SOUND BITE If you happen to run into Michael Jackson, be a pal and lend him a few bucks. The King of Pop is short of cash these days. His ”Invincible” album cost a reported $30 million to produce and has only sold 1.8 million copies. He owes $200 million to Sony Music, money he borrowed and secured with half of ATV Music Publishing, the song-rights catalog that includes 250 Beatles tunes. He already sold Sony half of ATV a decade ago, and rumors have been swirling that the label was poised to buy out the other half (or simply foreclose on it). However, a Sony spokesperson called the rumors ”completely baseless,” saying, ”We are not in discussions with Mr. Jackson over the sale of his share of the ATV catalog.” So Jackson may have to resort to a measure he hasn’t tried in eight years, since before child molestation charges eroded his U.S. fan base: an American concert tour. The New York Post reports that Jackson will announce a tour schedule within the next two weeks. He hasn’t confirmed the rumor of a tour, but he is facing a lawsuit by promoter Marcel Avram, who handled Jackson’s ”Dangerous” world tour eight years ago and the ”HIStory” tour after that; Avram is suing for breach of contract because he claims Jackson is planning a new tour without his involvement.
REEL DEALS Christina Ricci is reuniting with her ”Prozac Nation” costar Jason Biggs. She’s joining him in the cast of the untitled Woody Allen comedy he’s starring in this spring….
Burns. . The ”Sidewalks of New York” star is in talks to play a time-traveling dinosaur hunter in ”A Sound of Thunder.” Warner Bros. has been trying to film this Ray Bradbury story for a long time, with Pierce Brosnan in the starring role; the project was put on hold last year in anticipation of the possible writers’ and actors’ strikes, and by the time a rewrite was ready, Brosnan had to go make the next 007 movie. A Burns version would shoot this summer.
Also long in development is New Line’s adaptation of John Grisham‘s ”The Runaway Jury.” The studio paid Grisham a stunning $8 million for the film rights, only to see its tobacco-lawsuit plot become dated. The script had to be rewritten to be about a lawsuit against gun manufacturers. A deal for Mike Newell (”Donnie Brasco”) to direct and Will Smith to star collapsed. Now the project has a director again, Gary Fleder, who made last fall’s Michael Douglas hit ”Don’t Say a Word.” It’s not clear who will be empaneled to star or when shooting will begin….
Columbia Pictures, which successfully revived the Zorro franchise a couple years ago, is taking on the Lone Ranger. The new screen adaptation is expected to brush the dust off the old serial, much as ”The Mask of Zorro” did by casting hotties Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. (Does this mean Tonto might be a woman? Kemosabe!) Of course, you remember the last movie about the Masked Man, Universal’s 1981 ”The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” which made leading man Klinton Spilsbury into a screen immortal. Immortal, that is, as a trivia-question answer, since ”Ranger” remains his sole film credit….