'Gran Torino' cruises to No. 1
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Clint Eastwood drove his "Gran Torino" to the top of the U.S. theater chart this weekend, Box Office Mojo said Sunday.
While "Gran Torino" was pushed out in limited showings five weeks ago, Eastwood's story about a racist Korean War veteran whose neighborhood has become home to Hmong immigrants and afflicted with gang-bangers really took off this weekend. Its nationwide release earned it an estimated $29.03 million in ticket sales that pushed it up from 14th place to No. 1.
Two new movies, "Bride Wars," a comedy starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, and "The Unborn," a horror thriller written and directed by David S. Goyer, were Nos. 2-3, respectively. "Bride Wars" took in an estimated $21.5 million and "The Unborn" $21.1 million.
"Marley and Me," which was the top movie the previous two weeks, fell to No. 4 with $11.35 million in gate receipts, followed by "The Curious Case off Benjamin Button" with $9.45 million.
Filling out the Top 10 were "Bedtime Stories," $8.55 million; "Valkyrie," $6.66 million; "Yes Man," $6.16 million; another new offering, "Not Easily Broken," a drama featuring Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson, $5.6 million; and "Seven Pounds, $3.9 million.
Gone from the top tier were "The Tale of Despereaux," "Doubt," "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Slumdog Millionaire."
Tito Jackson hit with paternity lawsuit
NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Former Jackson 5 member Tito Jackson should legally be declared the biological father of a 25-year-old New York woman, a lawsuit alleges.
Tanay Rodney Jackson's lawsuit in Brooklyn Family Court alleges Jackson confessed to her while she was a teenager that he was, indeed, her father although he never publicly admitted their familial bond, the New York Post reported Sunday.
"He told me he was my father when I was 17," the younger Jackson alleges in her suit. "He didn't want it public. He was ashamed."
The 55-year-old Jackson played guitar in the Jackson 5 along with brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and, of course, Michael, who went on to star status as a solo act, as did sisters Janet and La Toya.
Maroulis of 'Idol' headed to Broadway
NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Former "American Idol" standout Constantine Maroulis will join a Broadway production of "Rock of Ages" in New York, producers say.
"Ages" producers Matt Weaver and Carl Levin said they immediately were drawn to Maroulis, who earned musical notoriety during Season 4 of "Idol," and felt he was a perfect fit for the 1980s rock musical, the New York Daily News reported Sunday.
"When we met Constantine, we instantly liked him and knew he would be perfect for 'Rock of Ages,'" the producing pair said. "He has a real rock sensibility."
Maroulis's involvement with the musical, which will feature songs from 80s bands such as Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, has yet to be officially confirmed.
If Maroulis does join the musical, which is to begin its Broadway run in March, he would represent the most recent "Idol" star to make the transition from TV to the stage. The Daily News noted "Idol" Season 3 champion Fantasia Barrino performed in a Broadway rendition of "The Color Purple" and Season 5 champion Taylor Hicks helped boost ticket sales for a recently concluded production of "Grease" on Broadway.
'24' producer hints at end of series
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Howard Gordon, executive producer of the popular U.S. TV series "24," says the show could be off the air after two more seasons.
Gordon said the seventh season of "24" that kicks off Sunday has been the most difficult to make, leading to speculation that the Fox series may call it quits after an anticipated eighth season, Newsday reported.
"I take it one hour at a time. The important thing is to find the right end to the show. Kiefer feels this way (too) and it's entirely possible the eighth year will be the last year," Gordon said, referring to "24" star Kiefer Sutherland.
Gordon said while the series has come under fire for the use of torture by Sutherland's lead character, Jack Bauer, the show will be able to continue if audiences can continue to relate to Bauer.
"As long as Jack can find a foothold to his humanity, or find someone or something to care about, then the show can go on," Gordon told Newsday, "but that becomes harder and harder to find."
Woolard: 'Notorious' role caused unease
NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Rapper Jamal Woolard says he paid so much attention to imitating the late rapper Biggie Smalls for the U.S. movie "Notorious" he made other people uneasy.
Woolard, who raps under the moniker Gravy, said several people close to Smalls before his death in 1997 were shocked to see how much of the late rapper was apparent in Woolard while filming the movie, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Woolard said Bad Boys Records owner Sean Combs was one of those people who knew Combs, who performed as Notorious B.I.G., and were disconcerted by Woolard's spot-on imitation.
"He just couldn't take it," Woolard said of Combs. "But I felt like that's my job. They were hurting, but I'm not here to hurt you, I'm here to give you what you want."
Smalls was shot and killed in Los Angeles in 1997 and his homicide case has yet to be solved.
Rapper Lil' Cease, who was one of Smalls's closest friends, admitted to the Times that seeing Woolard acting out his "Notorious" part was very disturbing initially.
"The first time I went on set and saw him rehearse, I walked out," the rapper said. "It took a while to get used to."