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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Aug. 19, 2002 at 7:35 PM   |   Comments

OF COURSE, IT HELPED TO HAVE 'SPIDER-MAN'

Sony Pictures has set a new standard for box-office performance by a U.S. distributor -- taking in nearly $1.3 billion already in 2002.

Sony broke its own record, set in 1997, with amazing box-office numbers by "Spider-Man," stellar grosses for "Men in Black II" and lots of help from solid hits such as "XXX" and "Mr. Deeds." Six of its titles have opened at No. 1.

The studio still has 12 more pictures to release over the remaining four months of 2002, including its upcoming holiday attractions -- so it is sure to end the year with a much higher number than it has already registered.


'XXX' STILL ROARING AT THE BOX OFFICE

The summer box-office season may be sputtering to an end, but "XXX" had some gas left in its tank over the weekend -- finishing at No. 1 for the second time in its two weeks in release.

The Vin Diesel action picture took in an estimated $23 million, running its 10-day total to $84.9 million.

For the second straight week, Mel Gibson's supernatural thriller "Signs" was No. 2. With an estimated $19.5 million in its third weekend in release, "Signs" has run its overall total to $150.7 million.

The new surfer-girl action-drama "Blue Crush" opened in third place with an estimated $15.2 million.


MIKE FARRELL TO PORTRAY KEN LAY

Mike Farrell ("M*A*S*H," "Providence") has been cast as discredited corporate titan Kenneth Lay in the upcoming CBS-TV movie "The Crooked E," based on former Enron insider Brian Cruver's book "Anatomy of Greed."

Shannon Elizabeth ("Scary Movie," "American Pie") has also joined the cast, which also includes Brian Dennehy.

Penelope Spheeris will direct from a script by Stephen Mazur.


JEFF BRIDGES' NEXT FILM

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jeff Bridges is in final talks to co-star with Tobey Maguire in "Seabiscuit," the upcoming movie adaptation of Linda Hillenbrand's best-selling book about the legendary horse racing champion.

Writer-director Gary Ross ("Pleasantville," "Dave") is set to roll on the project in mid-October.

"From 'Tucker' to 'The Big Lebowski,' Jeff has an amazing body of work," Ross told the Reporter, "and we all feel honored to have him in our cast."


HESTON'S WELL-WISHERS

Charlton Heston -- who announced Aug. 9 that he might have Alzheimer's disease -- says it meant "a great deal" to him to get a well-wishing phone call from President George W. Bush, and it was really nice of former first lady Nancy Reagan to call him, too.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Oscar-winning actor said Bush called him last week.

"He wished me well and was proud of what I had done for my country," said Heston. "Which is, perhaps, overstating it a little."

He said Nancy Reagan -- whose husband, former President Ronald Reagan, suffers from Alzheimer's -- gave him and his wife Lydia her private number and invited them to call any time.

"It was really a nice thing for her to have done," said Heston. "She didn't really need to do that. After all, she's the president's wife."

Heston said he has no plans to let his health force him to retire from an acting career in which he won the best-actor Oscar for "Ben-Hur," and he plans to campaign during this year's political season.


STARS LINE UP FOR EMMYS

Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette will join the lineup of presenters for the 54th annual Primetime Emmy Awards program, to be telecast on Sept. 22 over NBC.

Newhart won an Emmy in 1962 for outstanding achievement in the field of humor for "The Bob Newhart Show." He has been nominated nine times overall, including three consecutive years for lead actor in a comedy series for "Newhart" (1985-87).

Newhart will be honored later this year with the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, presented each year since 1998 to recognize individual contributions to American humor. Past winners include Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner and Whoopi Goldberg.

Pleshette has been nominated for four Emmys, including two for lead actress in a comedy series (1977-78) for her performance as Newhart's wife in "The Bob Newhart Show." She stars in a new series on NBC this fall, "Good Morning Miami," created by the same team behind "Will & Grace."

© 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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