WRITERS GUILD HONORS KNOPF
The Writers Guild of America, west, announced Friday that it will present the rarely given Edmund H. North Award to TV writer Christopher Knopf at the upcoming 54th annual WGA awards program on March 2.
"Few have given as much of their time and devotion as Christopher Knopf," said WGAw President Victoria Riskin. "Because of his efforts on behalf of guild members for the past 40 years, working screen and television writers face a brighter future."
The Edmund H. North Award is given to writers "whose courageous leadership, strength of purpose and continuing selfless activity in behalf of the guild through the years -- as well as professional achievement of the highest order -- have served to establish the Writers Guild of America as a pillar of strength and security for writers throughout the world."
Knopf -- who has won three WGA awards for his TV writing -- joins a list of previous winners that includes Charles Brackett Randall MacDougall and Frank Pierson, who currently serves as president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Among Knopf's credits are the TV movies "Scott Joplin: King of Ragtime," "Mrs. Sundance" and "Baby Girl Scott." He also wrote the pilot episode for the classic '70s drama series "The Big Valley."
He received a Christopher Award for the TV movie "The Girl Who Spelled Freedom" (1986), a Humanitas nomination for "Not My Kid" (1985) and an Edgar Allen Poe Special Award for "Cold Night's Death" (1973).
Knopf served as president of the WGAw from 1965-67.
SAG AWARDS NOMINEES COMING SOON
The Screen Actors Guild announced Friday that Marisa Tomei and Ted Danson will join SAG President Melissa Gilbert next Tuesday morning to announce the nominees for the eighth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Tomei won the best supporting actress Oscar for the 1992 comedy "My Cousin Vinny," and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in "In the Bedroom." She was nominated for a SAG award in 1997 for her supporting role opposite Gena Rowlands in "Unhook the Stars."
Danson, the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning star of the long-running TV comedy "Cheers," stars in the CBS comedy "Becker." His film credits include "The Onion Field" (1979), "Body Heat" (1981), "Three Men and a Baby" (1987) and "Saving Private Ryan" (1998).
SLUGGING IT OUT AT THANKSGIVING
Disney's announcement that it will release the new animated feature "Treasure Planet" on Nov. 27 -- the day before Thanksgiving -- seems to set up a box-office confrontation with the second "Harry Potter" movie.
Although Warner Bros. has not officially announced an opening date for "Potter," it's widely expected that the studio will release it the weekend before Thanksgiving -- as it did with the first "Potter" movie to great success last year.
Disney's announcement, however, is getting more attention for the unusual release pattern it is giving to "Treasure Planet" -- an outer-space take on "Treasure Island." The picture will be released wide on conventional theater screens and will be shown on giant screens simultaneously, apparently in response to the success Disney experienced showing "Fantasia 2000" and "Beauty and the Beast" in Imax and other giant screen formats.
"Treasure Planet" is being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker -- the directing team behind "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Aladdin" (1992) and "Hercules" (1997). The voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("3rd Rock from the Sun"), David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier," "A Bug's Life"), Martin Short ("Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius") and newcomer Austin Majors.
SCORSESE AND DICAPRIO TOGETHER AGAIN
Martin Scorsese is reportedly trying to get out in front of the competition in the race to bring a new movie biography of legendary billionaire recluse Howard Hughes to the marketplace.
According to Daily Variety, Scorsese is getting set to start production in the fall, with his "Gangs of New York" star Leonardo DiCaprio playing Hughes in a screenplay by John Logan ("Gladiator," "Star Trek: Nemesis").
At the same time, "Memento" writer-director Christopher Nolan is moving ahead with his own Hughes project starring Jim Carrey, based on Richard Hack's book, "Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters."
SPIELBERG AND CRUISE TOGETHER AGAIN
With the camera housing still warm from their collaboration on "Minority Report," there is word that Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are planning another project together.
"Ghost Soldiers," based on the Hampton Sides best-seller "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission," is an account of survivors of the Bataan Death March who were held in a Japanese prison camp until they were liberated by the Allies.
"Minority Report," based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, features Cruise as John Anderton, a cop in a future world where people are arrested for crimes they have not yet committed. Anderton winds up on the wrong end of the system and has to stop the crime even as he avoids his own arrest and prosecution.
FOX, UPN READY MIDSEASON COMEDIES
Fox and UPN have announced plans to add two comedies each to their primetime schedules in March.
Fox will air the puppet-based "Greg the Bunny" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., and "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. The network is taking "Undeclared" and "Titus" off its schedule to make room for the new entries.
UPN is putting "Roswell" on the shelf to make room on the schedule for "As If" and "The Random Years." "As If" is an American version of a British TV show chronicling the lives of young urban adults.
DEMME'S LAST BASH
According to a report in the New York Post, the late director Ted Demme's friends came through with some generous checks to pay for a spectacular memorial service at the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse earlier this week.
The director of "Blow," "The Ref" and "Beautiful Girls" died of a heart attack at age 37 earlier this month in Santa Monica.
The newspaper said Miramax cut a check for $150,000, MTV came through with another $50,000 and DreamWorks executive Mike DeLuca also wrote a big check to pay for Demme's wake, funeral and memorial services on both coasts.