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Luciano Pavarotti dies at 71

Plus: Sherri Shepherd joining ”The View,” Jeff Daniels, Neal McDonough tapped for ”Traitor,” study links smoking in movies to teen tobacco use, Gael Garcia Bernal starring in ”Mammoth,” and more…

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Pavarotti dies at 71
Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian tenor who helped bring opera to the masses, died Thursday (Sept. 6) at his home in Modena after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Widely considered the greatest tenor of his time, Pavarotti won the prestigious Concorso Internazionale in 1961, and made his American debut in 1965 when Dame Joan Sutherland brought him on-stage with her during a performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s ”Lucia di Lammermoor” with the Greater Miami Opera. Pavarotti sold millions of records, shared the stage with pop stars like Sting, James Brown, Elton John, and Bono, and raised millions of dollars for charity through benefit concerts. Pavarotti became a household name in 1990 when he partnered with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to form The Three Tenors. At the height of their popularity, the trio drew huge crowds, especially for World Cup performances in Paris in 1998 and Japan in 2002, and their 1994 recording The Three Tenors in Concert remains the best-selling classical album of all time. Pavarotti retired in 2004, but then embarked on a ”farewell tour” in 2006. That same year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery to have a tumor removed. The illness forced him to cancel his remaining performances, but his management had hoped the tenor would be able to resume the tour in 2007. Pavarotti is survived by his wife, Nicoletta Mantovani, and a daughter, Alice, along with three daughters by his first wife, Adua Veroni, whom he divorced in 2000, and a granddaughter. (CNN)

Shepherd joining The View
Comedian and frequent guest host Sherri Shepherd will be named the fifth co-host on The View on Monday, Sept. 10. Since Star Jones Reynolds’ 2006 departure, the position has been filled by a series of guest hosts, including Shepherd, who has long been rumored to be a serious candidate for a permanent spot on the daytime show. Whoopi Goldberg took over the Rosie O’Donnell’s vacant moderator chair this week. (L.A. Times)

Daniels, McDonough in Traitor
Jeff Daniels and Neal McDonough (I Know Who Killed Me, Boomtown) have been cast in Overture Films’ spy thriller Traitor, which stars Don Cheadle and Guy Pierce. Writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow) will direct his own script. The story is about a former U.S. Special Forces operative who seems to be aiding terrorists, although it’s unclear where his loyalties actually lie. David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Cheadle, and Jeffrey Silver are producing, while Ashok Amritraj, Steve Martin, Arlene Gibbs, and Kay Liberman are executive producing. Filming is set to start next week. Traitor is the sixth movie announced by Overture in the past six months. It recently started shooting on Righteous Kill, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. (Variety)

Study links smoking in movies to teen tobacco use
A new study released this week in the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine demonstrates a direct link between smoking in movies and adolescent smoking. Conducted by Dr. James Sargent at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and funded by the National Cancer Institute and American Legacy Foundation, the study claims that youth that are exposed to movie smoking double their risk of becoming established smokers. The American Legacy Foundation is a vocal advocate for an R rating for movies that contain a depiction of smoking. The MPAA announced a new ratings clarification earlier this year to consider smoking as a factor when it rates movies, but the foundation says it has not gone far enough. ”We have seen the results of this empty policy,” said Dr. Cheryl G. Healton, American Legacy Foundation president and CEO, via a statement. ”The first movie, Hairspray, was tagged with a PG ratings descriptor to include ‘momentary teen smoking.’ These MPAA actions will have little impact on youth exposure to movie smoking.” Some industry executives accuse American Legacy of being hypocritical, claiming the group’s own guidelines allow smoking for historical context and other issues. (Hollywood Reporter)

Bernal tapped for Mammoth
Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries) will star in the drama Mammoth, Swedish director Lukas Moodysson’s (Show Me Love, Together, Lilya 4-ever) English language debut. The story is about a young couple, their child, and their Filipino nanny, played by Filipino actress Marife Necisito. Casting for the other roles is under way. Bernal is currently shooting Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness with Julianne Moore. (Hollywood Reporter)

National Lampoon to take Lemmings to Broadway
National Lampoon is bringing back a version of its classic Lemmings sketch comedy troupe for a new Broadway production called National Lampoon Lemmings Comedy Troupe Presents America 2.0, a 90-minute interactive show with short videos between sketches. The Lemmings troupe helped launch the careers of Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Christopher Guest. The Broadway show is described as ”a satire on today’s blown-out tabloid world.” Characters will include Gangsta Rap Wizards and Michael Vick touting his new dog food. The current cast of young sketch comics includes Adam Devine, Anders Holms, Annie Savage, Blake Anderson, Jen Cain, Jillian Bellcq, John Moody, Mark Gagliardi, and Sitara Falcon with videos created by Kyle Newacheck. The Lemmings will go on tour this fall, with performances at colleges, theaters, casinos, and corporate events across the country, with plans to establish permanent play dates in some cities. (Hollywood Reporter)

Ryan Phillipe starring in Battle Dreamer
Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), and Sean Bean (Far North) will star in writer-director Menno Meyjes’ Viking epic Last Battle Dreamer. Phillippe will play a seventh-century Viking warrior who, along with his older brother (Bean), invades Britain. Meyjes is completing post-production on his biopic of Spain’s most famous matador, Manolete, starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz, and New Line is set to release Meyjes’ Martian Child, starring John Cusack, in October. (Hollywood Reporter)

Rudin acquires rights to Claudius
In a deal worth seven figures, producer Scott Rudin picked up movie rights to Robert Graves’ Roman Empire-set novel, I, Claudius. Rudin beat out several other interested parties, including Warner Bros. Pictures. Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan, who worked together on The Departed, are said to be considering the project. Sources predict that the movie will wind up at Walt Disney Studios, where Rudin’s production company is based, which would likely mean it would be set up at one of the studio’s specialty films divisions, Miramax or Touchstone, which are best-suited for the movie’s adult content. The novel was previously adapted into the 1937 film of the same name, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton, and also served as the basis for the 1976 BBC miniseries, I, Claudius, which starred Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Sian Phillips as Livia, and John Hurt as Caligula. (Hollywood Reporter)

Seacrest may sing at Emmys
Ryan Seacrest, host of the upcoming 59th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, says the show will open with a musical number, not an opening monologue, that he may or may not take part in, depending on ”how confident I feel.” The Emmy telecast, which is set to air live at 8 p.m. EST (tape-delayed on the West Coast) on Sept. 16 on Fox. (Hollywood Reporter)

Bartkowiak directing Street Fighter adaptation
Special effects guru Andrzej Bartkowiak will direct Street Fighter, Hyde Park Entertainment and Capcom’s live-action movie adaptation of the popular videogame. Production is scheduled to start early next year. Bartkowiak previously directed the movie adaptation of Doom. His other directorial credits include Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds. Prior to directing, his cinematographic credits include Lethal Weapon 4, U.S. Marshals, Falling Down and Speed. (Variety)

Universal picks up comedy Jeff the Immortal
Universal has purchased rights to Jeff the Immortal, a supernatural comedy written by Chris Bishop and being produced by Marc Platt Prods. The story is about a slacker who discovers he has supernatural powers and uses them for selfish reasons. Bishop said he got the idea while watching the 1986 Sean Connery movie Highlander, which made him think about what he and his buddies would do if they ever got special powers. (Variety)

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