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News from the entertainment capital

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Dec. 21, 2001 at 4:00 PM   |   Comments

EARLY NUMBERS ARE STRONG FOR 'RINGS'

Fans showed up in big numbers Wednesday for the opening of "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" -- spending an estimated $18.2 million to see the movie on 5,711 screens across the United States.

The movie opened in 13 foreign markets the same day, pulling in $11.5 million on its first day in release overseas.

Box-office analysts say those numbers are very impressive, given that the movie runs for close to three hours -- which cuts down considerably on the number of times it can play in one day.

New Line, the AOL Time Warner company that produced the movie, expects "Rings" to benefit at the box-office by virtue of its four Golden Globe nominations -- including one for best drama movie.

The studio estimates that the movie -- the first of director Peter Jackson's three-movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel -- will probably gross somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 million or $75 million in its first five days in theaters. Some box-office analysts say the number could be as high as $80 million.


DREW TOUGHS IT OUT

Two days after MTV comedian Tom Green filed for divorce after less than six months of marriage to Drew Barrymore, the star of "Charlie's Angels" and "Riding in Cars with Boys" was on the set and ready to work on her new movie, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."

According to gossip columnist Mitchell Fink, Barrymore shot her first scene in the movie -- calling for her character to propose marriage to game show host-producer Chuck Barris -- played by her "Charlie's Angels" co-star, Sam Rockwell.

George Clooney is directing the movie, based on Barris' autobiography, in which he claimed that his work in TV was actually a cover for his true calling as a CIA assassin. Barris produced such shows as "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game," and was the host of "The Gong Show."


THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT ACTING

Hugh Jackman is, by all accounts, one of the nice guys in the acting game -- and it almost cost him his star-making role as Wolverine in "X-Men."

In an interview with GQ, Jackman said he had only been on the job for two weeks when director Bryan Singer took him aside and challenged him to be nastier.

"There's an obvious problem with you," Jackman recalled Singer's words. "You seem like a pretty nice guy, a very happy guy. We need the opposite of that."

By Jackman's account, Singer told him if he didn't deliver more "venom" as Wolverine, he would be replaced. Jackman gave Singer what he wanted -- which turned out to be what movie fans wanted, too -- and Jackman was on his way.

Now, he's on the Hollywood A-list with a Golden Globe nomination to boot, for best actor in a musical/comedy movie, "Kate & Leopold."


JACK'S NEXT

According to a report in Daily Variety, Jack Nicholson has committed to star with Adam Sandler in "Anger Management," a comedy in which Sandler will play a timid man who mistakenly gets sentenced to attend an anger-management program.

In the bargain, his life is turned upside-down by an instructor who evidently still has a thing or two to learn about anger management.

Variety said Nicholson took more than one month to read the script before deciding to do the picture. No director has been named.


MUHAMMAD ALI WILL STAR IN TERRORISM WAR PSA

The committee of executives organizing Hollywood's contribution to the war on terrorism announced Thursday that legendary heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali will appear in the campaign's first public service announcement -- emphasizing that the war is on terrorism -- not on Islam or Arab people.

The PSA will be translated into several languages for consumption by audiences throughout the Muslim world -- including Pakistan and the Middle East.

Motion Picture Association of America president-CEO Jack Valenti -- who heads the committee -- made the announcement at a news conference, at which it was also announced that the cable channel Starz! Encore has prepared a PSA campaign of its own, intended to promote tolerance towards Arab-Americans in the United States.


POLS TAKE ON NBC ALCOHOL AD DECISION

Two members of Congress have put NBC on notice that they might prepare a legislative response if the network refuses to reverse its recently announced policy of airing ads for hard liquor in primetime.

In a letter to NBC chairman-CEO Bob Wright, president-CEO Andrew Lack and network president Randy Falco, Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., told the network they were "shocked" by the new policy.

"It is a sad commentary that your bottom line today is more important to your company than the lives of young people tempted to drink or recovering alcoholics trying to beat their disease," said Wolf and Roybal-Allard in the letter.

At a news conference in Washington, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., endorsed the sentiments expressed in the Wolf and Allard-Roybal letter. And FCC Commissioner Michael Copps put out a statement accusing NBC of disregarding its social responsibility by running liquor ads by engaging in "a race to the bottom."

NBC has been on the defensive ever since announcing the policy last week, explaining to anyone who will listen that it is imposing tough restrictions on ads -- including a requirement that each sponsor pay for and air a series of responsible drinking messages.


ELLIOTT, NOLTE LINED UP FOR 'HULK'

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sam Elliott ("Mask," "The Big Lebowski") and Nick Nolte ("Affliction," "Down and Out in Beverly Hills") have signed on to star in "The Hulk" -- director Ang Lee's movie adaptation of the Marvel comic, "The Incredible Hulk."

Elliott reportedly will play Gen. Ross, the head of the military base where research scientist Dr. Bruce Banner accidentally turns himself into the big green bruiser. Nolte will play Banner's father. Eric Bana ("Black Hawk Down," "Chopper") plays Banner.

The movie -- a blend of live-action and computer-generated effects -- is tentatively scheduled to open in June 2003.

© 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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