STAMPED OUT Tuesday’s release of commemorative stamps of Freddie Mercury in England will bite the dust if protesters have their way. The stamps of the late lead singer of Queen who died of AIDS are part of a special millennium series honoring Britain’s various accomplishments. Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer attacked the Mercury stamp as a ”vulgar” reminder of a man ”whose degenerate lifestyle caused him to die of AIDS.” Others complained because a small corner of the stamp depicts Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor (who is still alive). This is an unprecedented occurrence, since the only living people the Royal Mail is supposed to depict are members of the royal family. Despite the objections, it looks like Mercury is the champion — the Royal Mail says ”every stamp is approved by the queen, including this one.”
REEL DEAL Ridley Scott (”Alien,” ”Blade Runner”) is in negotiations with producer Dino De Laurentiis to direct the ”Silence of the Lambs” sequel, ”Hannibal.” De Laurentiis apparently considered Scott after the Oscar-winning ”Lambs” director Jonathan Demme turned down the producer last month because of differences with the ”Hannibal” author Thomas Harris over the material’s extreme violence.
CASTING Sultry ”Cleopatra” star Leonor Varela has snagged a leading role in Dimension Films’ ”Texas Rangers” as part of a two-picture deal. In ”Rangers” — which stars James Van Der Beek and Dylan McDermott as leaders of a group of post-Civil War men who go westward — the French-Chilean actress will play a Mexican border crosser who is kidnapped by outlaws.
”HOMICIDE” UPDATE Richard Belzer, star of the recently canceled ”Homicide,” prematurely announced on yesterday’s ”Today” show that his character John Munch would be given a role on the upcoming ”Law & Order” spin-off, ”Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Dick Wolf, executive producer for both ”Order” shows, issued a statement after Belzer’s appearance saying that he’s still in negotiations with NBC and Studios U.S.A. ”to give Munch a recurring role in the ‘Law & Order’ family.” But it hasn’t happened yet, Richard.
ROBBED Kathy Bates was the victim of a bad Samaritan yesterday when she was robbed by a man supposedly trying to help her with a flat tire. The Oscar-winning actress was waiting for the L.A. auto club to arrive when a passing driver parked his car to offer ”assistance.” According to an LAPD spokesman, when the tow truck showed up Bates was ”momentarily distracted,” after which she noticed her purse was gone, along with the other motorist. No word on how much the thief got away with, but the police said Bates had just withdrawn cash from a nearby bank.
CARTOON WATCH The B-52’s have signed with Stone Stanley Productions to develop an animated TV series in the vein of the 1960s live-action ”Batman” series crossed with the 1970s Saturday-morning cartoon ”Josie & the Pussycats.” Band members Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, and Keith Strickland will provide their own voices for the cartoon, which will include musical numbers.
NOMINATED Critical darlings ”The Sopranos” and ”The Practice” each received five nominations for the 15th annual Television Critics Association Awards. Nominations in 10 categories were entered by TCA members across the U.S. and Canada, and the awards ceremony is July 23 at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif. Other drama nominees include ”Homicide,” ”Law & Order,” and ”NYPD Blue.” Comedy nods went to ”Ally McBeal,” ”Everybody Loves Raymond,” ”Friends,” ”Sports Night,” and ”Will & Grace.”