Hollywood Digest

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Jan. 27, 2003 at 3:25 PM
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PIRATES BOARD 'LORD OF THE RINGS'

Video pirates reportedly have managed to put perfect DVD copies of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" on the street in England.

The Hollywood Reporter, citing the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), said the copies were cloned from screener discs that studios distributed to Motion Picture Association of America members in the United States, as part of their awards season campaign. The outlawed discs are easily identifiable, because a message pops up on the screen intermittently, reminding viewers that the screener is "for your consideration" for the Academy Awards.

"I think it is extremely disappointing that people involved in the industry have let copies of academy screeners go astray," FACT director general David Lowe said.


PERFORMERS' UNIONS MERGING?

According to a report in Daily Variety, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists may be close to a merger.

Variety reported that leaders of the two major performers' unions have scheduled their first joint board meeting in three years. The report called the development "a strong signal that the ... unions are seeking to merge."

The boards are scheduled to meet on Feb. 8. Variety said neither union has acknowledged publicly that it wants a merger, although a joint board meeting is a requirement if the boards want to set a vote by the combined membership on merging the two unions into one organization.

Variety said special committees from each union have been holding "summit meetings" over the past two months, and that officials from both unions have been holding "secret meetings to strategize about a merger in recent weeks."

The paper said union insiders believe the push for a merger is motivated by a belief that the unions should combine their strength as entertainment companies continue to conglomerate. At am AFTRA meeting on Saturday, one presentation pointed out that a handful of media giants -- AOL-Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Disney, News Corp./Fox, Viacom and Vivendi-Universal -- produce most movies and TV shows.

AFTRA president John Connolly said at the meeting that AFTRA and SAG need to take on the issue before negotiations begin on a new contract for commercials, to replace the contract that expires on Oct. 30, and the film-TV contract, which expires in July 2004.


HONORS FOR PETER O'TOOLE

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that Peter O'Toole will receive an Honorary Oscar at the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards.

The veteran British actor has been nominated for best actor seven times -- for "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "Becket" (1964), "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "The Ruling Class" (1972), "The Stunt Man" (1980) and "My Favorite Year" (1982).

"O'Toole's performances have ignited the screen for more than four decades," said academy President Frank Pierson. "He has appeared in some of the most unforgettable roles in the history of the medium. He's seven times been nominated as Best Actor, which puts him in extremely rarified air for a performer. The Board of Governors felt it was time for him to hold his own Oscar in his hands."

O'Toole joins a list of Honorary Oscar winners that includes Charles Chaplin (twice), Bob Hope (twice), Gene Kelly, Federico Fellini, Chuck Jones and Sidney Poitier. The Academy Awards will be presented on March 23 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, in ceremonies to be televised live by ABC.


OOPS!

The Screen Actors Guild has said that Megan Mullally and Michael Clarke Duncan will announce the nominees for the 9th Annual SAG Awards.

It was erroneously reported in this space last Friday that Mullally and Duncan would serve as presenters at the upcoming awards ceremony in March. The nominations will be announced Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, and the awards will be presented on March 9 in ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, to be televised live by TNT.


'DARKNESS FALLS' IS NO. 1

"Darkness Falls" -- about a woman who carries a grudge for 150 years after being hanged as a witch -- finished first at the U.S. box office with $12.5 million.

Last week's champion, the comedy "Kangaroo Jack," was second with $11.9 million, and the Golden Globe-winning musical "Chicago" was No. 3 with $8.5 million.

The Super Bowl -- which delivered its best ratings in five years -- also depressed movie attendance somewhat. Overall box-office grosses were down 23 percent from the fourth weekend in January last year.


CASTING CALL

Johnny Depp will star in "Two Past Midnight: Secret Window, Secret Garden" as a writer who is stalked by a man who claims the author stole his idea for a story.

The movie is being directed by David Koepp, from his own adaptation of the Stephen King novella of the same name. Koepp is best known as the writer of "Spider-Man," "Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic Park: The Lost World."

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