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Entertainment Today: Showbiz News

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International   |   Jan. 24, 2003 at 3:00 AM   |   Comments

NELL CARTER DEAD AT 54

Award-winning Broadway and television diva Nell Carter died of natural causes in Beverly Hills Thursday. She was 54.

According to her publicist Roger Lane, Carter collapsed in her home and was discovered by one of her 13-year-old sons.

The Alabama native has battled numerous health problems over the years, including a weight problem, diabetes and a brain aneurysm. Never one to let anything stand in her way, Carter was in rehearsals at a Long Branch theater for a musical version of "A Raisin in the Sun" at the time of her death.

In addition to winning a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical, "Ain't Misbehavin'," Carter also won an Emmy Award in 1982 for her portrayal of a no-nonsense housekeeper on the sit-com "Gimme A Break!"

Her most recent television appearances have been on the sit-coms "Ally McBeal" and "Reba" and the drama, "Touched By An Angel." She also played Miss Hannigan in the 20th anniversary Broadway revival of "Annie" from 1997 to 1998.


REPORT: WINONA WANTS HER SWAG BACK

Using the "you get what you pay for" defense, convicted shoplifter Winona Ryder reportedly wants the $5,000 worth of merchandise she stole returned to her.

She says she has paid restitution to the upscale Beverly Hills boutique from whence her ill-gotten gains came.

Dubbing the actress "Winona Scissorhands" for her deft use of the sharp instrument to cut tags off merchandise in the store dressing room, the New York Post quotes sources as saying Ryder wants to auction off for charity the designer hats, sweaters, purses, socks and hair accessories she lifted last year from the Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the trendy items still are locked up in the exhibit room of the Beverly Hills courthouse, L.A. Superior Court clerk's office rep, Kyle Christopherson, tells the Post.

"Ryder's lawyers haven't filed anything yet," Christopherson explains. "As far as we know everything is the property of Saks, but they haven't claimed it. If no one does, it will eventually be destroyed."

A rep for Saks did not return calls, but Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos admits: "I don't have any information about that at this point... I haven't done anything about it."

And that's not the only Winona gossip circulating these days...

Jules Lusman, the physician whose license was revoked after it was revealed he'd over-prescribed drugs to Ryder and known substance abusers Courtney Love, Ozzy Osbourne and Juliette Lewis, recently spilled his guts to the National Enquirer, claiming, among other things, Ryder once stole a prescription blank from him and tried to use it at a San Francisco pharmacy.

Lusman scoffs at the allegation he was the sole source for the eight kinds of narcotics found on Ryder when she was busted for shoplifting.

"She's claiming I was her main doctor," Lusman tells the Enquirer. "But she had 19 other doctors. I don't know who gave her those drugs. Winona Ryder brought my career crashing down!"

Lusman also says in the article Ryder lied to get the drugs, claiming he scolded her when she confided that her "Mr. Deeds" co-star Adam Sandler "loaned" her medication.

"She'd hound me day and night" for prescriptions, Lusman tells the tabloid.


CLEESE FURIOUS OVER UNFLATTERING ARTICLE

Comic legend John Cleese is still fuming over an "offensive and damaging" article about him that appeared in a British newspaper last April.

A representative for Cleese told England's High Court the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" star was "bewildered" as to why a London Evening Standard article reported he was "a humiliated failure" in the United States.

Cleese, who claims it was a baseless and offensive attack on his reputation and his character, has followed courtroom proceedings in London via video link from California, according to the British news Web site, Ananova.com.

The court is being asked to decide the sum of damages the star should receive from the newspaper for the article. Cleese already has rejected one offer.

Cleese's lawyer Jonathan Caplan told the court: "We say that the clear thrust of the article was that the claimant, Mr. Cleese, emigrated to the United States where he has become a humiliated failure. This was a baseless and offensive attack on his reputation and his character."

"I found in the past that when there is a nasty attack like this, one's first reaction is to feel bewildered and disorientated and, to a certain extent, scared," Cleese said. "It may seem a rather childlike response, but that's certainly what happens with me."


MIRAMAX SNAPS UP 'STATION' RIGHTS

Miramax Films has acquired all English-speaking territories and Italian rights to "The Station Agent," one of this year's most acclaimed and sought-after films at the Sundance Film Festival.

Made by first-time director and screenwriter Tom McCarthy and produced by SenArt Films, the movie is a humorous, yet moving and uplifting story that follows an unlikely trio who discover solitude is better spent together.

In Dramatic Competition at the renowned festival, the film features performances by Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson ("Far From Heaven"), Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek"), and Raven Goodwin ("Lovely and Amazing.").

"This magical film made by an extraordinarily talented first-time director is an especially rewarding purchase for us," Miramax said in a statement. "It is rare that our entire team feels so passionate about a film as they do with 'Station Agent.' SenArt Films is a relatively new company, but they clearly have great taste and an instinct for quality projects."


PACINO: 'GODFATHER' BETTER OUT OF ORDER

Al Pacino says he hates how his three "Godfather" films have been re-cut and organized for television so the saga is told in chronological order, not through flashbacks the way they were when they ran in theaters.

"I've always been against the chronological order," Pacino told reporters in Los Angeles. "Part of what (director) Francis (Ford Coppola) did in part two was merge both the old and new and that was part of the way the film reflected itself and where the emotion of the film and the power is. And once you do it just chronologically (with) Bobby DeNiro's stuff, I think you take away the real brilliance of Coppola's 'Godfather 2.'

"That's really a carefully orchestrated movie. So, I've stayed away from that when I've seen (the reconstituted version on television) I've been disappointed. Two was my favorite, but One was really the most solid, the original and best story. It pillars the structure," Pacino continued. 'Godfather 2' isn't as strong, but it's more personal to Francis. Nobody wanted me to be Michael, except Francis. I didn't want to be Michael, the studio didn't want me to be Michael."

So, what made him take the pivotal role of Michael, a good guy sucked into the sinister family business?

"I thought it was a very difficult role," he replied. "I didn't know as much about movies as I do today. I thought, 'How do you transmit that? What is this guy going through? How do you make a character whose straight and turn him into this enigma? Where did he come from?"

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