Today's News: Our Take


NO SHOW

Eminem is apparently too cool to attend next week's Oscars. Show producer Gil Cates confirms to USA Today that Slim Shady — whose single "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile is up for best song — won't be attending the March 23 ceremony. Should he win, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has agreed to accept the golden guy on the rapper's behalf. read more

RECOUNT, ANYONE?

This is just depressing: Colorful crooner Vanessa Olivarez became the first of 12 finalists booted off of American Idol Wednesday night. The 21-year-old Atlantan — who sang "You Keep Me Hanging On" during Tuesday's performance edition — may have been hurt by that diva-esque banter she was forced to recite to host Ryan Seacrest just prior to the commerical break. (He later tried to fix things, but the damage was done.) On the bright side, loathsome prima donna Julia DeMato ranked among the bottom three — which means it won't be long before she packs up her bad attitude and heads back to Brookfield, Conn. In other Idol news, season one champ Kelly Clarkson will perform on next Tuesday's show. 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, although Blake's not expected to come up with the cash until next week. The actor's handyman-bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, was also ordered to stand trial on a conspiracy count. read more

JOHN WALSH TO THE RESCUE!

America's Most Wanted claimed another major victory Wednesday. The long-running Fox series is being credited with helping rescue missing Salt Lake City teen Elizabeth Smart, who was found alive after a tipster recognized alleged kidnapper Brian David Mitchell's scary mug from AMW. Host John Walsh appeared on NBC's Today show this morning to discuss the capture, but mostly used the opportunity to plug his freshman yakker The John Walsh Show. read more

WHERE'S TUBBS WHEN YOU NEED HIM?

Miami Vice alum Don Johnson insists there is absolutely no truth to reports that he's embroiled in an overseas money-laundering ring, after $8 billion in cash, bonds and share certificates were allegedly found in his car during a routine border stop in Germany last November. "They have taken a routine incident and blown it up into this money-laundering ring that supposedly I am involved in, and it has caused me unbelievable difficulty," the actor tells Reuters. "I don't know that I will ever be able to clear my reputation and regain my credibility." But enough about Nash Bridges. read more

MOB MENTALITY

HBO has suspended production of The Sopranos's fifth season — scheduled to begin on March 24 — as a result of its pending legal battle (read: salary dispute) with star James Gandolfini. Making matters worse, talks between HBO and the actor are said to be as dead as Tony and Carmela's marriage. According to Variety, HBO's final offer to Gandolfini was $11 million for a 13-episode fifth season — a far cry from the $27 million the Emmy winner is reportedly demanding. read more

Meet The Hunted's Real-Life Hero


When watching an action film about a mentally disturbed killer on the loose, it usually helps to remind yourself, "This is only a movie. It won't happen to you. Remain calm." Well, though survivalist teacher Tom Brown Jr. says there's definitely some Hollywood-style exaggeration in The Hunted (opening Friday), he did his part to make the pic as chillingly true to life as possible.

"Basically, the storyline of The Hunted is fabricated to a degree, but parts of it happened in my life," says Brown, who trained the actors in his primitive survival techniques and is the model for Tommy Lee Jones's character. In the movie, Jones must find his former student (Benicio Del Toro), a Special Forces soldier-turned-psychopathic killer.

"I had a guy I trained that went bad, read more

AND THEN THERE'S THIS...

Just prior to last month's Grammys, Jimmy Fallon estimated that the price of his CD The Bathroom Wall would be slashed to $8 if it didn't win for best comedy album. Well, it lost, and the Saturday Night Live hottie was almost right. Over the weekend, a co-worker here at the office bought it for $5.99 — or roughly the cost of two Super Smurfs back in the '80s. Not that I would know anything about those. read more

Why Travolta Rejected Gere's Chicago Role


John Travolta doesn't seem the type to stew in past regrets, torturing himself with what-ifs. Of course, that's what we at TV Guide Online are here for! Turns out, the ex-disco king could have razzle-dazzled in Richard Gere's spats in the blockbuster hit, Chicago! Too bad he rejected the juicy role of shady lawyer Billy Flynn three times.

"I would have never thought Chicago could have worked, when I saw it on stage," Travolta confesses. "It was never pitched to me; I never met with anyone. They just offered it, and offered it again. My research was to go see the show, and each time I saw the show, I thought, 'Well, how are they going to do this?' I couldn't figure it out.

"That's where I needed a director's vision, to say, 'No, no, no read more

SHORT CUTS

Mark Harmon has nabbed the lead role on CBS's upcoming JAG spinoff... Jerry Seinfeld will perform two shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on May 2 and 3... Survivor: The Amazon was the most-watched show on TV last week with 23.2 million viewers... UPN has renewed WWE Smackdown! for an additional two years. (Please, contain your excitement.)... Steve Martin has signed on star in a remake of the 1937 ghost comedy Topper. He'll play the role originated by Cary Grant... Will & Grace's Megan Mullally read more

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