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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Aug. 16, 2002 at 3:06 PM   |   Comments

MAKING MORE 'FRIENDS'?

Lisa Kudrow, for one, would be happy to keep "Friends" on NBC's primetime schedule past the 2002-03 season, even though current plans call for this season -- the show's ninth -- to be its last.

Kudrow, who plays the slightly daffy Phoebe Buffay on the long-running comedy, told Daily Variety she personally is not ready to put the show to bed.

"I'm actually comfortable saying I'm not," said Kudrow. "Which means it probably will be the last year."

In an appearance Thursday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Matthew Perry sounded somewhat more definite about the show coming to an end after this season. Perry -- who is nominated for an Emmy this year for his performance as Chandler Bing on "Friends" -- said it's not very likely the show will be back for a 10th seasons in 2003-04.

Still Kudrow said she thinks the show still has a lot left in it.

"You know we all get along," she said, "and we still have fun and the writers are still working really hard and they do good stories."


FUTURE COPS

Steven Bochco -- the Emmy-winning creator of "NYPD Blue" and "Hill Street Blues" -- will produce a new cop show for Fox TV, this one set in New York City in 2069.

The show will center on a contemporary police officer who is thrust 65 years into the future, but Bochco said it will not present a post-apocalyptic future -- of the sort that has been visualized in such movies as "Road Warrior" and "Escape from New York."


EISNER'S BUY ORDER

At a time when other CEOs are under fire for dumping stock in the companies they run -- or once ran -- Walt Disney Co. boss Michael Eisner is making news for buying $10 million in Disney stock this week.

Eisner has been taking flak recently because Disney's stock price has been sagging -- hitting an eight-year low last week. A statement issued by the company said Eisner bought 725,700 shares to demonstrate "his personal confidence in the company's direction and prospects for growth over the long term."

Graef Crystal, an expert on executive pay who once consulted Disney on Eisner's pay package, told the Los Angeles Times that Eisner's stock purchase appears to be intended to defuse recent tension between the Disney board and the CEO credited with turning the company around in the 1980s.

"He's saying, 'I know that the company's in trouble, but I have confidence in my management and I wouldn't put my money in it if I didn't think I'd get a good return,'" said Crystal.

With almost 14 million shares, Eisner is the second-largest individual Disney stockholder, behind Roy Disney. The nephew of the company's founder, the late Walt Disney, owns 17.5 million shares.


LEO IN A TOGA!

Leonardo DiCaprio is reportedly in talks to reteam with director Baz Luhrmann ("William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet") in Dino De Laurentiis' upcoming production of a movie epic about Alexander the Great.

Luhrmann, who directed the 2001 best picture nominee "Moulin Rouge!," has partnered with De Laurentiis to construct new soundstages in Morocco to use for the production. De Laurentiis and Luhrmann plan an opening reception at the new facility on Sept. 6.

According to published reports, De Laurentiis has sewed up a commitment from Morocco's king -- Mohammed VI -- to use the 39-year-old king's personal army and 1,000 horses to stage the epic battle scenes.

Ted Tally ("The Silence of the Lambs") wrote the screenplay, based on Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novels about the Macedonian who conquered the known world.

At the same time, plans are moving forward on an Alexander the Great project involving Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone ("Platoon," "Wall Street"), with Colin Farrell ("Minority Report") starring as Alexander.


FOX BACK IN BUSINESS WITH ABC?

Michael J. Fox and ABC are close to a deal for Fox to create, write and produce a TV series, described as a family comedy about a professional hockey player who is forced into early retirement by an untimely injury and spends more time with his family.

Fox won three straight Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for "Family Ties" (1986-88). He was nominated for the same award for three straight seasons (1997-99) for his performance on the ABC comedy "Spin City."

Fox starred in "Spin City" from 1996 until he left the show in 2000, announcing that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and wanted to devote his time to advocating on behalf of other Parkinson's victims.


CASTING NOTES

Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne," "The Norm Show") will join Nathan Lane in the cast of his upcoming CBS comedy series, "Charlie Lawrence" -- formerly known as "Life of the Party."

Lane, the Tony-winning star of "The Producers," will play a one-time TV star who wins a seat in Congress. Metcalf will play his chief of staff.

CBS has ordered six episodes of the series. Plans call for adding it to the primetime schedule at midseason.


CHICKS HEADED BACK TO PRIMETIME

Now that their legal problems with their first label have been resolved, the Dixie Chicks are flying high once more -- with a new chart album and plans for their second primetime TV special.

"Home" -- the Chicks' first record on their own Open Wide Records label -- is due in stores Aug. 27. It has already produced one hit single, "Long Time Gone."

NBC will tape the Grammy-winning trio's Aug. 15 and 16 concert dates at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, for later broadcast as their first primetime TV concert special in two years. The special will be produced and directed by Joel Gallen, who is up for an Emmy for last year's post-Sept. 11 all-star fundraising TV show "America: A Tribute to Heroes."

Gallen also produced and directed the Chicks' debut TV special, "Dixie Chicks: On the Fly," which aired on NBC in November 2000.


STARS LINE UP FOR EMMYS

Producers of the upcoming 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards have announced that "Will & Grace" stars Eric McCormack and Debra Messing will be presenters on the telecast, scheduled for Sept. 22 on NBC.

Conan O' Brien will emcee the Emmys telecast at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

McCormack won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series last year for his performance as Will Truman on "Will & Grace." Messing has been nominated for three consecutive years for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her work as Grace Adler on the show.

© 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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