Entertainment Today: Showbiz News

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  March 27, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Chris Rock says being a big brother was excellent preparation for being a filmmaker.

"I'm the oldest of seven," the comedian who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the new presidential comedy, "Head of State," told United Press International. "I've been in charge before. I have no problem being in charge of a lot of people. I had a good time. I've done a lot of movies. I've probably been on more movie sets than the average director I've worked with, so when you're out there, it all comes back."

So, did the Emmy and Grammy award-winning entertainer ever worry the film would suffer because of his multi-tasking?

"It wasn't difficult," he explained. "You have to trust the script. We wrote it funny. We laughed when we were writing it. It should still be funny (when we were shooting it.) I didn't give it that much thought. I didn't give my performance a ton of thought. I think I have a better performance than I normally have."

Co-starring Bernie Mac and Robin Givens, "Head of State" is the story of a black man who runs for office after the two candidates in a presidential campaign are killed in a plane crash. It opens Friday.


For Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, starring in the up-coming Broadway revival of "The Miracle Worker" was a dream come true.

"I've always loved the theater," the "Boys Don't Cry" star told reporters in New York. "I've always been inspired by the theater and I thought: 'I'd like to do a play. I'd like to challenge myself in a whole new area.' If I'm not challenging myself, something is wrong. Everyone is like, 'Theater, but why this? It's so challenging,' and you know what, for me it's like, I don't know, I like challenge. I like to stretch myself and I felt like this is it."

Asked if she was careful to avoid imitating Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke's portrayals of teacher Anne Sullivan, Swank replied: "It was like, 'OK, this has been done before, and it was done really well, but it really hasn't been done since.' I like that this is a revival of it. I liked that it was one of the first movies that I saw. So, I was really, really looking forward to being able to inspire kids in the way that it inspired me, and it's been challenging. I mean, I'm exhausted to the bone, physically and mentally."

"The Miracle Worker," based on William Gibson's play about blind and deaf Helen Keller, opens at the Music Box Theater April 8.


By week's end, "Gladiator" beauty Connie Nielsen will play authority figures in not one, but two high-profile thrillers -- "The Hunted" and "Basic."

"For me, as an actor, I'm like, 'They're not authority figures,' Nielsen emphasized to reporters. "They are two women busting their ass, trying to hold on to sanity, dignity while they're working. They're both law enforcement or military. I just saw them as such different people."

Asked if she resembles these "take charge" women, Nielsen laughed. "Not really," she confessed. "I think I could if I really needed to, but you have agents and assistants and managers. At this point, it's like you have someone to help you get out of bed. So, I don't know. Sometimes, yeah, I think because you're an actor you can go in and do anything you need to do. It depends on the situation."

"The Hunted" is in theaters now. "Basic," co-starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, opens Friday.


A $25 million renovation at New York's American Museum of Natural History will restore to the public a beloved 94-foot model of a blue whale.

The Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, one of New York's most famous grand spaces, is undergoing a major renovation that restores the hall to its classic elegance while incorporating current scientific research and cutting-edge exhibition technology, says the museum.

The 29,000-square-foot hall will be transformed into a fully immersive marine environment with video projections, interactive computer stations and eight new ocean ecosystem displays. Above the whale are the hall's restored original skylights, illuminated by shimmering blue lights adding to the visitor's experience of being submerged in the depths of the sea.

The renovated hall will be home to more than 750 sea creatures, including 600 newly fabricated models, ranging from tiny green bubble algae to a 14-foot-long whale shark to computerized bioluminescent fishes. Joining 14 renovated ocean dioramas created for the hall in the 1930s and 1960s will be an 18 x 8 foot video wall presentation combining high-definition footage of undersea life, animation, graphics, and an evocative soundtrack that will transport visitors further into the heart of the ocean realm.

The renovated hall will be open to the public May 17.

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