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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   April 19, 2002 at 4:19 PM
ROCK ROLLS INTO BOX OFFICE

Calendar spring is not even one-month old, but today is the first day of box-office summer, as the first of a slate of anticipated summer blockbusters arrives in U.S. theaters.

"The Scorpion King," featuring wrestling superstar The Rock in his first starring role, will play on 4,904 screens at 3,443 theaters this weekend. Box-office analysts expect the spinoff of "The Mummy" (1999) and "The Mummy Returns" (2001) will gross in the neighborhood of $40 million in its opening weekend.

The current record for an opening weekend in April is $20.4 million, set in 1999 when Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence opened in the prison comedy "Life."

Box-office summer used to begin on Memorial Day, but studios have been opening big pictures earlier in recent years. "The Mummy" opened with $43.4 million the first weekend in May, and "The Mummy Returns" did $68.1 million, also over the first weekend in May. That territory has been staked out this year by "Spider-Man."

This weekend's other major release is "Murder by Numbers," a thriller starring Sandra Bullock as an FBI profiler trying to nail two gifted high school students who think they can get away with murder and pin it on someone else.


POLANSKI RETURNING TO FACE THE MUSIC?

A Los Angeles TV station is reporting that director Roman Polanski ("Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby") is planning to return to the United States to deal with longstanding legal problems relating to his 1978 guilty plea in a case involving sex with a minor.

KTLA reported that the 68-year-old Polanski has agreed to terms on a deal with Los Angeles prosecutors that will spare him prison time. Polanski fled the United States for France to avoid going to prison for having sex with a 13-year old girl at the home of "Chinatown" star Jack Nicholson.


MIA AND WOODY

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Mia Farrow has refused permission for producers of a documentary about the films of Woody Allen to include any clips from the 13 movies she made with her ex-husband -- before he left her for her adopted daughter, Sun-Yi.

Turner Classic Movies has scheduled "Woody Allen: A Life in Film" for May 4. Producers of the TCM documentary needed to get permission from the actors who appear in clips, under Screen Actors Guild rules -- and Farrow refused.

Farrow first worked with Allen on "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" in 1982. She went on to star in "Broadway Danny Rose" (1984), "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (1985), "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986), "Radio Days" (1987) and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) -- among other Allen titles.

Her last picture with Allen, "Husbands and Wives" (1992), was released in mid-scandal and got unintended laughs from some lines of dialogue that seemed to come out of Allen's private life.

Film historian and critic Richard Schickel -- who produced, wrote and directed the documentary -- told the paper Farrow's decision was disappointing but he managed to compensate for the lack of Farrow footage.

"Other material covered the same ground," said Schickel.

Allen sat for extended interviews for the documentary last year.


CASTING NOTES

Gretchen Mol ("Cradle Will Rock," "Donnie Brasco") and Kathleen Robertson ("I Am Sam," "Scary Movie 2") have joined the cast of "Girls Club," the new TV show David E. Kelley is developing for the Fox network.

They will play two of three main characters on the show -- young attorneys who also room together in a trendy section of San Francisco.

Luke Wilson ("Charlie's Angels," "My Dog Skip") will co-star with Bob Dylan in "Masked & Anonymous" -- with Dylan as a singer-songwriter who gets out of jail to play one last date. Dylan played a jaded rock legend in the 1987 movie "Hearts of Fire." He directed himself in "Renaldo and Clara," a 1978 fictionalized account of his Rolling Thunder Review tour.

Billy Bob Thornton reportedly will star in "Bad Santa" -- a comedy expected in theaters for Christmas 2003 release about a couple of guys who dress as Santa and en elf as they commit robberies at shopping malls.


CREDITS WHERE THEY'RE DUE?

Officials from unions representing actors, writers, directors and other film and TV professionals met in Hollywood Thursday to plan a campaign to discourage a new trend in TV -- the speedup of credits at the end of shows -- and reports that the Discovery Networks plan to eliminate onscreen credits altogether.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has adopted a resolution supporting "readable credits," and rejecting a suggestion by Discovery executives that viewers be steered to a Web site to see who was responsible for a production.


ACADEMY TO KICK OFF DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced plans to launch a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary with a gala, invitation-only party on May 8 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The Academy's original organizational banquet was held at the historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on May 11, 1927.

The 75th anniversary celebration will run through 2003 -- including the 75th Academy Awards on March 23.

The keystone event of the year-long celebration is an 18-month-long screening series -- "Facets of the Diamond: 75 Years of Best Picture Winners" -- beginning on May 13. The series will present all of the best picture Oscar winners in chronological order, with one exception. "Wings," the first Oscar-winner, will be saved for a special event on May 16, 2003 -- the anniversary of the date it took the first best picture Oscar in 1929.

© 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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