Plus, Britney Spears, ''Saturday Night Live,'' Michael Mann, Lara Croft, Mariah Carey, and more

Sharon Stone
Credit: Peter Kramer/Star Max, Inc.

TOO GENEROUS Sharon Stone didn’t get her Golden Globe nomination for ”The Muse” because of a bribe, although it’s not for lack of trying. All 82 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation (which votes on the Globes) were sent Coach watches (valued from $295-$395) as a kind of ”Remember me?” gift from Stone, but on Dec. 13 HFPA president Helmut Voss ordered all of his cohorts to return them, according to Variety. ”This watch was way, way, way beyond the edge of the envelope as far as promotional considerations, like T-shirts,” said Voss. ”We were touched by her generosity, but this is definitely a no-no for a group like ours that wants to protect the integrity of its award.” Stone’s publicist says the watches were USA Films’ doing (although sources told Variety they were the actress’ idea), and USA said the studio got the watches for free and just passed them on, not realizing how expensive they were. ‘Tis the season for buck-passing!

ON THE FLOAT Louisiana hometown girl Britney Spears will serve as grand marshal for this March’s Endymion Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Last year’s grand marshal was Emeril Lagasse, so expect a slightly different, less sauce-o-philic fan base this time around.

FLIP-FLOP NBC has reversed its initial decision not to reair parts of ”Saturday Night Live”‘s controversial ”So This Is Chanukah” sketch, and now says it will be seen in reruns in its entirety. The network initially capitulated to the Anti-Defamation League’s complaint that the sketch — with its references to Jews controlling the banks and killing Christ — was offensive, but upon reflection they decided that most viewers supported the gags, saying they were typical of ”SNL”’s line-crossing humor, and that many of the complaints the ADL presented came from people who hadn’t actually seen the show, according to Variety. ”I may have responded too quickly and to a certain extent overreacted,” said NBC VP Roz Weinman, explaining her turnabout. ”But it really is a mine field that we have to walk through.” Said ADL president Abe Foxman, ”NBC has chosen the low road for its standards…. We still believe our concerns are justified.”

REEL DEALS Michael Mann (”The Insider”) will adapt the novel ”Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,” about a battle in 480 B.C. between Spartan warriors and the Persian army. Oh, sure, it’s tempting to make an age crack about how Mann will have to fight with Mike Wallace over this movie too, considering he was covering it for CBS at the time, but that kind of ageism is not what the holiday season is all about. Shame on you!… Video game starlet Lara Croft‘s screen debut has come a little closer to fruition, with Paramount signing Simon West (”Con Air”) to direct her first film. The search for an actress who combines athleticism, bravado, and a cartoonishly buxom physique continues…. John Madden (”Shakespeare in Love”) may sub in for Roger Michell (”Notting Hill”), who, because of illness, had to drop out of the Nicolas Cage WWII love story, ”Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” which is set to shoot in April.

FIRE The Bedford, NY, nine-bedroom mansion that Mariah Carey and ex-husband/Sony chief Tommy Mottola lived in during happier days burned down to the ground on Saturday. The couple sold the 56-acre estate for $20.5 million after their split in 1998, and the new owner, Nelson Peltz (who runs the corporation that owns Arby’s and Snapple), was not home at the time, and the house was vacant. Firefighters said the cause was faulty wiring.

SMASH-EM-UP! Wrestling has worked so well for UPN that the network has decided that its common denominator appeal should get a bit lower: Next February it will bring monster truck racing to television in a sweeps event that hopefully will turn into a regular series. The show will concentrate on the drivers, building up WWF-like rivalries between colorful characters, except this time they’ll be using 4-ton trucks to smack each other with instead of folding chairs. If this catches on, get ready for the next great UPN sport: cockfighting.

COURT BATTLE More than a year after ”American History X” was released, director Tony Kaye is still fighting its memory with varying success. Kaye, who dropped off the film after New Line rejected his initial cut, filed a suit against the DGA and New Line 18 months ago because they didn’t allow him to take his name off the movie or use his pseudonym of choice, Humpty Dumpty. On Dec. 13 a U.S. District Judge rejected the DGA’s attempt to have one of Kaye’s charges dropped — that the director wasn’t allowed proper representation during arbitration with the Guild — but did strike down two of Kaye’s other charges, according to the Hollywood Reporter: that the DGA violated his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and that it also broke its own rules in the way it dealt with Kaye. As the high-profile battle drags on, another legal question arises: Is it considered Murder One if Kaye shoots his own career down in cold blood?

OBITUARY Hank Snow, a country music legend who recorded 80 albums in his long career, died on Monday at the age of 85. Snow, a Nova Scotia native who transplanted to Nashville, had 85 hits in his career (30 Top Ten), and had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1950.