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March 14, 2005 at 2:15 PM
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Jackson shows up 20 mins early for court

SANTA MARIA, Calif., March 14 (UPI) -- Michael Jackson arrived at the Santa Maria, Calif., courthouse 20 minutes early Monday for his child molestation trial.

Jackson's teenage accuser was expected to face fierce questioning from defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., as the trial entered its third week Monday, CNN reported.

The king of pop nearly had his bail revoked Thursday when he failed to appear in court, and later showed up clad in pajama bottoms. The defense team said Jackson was suffering from back problems that required hospital treatment.

However, Jackson reportedly appeared to be in good shape Monday as he exited a dark SUV with his father by his side. He turned to greet cheering fans before going inside the courthouse.

Jackson was indicted by a state grand jury last April on 10 felony counts for incidents that allegedly occurred in February and March 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.


Hilary Swank in supernatural thriller

LOS ANGELES, March 14 (UPI) -- Hilary Swank will follow up her Oscar-winning performance in "Million Dollar Baby" with the supernatural thriller "The Reaping."

Daily Variety said Swank will star as a specialist in debunking supernatural phenomena who is summoned to a small town that seems to be experiencing the 10 plagues -- a series of plagues that befell Egypt in the biblical story of Moses.

Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis are producing "The Reaping" for Warner Bros. through their Dark Castle horror production company. James Cox ("Wonderland") is directing.

Dark Castle -- established by Silver and Zemeckis in 1999 -- has turned out "Gothika," "Ghost Ship," "13 Ghosts," "The House on Haunted Hill" and the upcoming "House of Wax."


Statues believed 'Maltese Falcon' props

LOS ANGELES, March 14 (UPI) -- A team of UCLA professors says three plaster and India ink statuettes purchased by an art collector were created for 1941 film, "The Maltese Falcon."

Collector Hank Risan consulted numerous sources, including director John Huston's assistant and continuity director Meta Wilde, to authenticate his bird statues, Zap2it.com reported Monday.

"With the addition of Ms. Wilde's testimony, I am now completely convinced that the statuettes in Mr. Risan's possession were original plaster props for John Huston's 'The Maltese Falcon,'" said Vivian Sobchack, a dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

UCLA professor Richard Walter said he believes the props are worth more than $1 million each -- more than a $660,000 pair of ruby slippers worn in "The Wizard of Oz."

"Whatever the slippers' value, it has to be less than that of the falcons because the slippers are merely one prop ... The falcons on the other hand are the namesake props that define the picture itself," Walter said.


Next James Bond movie will dump Q

LOS ANGELES, March 14 (UPI) -- British comedian John Cleese will not play eccentric inventor Q in the next James Bond film, because movie bosses have removed the character.

"If I'm told that is there is a Q, I will be Q," the former Monty Python star said. "But unfortunately, I don't believe there's a Q in the current version of the script."

Martin Campbell, the director of the next Bond movie, "Casino Royale," has said his plans for a serious, realistic Bond movie would be undermined by the humorous Q character, Ireland.online reported Monday.

Campbell promised that the 21st Bond film in the series "will be a grittier, tougher and more realistic Bond movie."

"We'll be getting away from the huge visual effects and comic relief," Campbell said.

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