Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Feb. 26, 2002 at 3:52 PM
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Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr. has a feature film job lined up, as the star of an upcoming movie version of Dennis Potter's classic BBC series "The Singing Detective."

The picture is scheduled to start shooting in April with Keith Gordon ("Christine," "Back to School") directing. It'll be Downey's first movie job since "Wonder Boys" in 2000.

Downey has had a series of brushes with the law in recent years, largely stemming from substance abuse.

His career appeared to be back on track last year when he appeared in a recurring role on the Fox TV series "Ally McBeal." He won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work on the show, but he lost the gig after he was arrested in another drug case last spring.

"The Singing Detective" -- a six-part series that Potter adapted from his first novel, "Hide and Seek" -- is an account of Phillip Marlow, a detective novelist confined to a hospital bed with the crippling disease, psoriatic arthropathy. In his mind, he rewrites his book, "The Singing Detective," casting himself in the title role -- and drifting into a surreal '40s fantasy involving Nazis, spies, criminals and other figments of his imagination.


Screen Actors Guild presidential candidate Valerie Harper is critical of a tentative deal that would fundamentally change the relationship between union actors and their agents.

Guild negotiators announced the proposed agreement with the Association of Talent Agents and the National Association of Talent Representatives Monday, saying it will allow talent agencies and production companies to invest in one another -- ending a prohibition on that kind of activity that has been in place for six decades.

The existing rules were designed to prevent conflicts of interest that might arise when an agent representing an actor is also working for producers or studios. Agents have been pushing for years to relax the regulations, claiming they are outdated and that they hamper agencies' abilities to attract investments from companies with only marginal interest in film production, such as investment bankers and ad agencies.

The agreement allows advertising agencies or advertisers to make significant, but limited, investments in talent agencies. Any such investments would require the approval of a joint committee of actors and agents, and agencies would be required to notify actors of any investments and permit actors to leave their agencies if they don't like the investment setup.

SAG's health plan would collect a fee amounting to 1.5 percent of any investment that companies make in agencies, as well as a percentage of new commissions that agents get as a result of the deal.

Harper said members should reject the new deal with agents, arguing that it erodes the historic firewall between agents and producers.

"It is an absolute lie that agents won't become our employers," said Harper.

Harper is running against Melissa Gilbert, who was elected SAG president last fall -- before the union's election board ruled that there were irregularities in the balloting and the election needed to be rerun.


Get ready for an onslaught of promotion and publicity on behalf of the 20th anniversary release of Steven Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," scheduled for March 22.

NBC will air a one-hour special on March 16, featuring a reunion between Spielberg and the movie's cast, as well as "never before seen" behind the scenes footage and clips from the digitally re-mastered 20th anniversary edition.

Released in June 1982, "E.T." was nominated for nine Oscars, including best picture, director and original screenplay. It won for original score (John Williams), sound, sound effects editing and visual effects.

It stands at No. 4 on the all-time list of U.S. blockbusters with $399.8 million.

The 20th anniversary of "E.T." has prompted Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando and Japan to update the video that park guests see while they wait on line to ride "The E.T. Adventure."

The new program features footage of Spielberg and "E.T." cast members Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas and Dee Wallace Stone giving viewers insights into the making of the movie. There's also a video featuring a scientist from Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) with a commentary on "E.T." from a scientific perspective.


Alec Baldwin ("Pearl Harbor," "The Hunt for Red October") will make a rare TV guest-starring appearance when he joins the cast of "Friends" to tape an episode this spring.

Baldwin's resume also includes "Beetlejuice," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "State and Main."

On TV, Baldwin has starred in "Nuremberg" and the upcoming "The Devil and Daniel Webster." He was nominated for a Tony for his performance on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" -- which he brought to TV in 1995 opposite Jessica Lange.


More movie stars have signed up for TV series pilots, including Alan Cumming, Annabella Sciorra and Skeet Ulrich.

Cumming ("Spy Kids," "GoldenEye") will play Daryl Zero in an NBC drama pilot based on Jake Kasdan's 1998 movie, "Zero Effect." Bill Pullman played the detective in the movie.

Sciorra ("Above Suspicion," "What Dreams May Come") is reportedly close to a deal to join Oliver Platt ("A Time to Kill," "Executive Decision") in the cast of the CBS drama pilot, "Queens Supreme." Ulrich ("As Good as It Gets," "Scream") will star in "Miracles," a drama pilot being prepared for ABC.


Organizers of the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards announced Tuesday that actor nominees Stockard Channing, Kristin Davis and Lauren Graham will be presenters at the 8th Annual SAG Awards on March 10 in Los Angeles.

Channing, who plays first lady Abigail Bartlet on "The West Wing," is a six-time Actor nominee. She is nominated this year for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series and -- with her "West Wing" cast mates -- for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series.

Davis, who plays Charlotte York on "Sex and the City", is nominated with her cast mates for a second straight year for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. Graham is up for a second straight Actor for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series, for her work as Lorelei Gilmore in "Gilmore Girls."


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow will make her third appearance as an Oscar presenter at the 74th Academy Awards.

Paltrow is currently in theaters in "The Royal Tenenbaums," which is nominated for best original screenplay. She won the best actress Oscar in 1998 for "Shakespeare in Love."

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