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Leonardo DiCaprio signs to play Howard Hughes

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CASTING Adding to the long list of projects Leonardo DiCaprio has been linked to but hasn’t actually started filming yet is director Michael Mann‘s (”Heat”) upcoming biopic of Howard Hughes. Meanwhile, another Hughes project is already in the works, with Johnny Depp attached…. Camryn Manheim will play Snow White in a new NBC miniseries retelling the classic tale. John Larroquette, Ed O’Neill, and Rutger Hauer have also joined the cast, with Dianne Wiest as the wicked queen…. Tom Sizemore has joined Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss in the sci-fi flick ”Mission to Mars”…. Dolly Parton has moved into the realm of high concept: In the CBS TV movie ”Heavens to Betsy” (which will feature many Parton songs), she’ll play a member of an R&B trio who realizes she’s psychic.

REUNITING? Dry those eyes, ”Homicide” fans. Creator Tom Fontana is in discussions with NBC to make a TV movie with the cast of the recently canceled show. But the deal’s not signed yet: ”I wouldn’t want it to be like ‘The Brady Bunch Reunion’ or something like that,” he told Variety. ”But we’re talking.”

HUNKY-DORY Things couldn’t be friendlier on the Sean ”Puffy” Combs assault case front, at least according to Combs. He told the Associated Press that he has apologized to Interscope executive Steve Stoute, who accused Combs of beating him up in his office, and that Stoute has asked the Manhattan D.A. to dismiss the charges. (If found guilty of assault, Combs could face up to seven years in prison.) According to the rap mogul, the matter has been settled without any money changing hands. In an interview with MTV News, Combs said he was ashamed about what happened but stressed that the incident had been blown out of proportion. Stoute’s arm and jaw weren’t broken as he claimed, said Combs. ”The other things, I wish I could get into, because I’ve had to deal with hearing everybody else’s report of how it went and not having a chance to speak on mine. But I can’t get into the play-by-play details, but I can say this: I’m totally wrong, and I really feel sorry about it.”

PLAYING HURT Limp Bizkit took an hour break 30 minutes into their tour’s opening show in Seattle when bassist Sam Rivers slashed his hand while smashing his instrument. Lead singer Fred Durst asked the crowd if they could hang out for a bit while Rivers got mended, and the fans patiently obliged, keeping themselves occupied by watching female audience members flash their chests, according to Allstar News. An hour later, Rivers returned with a stitched-up hand and the band continued the show, with Durst proclaiming it their best ever.

LATE-NIGHT MOGUL In a similar production deal to the one David Letterman has with CBS (which spawned ”Everybody Loves Raymond”), NBC has signed a development deal with Conan O’Brien to come up with new shows for the network. O’Brien will likely be finding new prime-time projects for comic and actor guests who he likes, or his writers.

LOOKING UP ”Jerry Springer Show” ratings aren’t down for the count yet. Springer’s numbers initially took a dive last month when he had to air reruns because his owners nixed his fights, but they have come back up ever since he started airing original, nonviolent episodes, and now he’s back in second place to ”Oprah.” Because of the rebound, his studio, Studios USA, is no longer as eager to sell the show, according to Variety.

THE SONG IS OVER? Is this the end of the road for Pavement? The group’s leader, Stephen Malkmus, told MTV News that its new (and fifth) album, ”Terror Twilight,” may be its last, and that it was done primarily for contractual reasons. The group is having trouble finding a way to keep all of its members happy with their music, he said, and to make another album they would have to find a new approach. ”If that’s a challenge you want to take, then that takes a lot of work to do,” he said. ”There’s five people (in the band). It takes a lot of time (to make an album), and we all live in different places. So Pavement fans, I wouldn’t get your hopes up or down.”

SLANDER WATCH Public Enemy‘s song ”Swindler’s Lust” (on their new album, ”There’s a Poison Goin’ On”), is rife with anti-Semitism, according to Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. According to Foxman, the song, which details how record companies have long taken advantage of musicians, is full of code words that speak out against Jews. About one lyric, ”Laughin’ all the way to the bank/Remember dem owns the banks,” Foxman told SonicNet, ”(Allegations of) controlling banks have been classical canards of anti-Semitism fed… into the black community.” A spokesperson for P.E.’s label, Atomic Pop, said Foxman was interpreting the lyrics incorrectly. Interestingly, when the song was first released on the Internet five months ago, an Anti-Defamation League spokesperson said that the group had analyzed the song and found nothing offensive about it. Foxman said the group didn’t actually have a copy of the lyrics until recently, though, and couldn’t hear them correctly on its downloaded version.

UNFAIR DEPICTION The Malaysian government is not pleased with the bad press that the Sean Connery movie ”Entrapment” has given its country. The film was shot partly in Malaysia, but the foreign minister said the filmmakers edited footage so it seems that Kuala Lumpur’s tallest buildings are right next to slums, which are actually 90 miles away. ”We did not ask them to be pro-Malaysia, but we asked them to depict the true Malaysia,” said foreign minister Syed Hamid, according to Reuters. ”What they have done is distort the whole picture of Malaysia.” No complaints yet from the supermodel contingent on how careful editing made it seem like a hottie like Catherine Zeta-Jones would actually fall for a senior citizen like Connery.

ODD DUET Michael Jackson has booked part-time musician, full-time brute Steven Seagal for his benefit concert Friday in South Korea. The show has only sold 60 percent of its tickets so far…and is this really the way to lure in those still on the fence?

DELAYS The new home for the Oscar ceremony, the Academy theater, will be under construction longer than planned. Next year’s Shrine Auditorium show was supposed to be the last Academy Awards held in a ”rental” before the celebration moved to its exclusive home, but now it looks like the hall won’t be ready until 2002.

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