Friday's special telecast of "America's Most Wanted" -- focusing on terrorists at the suggestion of the White House and the FBI -- generated hundreds more fugitive tips than usual, according to a report in USA Today.
"America's Most Wanted: Terrorists -- A Special Edition" called viewers' attention to the federal government's recently released list of 22 "most wanted" terrorists. By Sunday morning, the number of tips received at the show's toll-free hotline -- 800-CRIME-TV -- was up to 1,300 tips, considerably more than the 200 to 500 tips normally generated by the show.
"We got so many tips," said "ANW" hosted John Walsh. "I was watching them pile up (Friday night). We got stacks and stacks."
The newspaper said one call came from a taxi driver who said he believes he drove Mohammed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, to various Washington, D.C., landmarks before the attacks.
The special drew an estimated 7.6 million viewers, the second-largest audience in its time slot.
CLOSE CALL AT U.S. BOX OFFICE
Cops and robbers slugged it out for supremacy at the U.S. box office over the weekend, while a third party -- the anthrax scare -- complicated the job at hand for movies in general.
Denzel Washington as a rogue cop in "Training Day" finished on top in early estimates, taking in $13.5 million in its second weekend in release. Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton grossed an estimated $13.4 million in their new comedy, "Bandits."
Distribution executives at Warner Bros. said "Training Day" lost a lot of business on Friday night -- almost certainly as a result of extensive news coverage during the day of developments in the ongoing anthrax scare. The scare cost MGM some high-visibility promotion on Friday, when Willis' scheduled appearances on "Good Morning America" and "Live With Regis and Kelly" were disrupted by news coverage.
Disney's Chris Kattan comedy, "Corky Romano," opened in third place with an estimated $9.3 million. "Serendipity," starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in a mystical romantic comedy, grossed an estimated $9 million in its second weekend, good for fourth place.
"Bandits" has been well reviewed and may benefit from positive word of mouth, but the box-office becomes more competitive this weekend, with the release of three movies featuring big-name talent. Robert Redford opens in "The Last Castle," Drew Barrymore shows up in "Riding in Cars With Boys" and Johnny Depp and Heather Graham open in "From Hell."
Overall, the U.S. box-office took in an estimated $85.5 million over the weekend -- a 1 percent improvement from the same weekend in 2000. For the year to date, the U.S. box office has grossed almost $6.2 billion, about 9 percent ahead of last year's pace.
'TRAINING DAY' DIRECTOR HAS TV SERIES DEAL
Antoine Fuqua -- the director of the current box-office hit, "Training Day" -- has teamed up with Mel Gibson's production company to develop a drama series for ABC-TV, celebrating an elite U.S. Coast Guard unit in Miami.
Gibson's company, Icon Productions, has previously presented the ABC-TV movie, "The Three Stooges," as well as the features, "What Women Want," and "Braveheart."
Fuqua told Daily Variety he thinks now is a good time to produce a show about the elite Cost Guard officers.
"I think we need heroes right now," he said, "and the Coast Guard is about real people doing extraordinary things. These guys are diverse. They deal with drug smuggling, they do undercover work as well. It's a pretty big job."
RELATIVE UNKNOWN CAST FOR 'HULK'
Australian actor Eric Bana has snagged a plum role in Hollywood, as the star of acclaimed director Ang Lee's movie version of "The Incredible Hulk."
Bana got Hollywood's attention last year when he showed up at the Toronto Film Festival last year in "Chopper" -- as Mark "Chopper" Read, a legendary criminal who wrote his autobiography while serving a murder sentence in prison.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Ridley Scott signed him to co-star with Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor in "Black Hawk Down" -- an account of the mission of an elite force of American Delta units and Ranger infantry who were dropped into Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord. The expedition resulted in the deaths of 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalis.
Bana's earliest experience in show business came as a comic and TV host.
"He's a fresh face, but he's a veteran performer who has a unique combination of great strength and the most soulful eyes," said Arad.
Variety also reported that Fox and New Regency Productions are closing in on a deal with Ben Affleck to play the title character in "Daredevil," based on the Marvel Comics series -- and that production is expected to start next year on Fox's "X-Men" sequel with the entire cast from the 1999 feature set to join director Bryan Singer for a second go-around.
BEYONCE IN UPCOMING 'AUSTIN POWERS' PICTURE?
Beyoncé Knowles, who fronts the R&B sensation Destiny's Child, may make her feature film acting debut in "Austin Powers 3: Goldmember," the third installment of Mike Myers' swinging series of spy spoofs.
FilmStew.com reports that Knowles is in final talks to join the cast, which now includes Oscar-winning actor Michael Caine as Austin Powers' father.
"Goldmember" continues the never-ending battle between Powers, the groovy '60s secret agent, and his nemesis, Dr. Evil, the embodiment of evil film villain clichés. Myers plays both roles, and will also play the new villain, Goldmember -- a riff on the James Bond villain, Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Fröbe in the 1964 Bond movie, "Goldfinger."
Knowles made her acting debut this year, co-starring with Mekhi Phifer in the MTV movie, "Carmen: A Hip Hopera."
'BOND' PRODUCERS SHOOT DOWN KOURNIKOVA RUMOR
Producers of the upcoming James Bond movie are denying a published report that tennis star Anna Kournikova is up for a role in the picture.
The Russian tennis star -- who is better known for her cheesecake posters than for her prowess on the court -- had been reported by the Express newspaper of London as a contender to join the likes of Ursula Andress, Jayne Seymour, Kim Basinger, Michelle Yeoh and dozens of other women who have appeared in Bond features over the years.
A spokeswoman for Eon Productions told BBC News Online that the story was absolutely untrue.
"We do not now where this story has come from but it is not true," said the spokeswoman. "The film is in pre-production and we are casting but Anna Kournikova has not been in any talks with us."
GOLDIE WILL PRODUCE TWAIN STORY
Twain wrote the piece in 1876, after "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." W.W. Norton published the story in September.
Hawn's company, Cosmic Entertainment, partnered with the Canadian production company, Alliance Atlantis, to acquire the rights from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, which holds the rights.
Twain's story centers around a Frenchman who is found in a field of snow near a small Missouri town, who refuses to explain how he got there, but lets on that he is a count and insinuates himself into the lives of the townspeople.
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