Today's News: Our Take


"I don't condone the behavior that I've had over the past year. I don't think there's an excuse. I just think sometimes you have wild spells, and you learn from that. But the things that I did weren't very cool." Britney Spears discussing her quickie marriage and other assorted missteps in Seventeen magazine. read more


Ashley Judd has pulled out of Broadway's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to undergo surgery on her foot. Judd tore a ligament after falling hard during a Feb. 17 performance, which begs the question: Did anyone bother to check costar Ned Beatty's alibi? read more


Michael Jackson and ex-wife Debbie Rowe have hired a mediator to reportedly handle custody issues involving their two children, Prince Michael, 7, and Paris, 5. Jackson and Rowe divorced in 1999. read more


Actor Barry Pepper has been tapped to play the title role in ESPN's upcoming original movie, 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story. This is Pepper's second stint channeling a legendary sports figure. He starred as Yankees slugger Roger Maris in HBO's acclaimed baseball film, 61*. read more


Final ratings are in for Sex and the City's series finale on Sunday, and Nielsen says 10.6 million viewers — not the 13 million figure we reported here yesterday — watched the 45-minute swan song. Still, it marked the largest audience in Sex's six-year history. read more


Following months of hype, curiosity and controversy, Mel Gibson's provocative religious opus, The Passion of the Christ, makes its debut in U.S. theaters today. The film is garnering mostly positive reviews from critics, including our own Maitland McDonagh, who describes it as "never dull — no mean feat, given that it spends two hours telling a story whose end is widely known." Unspooling on a blockbuster-worthy 4,600 screens, Passion could bring in as much as $50 million over the next five days, insiders predict. And a quick heads-up: If you're planning to see the film, just make sure you stick around through the end credits. Word is the outtakes are hysterical. read more


Martha Stewart and her former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, both rested their cases Wednesday. Just before that, the domestic diva's defense called attorney Steven Pearl as its sole witness. Now, see if you can follow this: The government claimed Stewart told investigators she didn't recall whether Bacanovic left her a message on the day she sold her ImClone stock. But Pearl testified that Stewart actually just said she didn't recall what time Bacanovic called. Hmmm... Next up: Closing arguments. Then, the jury could begin deliberations as early as Monday. read more


On the heels of news that Janet Jackson quit ABC's Lena Horne biopic, the singer's Boobygate costar, Justin Timberlake, has backed out of cohosting ABC's upcoming Motown 45 special. However, his reps insist the move was not more fallout from his now-legendary Super Bowl duet with Jackson. The special apparently conflicts with production of Timberlake's feature film debut, Edison. read more


Appearing on NBC's Today show this morning, Sarah Jessica Parker confirmed that the in-the-works Sex and the City feature film likely will pick up where Sunday's climax left off. Incidentally, cohost Katie Couric made no mention of a story in Tuesday's New York Post that said long-rumored friction between Parker and Sex costar Kim Cattrall was threatening to derail the project. Katie dear, you're slipping. read more


We're nearly two months into the third season of American Idol and we finally have our first arrest, folks! Yipee! Semifinalist Donnie Williams was arrested on suspicion of DUI early Monday morning. Cops pulled him over in Northern California after clocking his speed at 100 mph. Williams, 20, reportedly told the police he was heading home from a party celebrating his shot on Idol. After being arrested, he complained to them, "You're ruining my life!" The drama queen has since been cited and released. read more

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