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Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   March 31, 2003 at 1:58 PM   |   Comments

'RINGS' DIRECTOR WILL REMAKE 'KING KONG'

Peter Jackson will direct a remake of "King Kong" when he's finished work on "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Daily Variety reported Monday that Universal Pictures is considering a release date of Christmas 2005 for Jackson's updated version of the 1933 classic about a giant gorilla taken captive on a tropical island and brought to New York to be put on display.

The original starred Fay Wray as a beautiful woman who attracts the beast's attention. Jessica Lange starred in a 1976 remake.

Jackson told Variety he has wanted to remake "King Kong" for close to 10 years.

"No film has captivated my imagination more than King Kong," Jackson said. "I'm making movies today because I saw this film when I was 9 years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age."

Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider said that she wanted Jackson and his writing-producing partner Fran Walsh to do "King Kong" -- even before "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" earned a best picture nomination and outgrossed "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the first of Jackson's "Rings" trilogy.

"We are confident that Peter and Fran's execution of 'King Kong' will amaze moviegoers," Snider said. "Anyone who has seen the first two installments of 'The Lord of the Rings' knows that Peter will bring Kong to life as a real character."


CHRIS ROCK COMEDY OPENS AT NO. 1

"Head of State," comedian Chris Rock's feature film directorial debut, opened at No. 1 at the U.S. box office, grossing an estimated $14 million.

U.S. moviegoers were apparently looking for a few laughs, making the Steve Martin-Queen Latifah comedy "Bringing Down the House" No. 2 with $12.5 million in its third weekend -- and pushing its running total over the $100 million mark.

The new sci-fi thriller "The Core" opened in third place with an estimated $12.4 million, just ahead of the new John Travolta-Samuel L. Jackson thriller "Basic," which opened with $12.1 million.

Year-to-date, the U.S. box office continues to run well behind last year's pace. This weekend's numbers were down 22 percent from the same weekend last year.


OSCARS ARE GOOD FOR BUSINESS

On the first weekend following the Academy Awards, box-office business picked up considerably for several Oscar-winning movies.

"Chicago" -- winner of six Oscars including Best Picture -- grossed $7.4 million, a 20 percent increase from last weekend. Overall, "Chicago" has grossed $144.9 million at the U.S. box office.

After winning for Best Actor (Adrien Brody) and Best Director (Roman Polanski), "The Pianist" played on 233 more theaters and grossed $2.4 million -- a 137 percent increase from last week,


KATHY BATES TAKES ON QUEEN VICTORIA

Kathy Bates will play Queen Victoria in the upcoming Jackie Chan remake of "Around the World in 80 Days."

Chan stars as Jean Passepartout, butler to English gentleman Phileas Fogg, who wagers he can travel around the globe in 80 days using newfangled technology. British comedian Steve Coogan will play Fogg in the latest remake of Jules Verne's classic story.

David Niven and Cantinflas starred as Fogg and Passepartout in the 1956 bigscreen epic. Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle starred in a 1989 miniseries.

Frank Coraci ("The Wedding Singer," "The Waterboy") is directing the new version.


'SOUTH PARK' GETS TWO MORE SEASONS

Comedy Central has signed Trey Parker and Matt Stone for two more seasons of their irreverent animated comedy "South Park."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal calls for Parker and Stone to produce 15 episodes per season beginning next spring, with original episodes spread out through the spring and fall. The deal also includes an option for a third year, meaning "South Park" could remain on Comedy Central through 2006.

The series -- which began its seventh season on March 19 -- will air its 100th episode April 9.


PAUL NEWMAN LOKING FOR A GIG

Paul Newman fans will be glad to know he does not intend to let "Road to Perdition" be his last picture.

Newman told TV Guide he doesn't have another project lined up, but he is far from ready to retire at 78.

"I don't seem to be able to retire," said the Oscar-winning star of "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Some might regard Newman as an icon, but he wouldn't say that about himself.

"(Marlon) Brando, Lee J. Cobb, (Laurence) Olivier are," he said. "I'm not. I really should not have mentioned just those three because there are too many people I admire."

Before he's done with acting, Newman said he wanted to do at least one more picture with his wife, Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward.

© 2003 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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