered. Many of the company's editorial staffers will leave the company, including editor-in-chief Peter Herbst.

The April issue, which features Will Ferrell on the cover for "Blades of Glory," will be mag's last. Staffers put the issue to bed about 10 days ago.

Premiere publisher Paul Turcotte could be named to another post within Hachette, though there was no official confirmation of a new role.

Magazine, published 10 times per year, will continue to exist online.

Specifics on how many staffers would migrate, how often content will be refreshed and how many of the mag's regular features will be maintained were undisclosed.

News of its print demise brings to an end what has been something of a media soap opera for the New York-based title, which employs five print editorial staffers in its Hollywood bureau and an estimated couple dozen in its flagship Gotham offices.

Hachette and parent company Lagardere were trying to sell the title earlier this year, but bidders were reportedly thin for the troubled pub. Mag saw its ad pages decline nearly 25% in 2006.

Announcement marks the closure of another pub for Hachette, which also shuttered Elle Girl and startup Shock.

The 20-year-old Premiere had its heyday in the 1990s, when the appetite for insider movie news grew.

Even today, mag publishes a Hollywood power list and industry scuttlebutt under sections like "Yes It's True: News You're Not Supposed to Know," alongside more consumer-friendly stories, such as a list of overrated movies.

But the trade-flavored pieces in which Premiere once specialized have become less relevant as consumer dailies have taken more of an interest in the biz, while sites like Defamer have proliferated to satisfy the demand for near-instantaneous industry gossip.

Premiere also faced the challenge of being a long-lead mag in a realm where news moves increasingly quickly. For example, Oscar predictions made months in advance now run the risk of becoming stale by the time the print edition hits newsstands.

And while interest in celeb news is by many indications stronger than ever, sites like TMZ and PerezHilton have proved more adept at breaking and keeping up with news.

Hachette's latest strategy is to move in a newsier direction, offering more timely items on and mobile platforms -- routes that would also be less costly.

"This step is consistent with our strategy to examine our portfolio of brands to determine the best business plan for each, based on its category and the marketplace," Hachette prexy-CEO Jack Kliger said in a statement.

Company will continue publishing international editions in territories such as France, where the mag started in the 1970s.

'Lincoln' Gets Second Term

The Suttons will continue to stick it out in the old neighborhood.

ABC Family announced Thursday, March 1 that it has renewed the family drama "Lincoln Heights' for a second season.

"We're just in love with this show and truly believe it's one of the best on television," says network president Paul Lee. "It's brought us the most diverse audiences ABC Family has ever had and I can't wait to see what [executive producer] Kathleen [McGhee Anderson] and this superb cast do with Season 2."

"Lincoln" revolves around the Sutton family, led by patriarch Eddie, a cop who decides to realize his dream of home ownership by moving his family into his old crime-ridden 'hood through a police incentive program. His family -- wife Jenn (Nicki Micheaux), daughters Cassie and Lizzie (Erica Hubbard, Rhyon Brown) and son Tay (Mishon Ratliff) -- aren't so gung-ho though, especially since the house needs work and the community isn't that welcoming.

While the show became popular with families, teenage girls also avidly followed Cassie's budding relationship with Charles (Robert Adamson).The show ranks as the No. 2 basic cable program in women 12-34 and female teens, and among the Top 5 in adults 12-34, women 18-34 and women 18-49.

Image Awards surprises: Palmer, Hounsou win

By Carly Mayberry
The Hollywood Reporter

Forest Whitaker was honored for his role in "The Last King of Scotland."

A chameleon known as Prince, the creative forces surrounding "Ugly Betty" and an "American Idol" hopeful-turned-dreamgirl were among the mix of winners at the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards.

Amid the surprises Friday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was "Akeelah and the Bee" actress Keke Palmer, who nabbed the award for outstanding actress in a motion picture, while Djimon Hounsou of "Blood Diamond" beat out the likes of "Dreamgirls' " Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover for outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture.

For her part, Jennifer Hudson, who took honors for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, was still reeling from her Oscar win for "Dreamgirls" during the ceremony that honors the best in movies, television, music and books that are by and about people of color.

"Never, ever, ever give up, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something," said Hudson, crediting her mother with nurturing talents in her that she didn't know she had. "If they tell you that you can't do it, it's because they can't dream as big as you."

For Hounsou, the fact that his performance was part of a racially charged story line made his victory even sweeter.

"Any time you're part of a film that's used as a tool to educate people, it's extremely rewarding," said the African-born Hounsou, who acknowledged advocates of the film in South Africa, Africa and Mozambique. "All the accolades I'm getting are great -- but I think it's bigger than that."

In the category of best motion picture, Sony Pictures' "The Pursuit of Happyness" also dropped a few jaws by landing the evening's top award.

Chris Gardner, the man behind the rags-to-riches character upon which Will Smith's role was based, also won in the category of outstanding literary work, biography/autobiography, for the film and took the stage with the movie's talent and creative team.

"I am so proud of the work (done) with Will Smith. You may be the biggest movie star in the world, but you're the third best actor in your household," quipped Gardner, referring to Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, who co-starred in "Happyness."

Oscar winner Forest Whitaker beat out Smith in the category of outstanding actor in a motion picture for his work in "The Last King of Scotland."

Along with Palmer, "Akeelah" writer-director Doug Atchison took honors for outstanding writing in a feature film/television movie -- comedy or drama.

ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" landed multiple awards. The drama won for outstanding drama series, Isaiah Washington nabbed a win for outstanding actor in a drama series, and Chandra Wilson won for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.

America Ferrera best summed up for the cast of "Betty" the meaning of the multitude of creative efforts behind the show, which won for outstanding comedy series, while writer Silvio Horta won for outstanding writing in a comedy series and Vanessa Williams took the prize for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.

"In the beginning of this project, we recognized something special about it," Ferrera said. "It recognized every kind of people -- a theme on television we knew was going to connect with the American people -- to take the mask off of stereotypes and make everybody human."

Said Williams: "The fact that it's 2007 and that Silvio wrote a role and came after me as an actress regardless of race -- we're at a day now where it doesn't matter what a person looks like but that they can do the job."

Other winners in the TV categories included Tracee Ellis Ross from the CW's "Girlfriends' " for outstanding actress in a comedy series and 14-year-old Tyler James Williams for outstanding actor in a comedy series for the CW's "Everybody Hates Chris." Kimberly Elise of CBS' "Close to Home" took home a statuette for top actress in a drama series.

On the music side, Prince, who took the stage to a standing ovation before challenging the phone companies and new digital providers to allow artists to be the gatekeepers of the music industry, won outstanding male artist. Veteran Mary J. Blige beat out Beyonce and newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae among others nominated for outstanding female artist.

Besides a night dedicated to its award recipients, the evening also bestowed special honors on Bill Cosby, Soledad O'Brien and Bono.

Receiving the NAACP's President's Award, O'Brien -- a Harvard graduate and product of a biracial parents -- said it was a privilege to cover some of the most important stories of our time.

"I'm lucky to have two things I love: my family and my job," said the mother of four.

Flanked by music impresario Quincy Jones and the NAACP's Julian Bond, Bono, accepting the Chairman's Award, used the stage as a platform to continue his crusade to stomp out poverty and disparity.

"Today the world looks again to the NAACP. We need the community that taught the world about civil rights to teach the world about human rights," he said. "This is not about charity -- it's about justice and equality."

Click here to see the complete list of nominees and winners.

Jesse Jackson seeks more diversity in Hollywood
By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As seemingly half of Hollywood converged on a fundraiser for Democratic presidential aspirant Sen. Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was huddled elsewhere with Universal Studios president Ron Meyer over his own campaign -- to increase industry diversity.

"We must go to each of the companies and agencies and urge them to make the industry open up and expand the market and the opportunities," Jackson said Wednesday during an hour-plus interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

"After all, we once did not know how big baseball could be until everyone could play. Right now, with the system (in) Hollywood, we don't know how big the entertainment market can be until everybody is able to participate."

Jackson's Tuesday meeting with Meyer and his planned sessions with various studio heads, talent agency executives and others are part of a continuing campaign by the civil rights leader's Rainbow Coalition to press for greater diversity in Hollywood's casting process and studio hiring. Citing data like a recent UCLA report showing low numbers of minority-oriented film roles, Jackson aims to convince industry elite that increased casting and hiring of minorities will broaden the creative scope of Hollywood entertainment and thus its revenue base.

"Our premise is that inclusion leads to growth," he said. "So for those who are locked out, they lose development, and those who are in power lose market and growth."

Still, Jackson acknowledges the stepped-up campaign might seem oddly timed, considering that black actors are considered favorites to take home Oscars in three of four acting categories.

"I'm afraid that these three or five excellent actors and actresses will send a wrong signal," Jackson said. "There's no doubt that some who watch Sunday night will say, 'We're over the mountain,' but they will not see the lack of a feeder system into the infrastructure.

"The issue here is the pipeline. We can focus on the three to five actors up on top, but the industry is comprised of the executives and the artists and the producers (throughout) Hollywood."

And don't get him started on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose composition is a major sore point.

"They have like 40 people on their board of governors, and only one is a black person," Jackson said. "The Academy needs to reflect America itself, and this is an archaic arrangement."

An Academy spokeswoman said 43 governors sit on the board but added that data on its ethnic or racial composition were not available.

In 1996, the Rainbow Coalition posted pickets outside of the Academy Awards to protest what it said was a lack of diversity in film casting. Jackson said no such actions are planned for Sunday's Oscars, and for now he is focused on gathering information about diversity issues in Hollywood while meeting with as many industry leaders as possible.

His tete-a-tete with Meyer in a Beverly Hills restaurant went well, he said.

"Ron's a good man," Jackson said. "He enjoys a great reputation for decency and fairness and credibility in the industry."

But Jackson added that much of Hollywood presents a benign face on social issues -- and that's a potential problem.

"I'd rather have a bad guy who does things for the wrong reasons than good guys who don't do anything," he quipped while adding an aside over President Bush's appointment of Colin Powell to his cabinet.

Jackson said he hopes to discuss the Hollywood diversity issue with Hollywood's top lobbyist, Dan Glickman, the head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. Jackson has known the Clinton-era Secretary of Agriculture for years.

In December, UCLA Law School professor Russell Robinson wrote a research report purporting to show that 69% of "available roles were reserved for white actors" in a survey of all film roles cast last June-August.

"Actors of color were limited to between 0.5% and 8.1% of roles, depending on their racial/ethnic background, and could compete with white actors for the 8.5% of roles that were open to white and nonwhite actors alike," the report added.

On Wednesday, Robinson suggested that even some of the highest-profile minority actors, such as those nominated for Oscars this year, face professional hurdles unknown to white male actors.

"I've spoken to people in the industry who are skeptical about career prospects for Jennifer Hudson, even if she wins (for best supporting actress) because she's an African-American woman of a certain size," Robinson said.

"Babel" actress Adriana Barraza, nominated in the same category as the "Dreamgirls" co-star, could face similar difficulties, he added.

"She's a Latino woman who is middle-aged, and you don't see many Latino people in major film roles, period," Robinson said. "And when it comes to gender, age makes a huge difference. So to simply take a snapshot of this one day of the Oscars can be a mistake."

Jackson said there is some irony that "you can now market your movie and mount your Oscar campaign on the basis of the (black and Latino) market, yet the lack of power-sharing is astonishing."

Meyer still managed to get to Tuesday night's Obama fundraiser, whose organizers included Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Jackson did not, even though he is staying at the Beverly Hilton, where the event was held.

Jackson said his schedule already had been set when he was advised of the fundraiser. Along with the Hollywood meet-and-greets on his itinerary, he has been making appearances at local public schools to press for greater dual-language proficiency among Latino and white students.

Meyer wasn't available Wednesday to comment on Jackson's diversity campaign.

Jackson 'Married' to Tyler Perry's Latest
No Madea? No problem.

Pop star, film personality and notorious breast exposer Janet Jackson will co-star in Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married."

Lionsgate, Perry's recent cinematic home, is producing the adaptation of the writer-director-producer-star's stage play. The film will be shot in a number of locations in British Columbia as well as at Perry's studio in Atlanta.

According to Variety, the film will also star Sharon Leal ("Dreamgirls") and singer Jill Scott.

The film focuses on a group of group of friends who take an annual retreat and the sexy temptress who stirs things up for the couples.

Perry's latest Lionsgate offering, "Daddy's Little Girls," has made more than $25 million to date. Like "Daddy's Little Girls," "Why Did I Get Married" doesn't feature Perry's Madea character, who helped push "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea's Family Reunion" to domestic grosses north of $50 million apiece.

Jackson may have spent recent years doing damage control for her Super Bowl halftime wardrobe malfunction, but her film credits as an actress include leads in "Poetic Justice" and "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps."

'Friday' to 'Sunday' for Ice Cube
David E. Talbert will make his feature directing debut

"Friday" and "Next Friday" star Ice Cube has turned his attentions to a different part of the weekend.

Ice Cube has signed on for the lead in "First Sunday," a heist comedy from playwright David E. Talbert.

The film is set to begin production in early May in Los Angeles and Baltimore and Screen Gems hopes to have "First Sunday" ready for a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend next year.

"First Sunday" focuses on two men who attempt to rob a church but end up taking the parishioners hostage. Wouldn't you know that the churchgoers would help the crooks mend their ways? Good times.

Talbert will be making his featuring directing debut and will produce along with Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube, David McIlvain and Julie Yorn.

You may not have heard of Talbert, but his plays have been wildly successful in what Variety repeatedly and euphemistically keeps referring to as "urban" communities. Nice.

His latest play, "Nick of Tyme" is on tour through those various "urban" outposts.

Ice Cube has "Are We Done Yet?" coming out this spring. "First Sunday" moves into top position on his shooting slate, ahead of the still-developing update of "Welcome Back, Kotter."

Underwood Underway on Directing Debut
Rhames will star in the heartwarming hooker saga

Blair Underwood will direct Ving Rhames in the drama "The Bridge to Nowhere."

Filming next month in Pittsburgh, "Nowhere" will represent the featuring directing debut for the TV favorite.

The film involves four guys who team with a destitute prostitute to form a successful escort service. Chris Gutierrez wrote the script.

Although Underwood has never directed for the big screen before, he's helmed a number of music videos, as well as the short film "The Second Coming."

Underwood will also produce "Nowhere" along with partners Tommy Morgan Jr. and Blondel Aidoo, continuing his push into production. He's also producing and starring in the Fox Searchlight thriller "My Soul To Keep" and producing TLC's "Easy Money."

The "Sex and the City" and "LAX" star can sometimes be seen on CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

NBC Says 'Thank God' in April
Improv series will feature Cranston, Alexander, Takei

Forced to improvise between story arcs on "Heroes" in the spring, NBC is going to, well, improvise.

The network will roll out a new improv comedy series called "Thank God You're Here" at 9 p.m. ET Monday, April 9. It will remain in the "Heroes" timeslot the following week, then move to its regular home -- 8 p.m. Wednesdays -- on April 18.

The two Monday airings are designed to give the show, hosted by actor-comedian David Alan Grier, a leg up with "Deal or No Deal" as its lead-in. New episodes of "Heroes" aren't slated to be back on NBC's schedule until later in April.

"Thank God You're Here" also shouldn't affect the current occupant of the 8 p.m. Wednesday slot, "Friday Night Lights." The network has aired only a few repeats of "Lights" this season, so it should be done for the year by then.

Based an Australian show, "Thank God You're Here" will feature a rotating cast of comedians who have to think and act on the fly. In each show, an actor will walk into a scene they know nothing about; another performer will greet them with the line, "Thank God you're here," and things take off from there.

The premiere episode will feature "Malcolm in the Middle" star Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Coolidge ("Joey," "Best in Show"), Wayne Knight ("Seinfeld") and Joel McHale ("The Soup"). Future episodes will have the likes of Jason Alexander, George Takei, Mo'Nique, Shannon Elizabeth, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chelsea Handler, Fred Willard, Alanis Morrisette and Angela Kinsey ("The Office") acting without a net.

Fax Bahr and Adam Small ("The Jamie Kennedy Experiment") are executive producing the show with Cecile Frot-Coutaz ("American Idol"). Grier is also a producer.

Motown obtains "Dreamgirls" disclaimer from studio

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Responding to complaints that the movie musical "Dreamgirls" distorted the history of Motown, makers of the Oscar-nominated film said in newspaper ads on Wednesday that the picture was a work of fiction and apologized for any confusion with the legendary record label.

The full-page advertisements paid for by DreamWorks Pictures were published on Wednesday in Hollywood's two major trade papers -- Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter -- a day after voting on the Academy Awards ended.

The film industry's highest honors will be handed out on Sunday, with "Dreamgirls" vying in eight categories, including the supporting actor and actress categories for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, respectively.

The film, adapted from the hit Broadway musical of the same name, is loosely based on the story of one of Motown's greatest acts, Diana Ross and the Supremes. But the film has rankled a number of recording artists, writers and others connected with the label who felt Motown was falsely depicted in a negative light, Motown spokesman Paul Freundlich told Reuters.

Their objections led to "amicable discussions" between representatives for Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., 77, and executives from DreamWorks and its parent studio, Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc., Freundlich said.

Those talks, in turn, resulted in the ads taken out by DreamWorks. The timing of those ads ensured that any misgivings or other fallout from the studio's unusual disclaimer could not affect the outcome of the Oscar race.

"'Dreamgirls' is a work of fiction. It is also an homage to Motown," the ads state. "For any confusion that has resulted from our fictional work, we apologize to Mr. Gordy and all of the incredible people who were part of that great legacy. It is vital that the public understand that the real Motown story has yet to be told."

The statement does not specify how the film might have confused the public. And a spokesman for DreamWorks declined further comment.

But Motown great Smokey Robinson has complained in recent weeks about film scenes depicting a Gordy-like character played by Jamie Foxx launching his fictional label with money obtained from mobsters and engaging in the illegal practice of "payola," in which music producers pay radio stations to spin their records. Robinson has said Gordy engaged in neither of those activities.

"I applaud Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures for doing their part to clearly differentiate the fictional movie 'Dreamgirls' from the real Motown," Gordy said in a statement. "I wish them all the best in the forthcoming Academy Awards."

Motown is now part of Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi.

News for 2/26/2007

Memorable Oscars night for black actors

AP Entertainment Writer

It was a memorable but not completely triumphant Oscar night for black actors as Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson won trophies but Eddie Murphy lost in an upset.

As expected, Whitaker won best actor Sunday for his frightful yet charismatic performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Jennifer Hudson, a former "American Idol" contestant, scored the best supporting actress award for her debut performance in the musical "Dreamgirls."

"Receiving this honor tonight tells me that it's possible, it is possible for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen," Whitaker said as he accepted his award.

Murphy, also, was favored to win, but experienced a surprising loss early in the evening to Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine").

"I was definitely shocked. It makes you a little bit nervous," Hudson said backstage. "You can never be too sure. He did an unbelievable job."

Leading up to the Oscars, some speculated that the recent release of Murphy's lowbrow, cross-dressing comedy "Norbit" would injure his Oscar prospects. The "Norbit" producers hesitated over releasing it in the middle of Murphy's Oscar campaign, but director Brian Robbins said it was Murphy who insisted on releasing it on schedule.

Some also thought Murphy showed a slightly cavalier attitude about acting honors when he accepted a Screen Actors Guild award and lightly mocked earlier, earnest speeches.

"No, I'm sorry," the 45-year-old comedian said after a moment, cracking up with laughter. "It's just when the British people come and get the awards, it's so smooth with their stuff. And I feel goofy up here, 'cause I don't be winning stuff."

Still, black actors took two of the four main acting awards, and other nominees included Will Smith and Djimon Hounsou.

"It's a wonderful year to be an African-American actor," Beyonce Knowles (who co-starred with Murphy and Hudson in "Dreamgirls") said on the red carpet before the ceremony.

Although Jesse Jackson noted that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences includes only 110 African-Americans out of 5,830 members, such years have been increasingly frequent.

After a long history of the Academy Awards being a largely all-white affair (Chris Rock once called the Oscars a "million white man march") this was the third year where multiple black actors won Oscars.

Denzel Washington ("Training Day") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") memorably shattered the Oscars' racial ceiling in 2002, the first time blacks won both lead-acting prizes. In 2005, Jamie Foxx ("Ray") and Morgan Freeman ("Million Dollar Baby") won Academy Awards, prompting Freeman to say: "It means that Hollywood is continuing to make history. We're evolving with the rest of the world."

The "rest of the world" was also notably present at this year's Academy Awards — with nominees from Mexico, Japan, Africa, Germany and elsewhere.

"Such diversity in the room in a year where there's been so many negative things said about people's race, religion and sexual orientation," said host Ellen DeGeneres. "And I want to put this out there: If there weren't blacks, Jews or gays, there would be no Oscars."

‘The Departed’ Wins Best Picture, Scorsese Best Director

The New York Times

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 25 —Twenty-six years and seven snubs after his first Oscar nomination, for “Raging Bull,” Martin Scorsese finally felt the warm embrace of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Sunday as he was named best director and his murderous mob thriller “The Departed” was named the best picture of 2006.

“Could you double-check the envelope?” Mr. Scorsese quipped after silencing a raucous standing ovation of whistling, whooping academy members.

“I’m so moved,” he said, accepting the directing prize. “So many people over the years have been wishing this for me. Strangers — I go into doctors’ offices, elevators, I go for an X-ray — they say, ‘You should win one.’ ”

Forest Whitaker won best actor for his performance as the cunning, seductive and savage Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”

“Receiving this honor tells me that it’s possible,” Mr. Whitaker said. “It is possible, for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A., and Carson, who believes in dreams, who believes them in his heart, to touch them and have them happen.”

Helen Mirren took best actress for her performance as a traditional monarch in a modern world in “The Queen.”

“For 50 years or more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle,” Ms. Mirren said. “I salute her courage and her consistency, and I thank her, for if it wasn’t for her, I most certainly would not be here.”

Graham King, the only of three credited producers permitted to accept the best-picture award for “The Departed,” said, “To be standing here where Martin Scorsese won his Oscar is such a joy.” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo Del Toro’s magical-realist fantasy set in 1944 Fascist Spain, received Oscars for cinematography, art direction and makeup at the 79th Academy Awards ceremony, but fell short of its ultimate prize, best foreign-language film, which went to “The Lives of Others,” from Germany.

Jennifer Hudson, the “American Idol” reject-turned-star of “Dreamgirls,” was named best supporting actress, giving two of the four acting awards to African-Americans. And Alan Arkin, the cranky, heroin-snorting grandfather in the bittersweet family comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” won best supporting actor.

“Little Miss Sunshine” also won for its original screenplay by Michael Arndt, a former assistant to Matthew Broderick who had to wait seven years for his script to be produced. “When I was a kid my family drove 500 miles in a van with a broken clutch,” he said, explaining the source of his inspiration. “It ended up being one of the funnest things we did together.”

On a night in which several top awards came as no surprise, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary featuring Al Gore on global warming, won best documentary feature.

“I made this movie for my children,” said the director, Davis Guggenheim, his arm on Mr. Gore’s shoulder. “We were moved to act by this man.”

Mr. Gore took his moment in the worldwide spotlight to underline the film’s message. “My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis,” he said, adding that the “will to act” was a renewable resource. “Let’s renew it,” he said.

That film also won best original song, for “I Need to Wake Up,” by Melissa Etheridge, upsetting “Dreamgirls,” which had three songs in contention. Holding her Oscar aloft backstage, Ms. Etheridge quipped that it would be “the only naked man who will ever be in my bedroom.”

In a twist, “The Lives of Others,” which examined the Orwellian police state that was East Germany, won in something of an upset. The German director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, thanked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California “for teaching me that the words ‘I can’t’ should be stricken from my vocabulary.”

The awards for Mr. Del Toro’s movie came on a night in which his and two other films by Mexican directors were up for a total of 16 honors. One of them, “Babel,” won for its original score by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also won last year for “Brokeback Mountain.”

“Happy Feet” was named the year’s best animated feature.

Accepting for best supporting actor, Mr. Arkin said that “Little Miss Sunshine” was about “innocence, growth and connection.” His voice cracking, he praised his fellow actors, saying that acting was a “team sport.” He added, “I can’t work at all unless I feel the spirit of unity around me.”

William Monahan won best adapted screenplay for “The Departed,” his transplantation of the movie “Infernal Affairs” from Hong Kong to South Boston.

An Oscar also went to Thelma Schoonmaker, the longtime editor to Mr. Scorsese. She saluted Mr. Scorsese for being “tumultuous, passionate, funny” as a collaborator. “It’s like being in the best film school in the world,” she said.

“Dreamgirls,” nominated for eight awards, the most of any film, also won for sound mixing. But Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” whose three nominations were caught up in the tempest caused by the director’s drunken, anti-Semitic rant last summer, was shut out.

Ellen DeGeneres made her first appearance as the host of the movie industry’s annual celebration of itself, on a night expected to have its share of pregnant moments. Three filmmaking titans — Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola — presentedthe award for best director.

Ms. DeGeneres said it had been a lifelong dream of hers to be host for the Oscars, rather than to win one. “Let that be a lesson to you kids out there: Aim lower,” she said, sounding a theme for the evening’s opening, which was designed to honor the many nominees, 177 in all, rather than focusing on the winners.

Ms. DeGeneres repeatedly ventured into the audience, at one point getting Mr. Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint Eastwood, “for MySpace.”

And in a choice full of irony for industry insiders, Tom Cruise, who was thrown off the Paramount lot last summer by Viacom’s chairman, Sumner M. Redstone, gave the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Sherry Lansing, the former Paramount chairwoman who retired during a shake-up by Mr. Redstone two years earlier.

Backstage, Ms. Lansing said she had not known that Mr. Cruise was going to give her the award. “I saw him at an Oscar party a few days before, and he was sort of cold to me,” she said. Onstage, she said, he had whispered in her ear: “This is an honor. I really wanted to do this, you know how much I love you.” Ms. Lansing said she believed Mr. Cruise, who had a rough year before taking over management of United Artists, would be back to pick up an Oscar for directing or producing within five years.

Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer, received an honorary Oscar from Mr. Eastwood, who starred in the spaghetti westerns for which Mr. Morricone provided the unmistakable music.

The program began with a bouncy montage, directed by Errol Morris, of interview snippets with nominees reciting, among other things, the number of times they had come close to winning an Oscar. “Zilch,” said Peter O’Toole, of the number of times he had won.

Will Ferrell and Jack Black, leading members of Hollywood’s comedy rat pack, did a song-and-dance number bemoaning the paucity of comedic talent among the Oscar nominees. “I guess you don’t like laughter,” Mr. Ferrell sang. “A comedian at the Oscars is the saddest, bitterest, alcoholic clown.”

John C. Reilly, a past Oscar nominee, then stood up in the audience to remind them — in song — that he had been in both “Boogie and Talladega Nights.” All three then crooned that they hoped to go home with Helen Mirren, a best-actress nominee, who is in her 60s.

Breaking with tradition, the show’s producer, Laura Ziskin, best known for the “Spider-Man” franchise, rejiggered the lineup of awards to leave the marquee categories — best actor, actress, director and picture — for the end of the night. The first half of the show was front-loaded with technical and craft categories: art direction, makeup, sound editing and mixing, costume design and visual effects.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” won for visual effects; “Letters From Iwo Jima” took sound editing; “Marie Antoinette” picked up costume design.

The director Ari Sandel won best live-action short film for “West Bank Story,” a spoof on “West Side Story” with feuding Palestinian and Israeli falafel stands. “This is a movie about peace and about hope,” Mr. Sandel said. “To get this award shows that there are so many out there who also support that notion.”

The award for animated short went to “The Danish Poet,” written and directed by Torill Kove.

Mr. Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, a nominee for best actor (“Blood Diamond”), announced in the middle of the telecast that the program had offset its carbon emissions by buying energy credits. “This show has officially gone green,” Mr. DiCaprio said.

The Oscars adopted other conservation measures this year, such as using recycled paper for the Oscar ballots. “We have a long way to go, but all of us, in our lives, can do something to make a difference,” Mr. Gore said.

But Mr. Gore did not throw his hat in the ring, as the producers of his film, among others in Hollywood, had hoped he might. Asked if he had a major announcement to make, Mr. Gore said: “With a billion people watching, it’s as good a time as any. So my fellow Americans, I’m going to take this opportunity, here and now, to formally announce” — and the Oscars orchestra, right on cue, drowned him out as if he had droned on a second too long.

The Academy Awards capped a season in which the conventional wisdom has often been wrong, and actual wisdom has been in short supply. The big question before the nominations was how many Oscars “Dreamgirls” might win, and what film could compete with it for best picture. The only question after the nominations was, What happened to “Dreamgirls”?

Many theories were advanced, including misguided marketing and an abundance of hype, but the film’s director, Bill Condon, cut to the chase: “Maybe the Academy saw five films they liked better.” Whatever the reason, the film’s elimination left the race wide open to an array of films that took very different routes to the nomination.

“The Departed” rode a wave of box-office success and a plan to keep Oscar hype on the down-low, partly because many in the industry felt it was time to recognize the director Martin Scorsese’s lifetime of excellence. “Little Miss Sunshine,” a new take on the family road-trip movie, which won four Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, was a film that no one in Hollywood seemed to want to make, but it connected with audiences to the tune of more than $94 million in worldwide box-office receipts. “Babel,” by contrast, left United States audiences cold while doing good business abroad, but connected with critics and was rewarded for a global, ambitious story by winning best dramatic feature at the Golden Globes.

“The Queen,” a small movie that managed to do everything right, managed to ride one of the year’s more remarkable performances — Ms. Mirren as a traditional monarch in a very modern world — to broad critical recognition. And after “Flags of Our Fathers,” another would-be Oscar hopeful, met with indifference, Mr. Eastwood and his studio, Warner Brothers, decided to release the film’s twin, “Letters From Iwo Jima,” before year’s end — and were rewarded with a best-picture nomination.

This appeared to be the most ethnically and linguistically diverse batch of film nominees yet, appropriate enough given that Hollywood’s foreign revenues now eclipse the domestic take by a significant margin. The Oscar slate included several films shot largely in languages other than English, most notably Mr. Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima,” in Japanese, and Mr. Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” in Maya dialects.

“Babel,” from the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, spanned three continents and five languages — Japanese, Berber, Spanish, English and sign — and two of its actresses, Rinko Kikuchi of Japan and Adriana Barraza of Mexico, received nominations. (Three films by Mexican directors were up for a total of 16 honors.)

Taye Diggs in for 'Grey's' Spinoff

'Day Break' star signs for back-door pilot

Taye Diggs is catching another break at ABC.

Diggs, who starred in the network's short-lived series "Day Break" earlier this season, will guest star in an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" later this season that will also serve as a back-door pilot for a possible spinoff series. Separately, the show will also have Hector Elizondo ("Chicago Hope," "The Princess Diaries") as a guest star.

ABC isn't offering up any information about Diggs' character (and also neglects to mention he starred in one of its shows not three months ago). The would-be spinoff will focus on Kate Walsh's character, neonatal surgeon Addison Montgomery; The Hollywood Reporter says the two-hour episode, planned for May sweeps, will have her on the verge of leaving Seattle.

Diggs recently signed a holding deal with ABC Television Studio (formerly Touchstone TV), which produces "Grey's Anatomy," and his production company also has a relationship with the studio.

In addition to "Day Break," Diggs' recent credits include the feature-film version of "Rent," UPN's "Kevin Hill" and a guest arc on "Will & Grace."

Elizondo, meanwhile, will appear in a separate episode as Callie's (Sara Ramirez) father. The Emmy-winning actor, whose long list of credits also includes "Pretty Woman," "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" and the forthcoming "Love in the Time of Cholera," is currently filming his episode, but an airdate hasn't been set.

ABC Casts Slew of Actors in Dramas

Rhames totes 'Football,' McBride 'Pushing Daisies'

A busy day on the pilot-casting front has landed a number of well-known actors, including Chi McBride, Ving Rhames and Samaire Armstrong, in ABC drama projects.

McBride, coming off "The Nine" at ABC, will star with Lee Pace in the offbeat drama "Pushing Daisies," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Rhames has joined the cast of "Football Wives," and Armstrong ("The O.C.," "Entourage") and Zoe McLellan will get some "Dirty Sexy Money."

The CW, meanwhile, has cast Ryan Devlin, Hank Harris and Ryan Merriman in two of its drama pilots.

"Pushing Daisies" follows a guy (Pace) whose touch can revive the dead. McBride, whose TV resume includes "Boston Public" and "Killer Instinct," will play a private eye who partners up with Pace's character.

Rhames ("Pulp Fiction," "Mission: Impossible III") will play the general manager of the team at the center of "Football Wives," an Americanized version of the British show "Footballers Wives." He starred in The CW's "Mercy Reef"/Aquaman pilot last year and played the title role in USA's "Kojak" remake.

In "Dirty Sexy Money," a drama about a wealthy New York family and their harried lawyer (Peter Krause), Armstrong will play a wild-child heiress. In addition to her recurring part on "The O.C.," Armstrong has appeared on "Entourage" and in the film "Just My Luck." McLellan ("JAG") will play Krause's wife.

Also at ABC, Bailee Madison ("Bridge to Terabithia") has joined the cast of "Judy's Got a Gun."

At The CW, Devlin ("Veronica Mars") and Harris ("Popular") will star in an untitled pilot from writer Tom Wheeler ("Empire") about a pair of smart-aleck grad students who solve crimes. Merriman ("Taken," "The Pretender") has been cast in "Gravity," about rookie cops in Los Angeles.

Weekend Boxoffice

Cage, Carrey lead Oscar weekend box office

By Dean Goodman

Nicolas Cage led the North American box office for a second weekend, while Jim Carrey's first attempt at a psychological thriller opened at the lower end of expectations, and the films competing for Academy Awards later on Sunday fought for the scraps.

Cage's action-hero thriller "Ghost Rider" sold an estimated $19.7 million worth of tickets in the three days beginning on Friday, distributor Columbia Pictures said. After 10 days, the $110 million Marvel Comics adaptation has grossed a strong $78.7 million, despite a critical pasting.

Carrey's first film in 14 months, "The Number 23," was even more ridiculed by critics. But it still led the four new entrants in the top 10, opening at No. 2 with $15.1 million. The film's distributor, New Line Cinema, had hoped the movie would open in the $15 million to $18 million range, but predicted that the $30 million film would be profitable.

The movie, directed by Joel Schumacher, stars Carrey as a man obsessed with the titular number. Virginia Madsen gets around, playing both Carrey's wife, and the wife of Billy Bob Thornton's character in the family drama "The Astronaut Farmer," which opened at No. 9 with $4.5 million.

Also new were the police spoof "Reno 911! Miami" at No. 4 with $10.4 million, and the slavery saga "Amazing Grace" at No. 10 with $4.3 million.

"Reno 911! Miami," based on a popular Comedy Central cable TV series "Reno 911," also opened at the lower end of distributor 20th Century Fox's expectations. But, with a budget under $10 million, it will be profitable, the studio said.

"The Astronaut Farmer" stars Thornton as a small-town oddball who launches into space in a homemade rocket. Its modest opening was on target, said distributor Warner Bros. Pictures. Two-thirds of the audience was over age 30, the studio added.

At No. 10, British director Michael Apted's "Amazing Grace" stars Ioan Gruffudd as 18th century antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce. It was released by closely held Samuel Goldwyn Films.


As for the films vying for gold at the 79th annual Academy Awards beginning 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 GMT), the best performer was the Spanish-language saga "Pan's Labyrinth," which earned $1.3 million for the weekend. Other key contenders included "The Queen" with $1.1 million, "The Last King of Scotland" with $850,000, "Letters From Iwo Jima," with $720,000, and "Babel" with $478,000. Miramax Films' six-time nominee "The Queen" was the most popular of the bunch with sales of about $53 million after almost six months.

Rounding out the top five, the Walt Disney Pictures family drama "Bridge to Terabithia" slipped one to No. 3 with $13.6 million. "Dreamgirls"' Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy's former chart-topper "Norbit" dropped two to No. 5 with $9.7 million.

Columbia Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news). New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures are units of Time Warner Inc. Twentieth Century Fox is a unit of News Corp.. Miramax Films and Walt Disney Pictures are unit of Walt Disney Co. "Norbit" was produced by DreamWorks SKG and released by Paramount Pictures. Both are units of Viacom Inc.

News for 2/20/2007

U.S. hip-hop film sparks debate on masculinity

By Matthew Bigg

A hard-hitting documentary on hip-hop that asks why it often shows black men as violent sex-addicts who abuse woman is sparking debate among a generation of young people raised on rap videos.

In "Beyond Beats and Rhymes" film maker Byron Hurt, a former college football star, goes on a journey of discovery around the United States, challenging hip-hop artists and record producers in the multibillion dollar industry.

The documentary, due to be aired on national PBS television on Tuesday, has been screened to dozens of audiences of young people and students, said Sabrina Schmidt-Gordon, the film's co-producer.

Most critics of hip-hop argue that it shows women as sex objects but the documentary focuses on images of hyper-masculine men and says black youths fall into the trap of trying to emulate the thug life of the videos.

"We are hoping to...challenge that narrow, destructive vision of masculine identity particularly for young men and boys that are the faces of hip-hop," Schmidt-Gordon said in an interview.

"They are the ones who are dying young from gun violence and women are victim of domestic violence. Our communities have most to lose by buying into violence and sexism," she said.

One scene shows protests by students at Spelman, a black women's college in Atlanta, against artist Nelly, whose video for "Tip Drill" showed him swiping a credit card along the backside of a nearly naked woman.

Another scene shows wannabe rap stars in the street outside a hip-hop summit in New York vying with each other to produce the most insulting and demeaning rhymes.


As hip-hop has turned into a blockbuster industry with sales soaring among whites, pressure has increased on black artists to produce music on sex and violence, according to artists such as Chuck D interviewed in the movie.

At the same time students said there was little debate about the content of the music or videos, ironic in a medium that flourishes on wordplay.

Students from black colleges at a screening in the Florida state capital Tallahassee last week said the documentary was an eye-opener.

"I had never thought about how black males were being dragged down by the degradation of black female sexuality in hip-hop," said Ashley Matthews, 20, of Hampton University in Virginia.

Matthews said she had watched rap videos on the Black Entertainment Television (BET) channel nearly every day since she was 12 but had recently overcome what she described as a "near-addiction."

"BET is very entertaining. That's the reason why you don't think anything is wrong with it," she said.

Ronald Clark, 20, said the influence of hip-hop videos was evident on campus at Hampton, a private college, where male students felt under pressure to behave like thugs.

"We are destroying ourselves socially and these guys (in the music industry) are cashing checks and only a small percentage of my generation is understanding what's going on," Clark said.

Whitaker, Beckinsale, Pearce & Fanning Grow Wings

Source: Variety

Forest Whitaker, Kate Beckinsale, Guy Pearce and Dakota Fanning will topline ensemble drama Winged Creatures, produced by Robert Salerno (21 Grams) through his Unruly Films, says Variety.

The project is an adaptation of Roy Freirich's debut novel about survivors of a brutal restaurant murder who are left to divine their own individual paths to understanding their mortality and connection to society.

Rowan Woods (Little Fish) is attached to direct, with filming expected to start March 19.

Ealy a 'Suspect' at ABC

Lillard assigned to NBC's 'Area 52'

"Sleeper Cell" star Michael Ealy is moving from Showtime to ABC, taking a part in the Guy Ritchie-directed pilot "Suspect."

Another fairly good-sized group of actors has signed up for pilot duty, including Matthew Lillard in "Area 52," Chris Wiehl in "Lipstick Jungle" and Christopher Sieber in "Wildlife," all at NBC; and Dina Waters in the ABC comedy "Family of the Year."

Ealy earned a Golden Globe nomination this year for "Sleeper Cell," in which he played an FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group. He'll play a dedicated cop in "Suspect," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show is a crime drama that will introduce viewers to possible suspects in a case, then narrow them down to the actual criminal.

In addition to "Sleeper Cell," Ealy appeared in both "Barbershop" movies, "2 Fast 2 Furious" and the ABC film "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

Also at ABC, Waters ("Six Feet Under," "Just Like Heaven") has signed on to "Family of the Year," about a New Mexico family whose string of honors as their town's No. 1 clan is challenged by some new neighbors. Waters will play the wife in the rival family.

Lillard (the "Scream" films, "Scooby-Doo") will star in NBC's comedy "Area 52," about government employees at a secret facility in the desert. He's set to play an Air Force colonel who's in charge of watching over a captured alien.

In "Lipstick Jungle," Wiehl ("Love Monkey") will play the husband of Brooke Shields' character, while Sieber ("Spamalot," "It's All Relative") will play a zookeeper in "Wildlife," a comedy set at an animal park.

Weekend Boxoffice

Cage's 'Ghost Rider' wins at box office

AP Movie Writer

Satan's bounty hunter has looted the wallets of movie-goers. "Ghost Rider," Sony's comic-book adaptation starring Nicolas Cage as a motorcycle stunt driver moonlighting as a collector of evil souls for the devil, debuted as the top weekend movie with $44.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Debuting in second place with $22.1 million was Disney's "Bridge to Terabithia," based on the children's novel about a boy and girl who create an elaborate fantasy land to escape from the troubles of the real world.

The movies bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 flick, DreamWorks' Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit," which slipped to third place with $16.8 million, lifting its total to $58.9 million.

Premiering at No. 4 with $14 million was the Warner Bros. romance "Music and Lyrics," starring Hugh Grant as a washed-up pop singer and Drew Barrymore as his unlikely songwriting partner.

The Lionsgate romance "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" opened in fifth place with $12.1 million, a sharp drop from filmmaker Perry's February releases the last two years, 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion," which premiered with $30 million, and 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," which debuted with $21.9 million.

Universal's spy thriller "Breach" debuted at No. 6 with $10.4 million. It stars Chris Cooper as Robert Hanssen, the FBI man caught in 2001 for selling secrets to Russia, and Ryan Phillippe as a young bureau operative who helps bring him down.

Though trashed by critics, "Ghost Rider" helped pull Hollywood out of its box-office doldrums, with overall revenues rising for the first time in six weekends. The top 12 movies took in $141.4 million, up 28 percent from the same weekend last year.

"This is the weekend that could turn the tide and get us going in the right direction," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Based on the Marvel Comic books, "Ghost Rider" delivered Hollywood's biggest opening so far this year, topping the $34.2 million debut for "Norbit." "Ghost Rider" was the best opening weekend ever for Cage, beating the $35.1 million debut of "National Treasure."

"Ghost Rider" also extended Hollywood's winning streak with comic-book adaptations, a genre some critics have said would eventually play itself out.

"I think as long as stories are being told in a way that audiences embrace them, you can go for a long, long, long, long time," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony.

Coming this summer are two big comic-book sequels, Sony's "Spider-Man 3" and 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Ghost Rider," $44.5 million.
2. "Bridge to Terabithia," $22.1 million.
3. "Norbit," $16.8 million.
4. "Music and Lyrics," $14 million.
5. "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls," $12.1 million.
6. "Breach," $10.4 million.
7. "Hannibal Rising," $5.5 million.
8. "Because I Said So," $5 million.
9. "The Messengers," $3.8 million.
10. "Night at the Museum," $3.7 million.

Anderson Walks 'K-Ville' Beat for FOX

'Nurses' in love with Winnick

Anthony Anderson has picked up the second lead role in FOX's post-Katrina New Orleans buddy cop drama "K-Ville."

In addition, Katheryn Winnick, recently seen making the title character tell some awkward secrets on "House," has landed a lead in FOX's ensemble dramedy "Nurses."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Anderson will play an idealistic officer who believes that New Orleans can recover. Cole Hauser ("The Cave") was previously cast as the show's other Big Easy copper.

Although he's most recently been seen guesting on the FOX comedy "'Til Death," Anderson's been in the midst of a career upswing in the past couple years with an acclaimed guest run on FX's "The Shield" and roles in the features "Hustle & Flow" and "The Departed."

"Nurses" is FOX's not-so-subtle attempt to capture that "Grey's Anatomy" magic, focusing on the lives and loves of a group of nurses. Winnick's character is the center of the ensemble, a young woman who puts aside her rebellious past to begin working at the hospital where her father is in a position of some authority.

Sara Rue ("Less Than Perfect") is already part of the "Nurses" cast.

In addition to her recent guest appearance as a rape victim on "House," Winnick's credits include the hit comedy "Failure to Launch."

Hollywood making Milli Vanilli movie

Disgraced pop duo Milli Vanilli will soon get a movie made about their less-than-spectacular career, following in the cinematic steps of such icons as Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.

Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety reported in its Thursday issue that Universal Pictures is developing a film about the lip-synching combo, who lost their coveted Grammy for best new artist in 1990 when it emerged that they had never sung on their records.

The project will be written and directed for the General Electric Co.-controlled studio by Jeff Nathanson, who previously wrote the Leonardo DiCaprio crime caper "Catch Me If You Can." He has secured the cooperation of Milli Vanilli alumnus Fabrice Morvan, who has been pursuing a comeback for years, as well as the estate of his colleague, Rob Pilatus, who died of a drug overdose in 1998.

"I've always been fascinated by the notion of fakes and frauds, and in this case, you had guys who pulled off the ultimate con, selling 30 million singles and 11 million albums and then becoming the biggest laughing-stocks of pop entertainment," the paper quoted Nathanson as saying.

Harris Set to 'Serve' at CBS

NBC crosses pond to find 'Bionic Woman'

Steve Harris, formerly of "The Practice," is jumping back into the crime-and-punishment game, while NBC has found its "Bionic Woman" in the U.K.

Harris has signed on to "Protect and Serve," a cop show set up at CBS. NBC, meanwhile, has found its "Bionic Woman" in the U.K. and added Elias Koteas to the drama "Ft. Pit," according to The Hollywood Reporter. And at ABC, Matt Lanter has joined the cast of "Judy's Got a Gun."

"Protect and Serve" follows officers in a suburban L.A. police department. Harris, who will play a veteran cop, joins Eric Balfour ("24") and Monica Potter ("Boston Legal") in the cast.

A two-time Emmy nominee for playing Eugene Harris on "The Practice," Harris starred in the NBC series "Heist" last season. He's also appeared in "Minority Report" and "Diary of a Mad Black Woman."

At NBC, British actress Michelle Ryan will play the title character in the network's "Bionic Woman" remake. She was a regular on the long-running BBC soap "EastEnders" from 2000-05 and co-starred in the Beeb's series "Jekyll" last year.

Koteas ("The Thin Red Line," the upcoming "Zodiac") is joining James Badge Dale, Dania Ramirez, Michael Rispoli and David Call in "Ft. Pit," about the officers at a derelict police precinct in Brooklyn. He also co-stars in the movie "Shooter," due in theaters next month.

Finally, Lanter ("Commander in Chief," "Heroes") has signed on to "Judy's Got a Gun" at ABC. He'll play an undercover cop who's posing as a high school student.

Inside Move: Fox focuses on diversity

Liguori issues warning to pilot creators


Fox Entertainment prexy Peter Liguori has a warning for the net's showrunners, producers and creators: Pay attention to diversity, or risk losing out on a series pickup.

Liguori laid down that ultimatum to more than 40 producers behind both current series and pilots during a town meeting Tuesday. Speaking at a theater on the Fox lot, Liguori told the producers that they needed to step up efforts to hire diverse casts, writing staffs and crew.

"We think as a network, it's the right moral thing to do," Liguori said. "And it's the right business thing to do. When you look at the top 10, top 20 shows out there, they're diverse. For TV and certainly for Fox to be vibrant, relevant and authentic, we need to be reflective of the general population."

Liguori backed up his comments with a presentation from Fox diversity topper Mitzi Wilson, who pointed out that non-white auds count for several ratings points in most of the net's primetime fare.

Liguori said it wasn't easy to corral so many producers in the same room at the same time, but that he wanted to get the message out to pilot creators early, as they cast their projects and before they hire writers and crew.

"We felt it was important that we get out way ahead of it," he said.

News for 2/5/2007

Weekend Boxoffice

'The Messengers' delivers No. 1 debut

AP Movie Writer

The fright film "The Messengers," about a city family that moves into a creepy haunted house in the country, debuted as the top weekend movie with $14.5 million in ticket sales.

Opening in second place was Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore's mother-daughter comedy "Because I Said So," the Universal release taking in $13 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The latest in a string of horror hits from Sony, "The Messengers" bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 flick, 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie," which slipped to third place with $8.2 million, raising its 10-day total to $29.4 million.

It was a quiet weekend at theaters as many fans were preoccupied with Sunday's Super Bowl. The top 12 movies took in $71.6 million, down 12.5 percent compared to the same weekend last year.

"The Messengers" — starring Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett and Kristen Stewart — is the first English-language film from Hong Kong siblings Danny and Oxide Pang, whose horror tales include "The Eye."

It was the seventh-straight year that Sony had the No. 1 movie on Super Bowl weekend, many of them similar low-budgeted horror hits such as last year's "When a Stranger Calls." "The Messengers" was shot on a thrifty $16 million budget.

"This business model of creating these modestly budgeted horror films is just something that consistently works for Sony," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Key Academy Awards contenders continued cashing in on their honors, including best-picture nominees "The Queen" (Miramax) with a $2.7 million weekend, "The Departed" (Warner Bros.) with $2.3 million and "Babel" (Paramount Vantage) and "Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros.) with $1.7 million each.

Paramount's "Dreamgirls," which led the field with eight nominations, pulled in $4 million, while foreign-language nominee "Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) remained a top 10 hit with $3.7 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Messengers," $14.5 million.
2. "Because I Said So," $13 million.
3. "Epic Movie," $8.2 million.
4. "Night at the Museum," $6.75 million.
5. "Smokin' Aces," $6.3 million.
6. "Stomp the Yard," $4.2 million.
7. "Dreamgirls," $4 million.
8. "Pan's Labyrinth," $3.7 million.
9. "The Pursuit of Happyness," $3.1 million.
10. "The Queen," $2.7 million.

Will Smith honored in Santa Barbara

Will Smith was honored with the Modern Master Award — an honor that says he is a master of his craft — at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Smith is nominated for a best-actor Oscar for his performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness" as a struggling single father in San Francisco who beats the odds and goes from rags to riches.

Asked what it takes to be a good father, Smith said patience, compassion and commitment. He's the father of three in real life, including 7-year-old Jaden, who co-stars in the movie.

"You've got to really want to be a good father," he told reporters on the red carpet outside the Arlington Theatre on Saturday night.

Tom Cruise presented the festival's Modern Master Award to Smith.

Smith said he was pleased with the film's success.

"People are enjoying the film and it's reached a level of critical acclaim; it can't get any better than this," he said. "This is such a glorious time, it feels almost like emotional, spiritual greed."

Duvall and Rhames are Glad All Over

Source: Production Weekly

Robert Duvall and Ving Rhames have joined the cast of John Herzfeld's ensemble comedy Glad All Over, reports Production Weekly.

The film centers on a group of people connected to an infamous self- help book written by a reclusive ex-football coach, played by Duvall.

Five weeks of principal photography begins in April in locations around Jacksonville, Florida and Santa Monica.

The project reunites Herzfeld with Rhames, who he directed in the Emmy-winning telefilm "Don King: Only in America."