AUSTIN POWERS LOSES TITLE
The Motion Picture Association of America has rejected New Line Cinema's appeal of its earlier decision denying use of the title "Austin Powers in Goldmember" for the third installment of Mike Myers' "Austin Powers" franchise.
MGM -- which challenged New Line's use of the term, claiming that it sounds too much like the title of the 1964 James Bond movie "Goldfinger" -- issued a statement expressing satisfaction with the MPAA's ruling.
"We are gratified that the title issue has been resolved in our favor," said the statement, "and we intend to vigorously protect our other intellectual property rights in this matter."
Even though both previous Powers movies have poked considerable fun at Bond and the super spy movie genre in general -- including "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" -- this is the first time that the MPAA has denied New Line permission to suggest a specific Bond reference.
New Line indicated that it will accept the MPAA ruling, even though it could pursue the matter in a court of law.
"The appeal process has come to a close, and though New Line is disappointed by the MPAA's decision, we will abide by it," said the studio in a statement. "We remain committed to our filmmaker's vision and are moving forward."
Scheduled for a July 26 release, the third Powers movie features Mike Myers as four characters -- including the super villain Goldmember. There is speculation in Hollywood that even the character's name might be a bone of contention because -- with its victory at the MPAA -- MGM could take the next step and raise formal objections to specific content in the movie.
SWEEPS GIMMICK CASTING
NBC has announced that some high-profile guest stars will appear on various primetime shows during the February sweeps period, when the networks go all out to generate the highest possible ratings so they can set the highest possible ad rates.
Michael Keaton ("Batman," "Beetlejuice") will guest star on "Frasier" on Feb. 26 -- playing Dr. Frasier Crane's (Kelsey Grammer) scheming, scamming ex-brother-in-law. Before he became a movie star in "Night Shift" (1982), Keaton appeared in several TV series, including "All's Fair" and "Working Stiffs."
Oscar-winning writer-actor Matt Damon ("Good Will Hunting," "Ocean's Eleven") will guest-star in a "super-sized" version of "Will & Grace" next Thursday as a young man who competes with Jack (Sean Hayes) for a coveted spot in a gay men's chorus. Desperate to get the gig, Jack tries to "in" Damon's character -- by proving that he's actually straight.
The game show "Weakest Link" will feature members of the long-running Emmy-winning "L.A. Law" in an episode scheduled to air in May -- when the network will celebrate its 75th year. The same month, which is also a sweeps period, will bring an "L.A. Law" reunion TV movie -- "L.A. Law: Return to Justice" -- to the network's schedule.
The "Weakest Link" episode will feature appearances by Jill Eikenberry (Ann Kelsey), Michael Tucker (Stuart Markowitz), Corbin Bernsen (Arnie Becker) and two-time Emmy-winner Larry Drake (Benny Stulwicz).
In eight seasons on NBC, "L.A. Law" won 15 Emmys -- including four for best drama series (1987, 1989-91).
'APES' EXTRAS IN CLASS ACTION SUIT
Hundreds of extras who wore monkey suits in Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake have joined together in a class action suit -- alleging that their health was endangered by exposure to a carcinogenic powder the special-effects unit used to create dust storm.
In the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, a plaintiff identified as Jeffrey Clark is demanding unspecified compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of extras who were allegedly exposed to Fuller's Earth powder. The suit claims the powder contains a lung irritant and a known carcinogen, and that the extras were exposed to it for eight hours a day while they were employed by the production.
The suit claims that the extras have suffered "irritation, both acute and chronic, to the lungs and respiratory system" ever since.
STARS COME OUT FOR OSCARS
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday that Julia Roberts will make her third appearance as a presenter at the 74th Academy Awards.
Roberts won the best actress Oscar last year for her performance in the title role of "Erin Brockovich," as a crusading mom who takes on the power establishment in California in a legal case involving environmental health and corporate responsibility -- and wins.
The star of "Ocean's Eleven," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Notting Hill" was previously nominated for a best actress Oscar for "Pretty Woman" in 1990 and a supporting actress Oscar for "Steel Magnolias" in 1989.
The deadline has arrived for voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to return their completed Oscar nomination ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Ballots received after 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 will not be counted, as PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Greg Garrison and Rick Rosas tabulate the preferences of academy members for the 74th Academy Awards.
The nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The Oscars will be handed out on March 24 at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
THE KIDS GETS A SPECIAL SPOT
Dakota Fanning, the 7-year-old co-star of "I Am Sam" who this week became the youngest actor ever nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for an individual performance, will introduce a special tribute to child actors at the 8th Annual SAG Awards.
In past years, the awards show has spotlighted character actors, commercial actors, background singers, dancers, background performers, animation voice-over performers and stunt performers.
Haley Joel Osment was 12 when he was nominated in 2000 for his supporting performance in "The Sixth Sense." Jena Malone was 12 when she was nominated in 1997 for her performance in the TV movie "Bastard out of Carolina".
Fanning's performance as the daughter of a mentally challenged man, played by Sean Penn, has also been recognized with young performer honors from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society and the Golden Satellite Awards.
Up next for Fanning is "Sweet Home Alabama," starring Reese Witherspoon as a woman who runs away from her working class life and reinvents herself as a socialite in New York. Fanning plays the character as a child.
'FERRARI' -- THE MOVIE
According to a report in Daily Variety, "Ali" director Michael Mann is developing a movie biography of Enzo Ferrari -- whose family revolutionized the high-powered Italian sports car and practically invented Formula One racing.
The screenplay -- based on the book "Enzo Ferrari: The Man, the Cars, the Race, the Machine" -- is being developed by David Rayfiel ("Sabrina," "The Firm," "The Morning After").