Plus, Project Greenlight announces a winner, Fox orders ''Temptation'' 2, and more

By Sandra P. Angulo
Updated March 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

TESTIFIED Sean ”Puffy” Combs finally took the stand in his own defense Thursday. Combs, on trial for gun possession and bribery charges, denied having a weapon on Dec. 27, the night a shooting broke out in a Times Square nightclub he was partying at with codefendant Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow and then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez.

”I heard gunfire, I heard gunshots. I thought I was being shot at. I put my hands up and proceeded to go down. I felt other bodies on top of me,” he said under oath. ”I found myself on the floor. It happened so fast.” According to press reports, the hip hop mogul added that he heard people shouting: ”Get Puffy out of here. Get Puffy out of here.” Asked whether he bribed his part time driver Wardell Fenderson with $50,000 and a diamond ring to take the fall for a gun found in his car, Puffy said: ”Absolutely not.”

In his cross, prosecutor Mathew Bogdanos exposed only one inconsistency in Puffy’s story: where he was sitting in his chauffeured car. In grand jury testimony, Combs had said he sat right behind the driver, but during his testimony Thursday, he said he sat on the other side of the back seat. ”It was definitely a mistake. I don’t remember saying it,” Puffy said about his grand jury statements. ”I must have made a mistake.” After a reportedly calm cross examination, the defense rested. If convicted, Puffy faces up to 15 years in prison.

GREENLIT Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Miramax execs announced the winner of ”Project Greenlight,” a contest for screenwriters to get their scripts produced. Pete Jones, 31, a movie production assistant from Los Angeles, learned today that his screenplay ”Stolen Summer” was selected from more than 10,000 entries. His prize is a $1 million plus budget from Miramax to produce and direct his movie. A documentary crew from Miramax Television will be following Jones for an HBO documentary series that’ll air in early 2002 -? just when Miramax hopes to release ”Stolen Summer” in theaters.

TV RATINGS The results of February sweeps are in, and the winner is CBS, which — thanks to consistent chart topper ”Survivor: The Australian Outback” — emerged as the most watched network of the month. According to Nielsen Media Research, an average of 13.7 million viewers tuned into the Eye per each minute of prime time. Other top CBS shows include ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (the No. 4 series), which now has the post- ”Survivor” timeslot, and ”Everybody Loves Raymond” (No. 8). NBC, second with an average audience of 12.64 million, boasted the most entries — five — on the list of top 10 sweeps shows:”ER” (No. 2); ”Friends” (No. 3); ”Will & Grace” (No. 6); ”Law & Order” (No. 7); and ”The West Wing” (No. 9).

ABC slid to third with approximately 12.59 million viewers — only 50,000 less than NBC, but a stunning 21 percent less than its showing a year ago. The biggest problem for ABC was the steady decline of ”Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the top show a year ago but No. 10 last month. Fox finished fourth with a five percent increase from last year, scoring gains with ”Temptation Island” and its Sunday night comedy lineup, including ”Malcolm in the Middle” and ”The Simpsons.” In the netlet world, the WB posted a small gain this year, averaging 3.9 million viewers, while UPN fell by 13 percent for last place, with 3.7 million.

MONEY TALKS Tom Cruise is the most powerful celebrity in the world, according to a Forbes magazine list published in the March 19 issue. The business mag analyzed celebrities for their earning power and star power, including media reports, TV and radio appearances, magazine cover stories, and Web presence. Last year, Cruise was 20 on the ”Celebrity 100” list. Looks like all the divorce buzz has actually helped the actor – producer, who made $43.2 million in 2000 and has been on 11 magazine covers.

Professional golfer extraordinaire Tiger Woods came in second on the list, having earned more than Cruise ($53 million in 2000), but gracing only five magazine covers. The Beatles are No. 3 (they’ve garnered 1.43 million mentions on websites since last year). Rounding out the top 10 are: Britney Spears (No. 4), Bruce Willis (No. 5), Michael Jordan (No. 6), the Backstreet Boys (No. 7), ‘N Sync (No. 8), Oprah Winfrey (No. 9), and Mel Gibson (No. 10). Poor Julia Roberts, last year’s No. 1, plummeted to No. 16, even with an Oscar nominated role.

STRIKE UPDATE Contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and TV and film industry producers officially broke down Thursday after more than a month of intense talks. Officials from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents both industries, told the press that the bargaining collapsed over the issue of residual payments, which would entitle writers payment every time one of their TV shows is shown in reruns or movies shown on TV or sold on video.

Guild officials announced in a press conference that negotiations are unlikely to resume before April, exactly one month before the current three year contract for writers expires. Unless TV and film execs concede to approximately $112 million more in this new contract, writers will probably strike come May 1. So far, the industry has offered only $30 million in pay raises and residual payments. As Reuters points out, the difference — $82 million — is three or four films for actors like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Mel Gibson.

SEQUEL Call it the triumph of sex and suntan lotion. Fox has decided to order a sequel to ”Temptation Island.” One day after the reality show aired its series finale Wednesday, attracting approximately 22.9 million viewers, Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman announced ”We’re pleased it’s such a hit with our viewers, and we’re scouting locations for the next adventure.”

Of course, it helps Fox that none of the couples who went on the program decided to part ways after their tempting encounters with single men and women on a Belize island. So if you’re planning to get engaged any time soon, you might want to try out for the next edition of ”Temptation Island” instead.

SPLIT Kim Mathers, wife of rapper Eminem, has filed for divorce again Thursday in their home state of Michigan. Just two months after the couple announced plans to reconcile, Mathers has decided she’d rather end the union. ”This is a marriage that apparently just isn’t going to work,” her attorney Robert Z. Feldstein told the Associated Press.

The couple has one daughter, Hailie Jade, who is 5 years old. Eminem, meanwhile, has other legal proceedings to face. He is to be sentenced April 10 after pleading guilty to a weapons charge stemming from a fight he had outside a Michigan nightclub last June. Mrs. Mathers is seeking joint physical and legal custody of Hailie.

TOURING Bon Jovi is going on the road again. The ”One Wild Night 2001” tour, sponsored by VH1, kicks off April 18 in Phoenix. This is actually the second leg of a tour the Jersey boys started last year to promote their album ”Crush.” Jon, Richie, Tico, and the gang will stop in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

TUBE NEWS ”Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus is returning to NBC with her own sitcom. The network has picked up a pilot created by Louis-Dreyfus’ husband (and fellow ”SNL” vet) Brad Hall. The half hour show will feature the erstwhile Elaine as a performer who has a bunch of quirky friends (sounds like…well, you know). But this sitcom will take place in real time. In the event that NBC doesn’t order a full season of the series, the Peacock will owe Louis-Dreyfus a hefty kill fee. If it does make it to air, it’s likely to debut midseason 2001 – 2002.

REEL DEAL Sony Pictures Classics has bought rights to a documentary about the late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia‘s last days. According to the Hollywood Reporter, ”Grateful Dawg” follows the relationship between Garcia and David Grisman, an acclaimed bluegrass mandolinist. The director is Grisman’s daughter, Gillian Grisman. Sony Classics copresident Tom Bernard announced that ”as a tribute to this great artist, we are planning to open the film on August 1, Jerry Garcia’s [59th] birthday.” Garcia died of a heart attack on August 9, 1995.

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