Today's News: Our Take


SHORT CUTS

Oscar-winner and former NRA head Charlton Heston, who currently suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was awarded the Medal of Freedom on Wednesday by President Bush... The Bad Boys II soundtrack entered Billboard's album chart at No. 1 with sales of 324,000 copies. read more

X-FILES STAR X-RAYED

X-Files star Gillian Anderson, 34, fell down a flight of stairs at her home in London's Notting Hill on Monday. But no worries, X-Philes. "She is not seriously injured," the actress's official website says. "She has no fractures or sprains. [Britain's Daily Mirror tabloid reports] that she is expected to be in the hospital for at least a week. False. Gillian was released after a checkup at the hospital and is back home, safe and sound. Gillian is fine!" read more

TOGETHER AGAIN

Break out the bong, gang: Cheech & Chong are reuniting after 20 years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, famed comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are developing a new film project at New Line Cinema. read more

REEL CONFLICT

Nicole Kidman has dropped out of Lars von Trier's Manderlay, the second movie in the planned U.S.A. trilogy; the first, Dogville, debuted at this year's Cannes Film Festival. According to Variety, her exit was caused by a scheduling conflict. read more

TREK TROUBLE

The crew of UPN's Enterprise were put on the defensive Tuesday at the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood. At issue: Last season's dramatic ratings slide. "I don't think, creatively, we were doing anything wrong," huffed exec producer Brannon Braga. "It can be debated from many different angles whether there are problems with the show." That said, co-exec producer Rick Berman conceded that he and Braga decided to "ramp up the show" this season "to try to lure back some of our viewers." Asked whether Enterprise's struggles and the box office failure of Nemesis are proof that the franchise is on the decline, Berman said, "I don't think the franchise is in trouble." For more Star Trek scoop from TCA — including the latest on a new feature film — click here for my minute-by-minute recap. read more

CRUZ MOURNED

The Tuesday funeral mass of legendary salsa singer Celia Cruz drew thousands of mourners outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on New York's Fifth Avenue. Celebrities like Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Jon Secada and Reuben Blades showed up to remember Cruz, who succumbed to cancer last week at 77. The Cuban-born crooner was buried in the Bronx's Woodlawn Cemetery, resting place of music icons like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. read more

Amistad Stud's Tomb Talk


You'll recall Djimon Hounsou from his affecting turn in 1997's slavery drama, Amistad. Listening to the West Africa native's soft, sophisticated speech patterns, it's hard to believe his story of how he taught himself English. Hounsou — who plays Angelina Jolie's interpreter in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (opening Friday) — insists he owes his fluency to television.

"I watched a lot of documentaries," says the 39-year-old ex-model. "I liked watching anything about nature and learning about scientific stuff — Discovery, the Learning Channel, the History Channel. They have nice diction."

Hounsou landed on the other side of the language divide while filming Tomb Raider in a remote region of Kenya. Members of the Pokot tribe, many of whom h read more

Will Smith Saves UPN's Day


UPN is mired in last place in the ratings, its viewership is off 18 percent from last season, and, with the exception of America's Next Top Model, none of its new or returning shows are generating any audible buzz. In spite of all this, the network's portion of the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday wasn't nearly as pathetic as it should have been. Much of the credit for that belongs to the exec producers behind the new sitcom All of UsWill and Jada Pinkett Smith. The movie-star couple showed up to plug their latest pet project, and turned what could have been a standard-issue TCA panel into a rollicking hour of live theater. It proved the old adage true: The only thing a network needs to turn its press tour around is one hit session. Here's a read more

QUEEN OF QUEENS MARRIES

Sorry guys, King of Queens hottie Leah Remini is off the market. She married actor/musician Angelo Pagan in Las Vegas on Saturday, in front of 150 guests. The very merry 33-year-old actress got engaged last Christmas Eve. read more

FINALLY...

With that whole Spike Lee mess a distant memory, cable channel TNN will officially become Spike TV on Aug. 11. To celebrate the occasion, a one-hour premiere party — taped at the Playboy Mansion and featuring appearances by Pamela Anderson, Kelsey Grammer and Carmen Electra — will air that day. read more

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