FAREWELL, CHARLIE ”Peanuts” maestro Charles Schulz died in his sleep Saturday night in his Santa Rosa, Calif., home. The legendary cartoonist passed away on the eve of his farewell Sunday strip, which was published yesterday. Schulz, who was 77 years old, had battled colon cancer for the past three months, causing him to retire after nearly 50 years of drawing his daily comic strip. More than 350 million readers worldwide will miss the antics of Schulz’ ”Peanuts” gang: Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and Sally. President Clinton mourned the artist’s death with the following statement: ”For 50 years, his keen eye, his good and generous heart, and his active brush and pen have given life to the most memorable cast of characters ever to enliven our daily papers.” A public memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21 in Santa Rosa.
CASTING Calling all beautiful young redheaded British girls, aged 7-9: Casting directors are looking for someone to play Nicole Kidman‘s daughter in ”The Others,” a thriller set in 1940s Nazi-occupied England. The film’s casting dept. has spent four months auditioning young girls, but so far no one has been cast. Production is scheduled to start in just two months, under director Alejandro Amenabar.
REEL DEAL The life story of Johnny Cash is coming to the big screen: Columbia Pictures has inked a deal with director James Mangold (”Girl, Interrupted”) to cowrite and direct ”Cash,” a biopic of the country star. The film will be produced by Cash’s close friend, actor James Keach, and Mangold’s wife, veteran producer Cathy Konrad (”Scream 3”).
TUBE WATCH Thanks to Must See TV’s new episodes, NBC is currently winning sweeps among the 18 to 49 demographic. Last week’s ”ER,” which prepared for Kellie Martin’s departure this Thursday, was watched by 31.3 million viewers, the series’ largest audience since its 1999 season premiere on Sept. 30.
AWARDS ALERT The 31st NAACP Image Awards ceremony was held this weekend in Pasadena, Calif. Winners include Denzel Washington, for best actor in a motion picture, Angela Bassett, for best supporting actress in a motion picture (”Music of the Heart”); Halle Berry, for best actress in a TV movie, miniseries, or dramatic special (HBO’s ”Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”); and CBS’ ”Touched by an Angel,” for best dramatic series. Steven Spielberg won the special Vanguard Award for career achievement. The Image Awards will be broadcast April 6 on Fox.
CONGRATS After seven years of marriage, David Bowie and his wife, model Iman, are expecting their first child together this August. The couple’s publicists announced yesterday that Bowie, 53, and Iman, 40 plus, plan to cut back their work to prepare for the birth. Both Bowie and Iman each have one adult child from previous relationships…. Former bad boy Christian Slater is finally settling down. Saturday, the 30-year-old actor married Ryan Haddon, a former TV producer and the mother of Slater’s infant son, in Beverly Hills.
LEGAL BRIEF Rex Reed, renowned movie critic, was arrested Saturday after security guards allegedly caught him shoplifting three CDs from a Manhattan record store, according to Reuters. The 61-year-old film critic, who writes for the New York Observer, was reportedly held at the Tower Records after trying to carry CDs of Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, and Carmen McRae, out of the store. Reed is expected to appear in court next month.