The planned Howard Hughes biopic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will apparently be budgeted at over $100 million -- making it a major film. People magazine is reporting that the movie will focus only on the reclusive billionaire's early years. "The Aviator" will reunite DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese. Their most recent collaboration was the gritty, just-released "Gangs of New York." Hughes became legendary. First, for his high-flying exploits, setting a slew of international flying records. Then for his days in Hollywood, finally owning RKO Studios and assuming he "owned" the starlets as well. Eventually, he would become an incredible recluse, afraid of germs, becoming the object of jokes. At one point, a publication noted that Hughes was "missing." Red Skelton then quipped: "How can a man who hasn't been seen for 10 years suddenly show up missing?" By the way, the publication says that Warren Beatty had planned to make a self-starring flick about Hughes but the project never came to fruition. Meanwhile, there is a plan in the works for Jim Carrey to star in a Hughes film about the enigmatic man's later life.
GILL TO PREVIEW UPCOMING TOUR AT CLUB
Chart-busting singer Vince Gill has decided to give the citizens of Music City USA the chance to see what his 2003 tour will be like, ahead of time. He will stage much of the event at a Nashville Club. CMT is reporting that Gill is billing the performances (not totally polished) as a series of "live band rehearsals." The events will take place at Nashville's popular nightspot the Exit/In. Tickets will be priced at an affordable $20, much less than fans will have to pay during the run of the tour. It's set to begin in late January. The circuit will be timed to coincide with the release of Gill's latest CD, "Next Big Thing." Gill tells the network that essentially his band will be the "house band" at the club for several nights during the rehearsals.
SHARON STONE ... GENEROUS WOMAN
Actress Sharon Stone is not only back in the limelight, she is back on the charity circuit, donating a lot of time to help worthy causes. As a matter of fact, this coming weekend she will be in New York City helping the AIDS advocacy group TAG with its annual holiday fundraising event. Columnist Liz Smith says that Stone will be joined by several other pre-announced celebrities, including Martha Stewart and Sophie Dahl. Several upscale companies will also contribute to the event. One of the more interesting items that will go up for auction will be a red Christmas wreath. Stone reportedly made it herself, from some old red lingerie.
BLUEGRASS AND WHITE SNOW COMBINE
Patty Loveless is remembering her childhood in her newest album. Her first-ever Christmas album, "Bluegrass & White Snow," is the best of both worlds. Published reports indicate that the CD is replete with the kind of bluegrass sounds you would expect from the star, but also the natural sounds of the Appalachians are there -- train whistles and sleigh bells. Loveless, now 45, has remarked that the album is a kind of extension of earlier efforts, including "Mountain Soul." In this latest Yuletide album, Loveless brings the down-home sound of the mountains to the traditional songs of Christmas, just as she heard them sung as a child in the Kentucky hills.
KEN BURNS FINISHES ANOTHER DOCUMENTARY
Back in 1902 an intrepid man from Vermont became the first person to ever drive an automobile across the United States. He did it on a $50 bet. Now documentarian Ken Burns tells the Hollywood Reporter that he has just finished a film on the trek. It is narrated, in first-person, by actor Tom Hanks. The project, "Horatio's Drive," chronicles the trip of what the publication calls "an American on the cusp of change." Not only was making such a trip a risky task, considering the primitive nature of the auto at the time, but there we no real roads. Burns' latest venture follows a long succession of some incredible works during his career. One of the earliest, "Brooklyn Bridge," brought into the Burns fold historian David McCullough, whose narrations have given many of the documentarian's projects their distinctive style -- including the monumental Civil War series. Other projects on jazz, the history of radio, baseball, Mark Twain, the Statue of Liberty and many more have put Burns in a unique niche in the history of video documentation.
BUDDING STAR LEAVES RCA FOLD
Rising young newcomer Tommy Shane Steiner has been dropped from the roster of recording artists at RCA. According to country.com, the chairman of the record label simply noted that the company and the singer had just "decided to part ways." Additionally, the label says that it wishes Steiner luck in "building on the success started with RCA." Steiner, who is from Texas, made his debut earlier this year with a song called "What if She's an Angel." It rose to the No. 2 position on the country charts. His follow-up singles, though, have failed to meet with the same success. One peaked at only the No. 43 spot. He did release an album this year, "Then Came the Night." To find out more about the artist -- once described as looking more like a Scandinavian tennis star than a country artist -- go to tommyshanesteiner.com on the Internet.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 475
Here's a good Friday the 13th question: "Are you superstitious? If so, in what way or ways?" Put PHOBIA in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO 470 (100)
In conjunction with the 100th birthday anniversary of Sen. Strom Thurmond (and boy hasn't a hornet's nest been stirred in the wake of that celebration, vis-a-vis Sen. Trent Lott's remarks), we asked if you'd like to live to be a centenarian. From a random dip into the e-mail inbox, here are the answers, by percentages:
Would like to live to be 100 ... 25 percent.
Would not like to live to be that old ... 60.
Only would if the quality of life could be maintained ... 15 percent.
NEXT: How much do you decorate for the holidays?
KEEP THE 'CARDS AND LETTERS' COMING
We have gotten many responses in our attempts to use the Twelve Days of Christmas to honor real heroes or great people you know. Send your nomination to us. If you want the person's name used, we'll have to have a contact number for them. Put HONOR in the subject line and send to email@example.com.