Christina Applegate, 36, has been diagnosed with ”an early form of breast cancer,” according to her rep. Thanks to early detection via a doctor-ordered MRI, the Emmy-nominated Samantha Who? star is expected to make ”a full recovery.” Studio sources say her treatment won’t affect production on the ABC sitcom. The show already has five episodes banked for season 2, and shooting will resume on schedule in early September…. After being hospitalized recently for undisclosed reasons, Elizabeth Taylor, 76, ”will be returning home shortly,” according to her publicist…. Comedian Bernie Mac, 50, was hospitalized in Chicago for pneumonia. ”Mr. Mac is responding well to treatment,” said his rep in a statement.
Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement), 25, and girlfriend Caroline Murphy, 28, are set to wed.
Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), 19, dad Carl, 51, and former America’s Next Top Model hopeful Bianca Golden, 19, were charged with assault in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Aug. 1 after an alleged brawl at an airport. Police say the Blonsky and Golden families came to blows over seating in a departure lounge. Golden and Nikki Blonsky posted bail; they’re due in court Aug. 17 and Dec. 1, respectively. At press time, Carl was still in custody.
On Aug. 4, Fox announced that Nigel Lythgoe, 59, is stepping down as exec producer of American Idol. Lythgoe, who has been behind Idol since 2002, says he plans to focus on his role as producer-judge of So You Think You Can Dance.
Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 89, died of a heart ailment on Aug. 3 in Moscow. He’s best known for his works The Gulag Archipelago (1974) and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963), which shine an unforgiving spotlight on the abuses of Stalin’s regime. In 1974, the author was exiled from his native land because of his controversial writings…. Jazz-rock guitarist Hiram Bullock, 52, who played in the house band for Late Night With David Letterman in the 1980s, of undisclosed causes, July 25, in NYC…. Michael Berniker, 73, who produced for Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis, of complications from kidney disease, July 25, in Great Barrington, Mass. — with additional reporting by Stewart Allen and Michael Ausiello
The so-called Dark Knight curse continues. Morgan Freeman is the latest victim, following an Aug. 3 accident in which he flipped his car off a Mississippi highway — although at press time the 71-year-old Oscar winner was said to be recuperating nicely. In a statement, his publicist revealed that the actor underwent four and a half hours of surgery to repair nerve damage to his left arm and hand. There’s no word on what the injuries mean in terms of his upcoming projects, which include the lead role in The Human Factor, Clint Eastwood’s biopic about Nelson Mandela. — Benjamin Svetkey