Plus, 'N Sync survives a water balloon attack, and is there more music coming from the Beatles?
EARLY REVIEWS Fox executives are furious that three newspapers printed reviews of ”The Phantom Menace” on Sunday — 10 days before the film opens. Reviews have traditionally always appeared the day a film debuts, regardless of when the critics saw it. (Fox held advance screenings of ”Menace” on Friday and Saturday for the press.) The analyses ranged from great (the L.A. Times awarded it three-and-a-half stars) to fair (the New York Daily News gave it two-and-a-half), but the grades didn’t temper the anger of the studio. Fox chairman Tom Sherak said that it wasn’t fair to jump the press date, and that the studio might bar these papers’ critics from advance screenings from its future releases. ”If we can’t trust them,” he told Reuters, ”we’ll have to do something.” The entertainment editor of the Toronto Star, the third paper to post an early review, said he made the decision to jump the premiere because there was so much public interest in the film and because he wanted to scoop the other Toronto media’s critics. After the Star ran its review, Fox refused to let one of its journalists into the press junket with the movie’s stars held on Sunday.
LOW-IMPACT ASSAULT ‘N Sync had to cut short an autograph signing at Minnesota’s Mall of America on Thursday when the members were attacked by the ultimate teenybopper assault weapon: a water balloon. Someone dropped the projectile from a balcony, and the band’s security team decided they couldn’t risk any further attacks (what next, deadly wedgies?) and whisked the Syncers away a half hour early. Thankfully, the boys’ hairdos remained uninjured during the attack.
OUT OF THE VAULT The Beatles will reportedly release one last single, a lost track from 1968 that features a John Lennon lead vocal. The London Sun says that the remaining trio won’t add anything to the tune, which will be released later this year, as they did a few years ago with the unearthed ”Free as a Bird.” A source also told the paper that this is the last unreleased song left by the Beatles, so this will effectively close the book on the classic band.
REEL DEAL Madonna‘s production company is developing ”Confessions of a Window Dresser,” the story of a boy who makes a pact with the devil to become a high-profile fashion designer.
CASTING Sylvester Stallone will star in ”Get Carter,” the remake of a 1971 British flick about a Mob thug who gets mixed up in the worlds of gambling and porn while searching for his brother’s killer…. Andy Dick has joined Woody Allen and Sharon Stone in the dark comedy ”Picking up the Pieces”…. Rhino Films has raided the B list for the cast of its Keenen Ivory Wayans-directed horror spoof, ”Scream If You Know What I Did Last Halloween”: Set to star are Tom Arnold, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and ex-MTV veejay Simon Rex…. Nia Peeples (”Blues Brothers 2000”) will join Chuck Norris next season, in the eighth year of ”Walker, Texas Ranger.”
OBITUARY The tabloid-friendly life of ”Diff’rent Strokes” star Dana Plato ended sadly on Saturday when she died of an apparent overdose of prescription drugs. Plato, 34, was staying at the home of her fiance Robert Menchaca’s parents in Oklahoma at the time. Plato had appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show just the day before, telling him that she hadn’t used drugs for 10 years, and that she was heading back to L.A. to get her career going again…. Dirk Bogarde, a respected veteran of British stage and screen, died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 78. Bogarde was one of the most popular British stars in the 1950s and ’60s, notably in ”Modesty Blaise” and ”The Servant.” He retired from acting in 1977 and spent his later years writing four volumes of his autobiography and several novels.
LAWSUIT April Oliver, one of the fired producers of CNN‘s controversial story on the Operation Tailwind scandal, is suing the news network and one of her sources on the story. Oliver, who was fired after an independent investigation commissioned by CNN found the story inaccurate, is suing the network for wrongful dismissal, saying she still believes that her story alleging that the U.S. used nerve gas on its own defectors during Vietnam is true, and that CNN did not ”have the guts to stand behind (her),” she told Variety. She claims that her dismissal has damaged her reputation and that she has had trouble getting work since. (A CNN spokesperson says the network doesn’t comment on its cases.) Her case against her source, Army general John Singlaub, is a countersuit to his defamation claim against her. He claims that he intended to be a confidential source, but that Oliver revealed his name in the piece. Oliver claims that she only included him after he publicly denied confirming her story. ”Sources cannot confirm a story in private, then deny the story and sue the journalist,” said Oliver.