MGM officials are going public to explain why they fought so hard to prevent New Line Cinema from using the word "Goldmember" as part of the title of the third Austin Powers movie.
The studio issued a statement, attributed to Jay Rakow, senior executive vice president and general counsel.
MGM convinced the Motion Picture Association of America to disallow the use of the word, on the grounds that it sounds too much like "Goldfinger" -- the name of a 1964 James Bond movie.
The controversy has included reports that MGM offered to drop its objection if New Line would change the release date of the upcoming Denzel Washington movie "John Q," making the weekend of Feb. 15 a bit less competitive for MGM's Bruce Willis picture "Hart's War." There were also reports that New Line offered money to MGM and that MGM had agreed to use Austin Powers creator Mike Myers to promote an upcoming telecast of "Goldfinger."
Rakow said none of those reports is accurate.
"There have been erroneous reports in connection with the decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to prohibit the use of the Goldmember title by New Line Cinema," said Rakow. "For the record ... New Line Cinema approached executives of MGM ... and offered to move the release date of the New Line motion picture 'John Q' if that would resolve the title dispute over Goldmember."
Rakow said MGM rejected the offer "as being inadequate consideration for what New Line had done."
He suggested the dispute might have been resolved by "a substantial cash license payment by New Line at levels comparable to what the Bond films customarily command from promotional partners," but that New Line never offered a monetary settlement.
Rakow said New Line did offer Myers' services to promote the ABC telecast of "Goldfinger," and also offered to attach trailers for the upcoming James Bond movie to the new Austin Powers movie and the second installment of "The Lord of the Rings."
HOW WHOOPI GOT HER OSCAR BACK
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed that someone stole Whoopi Goldberg's Oscar when it was sent out for cleaning, but it has been recovered.
Goldberg -- who won the supporting actress Oscar for "Ghost" in 1990 -- sent the statuette to the academy, which then sent it on to R.S. Owens, the Chicago company that fabricates the Oscar statuettes and occasionally cleans them and applies fresh coats of gold plating.
When UPS delivered the package to Owens on Tuesday, the box was empty. A spokesman for Goldberg said it looked as though someone took the Oscar out of the package and resealed it.
The spokesman said UPS told him a security guard at Ontario Airport in Southern California reported finding the statuette in a trash bin. UPS said it would return the item to the academy.
Goldberg -- who will host the upcoming Oscars telecast -- has changed her mind about having the statuette reconditioned.
"Oscar will never leave my house again," said Goldberg in a press release.
The incident brings back memories of the theft of 55 new statuettes two years ago. The Oscars were taken from a loading dock at a delivery depot near Los Angeles. Fifty-two of them were recovered when a man found them near a trash bin in Hollywood.
Three men pleaded no contest to charges of theft in the case.
'SEX' HITS THE SPOT AT DGA
The Emmy-winning HBO comedy "Sex and the City" really scored with the Directors Guild of America, bagging three of the five nominations for the DGA Award for best comedy series directing.
The other two nominations went to Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle" and NBC's "Will & Grace."
Allen Coulter was nominated for directing the "Sex and the City" episode entitled "Defining Moments." Michael Engler was nominated for "My Motherboard, Myself." Michael Patrick King is up for directing "The Real Me."
Todd Holland was nominated for directing the "Bowling" episode on "Malcolm" -- which won him an Emmy Award last year. James Burrows collected his 18th nomination -- extending his DGA record -- for the "Bed, Bath & Beyond" episode of "Will & Grace."
Burrows has won the DGA Award four times, including last year for "Will & Grace."
In the drama category, the NBC White House drama "The West Wing" had two nominations -- one for Paris Barclay for "The Indians in the Lobby" episode, and one for Thomas Schlamme for the "Two Cathedrals" episode. Schlamme won the drama award last year for "The West Wing."
The other drama nominees are Alan Ball for the pilot of HBO's "Six Feet Under," Steve Buscemi for the "Pine Barrens" episode of "Sopranos" and Stephen Hopkins for the pilot of Fox's "24."
The DGA will hand out its awards March 9 in Los Angeles.
THE RULES ARE THE RULES
Two of the most highly decorated screenplays of 2001 will not be eligible for the Writers Guild of America's top screenwriting award -- and consequently will be at a disadvantage when it comes to competition for the Oscar.
The WGA has ruled that the screenplays for "In the Bedroom" and "Memento" do not qualify for WGA honors, because the writers were not members of the guild when the movies were made, and the productions were not WGA signatories.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan's trophy case is already brimming with honors for his "Memento" screenplay. It was named best screenplay by the American Film Institute, the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. It was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice Award.
"In the Bedroom" -- co-written by Rob Festinger and director Todd Field -- was nominated for the AFI award and was a finalist for the USC Scripter Award, presented each year to recognize the best screen adaptation of a previously published word.
"Our objective is to protect writers," WGA, west, president Victoria Riskin told Daily Variety. "But it's not easy when some wonderful screenwriting can't qualify. It always stirs up debate among the members when something like this happens. But the members' concerns are with getting the writers their benefits and protecting their rights."
Aaron Ryder, an executive producer on "Memento," told Variety his production company, Newmarket Film Group, will just have to live with the situation.
"It would've been great to get a Writers Guild nomination, or to win," he aid, "but we're excited about the film's future, we're proud of our Golden Globe nomination and so we're not angry."
The WGA will announce the nominees for its feature film awards on Thursday.
STARS COME OUT FOR OSCARS
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday that Ben Stiller will make his second appearance as a presenter on the upcoming Oscars telecast.
Stiller ("Zoolander," "Meet the Parents") is in theaters in "The Royal Tenenbaums." He's also working, co-starring with Drew Barrymore in "Duplex" -- a dark comedy about a couple who contemplate homicide as a means of getting into a coveted apartment in the perfect New York neighborhood.
FRANK OZ'S SMALL SCREEN PROJECT
Frank Oz -- best known as the voice of Yoda in the "Star Wars" movies and the voices of the Muppets Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster -- is also a pretty successful movie director, and now he's taking on series TV.
Oz -- whose movie directing credits include "The Score" (2001), "In & Out" (1997), "HouseSitter" (1992) and "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986) -- has signed on to direct his first TV pilot. "The Funkhausers," described as the story of an eccentric family, was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein -- both veterans of a long-running comedy about an eccentric family, "The Simpsons."
INNOCENT, YOUR HONOR!
Winona Ryder has entered an innocent plea in Los Angeles on four felony charges in connection with her recent arrest on suspicion of shoplifting on Beverly Hills' ritzy Rodeo Drive.
The star of the upcoming Adam Sandler movie "Mr. Deeds" was hauled in on Dec. 12 -- charged with theft, burglary, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. The painkiller Oxycodone is a morphine derivative.
Investigators said Ryder was trying to take $4,800 worth of merchandise from the Saks Fifth Avenue store without paying.
The star of "Little Women," "The Age of Innocence" and "Girl, Interrupted" is free on $20,000 bond. If convicted of all charges, she could face up to three years and eight months in prison.
Her attorney, Mark Geragos, said Ryder was not shoplifting but was simply carrying the items between store departments. He also said she had a prescription for the Oxycodone.