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'N Sync speak out angrily against their ex-manager

Plus, Geri Halliwell, Chris Tucker, Warren Beatty, ”Pokémon,” ”Dogma,” Pete Townshend, and more

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'N Sync, Joey Fatone, ...
Stephen Trupp/Star Max

LAWSUIT ‘N Sync have filed a $25 million countersuit against their former mentor, Louis J. Pearlman, who claimed in his own $150 million suit that the band was in breach of contract for ditching him and BMG records to join Jive Records. The boys tear Pearlman apart in their suit, according to MTV News, claiming fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. In response to Pearlman’s claims, the Sync-ers and even their moms spoke out, with J.C. Chasez being the most outspoken, calling Pearlman an ”unscrupulous, greedy” businessman who ”while hugging us and calling us ‘family’ was picking our pockets, robbing us of our future and even endangering our health.” (This in reference to Lance Bass’ hospitalization from exhaustion last May.) He also claimed that Pearlman underpaid the group and was taking as much as 50 percent of the band’s royalties, 100 percent of all advances, and 25 percent of recording income. Chasez wrapped up his argument by candidly saying, ”We are painfully aware our careers may be brief. In truth, our fans made us a success… an injunction may be the end of ‘N Sync. However we cannot work with people who have lied to us.” BMG and Trans Continental Records (Pearlman’s company) replied in a joint statement that the band had ”invented facts.”

AWW, THAT’S SWEET Geri Halliwell, the ex-Ginger Spice, may be on the brink of marriage, according to the London tabloid the Daily Mail. The paper quotes close friends as saying that she is planning to announce her engagement to British TV and radio star Chris Evans, although she’s reserving her right to break out of the couple and go solo.

CASTING Even though he backed out of it last year, Chris Tucker may now come back to star in ”Double O-Soul,” the hip-hop James Bond parody now linked with ”Belly” director Hype Williams, according to Variety. However, Tucker is still wavering between this and the comedy ”Black Knight” as his next project, so this might be just a fleeting consideration.

IN… OR OUT? In a speech to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Warren Beatty continued to sound every bit the presidential candidate, while still waffling on whether or not he’d enter the race. ”I don’t know,” he flatly said to a student who pressured him as to his political plans. But he did use the opportunity to speak out for universal health care and campaign finance reform, as well as to urge Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore to take more leftist positions. ”I’m hoping that Bradley and Gore, who are very good men, will come more over to the liberal side of the party,” said Beatty.

IN DEVELOPMENT Why create a new show when you can just flip the genders around on an old one? That seems to be NBC’s motto, with the network developing a drama that it’s calling ”Sex and the City”… with men. The project will be written by movie vet David McKenna (”American History X,” ”Body Shots”), and will be set in L.A. rather than New York. So instead of jokes about taking a cab to refill birth-control pills, there will be jokes about driving to buy condoms.

BATTLE OF THE PLANETS Warner Bros. and Disney both had movies about Mars explorers trapped in outer space planned for a March release, but Warner has blinked. Its ”Red Planet” with Val Kilmer — originally set for March 31 — has now been moved to June 16, while Disney’s ”Mission to Mars” (with Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise) remains on March 10. However, if Mars crashes into the Earth as part of the Jan. 1, 2000, doomsday, it could create awful buzz for both projects.

WASHINGTON PUBLICITY Warner Bros. is enlisting politicians’ help to make sure that ”The Iron Giant” doesn’t meet the same dismal fate in its video release that it did when in theaters. The studio will hold a press conference with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert in which they will tout the movie (”On our Constitution scale, we give it five amendments!”), and then Warner will send a copy of the video to every House and Senate member. WB has targeted pols as their choice flacks because it says that the critically lauded ”Giant” is exactly the kind of family-friendly, positive message that Washington is constantly saying there should be more of.

REEL DEAL Joel Schumacher is going low-budget for his next film: ”Tigerland” — which follows young soldiers training for Vietnam — will have a budget of less than $10 million, a sum that would have barely paid for nipple upkeep in his ”Batman and Robin.”

OBITUARY Ian Bannen, the taller, heavier lead actor in ”Waking Ned Devine,” died in a car crash in Scotland on Wednesday. The 71-year-old actor (”The Mackintosh Man,” ”Braveheart”) was found in an overturned car with his wife, who was driving but only received minor injuries. Bannen was taking a break from filming ”Strictly Sinatra” with Ian Hart (”Backbeat”), part of a career resurgence he was experiencing after ”Devine.”

GOOD DEED? Some of the most powerful broadcasting companies in the world (including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) are teaming to create a $1 billion fund that will provide funding for women and minorities trying to break into the broadcast and Internet fields, according to Variety. ($175 million has been raised so far.) There has been some grumbling that this project is a political maneuver, as the National Assn. of Broadcasters is currently fighting for deregulation from the FCC, which now feels that all of today’s media consolidation is making it harder for minorities to get into the industry. ”It is possible [that we are doing this] because it is the right thing to do,” said CBS CEO Mel Karmazin, one of the main supporters of the new fund. However, immediately after the press conference announcing the plan, all of the NAB members immediately went to the FCC to show them what a good deed they were doing, giving cynics great room for doubt.

NEW BOSS CNN has finally filled Lou Dobbs’ job as president of business news (a job that also entails running CNNfn) by hiring ABC executive VP Shelby Coffey III. Before joining ABC 17 months ago, Coffey had been editor of the Los Angeles Times.

NEW CAREER Look out, Dennis Rodman, there’s another sportsman thespian throwing his jockstrap onto the casting couch! Former tennis champ Boris Becker told the German magazine Bunte that he is looking to begin an acting career. ”I haven’t yet received a concrete proposal,” said the 31-year-old Becker. ”I had such a good time acting in the commercials I made. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.”

IT’S ABOUT TIME It only took 28 years, but Pete Townshend is finally ready to release his rock opera ”Lifehouse.” When he started the project — about a postapocalyptic society that can only find freedom in the perfect musical chord (that DOES sound 1971ish) — he meant it for the Who, but eventually aborted it and put some of its songs, such as ”Baba O’Riley” and ”Won’t Get Fooled Again,” on ”Who’s Next.” But now he will perform the musical in its entirety on BBC Radio 3 on Dec. 5 (with a possible cybercast for non-Brits). Later that month he’ll release a 6-Cd set called ”The Lifehouse Chronicles,” two CDs of which will have the BBC concert, and the rest will be filled with the original demos, as well as orchestral versions, and new and live versions of other Townshend songs.

STILL SPEAKING OUT Just because Miramax sold ”Dogma” to Lions Gate hasn’t let it off the hook with Catholic protestors. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has sent Disney a petition with 300,000 signatures demanding that the corporation get rid of Miramax, which first provided the funding for Kevin Smith’s film. A Disney spokesperson said there was no plans to sell the once-indie studio, and that ”there has never been any intent on the part of the company to denigrate any individual or organization” with the film. Miramax had no comment.

HONORED Barbra Streisand will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at this year’s Golden Globes on Jan. 23. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation, which votes on the Globes, has always loved Barb — almost TOO MUCH — giving her a Best Director trophy for 1983’s ”Yentl” and 15 other career nominations.

THE POWER OF COLLECTIBLES Move over Spice Girls, a new kid craze is moving to the big screen and they’re even more popular AND more cartoonish. When an L.A. television station announced Monday morning that Warner Bros. was giving away tickets to the premiere of ”Pok√©mon: The First Movie,” the studio got 70,000 calls a minute and had to shut down its voice-mail system.

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