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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   June 13, 2002 at 4:54 PM   |   Comments

PRAISE FOR HANKS

The proverbial star-studded crowd turned out in Hollywood on Wednesday night for the American Film Institute's presentation of a life achievement award to two-time Oscar-winning actor-director Tom Hanks.

The guest list included Hanks co-stars Helen Hunt ("Cast Away"), Haley Joel Osment ("Forrest Gump") and Meg Ryan ("Joe Versus the Volcano," "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail").

Steven Spielberg presented the award to Hanks, who starred as an All-American G.I. in Spielberg's 1998 World War II epic, "Saving Private Ryan." The performance earned Hanks the fourth of his five Oscar nominations.

"I laid the film at Tom Hanks' feet," said Spielberg, "and he picked it up like a flag and carried it into America."

In his thank-you speech, Hanks downplayed celebrity, emphasizing the responsibility that filmmakers have to society.

"What a great job, to be hired to help interpret what can be great truths," he said. "If you're fortunate, you're part of cultural events more lasting and even more enlightening than anything else man has ever created."

The ceremony was taped for a June 24 telecast on the USA Network.


'BEN-HUR' ON THE DRAWING BOARD

Plans are under way for an animated version of "Ben-Hur," with Charlton Heston voicing the character he played in the 1959 epic, when he won the Oscar for best actor.

The feature-length project is planned for a video release in September or October.

The project is being developed by Agamemnon Films, the production company run by Heston's son, Fraser Heston, and John Stronach. The pair worked together in the 1996 feature "Alaska," directed by the younger Heston.

They also produced the video series "The Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible."


JUDGE REINSTATES SUIT AGAINST BOCHCO

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has reinstated a copyright infringement action against producer Steven Bochco and CBS, questioning their copyright claim on the short-lived inner-city hospital TV drama "City of Angels."

A trial court had earlier thrown out the claim by Jerome and Laurie Metcalf, ruling that scripts they had written were not sufficiently similar to screenplays that were used on the show.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower court ruling, declaring that there were striking similarities between the actual screenplays and the scripts turned in by the plaintiffs. A lawyer for Bochco and CBS said the appeals court opinion is flawed, and he expects to appeal.

The plaintiffs claim that they came up with an original treatment in 1989 for a show that featured mainly black characters, set in an inner-city hospital. The suit alleges that the Metcalfs showed the treatment to actor Michael Warren -- who knew Bochco from his days as an actor on the producer's Emmy-winning cop drama "Hill Street Blues" -- and that the material eventually ended up in Bochco's hands.

Warren was one of the stars of "City of Angels," which aired on CBS in 2000-01. The cast included Blair Underwood, Vivica A. Fox and Robert Morse.

Laurie Metcalf, the plaintiff, is not related to the actress of the same name who starred on TV in "Roseanne" and "The Norm Show."


SAG CONFLICT?

According to a report in Daily Variety, a trust in the name of Screen Actors Guild CEO Robert Pisano holds about $865,000 of investments in an online DVD company that is also held by Hollywood studios -- the major employers of Guild members.

The paper suggested that the arrangement is at odds with the union's recent decision to reject demands by agents that they be permitted to invest in production entities. SAG maintains that it would pose a conflict of interest and set up situations where actors might be working for agents who are supposed to represent them, not employ them.

Pisano said his investment in Netflix is not a conflict of interest. Gary Epp -- who headed the SAG search committee that recruited Pisano -- agreed, citing findings by an executive search firm and from guild attorneys.

"I have faith in the findings of Korn-Ferry and SAG legal staff and in Bob Pisano," Epp told Variety.

Pisano, who was hired by SAG last September, has sat on the Netflix board since 2000. He said he disclosed the investment to SAG elected officers before he was appointed to the union's top job.

Variety reports that SAG mentioned Pisano's seat on the Netflix board when it announced the appointment, but did not disclose the investment.

Pisano and SAG President Melissa Gilbert headed a campaign earlier this year urging members to ratify a new deal with agents that would ease restrictions on agency ownership. The measure was defeated when 55 percent of those voting turned it down.

© 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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