BACKING DOWN Looks like the WWF isn’t so tough after all. One day after lashing out against Coca Cola’s advertising boycott of ”WWF Smackdown!” because of the unsuitable-for-kids content, the wrestling organization has vowed to tone down the show to receive a TV-PG rating instead of the current TV-14. ”We’re basically saying there will be less colorful language, less sexuality, and that these are changes that we were happy to make,” WWF senior VP Jim Byrne told the Hollywood Reporter. Coke won’t commit to coming back until it sees the changes, according to a spokesman. If this doesn’t get that lucrative sponsor, look for another hero to be added to the WWF stable: Happy Yummy-Coke-Drinker Man.
CYBERCAST To commemorate World AIDS Day, ‘N Sync, Wyclef Jean, Monica, and Destiny’s Child will perform in the Music With a Message concert in New York City, which will be cybercast live tonight on the Levi’s website. Levi’s will donate $1 to the AIDS charity LIFEbeat for each person who logs on to the concert (which starts at 8:30 ET), for a maximum of $50,000. So if you’re ‘N Sync fan No. 50,001, you’ll have to send in a donation on your own.
CASTING Just when the talk about Mariah Carey turning into a movie star had finally started to calm down, one of her long-gestating projects may finally get made. Sony is recruiting Vondie Curtis-Hall (the ”Chicago Hope” star who directed Tupac Shakur in ”Gridlock’d”) to take over ”All That Glitters,” in which Carey would play a poor orphan who grows up to be a famous singer…. If Jodie Foster thought the charming and reprehensible Hannibal Lecter presented a moral conundrum, wait until her next role: She’ll play German director Leni Riefenstahl in an untitled biopic that she’s producing. The 1930s films of Riefenstahl, who is now 97, are considered visual breakthroughs, but then there was that whole Nazi-sympathizer thing (she directed the 1934 pro-Hitler documentary ”Triumph of the Will”), which tends to add a big black mark to the résumé…. Katie Holmes may play a disappeared woman who is tracked down by the ESP-wielding Cate Blanchett in ”The Gift.”
SAY YOU’RE SORRY! Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to make it clear that he’s healthy, and he’ll go to court to prove it if need be. A Berlin court has ordered a German doctor to pay $10,500 to Arnold and retract a statement that the strongman didn’t have much longer to live, according to the Associated Press. Dr. Willi Heepe had made the fatal comment during a 1998 radio show discussing the relationship between anabolic steroids and heart disease, after citing Schwarzenegger’s 1997 heart operation. Schwarzenegger said he had a right to be protected from speculative medical diagnoses, but while Dr. Heepe had written his own apology, he would not sign the retraction statement sent him by Arnold. The civil court agreed with Arnold’s lawyer, who accused Dr. Heepe of ”stubbornness.” Fortunately for U.S. critics, Schwarzenegger has no plans to press charges against those who who said ”End of Days” was DOA.
SCHEDULE SWITCH Alas, the Matt Groening power hour is no more: Fox is taking ”Futurama” off the air for four weeks starting Jan. 9 to give the new sitcom ”Malcolm in the Middle” the post-”Simpsons” time slot. ”Futurama” will return on Feb. 6, albeit much earlier — it will take the 7 p.m. time slot from the benched ”World’s Funniest Home Videos,” which is going to that great groin-kick in the sky.
WEIGHTY ISSUE Girl Power is all about never having to say ”I’m hungry.” Victoria Beckham — a.k.a. Posh Spice — has rebutted England’s Daily Mail, which called her ”Skeletal Spice,” accusing her of losing too much weight after giving birth eight months ago and sending a bad message to anorexia-prone girls. Beckham responded in the competing tabloid, the Mirror, saying ”I’m not anorexic. I’m not bulimic and I’m not a skeleton. I’m seven and a half stone [105 pounds], very fit, and I’ve never felt better in my life.” The Daily Mail had run a picture of her leaving a party where she looked especially stickly, to which Beckham said, ”The photograph made me look skinnier than I am. How can anybody treat a woman like this? It was so nasty.”
PUMPKIN PATCH Hole’s Melissa Auf Der Maur has officially turned into a pumpkin. She’s replaced Smashing Pumpkins‘ departed bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, joining the band on their world tour, which kicks off in Sweden on Jan. 7. Meanwhile, D’Arcy is trying out another arm of show business: She’s been cast as a Mafia hitwoman in the Mickey Rourke movie ”Peaces of Ronnie,” according to MTV News. There is probably a mathematical formula that can make this seem like a step up, but scientists have not discovered it yet.
GAME-SHOW RUSH CBS has followed ABC’s lead, plundering England’s game-show catalog for something to bring back to the States. The Eye network has returned with the rights to remake ”Winning Lines,” a fast-paced brainteaser contest that begins with 49 contestants and ends with one winner. CBS could have it on by February sweeps, just in time to be the third-to-last nail in the game-show coffin.
ON STAGE Gabriel Byrne will cleanse his acting palate from ”End of Days” by heading to Broadway to star in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s ”A Moon for the Misbegotten.” The show will open on March 22.
HOSPITALIZED French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (best known as the star of Jean-Luc Godard’s ”Breathless”) collapsed on stage in Paris Tuesday night during a theater performance. The hospital wouldn’t comment on the 66-year-old actor’s ailment, but he was being kept in the cardiological wing.