Entertainment Today: Showbiz News

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Nov. 18, 2002 at 3:00 AM
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It didn't take a magic wand to make Eminem's No. 1 film disappear -- just a little movie called "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," which earned a staggering $87.7 million its first weekend in theaters.

Studio estimates released Sunday show the second installment of the popular Warner Brothers franchise pushed the rap star's semi-autobiographical tale from the top of the box office to Number 2 with $21.3 million.

"Chamber," which chronicles Potter's second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had the third-best debut weekend ever, behind only last summer's "Spider-Man" and last fall's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Coming in No. 3 this week was Tim Allen's Christmas comedy, "The Santa Clause 2," which took $15.1 million at the box office, while "The Ring" came in fourth with $11 million and "Half Past Dead" rounded out the top five with $8.2 million.

Taking the No. 6 spot was "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," considered the most successful independent film of all time and poised to hit the $200 million mark next week.


The critically acclaimed documentary "Two Towns of Jasper" will have its broadcast premiere on PBS this January.

An "Official Selection of the 2002 Sundance Film Festival," this feature-length documentary recalls the 1998 racially motivated slaying of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. It was directed by Whitney Dow and Marco Williams.

A collaborative effort of one white and one black filmmaker, each with his own segregated crew, the film documents the reactions of Jasper residents during the trials of three men charged with brutally dragging Byrd to his death. The result is a disturbing montage of contrasting realities that provides an explicit account of the racial divide in America.

"Whitney and I spent a lot of time talking about the Byrd murder and how a film might excavate its deeper meaning," says co-producer/director Williams. "We were both horrified, of course, but the more we talked the more we experienced moments where our viewpoints diverged. We realized the divergences were rooted in our racial identities, our different racial experiences. That was the germ that exists between black and white Americans."

"'Two Towns of Jasper' is not so much about the murder of James Byrd Jr. as it is about two perspectives on the murder," adds Dow.

For more information on "Two Towns of Jasper," visit twotownsofjasper.com The film will have its broadcast debut on PBS Jan. 22, 2003.


Actress Nicole Kidman says at least one good thing was born of the stress accompanying her well-publicized break-up with Tom Cruise: It helped her prepare for the role of doomed writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," the screen adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

"(Production on the film) was at a time in my life where I was raw enough to do it, and everything came together, but it was frightening at times," Kidman recently admitted to reporters in New York.

In fact, Kidman confessed she was so nervous about playing the part while trying to sort out her relationship woes that she even tried to quit the project.

"I tried to pull out," she revealed. "I have to say I wasn't as bold as you might think. I actually called my agent and said: 'I can't do this. I don't want to work. This isn't the right thing. It's too much at this stage. I just need to sort of hibernate.' And he and my friends all said: 'Get on the plane and go. Go do it and get lost in it.' And that is what the artist state is for. It had some kind of catalytic effect on me."

Directed by Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliott") and scheduled for release Dec. 27, the film links on a single day through literature the lives of three women: Kidman as Woolf several years before her suicide, Julianne Moore ("Hannibal," "The End of the Affair") as a pregnant 1949 housewife trapped in an unfulfilling marriage and obsessed with Woolf's novel, "Mrs. Dalloway," and Meryl Streep as a modern-day New Yorker throwing a party for her dying writer friend, a former lover (Ed Harris,) who calls her "Mrs. Dalloway."

Kidman described production of the film as short but very intense.

"It was very long hours, and it was all jammed together. So that helped me," she noted. "That's why I loved being in Romania for 'Cold Mountain,' being in a cocoon. If you can exist within a cocoon when you work like that, a bubble, or whatever you want to call it, it gives you the opportunity to be somebody else. And this is what always drew me to being an actor, being someone else."

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