Today's News: Our Take


HECHE IS "GREAT"

Denzel Washington is lending some credence to the theory that Anne Heche's bizarre episode last month may have been brought on by sunstroke. But the Oscar winner — who has been in Toronto filming John Q with Heche — says that Ellen DeGeneres's former girlfriend was in fighting form when she showed up for work just days after wandering to a stranger's home in Central California talking about God and spaceships. "She was great," Washington says of his co-star. "This was right on the heels of all that stuff. She seemed all right to me. She was [sun]burned, though. I guess she really was wandering around in the woods or whatever. She had real bad burns on her shoulders and arms and stuff." Heche's August 19 spell, which landed her in the hospital, coincided with the end of her three-and-a-half year romance with DeGeneres. At the time, sources said that her behavior was consistent with an ectasy overdose. read more

UPN COMMITS ROAD RAGE

UPN isn't going down without a fight. Variety reports that the struggling network has ordered the reality series Road Rage, which finds contestants facing off in demolition derby vehicles. "If we're trying to get in touch with the inner boy and reach our target audience, there's nothing better than cars smacking into each other," said UPN president/CEO Dean Valentine. "It marries demolition derby with great storytelling. Car freaks will particularly enjoy the show." Or, just freaks. read more

BAD B.O.

You know the box office is in a sorry state when the weekend's top film grosses a meager $5.7 million. Well, that's just what the Keanu Reeves serial killer flick, The Watcher, did in its second week at No. 1. It was the lowest first place finish since January, 1997. But the news wasn't all doom and gloom. The Cameron Crowe rock biopic, Almost Famous, pulled in $2.3 million in just 131 theaters, for a staggering $17,557 per-screen average. By contrast, The Watcher's per-screen average was $2,077. The Jamie Foxx action thriller Bait debuted at No. 2 with $5.5 million, followed by Bring It On ($5.1 million), Nurse Betty ($4.7 million) and What Lies Beneath ($2.6 million). Duets, the karaoke romance starring Gwyneth Paltrow, opened at No. 9 with $2 million. Playing on just 581 screens, the film averaged a so-so $3,442 per site. read more

NO DEPLOYMENT

Semper Fi, the highly-touted military drama from Steven Spielberg, reportedly has been discharged by NBC. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the hour-long series — which the network had green-lit for midseason — now is being shopped to Fox and CBS by Spielberg's DreamWorks Television division. If no one bites, NBC will repackage the two-hour pilot as a movie-of-the-week. Semper Fi stars Scott Bairstow (Party of Five) and Steve Burton (General Hospital). read more

Danny Passes Straight Acting Test


Danny Roberts, best known as the swoon-worthy gay guy from MTV's The Real World, makes his acting debut on the Oct. 4 season premiere of Dawson's Creek. But contrary to widespread assumption, he will not be a love interest for Kerr Smith, who plays the show's token homosexual.

"Everyone just figures that that's the case," the aspiring actor tells TV Guide Online. "I've had people ask me, 'What's it like kissing Kerr?' And I'm like, 'Actually, I didn't."

Still, the 22-year-old Georgia native did manage to score a little nookie on the set. But the object of his affection packed two X chromosomes. In the episode, Roberts plays John-John, a prankster who attempts to win over Andie (Meredith Monroe) by pretending to be French. "Eventually it's revealed that I have a crush on her," he explains, "and we have a little kissing scene."

And if Roberts has it his way, he'll be making out with lots more girls in the near read more

THOR, MUTANT X HEAD TO TV

Artisan Entertainment is developing live-action television shows based on Marvel Comics's Thor and Mutant X, comicscontinuum.com reports. Tyler Mane (X-Men) and Dolph Lundgren reportedly are interested in playing Thor, the god of thunder. "We are not at the casting stage," Marvel's Avi Arad told the website. "I'm not being cagey. It's just too early. All tall, good-looking actors should be interested in this one." read more

Downey Breaks His Silence


Troubled actor Robert Downey, Jr. says he's been drug-free, flat broke, and looking to make amends with his family since his release last month from a California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison.

"I so appreciate the simple things now," the 35-year-old Oscar nominee tells Details in his first post-prison interview. "When I got out, I stayed in this middle-class house with a boat and a muscle car. I had a little room. It was the kind of place where I used to say, 'Okay, I can rough it here for two days.' Now it was like, 'Wow! I've got my own bathroom! The toilet has a lid and it isn't made of metal!"

Previously accustomed to tooling around L.A. in high-priced sports cars, Downey now finds himself making $300-a-month payments on his Chevy Monte Carlo SS. "I'd never bought an American car before," he says. "This might sound a bit pathetic, but I like America a lot more than I ever did before."

Downey, who's looking to pay off his financial de read more

MILLER DECODED

Monday Night Football viewers confounded by announcer Dennis Miller's brainy musings can now check out Encyclopedia Brittanica's web site for a complete deciphering. At last, an explanation for what the hell was going on inside Miller's mind when he described a Jets-Patriot game by saying, "I haven't seen murkier bloodlines than this since the house of Plantagenet." read more

Goodman Comes Home


Former Roseanne star John Goodman says his decision to return to the sitcom world this fall has nothing to do with any sort of master career plan.

"I don't know how to say this without making myself sound like an idiot, but I don't plan anything," says the star of the new Fox comedy Normal, Ohio (Wednesdays, 8:30pm/ET). "Whatever comes up, comes up."

Goodman says he decided to take the lead role of William "Butch" Gamble in Normal because "it was just the right place, right piece, right time." It also helped that he had worked with series creators and former Saturday Night Live writers Bonnie and Terry Turner while guest-hosting the late-night skit show.

"I like doing series TV," he adds. "It's a great place to show up for work every week and you get to work in front of an audience."

In his latest sitcom incarnation, Goodman plays a gay Midwesterner whose family isn't exactly thrilled with his lifestyle. But don't expect read more

SHORT CUTS

Harrison Ford has matched Kevin Spacey's $100,000 donation to help support striking union actors... Spike Lee will direct a TV movie for cable's BET about the life of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton, Variety reports. Roger Guenveur Smith, who created a one-man show about Newton, will play the title role... Also according to Variety, Chris Noth, Sex and the City's Mr. Big, has signed a deal with HBO to star in his own series. Additionally, the fomer Law & Order actor will produce and star in the upcoming NBC miniseries The Judge, based on Steve Martini's bestseller... Veteran actress Beah Richards, who just won an Emmy for her guest stint on The Practice, died Thursday of emphysema at the age of 74. Richards was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner... Oscar winner Al Pacino and longtime girlfriend Beverly D'Angelo are read more

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