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Hollywood digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   March 21, 2002 at 2:58 PM   |   Comments

NBC KNOWS WHEN TO 'SAY WHEN'

NBC says its decision to drop a recently adopted policy of carrying ads for hard liquor was a response to concerns expressed by "the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Commerce Committee."

Media analysts say the decision was largely motivated by fear that a congressional investigation into the practice would reach out to include an examination of all alcohol advertising, including beer and wine -- a major source of revenue for the broadcast networks for decades.

NBC had run a limited number of public service announcements, sponsored by liquor companies, about responsible drinking during its late-night programming. The messages were required under the network's policy to run ads for actual liquor products.

Jerry McGee, president of the Los Angeles office of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency -- which represents liquor companies -- told the Los Angeles Times NBC had hopes of reaping more than $100 million in new ad revenue by carrying liquor ads. But McGee said that when Congress announced it would hold hearings on the use of public airwaves to promote hard liquor, the network sensed that all kinds of alcohol ads would come under scrutiny.

"NBC realized it ran a huge risk of actually losing current sources of revenues," said McGee.

Beer and wine advertisers spend more than $1 billion annually to advertise on broadcast networks.

When NBC announced three months ago that it would accept ads for distilled spirits, some media analysts suggested the decision was at least partially motivated by last year's downturn in ad spending. The policy reversal may go down easier for the network in view of recent signs of a recent ad revenue comeback.


DEPP'S NEXT

According to published reports in Hollywood, Johnny Depp has signed to star as J.M. Barrie -- the writer who created Peter Pan -- in "Neverland," a movie about Barrie's life.

The project is being directed by Marc Forster, the director of Halle Berry's current box-office hit "Monster's Ball."


MURPHY'S NEXT

Eddie Murphy is reportedly in negotiations to star in a movie based on the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland.

Also, "Stuart Little" director Rob Minkoff is said to be in talks to direct the picture, in which Murphy would play a dad who is preoccupied with his professional life, until a ghost teaches him a lesson about the importance of family.


CANDICE BERGEN HAVING 'MUCH MORE FUN'

Candace Bergen -- who won five Emmys as the star of the long-running CBS comedy "Murphy Brown" -- likes the kinds of roles she is getting at 55.

"I love the crackpot roles," said Bergen in an interview with More magazine. "For a long time, I was ambivalent about acting. I always thought it would be fun to do character roles, but it wasn't exactly what sprang to mind when I was being cast. Finally, I'm getting characters that are much more fun."

Bergen's resume now features a role as mayor of New York City, in the upcoming Reese Witherspoon comedy "Sweet Home Alabama." In Gwyneth Paltrow's "A View from the Top," coming in August, Bergen plays a sort of "mother superior" for flight attendants.

"I feel like a duenna," she said. "I get to work with all these young, kinda hotshot women: Sandy Bullock, Gwyneth, Reese. They are all so together, and so accomplished. It's incredible."


PAM ANDERSON'S HEALTH

Pamela Anderson says she has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, and blames the infection on sharing a tattoo needle with her former husband, musician Tommy Lee.

In a statement released by her publicist, the star of the syndicated action-drama "VIP" said she has undergone outpatient treatment at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Anderson -- who is battling Lee in court for custody of their two children -- said she did not know that Lee was infected.

"He never disclosed it to me during our marriage," she said.

Lee challenged Anderson's allegation in a statement issued by his publicist.

"Her actions today are a clear attack on Tommy," said the statement, "and hopefully she will realize that she is only doing more harm to her children and herself by trying to use the media as a tool to hurt Tommy and their two boys."


STARS LINE UP FOR OSCARS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that several more stars have been added to the list of presenters at the 74th Academy Awards.

The roster includes two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster ("The Accused," "The Silence of the Lambs") and Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi"). Two of this year's Oscar nominees -- Will Smith (best actor, "Ali") and Ethan Hawke (supporting actor, "Training Day") will also appear as presenters.

Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson, Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal, Ryan Phillippe, Sharon Stone, Naomi Watts and Reese Witherspoon will also appear as presenters on Sunday's telecast.

© 2002 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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