Plus, Jennifer Lopez, John Malkovich, ''Mr. Show,'' Matt Drudge, Cher, Blues Traveler, and more

By Josh Wolk
Updated November 19, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
London Features

BIG PLANS The Backstreet Boys have already got one item on their agenda for the new year — blowing their noses with $1,000 bills, thanks to their new $60 million deal with Jive. Actually they’re getting focused on their 2000 plans: They’ll launch a six-week national tour in February and start work on their new album, due out in September or October, according to MTV News.

CASTING After dropping out of the drama ”Angel Eyes” last month, Jennifer Lopez is considering rejoining the film. She would play a cop who befriends a man whose wife and son have died…. After nine years with ”Saturday Night Live,” Tim Meadows might finally be able to get on TV a little earlier. He’s been signed to a sitcom development deal by Lorne Michaels’ production company for NBC. Michaels also produced the first film in which Meadows stars, based on his ”Ladies Man” sketch character, opening next year. When Lorne Michaels so much as coughs, you’ve got to believe that Meadows has got a doctor on premises — pronto!

REEL DEALS Jerry Bruckheimer has gotten permission from Disney to go ahead with the most expensive movie ever planned: The $145 million ”Pearl Harbor.” Other films have cost more in the end ($200 million for ”Titanic”) but that was in the wake of budget overruns: This is the first movie that a studio has ever known in advance would be this pricey, beating the record of ”Armageddon,” at $135 milion, produced by — who else? — Bruckheimer…. If you want to be John Malkovich these days, you have to get behind the camera, not in front of it: His year-old production company, Mr. Mudd, currently has 13 projects in development, three of which he plans to direct himself. ”Ghost World,” Mr. Mudd’s first project to go into preproduction, is a comedy to be directed by Terry Zwigoff (”Crumb”). Malkovich has no plans to appear in any of these movies himself…. ”Mr. Show” may be dead, but one of its characters will live on in the movies: New Line has signed David Cross and Bob Odenkirk to star in their own script, ”The Ronnie Dobbs Story,” based on a deadbeat character introduced in the sketch show who becomes a national star after being arrested on a ”Cops”-style program.

SAYING GOODBYE Matt Drudge‘s Fox News show is no more, after a split the two sides call ”amicable.” Drudge and the network do seem happy-happy in a public statement, which asserts that Drudge wanted to stop doing the program. He apologized for calling the Fox execs ”weak-kneed suits” after the network forbade him to show a photo of a fetus’s arm coming out of a womb in a show about abortion. ”In the heat of the moment, in pursuit of a story, I made comments I regret about the innovative Fox News Channel and its executives,” he wrote. Fox News Channel vice president John Moody said,”We felt Mr. Drudge was in breach of his contract [by walking off the show in protest and making angry public statements], but we accept his apology…. We accept his desire to leave television.” Both sides say they’re all still pals and that Drudge is likely to come back as a guest on other Fox shows. One hopes he’ll leave his photo album at home.

EXPANDED RATINGS Starting next year, the MPAA will back up its ratings by posting reasons to explain them on movie posters and in ads. For example, they will run taglines like ”for cartoon violence” or ”for excessive nudity.” National Association of Theater Owners president William F. Kartozian says, ”The new print advertising policy will be a key part of our educational outreach effort and represents a major step toward enhancing parental awareness of motion picture content.” (It also gives 14-year-olds a quick way to figure out what film to sneak into to satisfy their prurient need du jour.) The MPAA, which has been under attack this year for its heavy-handed ratings of such films as ”Eyes Wide Shut” and ”South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut,” showed rare flexibility this week after Kirk Douglas protested the R rating of his new movie, ”Diamonds.” In response to his personal letter of appeal, the movie will be downgraded to PG-13.

REPLACEMENT Blues Traveler has replaced bass player Bobby Sheehan, who died of a drug overdose in August, with Tad Kinchla, who is a brother of the group’s guitarist Chan Kinchla.

GRAVE PURCHASE Cher isn’t planning on leaving the corporeal world yet, but when she does she’ll be doing it á la francaise. The New York Daily News reports that she has bought a cemetery plot in Paris’ Pere Lachaise cemetery, already the resting place of Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, and Jim Morrison. Her spokesperson told the News that she did buy a plot, but that ”I don’t know who it was for.” Any hope that it’s for the song ”Believe”?

KA-CHING! Dead men may tell no tales, but dead women stars make crazy sales. Bidders once again opened their wallets for Marilyn Monroe leftovers: The bikini she wore in ”The Misfits” went for $24,000 at Christie’s Thursday, shocking experts who had valued it at $1,500. A silk feathered purse went for $22,000, and a nude oil painting of Marilyn nabbed $32,000. However, she didn’t bring top dollar last night: That honor went to Herman Mankiewicz’s 1941 Best Screenplay Oscar for ”Citizen Kane,” which sold for $220,000. Mankiewicz’s bikini, however, went unsold.

SPORTS CASH March Madness is right: After a bidding war with ABC/ESPN and Fox, CBS paid an astounding $6.2 billion to retain broadcast rights to the NCAA basketball tourney for 11 more years after its current contract ends in 2003. This breaks down to about $564 million a year; the network is paying only $247 million now.

AXED With a title like ”Wasteland,” ABC was just asking for trouble. The network has canceled the Kevin Williamson drama, its lowest-rated series of the season. Thousands of models are now wondering if they want to live on a planet where a show about beautiful people meets this kind of cruel fate.

TRY AGAIN Fifteen years after David Lynch displeased Frank Herbert fans by his adaptation of ”Dune,” the Sci-Fi Channel is going to throw themselves into the breach again. The network is producing a six-hour miniseries based on the futuristic epic novel. Starring William Hurt, it will air next October.

RECOVERING Jim Varney — that’s Ernest to you — has gone public with his battle against cancer. The 50-year-old comic actor has revealed that he underwent surgery in September 1998 to remove two-thirds of his right lung; he later had radiation treatment. His spokeswoman (and ex-wife) says that he decided to talk about his struggle because he was getting asked so many questions about his hair loss while promoting ”Toy Story 2,” in which he provides the voice of Slinky Dog. ”He’s doing real well and he has a good outlook,” she said. ”Everything seems to be in remission right now.”