Today's News: Our Take


MUSIC WORLD MOURNS

Legendary punk rocker Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash, died Sunday of a heart attack at the age of 50. According to the group's record label, Strummer "died peacefully at his home" outside London. read more

Can Renée Zellweger Really Sing?


If her older brother, Andrew, had had his way, Renée Zellweger probably wouldn't be headlining Miramax's eagerly anticipated film adaptation of the classic Broadway musical, Chicago (opening Dec. 27). "He always used to yell 'Shut up!' any time I tried to do a rendition of a Beatles song," Zellweger recalls to TV Guide Online, laughing. "I was told that I couldn't sing in the house. Anything to abuse his little sister; it was his job and he did a very good job."

Fast-forward 10 years later and Zellweger is knocking 'em dead as Chicago's merry murderess, Roxie Hart — a role that just earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy. How did a performer with no formal vocal or dance training wind up landing one of Hollywood's most coveted parts? Two words: Rob Marshall, the film's director.

"I needed to find a performer with that amazing range from drama to humor, from vulner read more

Nicolas Cage: Big Screen Hustler


Movie directing is in Nicolas Cage's blood. (His uncle Francis Ford Coppola did make this little flick called The Godfather...) So it was inevitable the Oscar-winning actor would want his turn behind the camera. His first filmmaking effort is Sonny (opening Dec. 27) — a dramatic story about a male prostitute (James Franco) who struggles with his trashy trade. Spicy!

"I have to say that it went surprisingly well," boasts the 38-year-old, who originally planned to star in this film 15 years ago. "In terms of the shoot itself, things seemed to fall into place rather smoothly and we were able to do it ahead of schedule and under budget because I had a great team of people."

Cynics might suspect Cage of pumping his esteemed uncle for tips. But Cage — who declines to comment on his marital split with Lisa Marie Presley, by the way — says it ain't so. In fact, he insists Coppola only got involved late in read more

Golden Globe Nods: Who Won, Who Lost


Nominations for the 60th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced on Thursday, and the big surprise was, well, that there were so few surprises. As expected, Gangs of New York, The Hours, Chicago, Adaptation and My Big Fat Greek Wedding all scored multiple nods in the major film categories. The same was true on the television side, where, for the most part, old perennials like Friends, The West Wing and The Sopranos reigned supreme. But as TV Guide critic Matt Roush points out, "It's nice that TV is invited to the party, but the Globes is really a movie event. Besides, it's hard to take any organization seriously that nominates la read more

Denzel's Discovery Gets Kudos


Derek Luke is no household name, but perhaps you've seen his baby face from the movie posters for Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher. The newcomer recalls getting the surprise of his life when Washington personally popped into the Sony gift shop where Luke worked to say he'd won the title role!

"I saw Denzel and he called me 'Antwone,' and I tried to play it off," Luke admits. "But I just busted out crying because I felt like this Jersey boy with a dream that was finally coming true. I just broke down and fell on my knees crying, hugging him and just expressing all kinds of joy."

The role carried a lot of emotional weight for the 28-year-old actor, especially since he'd become friends with the real Antwone Fisher while they both were Sony employees. Fisher, an ex-security guard, just happened to be on hand for Washington's announcement.

"Antwone mysteriously came in [the shop] that day," says Luke. "I read more

Hugh Grant: Naughty By Nature


Remember when we knew Hugh Grant as that sweet, awkward English gent who was almost too good to get the girl? With films like Bridget Jones's Diary, About a Boy and Two Weeks Notice (opening tomorrow), it seems he wants to strike that guy from moviegoers' memories. Forget those fops from Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill — he's playing arrogant, rich womanizers now. Why? Hey, it's more fun!

"Anything devilish actors tend to like," he explains. "It's always more fun than being Mr. Goody Two Shoes, which I've done my fair share of. And let me tell you, that stuff's hard."

In case you haven't noticed, he's also rid himself of the trademark Hugh Grant stammer. "I haven't done it for years and years," he insists, "but I bet you 50 percent of critics will say I still do."

Looking back on his previous on-screen persona, Grant laughs at critics who pegged him as a copycat of classic leading men. "W read more

Lost Ark Star Raids Rings!


An accomplished Shakespearean actor, John Rhys-Davies was cajoled by his agent into devoting years of his life to playing Gimli, a belligerent dwarf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Soon after arriving on the New Zealand set, however, this grumbling cynic became LOTR's biggest cheerleader.

"I didn't want to do a mediocre film that'd go direct to video, and spend that much of my life doing it," admits Rhys-Davies — who's best known as Indy's sidekick, Sallah, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hence, he inspected the 2,500-person cast and crew, just itching for an excuse to bow out of the production. "Within two weeks, [director Peter Jackson] turned me from saying, 'Let's find the way out of this!' to saying, 'Guys, make no mistake. We're making a masterpiec read more

MORE MOVIE AWARDS

The Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. announced nominees for its 2002 film kudos Tuesday, and in the running for best picture are About Schmidt, Adaptation, Catch Me If You Can, Chicago, Far From Heaven, Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist and Road to Perdition. Winners will be announced Jan. 17. read more

Did Titanic Curse Leo's Career?


Titanic may have made Leonardo DiCaprio king of the worldwide box office, but his rep as one of Hollywood's most accomplished thesps seems to have taken an iceberg-sized hit in the process. The same actor who won raves for his performances in such "little" films as This Boy's Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Basketball Diaries suddenly found himself lumped in with Tiger Beat's pin-up boys instead of Tinseltown's leading men.

"Titanic was this monumental success, and yet somehow, it's as if he's been reassessed because of that — and not in an altogether positive way," admits Daniel Day-Lewis, DiCaprio's arch rival in read more

SHORT CUTS

Stephanie March reportedly will exit Law &#038 Order: SVU at the end of the season to pursue other interests... Destiny's Child singer-turned-actress Beyonc&#233 Knowles has signed a deal to become Pepsi's latest celeb endorser... Christopher Reeve and his wife, Dana, have landed a pretty cool gig: They'll push the button to lower the New Year's Eve ball in Times Square this year... Variety reports the Rob Schneider comedy Deuce Bigalow is getting a sequel: Electric Gigolo... Oscar winner Diane Keaton will star i read more

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