Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday STAR WARS Dweebing

Phil Brown Is Done With Autographs
We've gotten word from Phil Brown's family that he will no longer be filling requests to sign autographs. Please help us spread the word that the 89 year old actor best known as Uncle Owen in Star Wars : A New Hope is putting down the pen for good. EDITOR’S NOTE: SAD, BUT INEVITABLE. (I MEAN, HE LOOKED FRAIL 7 YEARS AGO, SO I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW FRAGILE HE IS NOW).

As the digital future began to unveil itself in the early '90s, John Knoll saw its potential. ILM was constantly innovating, using their high-end systems to produce the CGI effects that wowed audiences in The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. These astounding visuals required a robust processing pipeline to produce, but Knoll saw advantages in creating relatively simple digital effects outside that pipeline.

"I developed a bit of a frustration that we didn't have a particularly good way of doing simple work inexpensively," explains Knoll. "
I started becoming an advocate of trying to use inexpensive off-the-shelf commercial systems for doing simple work. Use the complicated stuff for the complicated work, and do the simple stuff with simple tools."

To that end, Knoll produced a convincing proof-of-concept test in 1993 of dog-fighting X-wing fighters and TIE fighters, all done with off-the-shelf desktop tools. "Nothing happened for quite a while, until 1995 when George Lucas decided that he was going to revamp the Star Wars pictures a little bit," recalls Knoll. "
I pitched doing the revised space battle using some of these techniques."

The end result was a number of updated space battle shots done entirely on consumer-level computers.EDITOR’S NOTE: ALBEIT, NOT WITH RUN-OF-THE-MILL CONSUMERS DOING THE WORK, YES?

It worked so well that similar techniques and tools were used for Episode I.

"I spent a lot of time studying the 'style book' of Star Wars -- the way the shots were lit, the way they were composed, how the movement of the ships worked -- because I felt it was very important that the new space battles still feel like Star Wars," says Knoll.

The digital models allowed the color and shapes of the ships to move past the restrained bluescreen-friendly designs of optically printed models, but for Episode I, they weren't all digital. The massive Trade Federation battleships were hulking miniatures to capture the detail required of them. "The big ships I still did as a miniature, because at the time I was really concerned with how heavy this model would be. A model like this could easily become several million CVs [surface control vertices], so I had grave concerns of being able to render something like that."

Now fast forward to Episode III. Not only are the ILM computers able to handle the complex geometry of something as big and detailed as a Trade Federation battleship, but they handle thousands of warships in battle over Coruscant, with detail so fine that the snubfighters and audience can fly right up to them, just a few meters above their hulls.

"I've definitely been a beneficiary of Moore's Law," says Knoll, describing the 1965 prediction that computer power will double every 18 months. "This time, it looked like we were capable of creating big ships all in computer graphics. We have advanced quite a bit in our ability to handle dense hard surface models and have very high resolution textures on them, and to be able to render them efficiently."

Whereas a few years ago, the scale of one ship would have required it to be a miniature, for Episode III the scale of the battle involving big ships meant it was much easier and more cost-effective to do it digitally. "It's a huge fleet," says Knoll. "
There are many, many of these ships and you don't want to have to spend a lot of time on stage shooting 16 different model elements to go into shots. It's very expensive to do. Of course, it's a lot cheaper to do in computer graphics."

Disney Parks Star Tours Figures
September 12, 2005
Your favorite Star Wars and Star Tours characters are here!

These awesome figures are available now exclusively at Disney theme parks. EDITOR’S NOTE: THAT SEALS IT; WE HAVE TO GO BACK!

Mickey joins Yoda in the battle against the Dark Side
Jedi Master Yoda may be small, but he's still the most powerful Jedi in the Galaxy. Now Mickey takes up his lightsaber and joins the Jedi Knights in their battle against the Dark Side. Available exclusively at Disney theme parks. EDITOR’S NOTE: JUST LIKE THE POSTER! (THIS ONE ROCKS)!

Star Tours Droids
Whenever your plans call for intergalactic transport, you can count on Star Tours for state-of-the-art travel excitement! Now meet the droids who ensure that the Starspeeder 3000 is running smoothly. Available exclusively at Disney theme parks.

Star Tours Collector Packs
These mini figures feature all your favorite Star Wars and Star Tours characters. Each Collector Pack includes three figures -- buy or trade them to collect all 18! Available exclusively at Disney theme parks. EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, THESE ARE EVIL. NOT ONLY DO YOU HAVE TO GO TO DW TO GET THEM, YOU HAVE TO BUY MULTIPLE PACKS TO GET ALL 18. (THAT’S JUST MEAN AND GREEDY).

Exclusive Holiday Darth Vader
Star Wars Shop has announced the upcoming Darth Vader "Sith-inspired" 2005 holiday action figure available exclusively at the official store.

This exclusive edition has a red metallic finish. Displayed loose on the base, Vader fits perfectly alongside the previous holiday edition figures.

The classic Original Trilogy Collection-style card not only features the standard metallic wrap-around logo (showcased for the first time in red), but also depicts a Ralph McQuarrie-inspired backdrop of the Executor bridge decked out in holiday décor. Additionally, a figure-exclusive holiday greeting card is also included, this time illustrated with a whimsical scene of Vader building a "snowtrooper".


The Vader figure will retail for $14.99.

Darth Vader bares his true colors in this decidedly Sith-inspired 2005 holiday action figure available exclusively here at the official store. The very first Vader figure to make a holiday appearance, it's also the first to be designed for display in a variety of showcase settings with or without the base.

This exclusive edition has a red metallic finish (not vac-metallized, as previously reported), and would make a standout addition to the silver series figures released in recent years. Also, with the color red so closely associated with the Sith (lightsabers, royal guards, Darth Maul), this red Vader represents a rare but fitting diversion from the man in black's iconic dark décor.

But for those who prefer to keep their scarlet Darth in the holiday spirit year-round, this figure makes a fantastic presentation piece both on and off the card. Displayed loose on the base, Vader fits perfectly alongside the previous holiday edition figures. On the card, however, is where this vermillion Vader really shines.

The classic Original Trilogy Collection-style card not only features the standard metallic wrap-around logo (showcased for the first time in red), but also depicts a Ralph McQuarrie-inspired backdrop of the Executor bridge decked out in holiday décor. EDITOR’S NOTE: WANNA BET THE IMPERIAL OFFICER WHO THUSLY DARED TO FESTOON THE BRIDGE OF A STAR DESTROYER WAS FORCE-CHOKED BEFORE YOU COULD SAY ‘FA LA LA LA LA”? Additionally, a figure-exclusive holiday greeting card is also included, this time illustrated with a whimsical scene of Vader building a "snowtrooper".

The reverse of the cardback calls out the fact that this figure is a StarWarsShop exclusive, and will be sent securely in a StarWarsShop-branded Star Case. This 2005 edition is limited, so make sure you pick one, two, or three up for yourself and those on your gift list this year!

WOOKKIE BLOW YOUR HORN ----This burly Wookiee warrior (Steven Foy) sounds a war clarion, calling his people to combat.

DANGLING JEDI ----It's not so big a drop from this Utapau landing platform with the visual effects removed -- Ewan McGregor "dangles" over a greenscreen floor on Stage One at Fox Studios Australia.

HE AIN'T HEAVY ---Rather than run with the full weight of Ewan McGregor on his shoulders, Hayden Christensen had to carry a life-like dummy of Obi-Wan for scenes such as this.

SAY GOODNIGHT, GRACIE ---This conference room within the Mustafarfacility (in actuality, Stage Two at Fox Studios Australia) will be Nute Gunray's last.

JABBA UNDER PRESSURE ---The Creature Department was tasked with developing so many aliens under such a tight deadline for Return of the Jedi, that such pressure often manifested itself in strange ways.

A couple of Groovy Interviews

Exclusive Interview : John Billingsley
Actor John Billingsley’s far from bitter, but he is understandably disappointed that his series "Star Trek: Enterprise" was hastily cancelled earlier this year. Like a gumboot standing flat on a newly planted strawberry patch, the series hardly got time to grow before it was put to rest, and everyone involved in the show is justifiably one glove short of a boxing match with the decision makers.

Fear not though Aussies – Billingsley says the best season is still to come.

CLINT MORRIS talks one-on-one with a veteran actor whose played everything from Shakespeare to an attorney, even a killer, but may be for the interim known best as the incessantly-likeable one-of-a-kind Denobulan doctor, Dr Phlox, on the short-lived sci-fi series.

“For my money, I think the final season is the best of them”, says the amiable actor. “It unfortunately got cancelled when I thought it was really beginning to hit its stride, but such are the vagaries of Television”.

"Enterprise" – it was retitled "Star Trek Enterprise" for it’s third season – got off to a wobbly start, says Billingsley, with critics ravaging it from its conception.

The critical reaction was pretty negative”, he says, “Yet, amongst the fans, and those that stuck with it, they thought it improved as it went along. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression [though]”.

Season 3 saw the biggest changes – pre-existing storylines were abandoned in favour of newer, more exciting, stories, the title of the show was tweaked, even the theme song was jazzed up. EDITOR’S NOTE: THEY JAZZED UP THE THEME SONG? I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF THIS.

The network was very strongly in favour of finding a more action-adventure oriented storyline. They thought Season 2 had become more slow and static, and that there wasn’t enough of a compelling storyline to keep viewers tuning in every week – and I would tend to agree. I think the initial storyline, the temporal cold-war, was never developed very well and I don’t think there was ever a strong enough grasp of where they wanted to go with that storyline and I think it became too attenuated over time. So the idea of telling a story that would actually have a beginning, middle and end that would keep people coming back week in – week out, was a good idea. EDITOR’S NOTE: THE TREK FOLKS NOT KNOW WHERE THEY WANTED TO GO WITH A STORYLINE? NOT DEVELOP A STORYLINE? ABANDON PLOTS MIDSTREAM? (NOOOOOOOO…..SMIRK).

The popularity of shows like 24 or Lost or Desperate Housewives suggest that people are eager to watch a serialised story, and I think that’s what allows the storyline to get more interesting and complex in the last two years”. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND TREK FANS ARE DWEEBS. PERHAPS THE ULTIMATE DWEEBS. WE HAVE LONG MEMORIES AND ARE UNUSUALLY DEVOTED TO OUR PASSIONS. WHAT MAKES A UNIVERSE REALLY RICH ARE THOSE CONTINUING STORIES. SOMETHING THE TREK BOSSES HAVE NEVER FULLY GRASPED. SIGH…..

Though responses were favourable for the third season – and the show did attract a few more peeps – it was “too little late” for the show, says Billingsley. The show was on its last legs.

“You can’t re-invent something two years in. They’ve (the audience) already sampled the show and they’ve made their decision. People that were staying with it were probably going to stay with it regardless. So yes, it helped us creatively, but it didn’t make a difference to our ratings”.

One gimmick that the show’s producers tried to make happen was to have William Shatner, reprising his role as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, pop up in the fourth season – but it didn’t come off. It was proposed that Shatner’s Kirk would pop up sometime, serving as a sort-of valentine to fans of the original series, and that might have helped ratings, says the actor. “

We did an episode in the fourth season, set in a parallel universe, that reflected back to a couple of parallel universe episodes that were done in the original series. One of the ideas was to have Kirk appear in that particular episode. [But] Bill Shatner has his own series now, so wasn’t that available, and I imagine he would have required a hell of a lot more money for a show that they knew was going to be going off the air [soon anyway]”, he says. “They bought Brent Spiner (Data from TV’s Next Generation) in [instead for] the fourth season, they were popular episodes, and had some other interesting guest-stars”, but Shatner didn’t work out.

"Enterprise" was one of a handful of pilots that Billingsley auditioned for in 2001, but as he was let down about not getting another recent role, he wasn’t counting his chickens on this one either.

You never know, even if you get one [a series], whether it’s going to get made or picked up or if it’s going to succeed after it gets picked up. The Star Trek Enterprise pilot was the last audition I had in a long pilot season, I had thought the pilot season was over, I’d actually gotten close to a part on Alias which I didn’t get and got disappointed, and then Star Trek came through”.

Billingsley said he was rather surprised with how easy it was to get the role. Usually, he says, you have to keep going back to meet different members of the series, meet the network, audition another four or five times, and so on – but this, he says, “was relatively painless. I went in, Brannon (Braga) and Rick (Berman) liked what I did, they indicated through my representation that I was their only choice. I essentially got the thumbs up – quick and painless”.

Surprisingly, the actor admits not being a fan of science fiction and notably, "Star Trek", before winning the role.

I watched some of the original series when I was a kid, and watched some of the Next Generation shows and I’ve seen some of the movies, not all of them, but I wasn’t any great aficionado. In all candour, I suspect my own aesthetic and what interests me about the medium of television – does not lean towards Star Trek”.

The actor says he has his own theories about why the show “failed, and why the franchise has taken what I suspect is a necessary hiatus” but personally, believes the show wasn’t gritty enough.

I wish it had gone a little farther in it’s few seasons – been a little grittier, and a little rawer, a little dirtier – say, weapons exploded in our faces, the transporter really didn’t work, and we got our arses kicked by the aliens. Space exploration’s a mother fucker!” he laughs. EDITOR’S NOTE: YEAH. GOOD IDEAS. BUT NO ONE IN CHARGE THERE HAS THE MOXIE TO DO THAT. (NO ONE IN TREK LAND HAS TRASH, OR GOES TO THE BATHROOM, OR MESSES UP THEIR OUTFITS. UNLESS IT’S A HUNK WHO HAS HIS SHIRT TORN TO REVEAL HIS PECS)

Though he got on well with the cast, Billingsley says he’d be lying if he said they were all still good mates and regularly caught up.

Though we liked each other and we certainly bump into each other at conventions or parties, or what have you, I can’t say there’s a ton of socialising that takes place. We liked each other but we all ran in very different circles and had very different interests and led different lives…. it always makes me laugh when I hear others talk about ‘the family’ and ‘Oh, we’re so close’ and ninety percent of the time it’s like ‘Uh-huh, Sure’”, he explains.

One cast member’s movements that Billingsley is aware of is Scott Bakula, who played ship captain, Jonathan Archer. Bakula was actually rumoured to be returning to do a new series – and possible telemovie kick-start – based on his 80’s hit "Quantum Leap", but Billingsley says his co-star is exhausted after "Enterprise", and has no plans to return as time-travelling Sam Beckett in the future.

No. My speculation is that Scott’s going to lay low for a while. He’s got a big family, and certainly doesn’t have any financial need [to do Quantum Leap] and it’s exhausting doing series television, particularly if it’s an action/adventure show”.

Some of Billingsley’s co-stars – that include Jolene Blalock, Scott Bakula and Linda Park – have been pretty vocal about their discontent over the handling of the series, but where do his feelings lie? Were there tears on that last day of shooting?

I have mixed feelings about it. It didn’t come as any great surprise; I can’t say that there wasn’t any deep emotional response, because most of us, frankly, saw the show getting cancelled after the third season. We were fortunate to get a fourth season, but frankly, the only reason we did is because from Paramount’s point of view they make a lot more money if they can make a certain number of episodes – approximately 100 - because that’s the number, at which point, it’s possible to sell into syndication nationally. Paramount essentially made a deal with UPN, the network that showed Enterprise, that they would sell the show to them for half of what we were selling it to them at before – just to keep us on one more year. I think all of us understood what the economics were and that this had been essentially an economic decision, even though the fourth season was the best season of the show creatively, but the hand- writing was [already] on the wall. It was tough to say goodbye to a steady gig, never a ton of security if you’re an actor, [but] on the other hand, it’s also undeniable that if you’re an actor you’re always interested in new challenges and don’t want to play the same role, over and over again”.

The character of Dr Phlox never got to do a lot on the show, says Billingsley. For instance, he never got to “throw the punches or sleep with the alien babes”. But that had more with the fact that he was essentially a ‘character actor’ and not because of the writing, he adds.

The final episode of "Star Trek Enterprise" – which recently aired in the states – bought back a couple of familiar faces from the Trek legacy, "Next Generation" regulars Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirits. Some of the cast of Enterprise, however, weren’t so hot about others crashing their party – and neither were the fans.

Billingsley wasn’t happy either. “I did not care for the last episode very much, though I didn’t respond with as much emotion or vitriol as some fans did, or candidly, with as much negativity as some of the other actors. [Because] It’s not my job to review or critique the individual episodes. I personally didn’t think it was a very strong episode and I thought we could’ve ended the show on a more interesting note”.

Billingsley, who’s just shot an episode of "Nip/Tuck" (playing a man who wants to have his leg amputated and has a condition called body integrity identity disorder) and hopes to film a small role in a new Virginia Madsen/Forest Whitaker movie called "The Ripple Effect", believes "Trek" will return – but with a change of guard.

At some point, under new management. The landscape of television and the world’s culture has changed that much that I think Star Trek needs a bit of a re-tooling”. EDITOR’S NOTE: A YEP. AGREED.

Billingsley says there was never any talk of bringing the cast of "Enterprise" to the big screen.

I don’t think anybody could have projected that far forward. Certainly the idea of keeping the movie franchise alive was, and still is, I suspect in Paramount’s head, but I don’t know that when we got our show that there was any particular speculation that we would be the next movie franchise. Obviously, the first step was to find out whether our show was going to be popular - popular enough for movies to get made. Realistically, Deep Space Nine and Voyager did not enjoy that kind of success either. Next Generation did, but I think that was only because it was the first Trek show after a long hiatus, and you can’t replicate those conditions”, he says.

I suspect the movie franchise will continue – if I was a betting man I’d say in two or three years there’ll be a new movie. It’ll be a brand-new cast, it’ll be a brand-new chapter of Star Trek and if that’s successful then that cast would spin-off into a TV show”. EDITOR’S NOTE: SOUNDS LIKE A SMART FELLOW.


Interview : Johnny Depp
Sporting a tanned hat and thin beard, Johnny Depp was in the thick of Toronto's annual film festival happy to talk about his participation in yet another Tim Burton film, "Corpse Bride".

Making his initial foray into the world of animation as a cowardly groom-to-be who inadvertently finds himself betrothed to a corpse bride in the stop motion romantic fantasy, Depp says that doing an animated film " was something I kind of always wanted to do, especially since having my first child," Depp explains smilingly. "I’ve been watching nothing but animated films now, so I’ve really developed a respect and love for them. But more than anything, what drew me to this was Tim. We were just commencing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this other thing, "Corpse Bride", maybe take a look at it.’ So I read it and loved it, but it somehow didn’t occur to me that we were going to be doing it at the same time. I thought it was going to be like months down the road so I would have some time later to prepare for the character."

You could imagine the surprise of this normally prepared actor when, as he was very focused on Wonka, "Tim arrives on set and says, ‘Hey, you know, maybe tonight we’ll go and record some of Corpse Bride.’ I was like sure, ‘course we can. I have no character. I didn’t know what the guy was going to sound like or anything, but good fun though."

With two children, a six year old daughter and a three year old boy, the actor isn't quite sure whether they prefer their dad as an animated character or pirate.

"My daughter is quite calm, ladylike and princessy, so she can sit there and watch a movie and not get real antsy. While my boy will watch for about three and a half seconds, then sprint as fast as he can across the room to go and break something. With THIS film, we watched Corpse Bride together and my boy sat on my lap and watched the entire film, just didn’t move, was riveted and just loved it. Now that says a lot. I think this movie pretty full."

While Depp is one of the few movie stars in Hollywood that passes as both a major leading man and character actor, he clearly ignores the notion of celebrity, taking his job of actor more seriously than most. Even on a film such as "Corpse Bride", Depp had to literally set about finding the character, as he explains.

"I think with any character, it all comes from some place of truth within you and then I don't know, which is weird. When I read a script, I get these sort of images and ideas come to me. Then sometimes the image of people come to me, like with Sleepy Hollow I kept seeing a Roddy McDowell/Angela Lansbury kind of thing so that became the inspiration. Captain Jack, Keith became the inspiration because I started thinking of pirates as rock stars of the time, the idea that their legend arrived months, maybe years before they did. So you just start taking little titbits of things and storing them up to use later."

Depp adds that for better or worse, he's a keen observer of human behaviour.

"One of the primary responsibilities and luxuries of an actor is to is the art of observation, being able to watch people and watch their behaviour. Now that is fascinating, because people are really nuts," says Depp laughingly.

"Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed just stealing little bits from people, incorporating them into characters."

It seems that Depp is at his most creative when working with pal Tim Burton. the two have evolved since their first pairing on Edward Scissorhands and it's clearly a relationship the actor cherishes.

"I just think he’s a genius and that’s not a word that you can throw around very easily. I think Tim is so special and unique and our working relationship is, as you can imagine, weird, because there is a sort of emotional shorthand there and some kind of connection that I don't know how to explain. But most of the time, at least for me, all I’m trying to do is make him laugh. Even in the scene, you can have all these motivations and objectives as an actor but hen when I get in the ring, it basically all goes out the window and I’m just trying to make Tim laugh. I just want to see in my peripheral vision his sort of hunched over giggle where he’s trying not to make noise."

Asked if the actor might be someone’s inspiration someday, Depp pauses and smiles.

"That’s dangerous territory. I don't know that I’m in a position to inspire anyone."

Depp is now back at work on both Pirates movies and is philosophical about the process of bringing his Captain Jack back not once but twice.

"It occurs to me that Jack Sparrow can be funny, so I’m going to try that this time and I’m just going to try and be funny. EDITOR’S NOTE: DON’T PUSH. DON’T TRY TOO HARD. HE WAS FUNNY BEFORE, WITHOUT BEING OVERLY SELF-AWARE. KEEP IT CLEAN AND SIMPLE, YES? Selfishly, the whole idea of sequels and stuff like that, are a very odd notion because I never quite understood the idea of doing sequels until as an actor you think: I’ve played this character for months and months and I really got to know and love the guy, Then the clock starts ticking and you know the end is coming and you go: Jesus, I’ll never see him again. I’ll never see him, I’ll never feel this again. So you start to get depressed and with Jack Sparrow, I had the sneaking suspicion that I might see him again. So I’m saying selfishly, I was so excited to come back and do two and three because I just wanted to meet up with him again."

And Depp also hopes to return to the ill fated "Don Quixote" project abandoned by Terry Gilliam.

"I’d love to. If there’s any way to avoid the curse, that would be better. Every time I see Terry he threatens to. I’d love to do the film if at all possible and I stress that if at all possible, because it was going to be good. That was the thing we all felt and was really sad. It was going to be really good. It was like the best of Terry Gilliam and I felt really good about my character. The good news is, if he wants to go back and do that, I know the character so I have less to do".

Depp is that unique Hollywood animal: a bona fide movie star and an acclaimed actor.

And now he's as much a blockbuster star these days the happy-go-lucky and pragmatic actor seems to take the added responsibility seriously.

"Here’s an oxymoron for you: it hasn’t changed my work ethic or my approach to the work. I’ve been very, very lucky in my life that I have worn many hats, literally and I’d love to show them all to you. I’ve done everything from selling ink pens over the telephone to screen printed T-shirts, worked construction, was a musician for a number of years and a busboy. I’ve done a lot of different things and I’ve had a great deal of luck in this business, so I’m somewhat together enough to know that if the ride is going smooth, fun and well and everything is peachy keen this week, then all that could evaporate next week and then I’m once again that weird guy that does art films, which is okay. So I've always said I’ve never had any allergy to the idea of commercial success. It was just how you got there that was important." EDITOR’S NOTE: AMEN. (SOUNDS LIKE A SHARP GUY. AND LEVEL-HEADED AND DOWN-TO-EARTH).


Friday Harry Potter'ing

Fiennes glad to be bad

The typical Ralph Fiennes performance is often described as "distant" or "remote." So it's with unexpected relish that he describes his character in one of the four films he has upcoming: the villainous Lord Voldemort, who battles everyone's favorite boy wizard in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

"That's one of the hardest things to play, the personification of evil!" exclaims Fiennes. "It's a full-on villain turn. You have to find a certain style or tone — you don't want to be either too campy or too understated. I thought of that old [standard] about Voldemort having an unhappy childhood." EDITOR’S NOTE: WELL HE DID, OF COURSE. (BUT THEN, BOOK 6 ALSO INFERS THERE’S SOME BAD BLOOD OR INBREEDING INVOLVED IN THE MIX AS WELL).

In addition to the November debut of "Harry," the British actor will be seen later this month in "Chumscrubber" as a suburban mayor who yearns to be an artist. He also currently stars in one of the best-reviewed films of the summer, "The Constant Gardener" — which opened two weeks ago — as a mild-mannered diplomat in Africa stirred to action by the murder of his wife. And then he'll be seen later this year as a blind American club owner in "The White Countess."

The son of a photographer and writer with five younger siblings (including fellow actor Joseph Fiennes, star of "Shakespeare in Love"), Fiennes grew up in England, where he had an artistic childhood. As a teenager, his love of the stage kicked in, and never left: In 1995, Fiennes became the first actor ever to win a Tony award for portraying Hamlet on Broadway.

The next year, he starred in the Best Picture winner "The English Patient," which followed his acclaimed work in "Schindler's List" and "Quiz Show." In the process, he was twice nominated for Oscars.

"Unlike other actors from his generation, Fiennes could be plunked down into a 1930s movie without a problem," says film historian and author David Thomson. "Even the pronunciation of his first name is from a more elegant time. The fact that he pronounces it 'Rafe' harks back to another era, but that suits him."

"Chumscrubber" director Arie Posin says he wanted Fiennes to play a dreamy, artistic character because he always seems to have a quirky sense of hopefulness.

"Even in his very serious performances, that childlike quality is there," says Posin. "He can walk that line."

One genre Fiennes wouldn't mind trying again is romantic comedy. Though 2002's "Maid inManhattan," in which his distant and remote politician fell for a Bronx hotel housekeeper (Jennifer Lopez), made almost $100 million at the box office, Fiennes thinks the chemistry wasn't there. EDITOR’S NOTE: WELL, PLAYING OPPOSITE JLO HAS GOT TO BE LIKE TRYING TO FIND CHEMISTRY WITH YOUR WALLPAPER. FIENNES WAS CUTE, THOUGH. (YES….ANOTHER SHAMEFUL CONFESSION. I SAW THE MOVIE).


"That was a sort of Prince Charming role, and I find it hard to find the right variation on that," he says. "I love romantic comedies, but I guess I'm not the first choice!"

Large photo of Harry and Hermione hugging
MTV has posted a high-resolution still from the latest GOF preview, which depicts Harry and Hermione in a tight embrace, while (most likely) Rita Skeeter and her photographer Bozo take some photos

Friday DISNEY Dweebing

Not long ago, it was nothing but a stretch of sand and landfill in Penny's Bay.

In January 2003, two-and-a-half years of feverish construction commenced.

And this week sees the debut of the world's newest outpost of magic.

Modeled closely on Walt Disney's original Disneyland park but graced with unique features, Hong Kong Disneyland is poised to open -- and the Imagineers who created it couldn't be more excited.

The Insider spoke to Tim Delaney, Walt Disney Imagineering vice president and executive designer, who guided the design of Hong Kong Disneyland's Tomorrowland. He told us what it was like creating the Park, and about what's new and unique to Hong Kong Disneyland.

"I've been in Hong Kong for a total of about eight months," says Tim. "The weather was certainly a challenge - with the monsoon seasons, horizontal wind, and instant downpours".

Guests take a whirl in Hong Kong.

"We spent most days - and often nights - on site, overseeing the construction, testing the new effects in Space Mountain, and working with the artist on the 52 planetary globes to be sure the high-tech paint provided just the right effect."

Sorcerer Mickey welcomes Guests to Fantasyland

Planetary globes?

It should be clear that Hong Kong's Tomorrowland, and indeed the whole Park, is not a carbon copy of other Disneyland-style Parks around the globe.

In fact, much care was taken to make Hong Kong Disneyland a unique destination that blends beautifully into its surroundings and expresses the culture of Hong Kong, as well as the magic of Disney. Hong Kong Disneyland mixes classic attractions like the Jungle River Cruise and the Mad Hatter Tea Cups with features you won't find anywhere else - like a lush Fantasy Gardens that gives Guests a chance to meet Disney Characters, and a virtual koi pond in the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel's flagship restaurant, the Golden Lotus.

Disneyland Hotel also sports a hedge maze formed in the shape of a certain famous big-eared profile.

Envisioning Tomorrowland posed a special challenge, according to Tim.

"We had to create a 'land of tomorrow' right across the bay from the ultimate 'city of the future.' We said to ourselves, 'how do we build tomorrow in the real Tomorrowland of Hong Kong?'" "We chose to create a Tomorrowland that is 'other-worldly,' with a spaceport and planetary theme. In the context of the high-tech environment of Hong Kong, this made the most sense," Tim explains.

"The entire land is themed as a spaceport, or launching point for interplanetary adventures. We've applied an 'otherworldly' overlay to everything from the undulating roof tiles on the buildings and space-themed furniture and fixtures, to the alien-looking plant specimens that landscape the area. EDITOR’S NOTE: OOOO….MUST GO SEE, MUST GO SEE…..

"Even the color choices were specifically designed to add to the atmosphere -- in Hong Kong, the sky is often rather gray, so we decided to offset that and brighten things up by using a lot of color," Tim tells us. "The only thing that's white is Space Mountain, which is designed to look like the original, but the colors play off of that white to really make it stand out."

Main Street is ready for business

Hong Kong Disneyland has unique features, but it's also very much in the spirit of Disneyland.

Hong Kong Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is modeled closely on Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland park. From Main Street to Fantasyland, Guests will find many of the sights that are familiar landmarks of Disneyland park. And the intimate scale of the Park is very reminiscent of Disneyland. EDITOR’S NOTE: 'INTIMATE'. THAT’S DISNEY-SPEAK FOR ‘THEY HAD NO LAND AND SO IT’S REALLY REALLY CRAMPED AND SMALL’.

Although the Park is just opening, plans are already being made to expand it.

"The first expansion to the Park will be the classic attraction that has become a rite-of-passage for so many young people - Autopia," Tim tells us. "This is Autopia with a twist, however - the cars are electric." That makes this the smoothest, easiest-to-drive version of the classic attraction ever.

Hong Kong Disneyland, it's clear, will always grow, change, and improve. It will never be finished - just as Walt Disney vowed for his original dream Park, Disneyland. As Walt put it, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." EDITOR’S NOTE: AND SUCKERS LIKE ME TO HELP PAY FOR IT. It's a challenge that today's Imagineers are eager to meet - but first they have a grand-opening party to attend.

What was the origin of "It's a Small World" in Disneyland? Was that Walt's idea?

Harold Q., Boise, ID

Walt had long had a wish to create an attraction about the children of the world, so when Pepsi-Cola requested Disney's help in designing their New York World's Fair pavilion as a salute to children and UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, Walt set his Imagineers to work on the project and they came up with one of the most popular Disney attractions of all time.


Friday TV Dweebing

Gough talks Superman Returns and Smallville
"Smallville" executive producer Al Gough chewed the fat with Kryptonsite this week, and discussed a few things of interest.

Firstly, how the series and "Superman Returns" will be linked- if at all.

"It's one of the things that, you know, we went down to Sydney in May [Miles and myself], and met with Bryan and Mike and Dan, and we talked about the Fortress [of Solitude], and we both agreed that whatever sort of looks of these bigger things, whether they be the Planet or the Fortress, we should key off the original Donner movie. Which we planned to do anyway. It's not like we were going to put the Fortress in the Jungles of Peru. We had always planned that the end of high school graduation, Clark would be walking across the glacier to the Fortress.EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE…I TOLD YOU THAT WAS THE FORTRESS! (SOMEONE WAS ARGUING WITH ME ABOUT THAT RECENTLY). So we'd always planned to do that anyway", he says.

"The movie has been great. We sort of keep each other abreast of what we're doing, so that there are no egregious mythology clashes".

As for those rumours about former tight-wearer Dean Cain popping up in Kansas this season?

"I will say there is a little truth to the Dean Cain rumors. We have spoken to Dean's people. We have not found a story yet that we want to put him in. I think if you're going to get somebody like Dean, you've got to make sure that the role is right, and that the episode is good. He is definitely someone we want on the show, and as soon as we find the right episode and the right character, we will move on it, and hopefully given his schedule, he'll be able to do it".

HBO renews 'Rome' for second season
HBO has renewed new historical drama "Rome" for a second season, the premium network announced Monday.

Three episodes into its rookie year, "Rome" is already slated to begin production on 12 more episodes in March.

The series is scheduled to return to HBO sometime in 2007.

"Although the first season of 'Rome' is just underway, we're affirming our support for this exciting and ambitious series by preparing for a second season now," said Carolyn Strauss, president of entertainment at HBO. "I'm delighted that critics and subscribers share our enthusiasm for the show."

"Rome" is a co-production between HBO and the BBC. Executive producers are Bruno Heller, William J. Macdonald, John Milius, Anne Thomopoulos and Frank Doelger.

Ratings-wise, "Rome" has looked strong in its first season. The opening episode corralled nearly 3.9 million total viewers, with the second installment settling in at 3 million. Ratings for the third episode will be reported Tuesday.EDITOR’S NOTE: I GUESS I SHOULD WATCH THE EPS I’VE ALREADY TAPED THEN?

Television thinks outside the box
This fall, the small screen will be filled with intricate plots, sprawling storylines, and bizarre mysteries. Can these 'serials' peel viewers from the tidy crime dramas?
Gloria Goodale Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

CRISP SERIALS: Three shows making their debuts this fall are 'Prison Break' (left) and 'Reunion' (center), both on Fox; and ABC's 'Invasion' (right), the story of the mysterious aftermath of a hurricane.

LOS ANGELES - If Hollywood is high school with money, as the old quip goes, then this fall TV season is one whopping schoolyard game of "top this." If you liked that sexy mystery in "Desperate Housewives" and that crazy polar bear in the middle of the "Lost" tropics, get ready for a blizzard of aliens and monsters, romances and intrigues, unmatched in popular media since Rod Serling first put the Twilight Zone up for our national consideration. EDITOR’S NOTE: SIGH….WILL THEY NEVER LEARN?

Now that ABC's two monster hits have dominated TV ratings, writers in every genre of television are reporting that networks have thrown open the doors, even to the craziest ideas. In recent years, television dramas have been narrowly focused on tidy shows about grizzled investigators in lab coats and trench coats who solved each case before the end of the hour.

Procedural shows like "CSI" are as popular as ever. But this fall, serials are making a comeback. Networks are embracing high-concept premises, large ensemble casts, multiple plotlines, parabolic character arcs, and cliffhanger episodes that demand viewer patience from week to week - a kind of storytelling that has been distinctly out of fashion since the era of "Twin Peaks." EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS A LITTLE MISLEADING (AS ARE MOST GENERALIZATIONS….LIKE THIS?). EVEN MANY OF THE ‘PROCEDURAL’ SHOWS WITH WEEKLY TIDY ENDINGS, HAVE CHARACTER ARCS AND DEEPENING OF INVOLVEMENT. PEOPLE DON’T TUNE IN JUST FOR THE NUTS-AND-BOLTS, BUT ALSO BECAUSE THEY GROW TO LIKE AND CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS. EVEN WITH THE MOST CUT-AND-DRIED OF SHOWS. (IT’S WHY I ENJOY “CSI:MIAMI” MORE THAN THE NY VERSION….THE PEOPLE).

"The procedural or closed-end mode of storytelling has dominated for many years," says producer Shaun Cassidy. But now, he says, it has finally given way to a broader canvas. Cassidy's "Invasion," a new ABC drama about an alien invasion amid a hurricane in Florida, layers hints about body snatching on top of a community's struggle to rebuild and a family's effort to reunite after divorce and devastation.

Writer Paul Scheuring says when he pitched a TV show two years ago about a mild-mannered engineer who gets himself thrown in jail in order to break out his wrongfully convicted brother, network executives said, "Next." Fox later greenlit the show, titled "Prison Break," after "Lost" became a huge hit.

"Prison Break" and "Invasion" are just two of nearly a dozen dramas capitalizing on the new trends, including CBS's "Threshold," ABC's "Night Stalker," WB's "Supernatural," and CBS's "Ghost Whisperer."

To be sure, the procedurals haven't been buried. Veteran crime show producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI," "Without a Trace,") is back with a 10th series, "E-Ring," set in the Pentagon. And audiences as well as networks still warm to programs that start with a dead body and conclude with a body of evidence against the killer. They're easy to dive into for first-time viewers and they do well in reruns.

But the eagerness to own the next hit has everyone from writers on the new shows to producers of ongoing dramas drinking from Hollywood's heady new brew. Even stalwart procedurals are tipping their tales more in the direction of stories that don't wrap into neat body bags each week.

Feature film producer Barry Josephson, who knows a thing or two about big, sprawling stories ("Hide and Seek," "Men in Black"), says he's excited about bringing "Bones," a new crime-solving show about a female forensic pathologist, to Fox, because it will have more characters and bigger mysteries than typical episodic fare. Similarly, ABC's "Boston Legal" will focus more on continuing storylines rather than just the court case of the week. "Storytelling can be much richer when you can count on your constituency being more habitual about watching week in and week out," says creator David E. Kelley. EDITOR'S NOTE: HOW WOULD YOU KNOW MR I-HIT-MY-AUDIENCES-OVER-THE-HEAD-WITH-TWOBYFOURS-KELEY?

But just because intrigue and big-canvas storytelling is back in vogue doesn't mean it's easy. Take it from a writer who went out on a limb four years ago, with perhaps the trickiest combination of serial and episodic storytelling on TV.

Bob Cochran, co-creator of Fox's "24," says it was a miracle the show ever made it to air, and nearly everyone involved figured the premise of a single day in 24 episodes was only good for one season. Against the odds and the prevailing trend of closed-end crime procedurals, "24," a solid hit, will return for a fifth season.

A new Fox drama, "Reunion," takes a page from the "24" playbook. Set in the present, the show builds on the flashbacks of a group of six 1986 high-school grads, dealing with a single year per episode. Far from appearing worried about what's next, the creative team has a certain giddy air of excitement as they admit their own ignorance about how the show can return for a second season. But their confidence that both Fox and audiences will stay with them if the show is completely recast indicates how much things have changed.

Certainly, neither suspense nor soaps are new. Neither is the juggling act between serial and episodic stories.

"The X-Files" battled for years to balance an audience's need for resolution with a vast and murky ongoing mythology. The makers even came up with a neat rule of thumb: eight of the season's 24 episodes had to delve into the bigger conspiracies surrounding the main characters.

But in the end, one of the show's writers and directors says he's taken a single lesson forward into his latest series, this fall's "Night Stalker" on ABC. "Audiences want a good story, well told, with characters they can embrace," says Daniel Sackheim, executive producer of the update of the 1970s mystery classic. "That's all there is to it." EDITOR’S NOTE: PRECISELY. “THE XFILES” WAS ENJOYABLE BECAUSE IT WAS BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN AND BEAUTIFULLY ACTED. THE MYTHOLOGY EPISODES AND THE STAND-ALONE EPS WERE EQUALLY EXCITING BECAUSE OF THOSE TWO ELEMENTS.

Well, not quite all. It also requires network-level patience with a new idea - not a quality for which broadcasters are famous.

But if nothing else, the need for a breakout hit may have actually brought some degree of nurturing back to new network shows. "What I hope is happening is that audiences' thirst for more daring programming is increasing," says Peter Ligouri, Fox's new president of entertainment. "At the same time, it's incumbent on us to ask writers to be more ambitious." EDITOR’S NOTE: MAKES ME WISH SOME OF THE WAY-TOO-QUICKLY CANCELLED SHOWS --- “FIREFLY” FOR EXAMPLE ---- WERE MAKING A GO OF IT THIS SEASON. THEY MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN A LITTLE MORE ROPE.

Nets promotional priority based on playing favorites
This fall, most of the major broadcast networks are taking their cue from ABC's marketing success last season with "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" by putting most of their resources behind a few select shows and trying to surround target audiences with marketing messages everywhere they can.

Faced with limited resources and fierce competition, most of the networks now believe that in order to break through the clutter and get their new shows sampled, they have to focus on their top priorities -- particularly during the crush of the fall launch period -- rather than spread their marketing dollars across the schedule.

"I do think you're seeing everyone taking their top priorities and going to what we call 360-degree marketing, which is trying to reach them in every possible way that we can," said NBC chief marketing officer John Miller.

Added Vince Manze, president, NBC Agency, "If you're working on more than three shows at a top level, you're probably doing too many." EDITOR’S NOTE: SO GET OUT YOUR QUIJA BOARDS AND DECIDE IN ADVANCE WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO GET BEHIND? (AND IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN THOSE OTHER SHOWS ENOUGH TO PROMOTE THEM, WHY DID YOU PUT THEM ON THE AIR TO BEGIN WITH?)

Cablers ready must-carry retort

WASHINGTON -- The cable industry is preparing a counterattack in the political battle the industry is having with broadcasters in the war over whether Congress should require cable operators to carry all of a TV station's digital offerings.

In a letter and a legal analysis sent to lawmakers Tuesday, the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. contends that a requirement would be unconstitutional. EDITOR’S NOTE: NOT TO MENTION…AND MORE TO THE POINT AS FAR AS THE CABLE INDUSTRY IS CONCERNED…REALLY REALLY EXPENSIVE.

The analysis comes as the broadcasters have launched an extensive lobbying campaign on the issue. The National Association of Broadcasters has been flying in local station executives and owners from across the nation in an effort to convince broadcasters of the necessity for the "multicast, must-carry" requirement.

Nearly 100 local broadcasters are expected to lobby lawmakers on the commerce committees this week. The organization also has bought advertising in newspapers and newsletters frequently read by lawmakers when they are in town and held a briefing on the issue for reporters last week

Friday Movie MUSIC Dweebing


Elfman speaks on Spider-Man split
Music maestro Danny Elfman won't be back to play melody to Spidey's next adventure, it seems, telling that he's had a falling out with "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi.

I’m not working on Spider-Man 3. I’m out of that. I won’t miss not doing it. Spider-Man 2 was a miserable experience", Elfman tells the site. “It’s like my connection with Sam got completely severed. As far as I’m concerned, he went to sleep, somebody put a pod next to him and when he awoke, he wasn’t the same person I’d known for a decade.”

Elfman adds, "He went from right there number two on my list of favorite directors to the exact opposite of what I look for in a film experience which is everything I could do on Spider-Man 1, I couldn’t do on Spider-Man 2. He got so intensely attached to the temp music that I couldn’t even adapt my own music close enough. Let me put it that way. I couldn’t get close enough to me, least of all anybody else who was in the temp score.”

Still, you'll probably hear Elfman's theme in "Spider-Man 3", because Raimi owns it.

Oh yeah, he can do whatever he wants. It’s the first time I’ve ever walked from a director in 20 years and hoefully the last time I have to turn my back on somebody but it became like intolerable. And I’ve been on some heavy duty films, so to say that, it had to be pretty bad. I’ve been in war zones you couldn’t believe in 55 films but this is the first time I said, ‘I’ve had it. It’s just not worth it. I’d rather go back to waiting tables than to do Spider-Man 2 again, to have to have the same experience.”

Friday MOVIE Dweebing

Santa Clause gets Short
Though he won't be the one wearing the fat-suit for once, funnyman Martin Short has agreed to co-star in "The Santa Clause 3", which re-teams him with "Jungle2Jungle" co-star Tim Allen.

In the sequel, Short will play Jack Frost, the legendary iceman with some darstardly deeds planned for Christmas. Naturally, jolly Saint Nick/Scott (Allen) gets in his way.

The film, directed by Michael Lembeck ["The Santa Clause 2"], will see Short ["Three Amigos!", "Clifford"] pocket a cool seven-figure salary for his impendingly silly turn, says Variety.


Wedge considering Robots 2
The success of FOX's "Robots" has Rupert and the lads thinking sequel.

Director Chris Wedge, currently co-producing a sequel to "Ice Age", tells the Sydney Morning Herald that it's likely Rodney's going to get another outing.

The film, should it go ahead, would see Ewan McGregor back behind the mic to play the loveable old-style droid.

He is also working on two more films - one described as being "a smaller feeling movie but fun in its own right" and the other described as more of an "action feel" film.

Wedge spent some time Down Under promoting "Robots" pre-theatrical, and whilst there came up with an idea for an Aussie family film. "We have been thinking about it, seriously," the director said. "Cane toads is what we were looking at." EDITOR’S NOTE: CANE TOADS. AH. YES. CAUSE THAT JUST SCREAMS ‘FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY’. (RIGHT UP DWEEBPAL MARGARET’S…AKA, FRIEND-OF-FROGS…ALLEY, I GUESS)

Stiller and Rock Head Back to MADAGASCAR

DreamWorks Animation has signed Ben Stiller (Alex the Lion) and Chris Rock (Marty the Zebra) to once again provide the voices for their characters in the sequel to MADAGASCAR.
Jada Pinkett Smith will also return for the sequel to voice Gloria the Hippo. Andy Richter will voice again and the studio is in talks with David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer.

Eric Darnell and Tim McGrath will co-direct.

In addition, DreamWorks is working on a short film starring the penguins, which will come out in 2009. EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, “MADAGASCAR” IS FINE AND I’LL PROBABLY GO SEE THE SEQUEL. BUT THE PENGUINS ARE THE REAL STARS! YEAH, BABY!!! LET’S SEE MORE OF THOSE SNARKY DOODS!

Bruno and Bill at it again
"Bandits" and "Armageddon" co-stars Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton will team for a third time for "The Astronaut Farmer", says The Hollywood Reporter.

The movie, co-starring Virginia Madsen and Bruce Dern, will be directed by the Polish brothers, and tells of an eccentric farmer (Thornton) who dreams of space travel and sets out to build a rocket in his barn. His neighbors consider him an oddity, the government thinks he is a threat and the media see him as a story. Willis plays Thornton's NASA buddy, Madsen his wife, and Dern, Madsen's father. EDITOR’S NOTE: I WISH THEY’D PUT THORNTON, TOM CRUISE, ANDIE MCDOWELL, AND MAYBE KEVIN COSTNER ALL IN ONE MOVIE. SO I COULD AVOID IT. (AND NOT MIX THESE PEOPLE IN WITH ACTORS LIKE MADSEN AND WILLIS THAT I LIKE AND WANT TO SEE, CONFUSING THE ISSUE WITH THOSE I DON’T WANT TO SEE).


Adrian Grenier is wearing Prada
Adrian Grenier, star of HBO's "Entourage" has snagged himself a plum movie gig, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Grenier, whose film credits include "Drive Me Crazy" and "Harvard Man", is suiting up for the world of high fashion in Fox 2000's "The Devil Wears Prada."

The deal marks Grenier's first studio film role since his breakout performance on HBO's "Entourage," in which he plays movie star and "Aquaman" topliner Vincent Chase.

Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt already have boarded the adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-seller, which is set at a cutthroat fashion magazine in Manhattan. Hathaway will play the assistant of a nightmare boss (Streep). Grenier has signed on to play Nate, the love interest of Hathaway's character, in the movie, which begins shooting in the big apple next Monday.

Meantime, Variety adds that Simon Baker will play the lead role in the film.

Richards turns down Pirates?
The much hankered-for appearance by rocker Keith Richards in a future "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel - in which he would have played Jack Sparrow's (Johnny Depp) father - might be off, says SciFi Wire.

Richards, about to embark on a tour with Mick and the lads, apparently went so far as to trying on costumes for the movie, but at the end of the day - passed. "The idea of working for Disney gives me the shivers in the first place", Richards said. EDITOR’S NOTE: YEAH, THE MOUSE IS A LITTLE EVIL. ON THE OTHER HAND, RICHARDS IS REALLY CREEPY AND WEIRD. (AND HE HASN’T DEALT WITH SCARIER CORPORATE SPONSORS THAN DISNEY IN THE PAST?)

The first of the two sequels, "Dead Man's Chest", is scheduled to open next year. No word if they'll recast the role of Sparrow's father.

Is Zellweger going to be a Cabaret singer?
Renee Zellweger's about to shine her slippers, re-visit some hot steps and enrol in a second semester of vocal training.

Yep, the Oscar Winner's intent on doing another musical.

Zellweger's planning to redo someone else's musical moment, notably Liza Minnelli's, says Sky News.

Studio bosses are apparently chewing the fat with the fiesty Oscar Winner to star in a remake of "Cabaret" (1972). "I do love a challenge as an actress and this would be one of the biggest", Zellweger tells the site. EDITOR’S NOTE: I DON’T THINK THE ACTING PART WILL BE THE BIG CHALLENGE, BUT MORE THE SINGING PART. ZELLWEGER HAS A PLEASANT (IF SLIGHTLY TINY VOICE), BUT SHE ISN’T EXACTLY A BELTER, AND SHE DOESN’T REALLY HAVE MUCH RANGE.

The film would tell the same story - A female girlie club entertainer in the Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them - but will encompass a few more new tunes apparently. EDITOR’S NOTE: CAUSE KANDER AND EBB AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH?

The second coming of Don Quixote
Like a simmering saucepan, eventually the contents start boiling away again. Terry Gilliam may have failed to bring "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" to the screen first-time around, but he might be about to lift the lidd of the troubled project again.

Talking to Moviehole this week, Gilliam said he might be having another crack at it. EDITOR’S NOTE: OH JEEZ. LET IT DIE?

Gilliam tells us that his "Tideland" producer Jeremy Thomas is now on board and that he already has someone in mind for the lead. Originally, French actor Jean Rochefort was attached to play the titular role, but due to an incredible streak of health problems, as documented in "Lost In La Mancha", it's unlikely he would be considered for a return engagement.

“I have some ideas”, Gilliam says.

Our interviewer also suggested Gerard Depardieu for a leading role - and Gilliam's response suggested the legendary frenchman might already be on his list.

Meantime, Johnny Depp, who was set to star in "Quixote" as a time traveller, before it crumbled, tells Coming Soon that he would consider having another stab at it - should Gilliam manage to get it going again.

"Every time I see him, he threatens to do something," Depp told the site. "I just saw him last night. I'd love to do it again…well, I don't want to do that again. If there's any way to avoid the curse, that would be better. I'd love to do the film, if at all possible, and I stress that 'if at all possible' because it was really going to be good, that was the thing we all felt. It was really sad. It was really going to be good, like the best of Terry Gilliam. I felt really good about my character, and the good news is that if he wants to go back and do that, I already know the character, so I have less homework to do."

One big screen transfer that's overDrew
The Hollywood Reporter says Warner Bros are transporting literary legend Nancy Drew to the big screen.

Newcomer Emma Roberts, soon to be seen in "Aquamarine", will play the title character.

In Andrew Fleming's "Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Hollywood Hills", Drew accompanies her father on a business trip to Los Angeles, and she stumbles on evidence about a long-unsolved crime involving the death of a movie star. Her resourcefulness and personal responsibility are put to the test when she finds herself in the middle of the fast-living, self-indulgent world of Hollywood. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND HOPEFULLY THE TITIAN-HAIRED YOUNG DETECTIVE IS NOT SULLIED BY THE HOLLYWOOD EXPERIENCE?

Mr Fantastic is Amazing
One-time 007 candidate Ioan Gruffudd has signed on to topline Walden Media's "Amazing Grace" for director Michael Apted, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Co-starring Albert Finney, the movie is based on the life of British anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce (Gruffudd), and follows his 18th century political career, which placed him at odds with some of the most powerful men of the time, including the king.

Finney will play John Newton, a Wilberforce confidant.

Meantime, Gruffudd's also returning for a "Fantastic Four" sequel, co-star Julian McMahon tells IESB. According to McMahon, the film has made enough money to warrant a sequel and he's looking forward to plonking Doom's mask on again. Rumour has it that a new villain, the Puppetmaster, will also be introduced in the next one.

Hulk and Dracula teaming up?
Eric Bana has squiggled his John Hancock on the line to star in a movie based on ethicist and writer Raimond Gaita's bestselling 1998 memoir, "Romulus My Father".

The book chronicles the mental illness of Gaita's mother and his father's almost saintly goodness and eventual breakdown. It is also a meditation on the legacies of war and migration and the importance of friendship. Richard Roxburgh will direct the film. Earlier this year, Roxburgh talked about first-choice, Bana.

"Bana fits the bill in an enormous number of ways," he told The Australian. "His father's Croatian and his mother is German; he is a motorcycle enthusiast and is heavily involved in being a father. All these things have great overlaps with the material in the story – Romulus was a Romanian man married to a German immigrant."

Oz-based sales outfit Arclight Films has taken international rights to the film, set to lens in Feb.

No SCREAM for Neve
Moviehole is reporting that Neve Campbell will not be returning to SCREAM 4 despite her talks with the Weinstein Co. EDITOR’S NOTE: YAWN….

The site is reporting though that the Arquettes will most likely return as Gail and Dewey.

Apparently, Wes Craven will not be involved. And there is no word yet about Kevin Williamson's involvement.

The whole project is in the extremely early stages of development.

McMahon Won't Bond With Film
In "Bond, James Bond" news, Moviehole is reporting via a scoop, that Julian McMahon will not be the next 007. EDITOR’S NOTE: YAWN AND SNORE.

Per their "indside" info, "McMahon's new reps blew the deal for him by demanding an outrageous amount of money; this foul-up was made even more embarrassing when it transpired that the contract on offer was not, in fact, an offer; it was the standard Bond deal memo that everyone meeting with the producers is required to sign."

Friday, and we're clearing out the ODDS-n-ENDS


Black to receive SAG life achievent award
Shirley Temple Black will receive the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award at the union's annual ceremony in January, it was announced Monday.

Black, a child star who later became a diplomat, will get the union's most prestigious award during the 12th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29. The honor recognizes both career achievement and humanitarian accomplishments.

"Her contributions to the entertainment industry are without precedent (and) her contributions to the world are nothing short of inspirational," SAG president Melissa Gilbert said. "She has lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child, to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years. In everything she has done and accomplished, Shirley Temple Black has demonstrated uncommon grace, talent and determination, not to mention compassion and courage."

Fox breaks primetime pricing record
Heading into its fifth year, "American Idol," Fox's hit show, has set a new milestone for network TV: a record-high price tag for a 30-second commercial unit.

For the new fall season, the cost of a 30-second spot during the Wednesday installment of the program has surpassed the $700,000 mark. That's a first for any regularly scheduled primetime network series.

Sources with firsthand knowledge of the numbers confirmed that the average price for a 30-second unit in the program is $705,000, up about 7% from a year ago. For the second year in a row, the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of American Idol are the most expensive shows on network TV (the Tuesday installment of "Idol" is going for $660,000 per :30).

"Deservedly so," said Andy Donchin, executive vp/director of national broadcast at Carat, noting that they were the highest-rated shows of the 2004-05 season across most of the key metrics, including adults 18-49. EDITOR’S NOTE: I WOULD PAY 800 THOUSAND TO NEVER HEAR OR READ THE WORD ‘METRICS’ EVER AGAIN.

Sources said Cingular Wireless, Coca-Cola and Ford, last year's major "Idol" advertisers, have all renewed their sponsorships. The highest-priced new show is NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," sources said, with 30-second units pegged at $310,000.

Hello Dallas Comic Con & Sci-Fi Expo attendees,
Our next event will be held October 15 and 16 at the spacious Plano Convention Center and we are in full swing getting everything ready. Stop by the website today to check out the fantastic media guests (including Carrie Fisher, Kevin Sorbo, Jonathan Frakes, Adam Baldwin and many more)EDITOR’S NOTE: WOW! QUITE A LIST!!! scheduled to attend.

We also have an incredible lineup of comic artists and will host more than 100 exhibit tables loaded with great collectibles at this convention.

While visiting our website today, please take a quick second to vote for your favorite type of guest in a new customer poll on our front page. Your vote will help us to better develop future events!

Additional details can be found here:

We hope to see you at the show,
Ben Stevens

What: Dallas Comic Con 6.0
Where: Plano Center 2000 E Spring Creek Parkway Plano, TX
When: October 15 & 16 Saturday 11am-6pm, Sunday 12noon-5pm.

'War' invades home video on Nov. 22
With DreamWorks today announcing a Nov. 22 release date for the "War of the Worlds" DVD, the final landscape of the fourth-quarter home entertainment selling season is all but complete.

The announcement that the $231.8 million theatrical grosser would share the pre-Thanksgiving Tuesday with Warner Home Video's "The Polar Express" comes on the heels of two other big films dropping into the quarter.

Warner has set a Nov. 8 DVD release date for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which has grossed nearly $198 million in U.S. theaters, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has slotted the $151 million summer theatrical hit "Fantastic Four" into a Dec. 6 DVD release date EDITOR’S NOTE: CHARLIE AND DARTH ON THE SAME DAY? (AND ACTUALLY, I THINK JOHNNY DEPP’S WONKA IS THE SCARIER OF THE TWO PERFORMANCES).

Griffith to donate personal collection to UNC
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Andy Griffith will donate manuscripts, television and film footage and other memorabilia documenting his 55-year career to his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. EDITOR’S NOTE: GO TARHEELS! (GRIFFITH SPOKE AT MY GRADUATION CEREMONY. OR WAIT…WAS IT CHARLES KURALT? ANOTHER FAMOUS ALUM. AND IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO….)

"I am proud of my connections to Carolina and pleased to know that some results from a lifetime of work on television, film, stage and recordings will have a permanent home in Chapel Hill," Griffith said in a statement Friday.

A native of Mount Airy, Griffith is best known for his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Watch Four Hours Less Per Week Than in 2004
September 07, 2005

NEW YORK ( -- During the last year, America's hard-core game players have shifted four more hours of their weekly TV-watching time to online activities, according to a new survey by Ziff David Media Game Group.

The study, "Digital Gaming in America," also reports that the number of hard-core game-playing households increased by 900,000 from 18.9 million to 19.8 million over the same year's time.

76 million game households There are 76.2 million game-playing households in the U.S. in 2005 -- up 11.4% from 67.5 million in 2004. The importance of hard-core gamers in this overall universe is underscored by the study's finding that they account for 56% of the industry's revenue.

The survey by the Ziff Davis group, which publishes game magazines, analyzed the behavior of hard-core and general digital game players. A hard-core player is defined as a video gamer or PC gamer who bought four or more games in the last six months and who plays 10 or more hours of games a week. (Video gamers play on stand-alone console devices such as Microsoft's Xbox or Sony's PlayStation; PC gamers play games on their personal computers.)

The findings also confirm previous reports that the demographics of the overall game-playing public continues to broaden to include large numbers of women and adults. Among video-game players overall, 61% are male, as are 57% of PC gamers. Among hard-core gamers, 65% of video gamers and 68% of PC gamers are male. EDITOR’S NOTE: IT’S STILL MORE MEN THAN WOMEN, BUT THIS IS AN IMPRESSIVE NUMBER OF WOMEN GAMING.

Older hard-core PC gamersOver one-third (34%) of hard-core PC gamers are 35 and older. EDITOR’S NOTE: AND OLDER FOLKS! The mean age of this core group is 31. Core video-gamers are younger. Forty percent are 19 and under. But 29% are 35 and older. The mean age is 27.

The population of so-called enthusiast gamers mirrors the general population more than you might think,” explained Scott McCarty, president of the media game group at the magazine publisher. “It makes perfect sense when you think about the evolution of the Internet. It’s really been in the last generation or two where games have been part of the experience of the household. So now you have people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have video games in the household and their kids are playing -- so they play.”

TV-watching habits Hard-core video gamers watched 18 hours of TV per week in 2005, down from 22 hours per week last year. However, hard-core players watch more TV than general gamers, the study said. General gamers watched 16 hours of TV per week in 2005 -- a drop of two hours since 2004. EDITOR’S NOTE: WELL, THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS IN A DAY.

Gamers also have many and varied interests, Mr. McCarthy pointed out. Listing their favorite leisure activities, 79% of hard-core video gamers said they spend time with family.EDITOR’S NOTE: SO DO THE OTHER 21% NOT HAVE FAMILY, OR ARE THEY IGNORING THEIR FAMILIES TO SPEND TIME GAMING? Some 72% eat out in restaurants; 70% watch videos; 69% go to the movies; and 67% spend time with friends -- not playing games.

Hard-core video gamers went to an average of four movies in the last two months, and 85% of them rented DVD movies.

'Just like the rest of us' “One of the misperceptions is that these guys sit in the basement and play games all the time,” he said. “They are involved in lots of activities just like the rest of us.” EDITOR’S NOTE: ALBEIT WITH A KIND OF PERMANENT GLASSY STARE.

The study surveyed 1,500 people, chosen as representative of the U.S. population.

The hills are alive with the sound of film fans
Guardian Unlimited

Salzburg tourism officials are considering building a museum devoted to the film The Sound of Music.

Discussions are under way to create a centre about the Von Trapp family, whose story was told in the 1965 Hollywood classic about a family singing troupe fleeing from the Nazis.

"Around 300,000 people visit Salzburg each year simply because of the movie," said Wilfried Haslauer, the Salzburg deputy governor. "I believe therefore it would be good - and also most necessary - to create such a centre." EDITOR’S NOTE: FRANKLY, I’M SURPRISED IT HAS TAKEN THEM THIS LONG.

The film chronicles the adventures of Baron Von Trapp, his seven children and Maria, the governess, played by Julie Andrews, who becomes wife and mother to the family before they flee Austria. The film won five Oscars and earned Andrews a nomination for best actress.

Tourism surveys show that three out of four Americans come to Salzburg, the former home of the real-life Von Trapp family, because of the musical.

Once in Salzburg, many tourists ignore composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city's most famous native, to take tours of sites featured in the movie and participate in sing-alongs of famous melodies from the film. EDITOR’S NOTE: OH DEAR. SHAME AND EMBARASSMENT. (IS IT TOO LATE TO BE BORN A CANADIAN?)

Julie Andrews as Maria in the 1965 film The Sound of Music

MUSICAL QUIZ:,5952,402519,00.html


Rest in Peace, Robert Wise

Tribute: Robert Wise Talks About His Career in Last Print Interview

Today, EDITOR'S NOTE: YESTERDAY, ACTUALLY legendary director Robert Wise passed away at age 91 due to heart complications.

Known for his eclectic body of work including THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY (not to mention as an editor he tackled Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE).

However, Wise is widely regarded by DWEEB fans for his directorial flare on such classic genre efforts THE BODY SNATCHER, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE HAUNTING and STAR TREK: THE MOTION

Author and producer Joel Eisenberg who recently penned the new motivational book AUNT BESSIE'S HOW TO SURVIVE A DAY JOB WHILE PURSUING THE CREATIVE LIFE, features an interview with Robert Wise from 2004 in what was perhaps his last print interview.

Eisenberg has graciously allowed us to reprint the chapter in his book on Robert Wise as he talks about the creative process and his seminal career

(excerpt from AUNT BESSIE'S HOW TO SURVIVE A DAY JOB WHILE PURSUING THE CREATIVE LIFE by Joel Eisenberg. © Joel Eisenberg. Used by Permission)


My three Ps: Passion, Patience, Perseverance.

The credits say it all. Robert Wise edited Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons for Orson Welles. He directed The Sand Pebbles, The Haunting, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He directed his last film, A Storm in Summer, in his mid-eighties.

He is a motion picture legend and a retired sage.
I always worked in the film industry. I’m from Indiana, and I have two older brothers. One of them, David, came out here and was working at RKO in the accounting department.
I graduated high school in ’32 and managed to get one year of college at a small college in Indianapolis — Franklin College — on a scholarship. But I had no money to go back a second year. I was going to major in journalism, because I had worked for the high school newspaper. But fate decreed otherwise.

My brother came back the summer of ’33, the first trip home. My family decided since I couldn’t go back to college that I’d better come out to California with my brother Dave and get a job earning a living. That’s how I got to California.

Dave worked at RKO in the accounting department, and he got me an appointment first with the property department. Fortunately for me, it turned out they couldn’t use anybody right then. The next week he got me an appointment with the head of the film editing department, who decided he could use a good, strong, eager kid to work in the film shipping room. I would carry the prints of films up to the projection room for the executives to look at and check to see if they were all right. And that was my break, getting in that department.

I was there for a few months, and I caught the eye of man named T.K. Wood, who was the head of the sound effects and music editing department, and he asked me to be put up with him. I was moved up with "Woody," as we called him, and I worked for him, oh, I don’t know, maybe six or eight months or so, and so that was kind of a dead end. There was no place to go there, and I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to go on, so I asked the boss to put me over on what we call the picture side, so I could become an assistant film editor and eventually become a film editor.

And he did. He put me with this marvelous old-time editor named Billy Hamilton. And I worked with Billy for, I don’t know, several pictures. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of them I remember, and some of the Astaire-Rogers stuff going on. Then he put me up to be a full-time editor myself.

So I was now an editor and working away, and there was a man that was directing a piece for a marvelous producer named Val Lewton — Gunther von Fritsch was his name. Gunther couldn’t seem to understand he had to shoot faster, couldn’t understand that he had to shoot more pages every day. These films were seventeen-, eighteen-day wonders, you know. And so this director couldn’t seem to understand that, and he used his whole schedule up and only shot half the script. Well this is not very satisfactory with the studio.

They called me and said on Saturday — we were working six days a week then — and they said, "Listen, we can’t seem to make Gunther understand that he has to shoot faster. He can’t seem to get that through his head, so we want you to take over on Monday."

And I did. I was a little scared, but it was good for me. I knew all the crew members, and I knew the cast, because as an editor I had visited this set a lot; I wasn’t going into a cold situation. They gave me ten days to finish it. I did it in the ten days, and that was it. And I’ve been directing ever since.

I finished shooting in Vancouver my fortieth film. It’s called A Storm in Summer, with Peter Falk playing the lead. Now I’m officially retired.

I didn’t want to become a director all along. I didn’t really think about it that way. You know, I just took it one step at a time. Once I got to be an editor, I learned the game, learned about filmmaking and directing, and I wanted to move on and become a director.

The difference is that as an editor you work with these figures on celluloid, on film. And as a director, you were up there with these live figures. Editing, it had been captured on film, and that’s it; so now I’m faced with having to deal with these live people and direct them. Help them with their performances.

I used to get up early. When I was starting, I’d get to the set very early in the morning, maybe at seven o’clock or something. They probably would have a nine o’clock call for people. I’d get there at seven, and I’d fool around with the set, with my finder, figuring different angles and that kind of thing. I had to get an idea of how I wanted to go, and eventually down the line I got to working with a sketch artist. We would try to sketch stuff out ahead of time so we’d have an idea, always leaving room to move away from the sketches, if what you thought just wouldn’t work with the actors.

Sometimes I’d have a read-through of the script with the actors, just to see if there was any bad dialog, any of the lines that didn’t play or something like that. So a read-through was very important, and during that read-through the actors get a sense of what you, the director, wanted in terms of performance.

The foundation of every film is that script. That’s why I say scripts or screenwriters don’t get as much credit as they should, because without that script, that’s it. It’s all there pretty much in the script, and what you do as a director is help the actors interpret that script. EDITOR’S NOTE: SO SIMPLE. AND YET SOMETHING SO FEW IN HOLLYWOOD SEEM TO COMPREHEND.

I don’t think there were any real challenges in becoming a director. Having edited for quite a while, you kind of get to know everything real well, because you visit the set a lot. I don’t think there were any particular surprises.

There are three stages in making a film: there’s pre-production, where you’re planning everything, and you’re getting your sets, you’re getting your script right, you’re getting your cast right, and you’re getting the crew set. I have a lot of respect for the crews.
Then it’s production, where you go in and you put it all on film. That could take anywhere from, in my earlier films, as little as eighteen or twenty days to six months with a Star Trek

And then there’s post-production, where you’re there really for as much as three, four, five months on the editing, the re-recording, previews, and making changes after previews, and finally getting it ready to release.

When I do a seminar or go to a film school, I tell students, generally, that the most important thing on any film is that script. You’ve got to have it, because if it’s not on the page, it’s not going to get out there on the screen. So that’s number one. And so when you’ve got the script right, then you try to get the right cast. And then when that’s done, then you’re getting ready to get a schedule and get your crew and everything else and you’re ready to go.

My best suggestion to aspiring directors is what I call my three "Ps": Passion, Patience, Perseverance. You have to have passion for the thing you’re going to do. You have to have patience, because it’s going to take some time, probably, and you have to have perseverance; you have to keep at it and keep at it and keep at it until you do it.

I’ve done a lot of films. I started with small ones, and I’ve done big ones. For me, editing was a great way to learn directing. But there are other ways as well.

I don’t think you can ever have too much pre-production, although you get to a point where you really want to get going.

I did all my stuff for the major studios, so I didn’t worry about the funding. All I had to worry about was the script, the casting, the schedule, and the budget.

One major piece of advice that I’ll give people was said by an old-time director named Richard Wallace. I had cut a picture or two for Dick Wallace, and he heard I had gotten my break and I was going to get a chance to direct.

And he said, "Bobby, I got just one bit of advice to give you: if a scene seems a trifle slow on the set, it’ll be twice as slow in a projection room." EDITOR’S NOTE: DID THEY NOT NOTICE THIS WHEN THEY WERE SHOOTING “STAR TREK”?

And I never forgot that. Because sometimes you’ll think a scene is just right there — the pacing of it I’m talking about — but sometimes when it’s Reel Four or Five in the film, if anything, it’ll be slow. I’ve never forgotten that advice. If it seems a trifle slow, if it feels a trifle slow on the set, it’ll be twice as slow in the projection room.

I carried a watch, or I’d have the script clerk have a watch. Say a given scene we’d be doing was two minutes and ten seconds. I’d try to get it at two minutes. Try to beat the clock, you know. I never wished I’d shot anything slower. I always wished I would have picked it up a little bit. EDITOR’S NOTE: RIP, MR. WISE. GOD SPEED.