News from the entertainment capital

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   March 11, 2002 at 1:51 PM
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Denzel Washington spent most of the weekend fighting what a spokesman said was apparently some kind of virus -- so he canceled an appearance at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday and made just a brief appearance at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday.

A publicist for Washington told UPI the Oscar-winning actor -- who is up for best actor this time around for "Training Day" -- started to feel bad Friday night or Saturday morning. At first, he wasn't sure if it was a virus or food poisoning, but now he's pretty sure it isn't food poisoning.

The spokesman, Alan Nierob, said Washington intended to make it to Monday's Oscar nominees' luncheon in Beverly Hills, but he might not have much of an appetite.

Nierob said Washington is anxious to get back to work, editing his feature directing debut -- an untitled movie based on the life of Antwone Fisher about his experiences growing up tough in Cleveland and turning his life around with the help of a U.S. navy psychiatrist. Fisher sold the script, his first, while working as a security guard at Sony studios.


The Oscars show was already one of the toughest tickets in town -- now it's even tougher, since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has moved the annual celebration into the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Academy president Frank Pierson is asking members to understand if organizers cannot grant all their ticket requests for the 74h Academy Awards. He's also bearing the bad news that just because someone got a ticket this year, that doesn't mean they'll get in next year.

With 3,300 seats, the Kodak is much smaller than the Shrine Auditorium, which could seat about 4,000 for the Oscars. Because of what the academy called "broadcast-related 'seat-kills,' only 3,100 seats are available at the Kodak for the March 24 ceremony.

That's still more seats than the Academy had when it held the Oscars at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which only accommodated an Oscar audience of about 2,700 -- but because the event is being held in a brand new theater, interest in attending is keener than usual.

Academy executive director Bruce Davis said that about 275 members will get the bad news in the mail.

"We did pretty well by members who were willing to take top balcony seats," he said, "but for those who only wanted the prime orchestra or mezzanine seating, it was brutal."

The demand for tickets is expected to be great next year too, since it will be the 75th anniversary of the premiere entertainment industry awards show.


At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, the subject came up -- as it always does -- of the ways in which awards categories are determined, and the sometimes mysterious thinking that goes into nominating an actor for a leading or supporting role.

Sir Ian McKellen -- who won the Actor Award for supporting actor for his performance as the wizard Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" -- does not understand the process. Speaking with reporters backstage, he said fellow supporting actor nominee Jim Broadbent ("Iris") doesn't either.

"Jim ... was just saying to me," said McKellen, "'It's ridiculous, because Gandalf is the leading part and I'm playing a leading part."


Joe Pantoliano -- who plays the bestially cruel Ralphie Cifaretto on "The Sopranos" -- must have been joking.

Backstage at the Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, someone asked Pantoliano what is in store in the upcoming season of HBO's crime family drama about Tony Soprano and his stressful attempt to balance his middle-class suburban home life with his other life as the honcho of an organized crime family.

"I kill Tony and I kill the whole friggin' family," said Pantoliano.

The 50-year-old Hoboken, N.J. native reportedly has a true-life nickname that sounds like it belongs in the files at the New York district attorney's office. At the DGA Awards, host Carl Reiner introduced Pantoliano at "Joey Pants."


Backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, someone asked "Sex and the City" star Kim Catrall if producers had any special plans for the show, which is set in New York, to address the Sept. 11 attack in its upcoming season on HBO.

"I don't know how the show will handle it," said Catrall. "We're about to start production Wednesday."

Catrall -- along with cast mates Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis -- won the SAG Award for outstanding ensemble in a TV comedy series.


Melissa Gilbert -- the former "Little House on the Prairie Star" -- has been elected SAG president in a rerun of the election she won last fall.

The rerun was ordered when SAG election officials ruled there were irregularities in the first balloting. The re-run between Gilbert and former "Rhoda" star Valerie Harper was bitter at times, leaving the two factions with some fences to mend -- but Gilbert said at the SAG Awards that fence-mending isn't on her agenda right now.

"I have no intention of unifying this leadership," she said. "I don't think Gandhi could."

Gilbert said she will "listen to the voices" of members and try to bring SAG "into the center."


"The Time Machine" finished No. 1 at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend, grossing an estimated $22.5 million.

Mel Gibson's Vietnam War drama "We Were Soldiers" finished second in its second weekend, taking in $14.5 million. Ice Cube's new urban drama "All About the Benjamins" was third with $10.1 million.

Oscar nominations seemed to still be paying off for two nominated movies still in wide release.

"A Beautiful Mind" -- with eight nominations, including best picture and best actor (Russell Crowe) -- finished at No. 8 with $3.9 million and a cumulative total of more than $144 million.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" -- which has 13 nominations, including best picture -- finished in 10th place with $2.6 million, to run its overall gross to more than $290 million. Director Peter Jackson's epic fantasy is poised to take over 12th place on the list of all-time U.S. blockbusters from "The Empire Strikes Back" and appears to be headed for the Top 10.

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