Today's News: Our Take


WILL DIPLOMACY WORK?

HBO and Sopranos kingpin James Gandolfini are reportedly on the verge of striking a new deal that would put an end to the ugly contract dispute that threatened to whack the hit mob drama. Paving the way for the compromise: The actor apparently scaled back his salary demands from $20 million annually to $16 million a year. Another factor triggering the truce was France's threatened veto of any resolution that gave HBO permission to use force to get Gandolfini to return to work. read more

FEARING THE WORST

Paul Stojanovich, the 47-year-old creator of World's Wildest Police Videos, is feared dead after falling 300 feet from an Oregon cliff into the Pacific Ocean over the weekend. Stojanovich was hiking with his fiancée when he slipped off the cliff. read more

HOMEWRECKERS

Several hundred Bush supporters in Louisiana on Saturday used a 33,000 pound tractor to destroy Dixie Chicks CDs and other items after band member Natalie Maines lashed out at America's commander-in-chief. Last week, Maines — apparently not crazy about a U.S.-led war with Iraq — reportedly told a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Word has it that some of the protestors also tossed copies of Kelly Osbourne's new disc under the tractor, because, well, it's awful. read more

SHORT CUTS

Broadway actor Craig Bierko (The Music Man) has signed on to star in Hench at Home, the ABC sitcom pilot produced by Michael J. Fox... Patrick Dempsey has nabbed the lead role in About a Boy, Fox's comedy pilot based on the Hugh Grant film. read more

GET SMART

Several major networks are in hot pursuit of made-for-TV movie rights to the story of Elizabeth Smart — whose real-life abduction and subsequent rescue has Hollywood written all over it. Among the networks reportedly expressing interest in the Utah teen's tale: USA, ABC, NBC, CBS and Lifetime. A Smart family spokesman says they will begin to review offers in the next few weeks. "They're trying to figure this all out," the rep tells The Associated Press. "It comes down to let[ting] someone else tell the story, or tell[ing] it themselves." read more

STILL ON THE MEND

David Letterman will continue to rely on guest hosts this week as he recovers from shingles. Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett will take over on tonight's Late Show, followed by comedian Tom Dreesen on Tuesday and Life with Bonnie star Bonnie Hunt on Wednesday. The show goes dark Thursday and Friday due to CBS's coverage of college basketball. read more

HOUSE PARTY

A teen spy failed to bring down Steve Martin and Queen Latifah at the weekend box office. The duo's hit comedy Bringing Down the House held on to the No. 1 spot with $22.4 million. The film, which has grossed $61.6 million since opening last week, fended off a strong debut by Agent Cody Banks. The Frankie Muniz kiddie flick opened in second place with $15 million. Rounding out the top five: The new Tommy Lee Jones-Benicio Del Toro thriller The Hunted (No. 3 with $13.5 million), Te read more

PARTY POOPER

Saddam Hussein is throwing a monkey wrench into Liza Minnelli and David Gest's party plans. Due to the threat of war in Iraq, the odd couple have postponed their huge wedding anniversary bash, slated for April 15 in New York. On the bright side, the prospect of an angry David Gest may finally drive Hussein into exile. read more

THE PLOT THICKENS...

A Los Angeles judge ruled Thursday that Robert Blake must stand trial on charges of murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The judge set bail for the 69-year-old Baretta star at $1.5 million. The actor's handyman-bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was also ordered to stand trial on a conspiracy count. read more

Sopranos Shocker: And Tony Goes to...

If James Gandolfini insists on shaking down HBO for more dough, maybe the cable network ought to just let the Sopranos star go ahead and take a powder. After all, it's not like series leads can't be replaced. (Was anyone but Valerie Harper really sorry when NBC gave Valerie's Family to Sandy Duncan? Didn't think so.) Plus, in the case of an award-winning character like Tony, there would be an impressive mob of actors ready, willing and eager to fill the mafioso's cement shoes. See for yourself — TV Guide Online has assembled a lineup of master thespians who would make fine made men.

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