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By United Press International   |   Jan. 31, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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SHIRLEY MacLAINE: Oscar-winning American actress Shirley MacLaine is to join the cast of "Downton Abbey" next season, the British period drama's producers said Monday.

Season 2 of the ITV series is airing in the United States Sundays on PBS under the network's Masterpiece programming banner.

Best known for her work in "Steel Magnolias," "Terms of Endearment" and "The Apartment," MacLaine will play Martha Levinson, the mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character Lady Grantham when Season 3 begins production this spring.

"Shirley MacLaine is a great actress and she's as American as the day is long," Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton said in a statement. "I can't wait to see her go toe-to-toe with Maggie Smith's Lady Violet."

Carnival Films' Managing Director Gareth Neame said: "My late grandfather (Ronald Neame) directed Shirley MacLaine in 'Gambit' in 1966 so it is a delight for me that she will be joining us on 'Downton Abbey.' ['Downton' creator] Julian [Fellowes] has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson."


SUSAN SARANDON: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions say they have together acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Nicholas Jarecki's thriller "Arbitrage."

The announcement was made Friday jointly by Steve Beeks, president and co-chief operating officer of Lionsgate, and Roadside Attractions' Co-Presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d'Arbeloff.

The acquisition was made following the well-received world premiere of the movie at the Sundance International Film Festival, the companies said.

"'Arbitrage' is an incredible directorial debut by Nicholas Jarecki. Richard Gere gives one of the best performances of his extraordinary career. Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Nate Parker, Brit Marling and Laetitia Casta all turn in incredible supporting performances. The film is an intense thriller set against the backdrop of a very specific time and place on Wall Street, but it's also more than that -- it shows so poignantly how interconnected we all are, and how a series of choices by a few people can affect so many," Jason Constantine, Lionsgate's president of acquisitions and co-productions, said in a statement.

Gere and Sarandon previously co-starred in "Shall We Dance?"


'FEAR FACTOR:' NBC's parent company Comcast has put the kibosh on an episode of the U.S. network's show "Fear Factor" showing contestants drinking donkey urine and semen.

NBC said Monday's installment of the reality competition series will be a repeat of an earlier episode, but TMZ said "Hee Haw! Hee Haw!" -- a new episode featuring contestants chugging donkey semen, then chasing it with glasses of urine -- was initially slated to air.

"Fear Factor" host Joe Rogan joked about the challenge, which was taped last summer, in a recent interview with the New York Daily News.

"I say, in the real world, in a healthy society, you're not supposed to eat animal [expletive,] but guess what? Here you have to eat animal [expletive] if you want to win $50,000," Rogan said.


JENNIFER LOPEZ: Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez will be a presenter at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, the telecast's producers said Monday.

Lopez is a judge on "American Idol" and will be seen next in the feature "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 are to be presented Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. The ceremony is to be televised live on ABC.

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