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By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Dec. 12, 2001 at 6:25 PM   |   Comments

LA SALLE PREPARES FOR FINAL 'ER' EXIT

Eriq La Salle final new episode as a regular cast member on "ER" is scheduled to run Thursday night on NBC.

He's leaving the show to pursue other opportunities, particularly in directing.

"We tried very hard to get Eriq to stay and were very disappointed when he decided to move on," said executive producer John Wells. "Eriq has been a great asset to 'ER' and an integral part of the show's success."

La Salle has played the brooding but talented Dr. Peter Benton since the show premiered in 1994.

The end of Dr. Benton's story line has him making a difficult choice between his work and his personal life, as the court case over custody of his son reaches a critical stage.

Michael Michele, who has played Benton's girlfriend, Cleo Finch for the past three seasons, is also leaving the show.


'MONSTERS' DIRECTOR MAKING 'CURIOUS GEORGE' FEATURE?

According to a report in Daily Variety, "Monsters, Inc." co-director David Silverman is in talks with Universal Studios to make a CGI (computer generated imagery) movie based on the classic children's book character, "Curious George."

Universal had tried in the past to develop a live-action version of "Curious George" with director Ron Howard and his producing partner, Brian Grazer -- something along the lines of their 2000 hit, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

The studio has yet to turn out its first CGI feature, but with the box-office numbers generated this year by "Shrek" ($267 million) and "Monsters, Inc." ($212 million and counting), more studios are expected to get into the CGI game.

Seven "Curious George" books have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, and the book series has been translated into 14 languages.


P. DIDDY, JENNY MCCARTHY TO HOST 'AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS'

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Jenny McCarthy have been named to host the 29th annual "American Music Awards," which will be telecast live over ABC on Jan. 9, 2002 from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The Grammy-winning Combs has produced multi-platinum records for such recording artists as Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, R. Kelly, LL Cool J, Smashing Pumpkins and Sting.

McCarthy parlayed her appearance as a Playboy Playmate into a gig hosting "Singled Out" on MTV, and went on to star in "Jenny," a half-hour comedy that ran on NBC in 1997-98. She has also appeared in several movies, including "Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead" and "Scream 3."


SPINAL TAP PLANS APPEARANCE WITH TENACIOUS D

Spinal Tap -- the mythical big hair, heavy metal band concocted by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and director Rob Reiner for the 1984 mock-umentary, "This Is Spinal Tap" -- will make an appearance on Dec. 20 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, to raise funds for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

The boys will share the stage with Tenacious D -- the band that features "Shallow Hall" star Jack Black -- and Weezer.

Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy the body needs to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, the consequences can be life-threatening.


HBO PREPS MARTIN-LEWIS MOVIE

HBO is planning a TV movie about the difficult but phenomenally successful show business partnership between Jerry Lewis and the late Dean Martin.

Lewis will be involved in the project as an executive producer, and is expected to make available his personal records and memorabilia -- including film and kinescope records of the work he and Martin did in nightclubs and on TV. There is no word yet on whether Martin's estate will cooperate with the production.

Martin and Lewis formed their comedy, song-and-dance partnership in 1946 and went on to become one of the major attractions in all of entertainment, starring on TV specials and 16 Hollywood movies.

Their acrimonious breakup in 1956 made headlines around the world. Both enjoyed spectacular solo careers.

They kept their distance from one another, and only came together in public years later -- when Martin's Rat Pack buddy Frank Sinatra engineered an emotional reunion on Lewis' annual telethon to raise funds for muscular dystrophy.


BRITNEY SIGNS UP FOR PETA CAMPAIGN

Britney Spears -- who got blasted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for performing with a tiger in a cage at the last MTV Awards -- reportedly has agreed to pose in the altogether for an upcoming PETA campaign.

The New York Post reported that Spears will appear in a poster that is expected to be available for Christmas.

"It's very exciting news," PETA spokesman Dan Mathews told the paper. "We are really thrilled to have Britney join our new crop of fur-fighters."

Mathews said PETA wrote to Spears after the MTV show, asking her to consider what the show business experience had done to the tiger -- trapped in a cage under hot lights, with the audience providing "frightening levels of noise." He said PETA received a letter a few weeks later saying Spears has "abandoned using animals" on tour.

"She took our message to heart," he said. "There's so many different animal issues, and you can't expect that everyone is born Gandhi. We think Britney has set a great example of someone who listened to what we had to say and made a change."

The Post said Spears has also agreed to model faux-leather apparel on PETA's Web site (pleatheryourself.com), which features fetish wear and non-leather shoes and accessories.

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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