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Daily Digest

By PAT NASON   |   Oct. 16, 2001 at 6:07 PM
SPACEY SLAMS FALWELL

Two-time Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey has a few choice words for Rev. Jerry Falwell in the November issue of W Magazine, taking the conservative religious leader to task for remarks that Falwell made in a TV appearance with Rev. Pat Robertson after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Falwell's remarks -- in which he more or less blamed gays and liberals for the attacks -- raised a firestorm of protest, which prompted Falwell to apologize and retract the accusation within days after the appearance.

"What an absolute dunce!" Spacey told W writer Merle Ginsberg. "I couldn't believe his (1999) comments about Teletubbies and now the World Trade Center! You would think that maybe, at a moment like this, those kind of stupid ... right-wing ideological comments would not be needed. But then he's a bonehead, so how would he know?"

Spacey, who is currently promoting his new movie, "K-PAX," told the magazine "it's just embarrassing that (Falwell is) a public figure in American life. Absolutely infuriating!"


MINNELLI RILES REYNOLDS?

According to gossip columnist Mitchell Fink, Debbie Reynolds has a problem with Liza Minnelli's decision to pull out of Reynolds' major fund-raiser, the Thalian Ball, last Saturday in Los Angeles.

The event benefits the mental health clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A.

This year's event paid special tribute to Minnelli's ex-husband, Jack Haley Jr., who died in April. Fink reported that organizers, including Reynolds, had hoped that an appearance by Minnelli would translate into more bucks in the hat.

A spokesman for the Oscar-winning star of "Cabaret" denied reports that Minnelli is afraid to fly these days with her personal assistant, a Middle Eastern man named Mohammed. Michael Hartman acknowledged that Minnelli canceled the trip, but denied that her assistant is the reason why.

"She had something to do in New York this week," said Hartman. "And when the president and FBI issued warnings and alerts, she realized she didn't want to be stuck out of town."


THE RETURN OF DR. LEWIS

Sherry Stringfield returns to the cast of "ER" this week, playing Dr. Susan Lewis -- the character she originated in the show's first season, 1994.

Stringfield left the show in 1996, saying she needed to have a life away from acting. In the meantime, she has taught drama at her alma mater, Purchase College in New York.

Now she's ready to go back to work in the Hollywood pressure cooker.

"I really want to work now," she told the New York Daily News. "It just made sense for me to go back to 'ER.' I know people there. It's such a great show and a great character."

Why is she coming back?

"I changed my mind," she told the paper, laughing.

Stringfield will join original cast mates Anthony Edwards, Eriq LaSalle and Noah Wyle. But Edwards and LaSalle will be gone after this season, which she said is a bummer.

"I'm like, 'Wait a minute, you can't leave,'" she said. "I'm going to get them to stay, but I understand."


'MOLE' GOES TO GROUND

ABC-TV has decided to put "The Mole 2: The Next Betrayal" back in its hole for a few months, largely because the show is off to a poor start in the 2001-02 ratings race.

It's the first time that a network has canceled a serialized reality show before the end of its scheduled run. The network plans to show "America's Funniest Videos" in the Friday, 8 p.m. time slot where "The Mole 2" has been running.

The strongest likelihood is that ABC will bring the series back early in 2001 and show it from the beginning.

Analysts said network news preoccupation with the air strikes on Afghanistan and the recent round of anthrax scares was a major reason for the show's poor performance in the marketplace.


THE RATINGS GAME

"Gilligan's Island" is a hit all over again.

Actually, it's "Surviving Gilligan's Island" that won the Sunday 9-11 p.m. time slot for CBS and helped the network win the night overall in total viewers.

Preliminary Nielsen numbers indicated that the special beat a first run episode of "The Practice" on ABC among adults 18-49, becoming the first show to turn that trick since Fox's presentation of "Titanic" during last November's sweeps.

ABC won the night among adults 18-49. Fox came out on top among adults 18-34.

"Alias" is strengthening its hand as a big hit for ABC, attracting an estimated 11.7 million Sunday night. NBC also had some success with its new show, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," which finished just behind "Alias" in the key 18-49 demographic -- and won the hour in total viewers.

ABC also put up good numbers with the network TV premiere of "The Emperor's New Groove."


JA RULE BOOKED FOR 'HALF PAST DEAD'

Rapper Ja Rule has a deal to co-star with Steven Seagal and Morris Chestnut in the upcoming heist movie, "Half Past Dead," described as the story of a criminal who tries to infiltrate a prison and get an inmate on death row to help him find $200 million in gold, hidden in a previous heist.

The cast also features rapper Kurupt and Bruce Weitz, best known as Belker on "Hill Street Blues."

Don Michael Paul will direct from his own screenplay. Paul has acted in the TV series, "Models Inc.," "Search for Grace" and "The Hat Squad" and movies such as "Robot Wars" and "Rich Girl."

He has directed episodes of the TV series, "Pacific Blue" and "Silk Stalkings," and has written for the series, "The Disciples" and "The Magnificent Seven." He also wrote the screenplay for the 1991 movie, "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man," starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson.


HONORS FOR VENERABLE FILM COMPOSER

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will honor Elmer Bernstein on Nov. 8, to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a film composer.

The program at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., will feature appearances by Bernstein and several of his colleagues, friends and admirers -- including Oscar-winning actor James Coburn, one of the stars of "The Magnificent Seven." Bernstein earned his second Oscar nomination for the memorable score for the 1960 loose remake of Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai."

Carl Reiner will emcee the event, which will feature clips from many of the pictures Bernstein wrote music for -- including "Trading Places," "Three Amigos," "National Lampoon's Animal House," "Devil in a Blue Dress" and "The Ten Commandments."

Bernstein won the Oscar for original music score for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 1967. He is currently working on the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie, "Gangs of New York."

From Nov. 9 through Dec. 1, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will screen 12 films for which Bernstein composed music, including the Oscar nominated "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "To Kill A Mockingbird."

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