A Puffy witness won't testify, CBS cancels ''Bette,'' Bob Newhart and Sisqó may costar in an NBC sitcom, and more

By Sandra P. Angulo
Updated March 07, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
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TOO CLOSE TO HOME Monday’s high school shootings in San Diego, which killed two teens and wounded 13, will most probably delay the release of ”O,” Miramax/Dimension’s teen adaptation of ”Othello.” Directed by Tim Blake Nelson (”O Brother, Where Are Thou?”), ”O” — the story of ”Othello” set in a modern day high school — was completed in June 1999. As in Shakespeare’s play, the film, starring Julia Stiles, Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, and Martin Sheen, features the tragic deaths of four lead characters. The film is slated for an April 27 release, but according to Variety, sources say the current school shooting makes that date particularly unlikely.

”O” was originally supposed to come out Oct. 17, 1999, but has been pushed back on Miramax’s release schedule since June 1999, when Dimension and Miramax execs felt America was still grieving the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Then last year, during the public uproar surrounding studios marketing violent films to teens, Miramax again shelved ”O.” Now it seems a real tragedy will block the release of the film once more.

Dimension spokeswoman Elizabeth Clark told Variety: ”We are not commenting on the release of the film, given the unfortunate incident that occurred today in San Diego. What happened there is a very serious issue. The release of our movie is minor in comparison.” To read more about ”O”’s slow path to the big screen, read EW.com’s interview with Nelson about the controversy.

LEGAL BRIEF The man who argued with Sean ”Puffy” Combs moments before shots rang out in a New York nightclub will not take the stand at Combs’ trial, lawyers announced Monday. Jurors will consider a statement from the man, Matthew ”Scar” Allen, who provided police officers and prosecutors with his version of the events occurring Dec. 27, 1999. According to previous testimony, Allen yelled ”I’ll kill you!” at Combs and then threw a roll of cash at him seconds before the shooting started, the Associated Press reports.

Allen’s statement says that as Puffy and his posse walked by, he was jostled and pushed. He also confirms money was thrown but didn’t say that he threw it or that he threatened Combs. Jurors will be advised that Allen gave his testimony while under arrest and without the presence of an attorney. Combs, 31, is on trial for gun possession and bribery. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Combs’ codefendant Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow, 21, was all but exonerated by one witness. Tabon Terrence Jones, 34, a Philadelphia photographer, said the shooter ”had braids in his hair and they were wrapped tightly all around.” Barrow has short hair. Jones testified that 45 minutes before the shots were fired, he saw the man with braids talking to two other men in the club’s rest room. Jones said under oath that he’s sure the gunman was not Barrow.

AXED She may be divine, but she’s just no ”Survivor”: CBS has canceled the sitcom ”Bette.” According to Variety, the Eye announced Monday that this Wednesday’s ”Bette” will be the last new episode to air this season. The Bette Midler comedy premiered with impressive numbers but quickly faded — despite regular guest spots from Midler’s celebrity pals — averaging only 9 million viewers a week. In what will serve as the show’s finale, Robert Hays (”Airplane!”) is introduced as Midler’s husband (the actor who originally played her hubby left the set earlier in the season).

TUBE NEWS Familiar faces may return to TV next season. NBC is trying to woo sitcom veteran Bob Newhart to star opposite Sisqó in a new update of ”The Odd Couple.” No, it’s actually a star vehicle for the young singer. Newhart would play himself (didn’t he hear what happened to ”Bette”?)

Nick Turturro (”NYPD Blue”) will star in a CBS pilot ”Mr. Life,” as a working class man who owns and runs an Italian restaurant with his two brothers…. Randy Quaid (”Independence Day”) will play the father in a CBS pilot called ”The Kennedys.” Based on the BBC series ”The Royale Family,” the show follows a blue collar clan who always hangs out in their living room…. Former ”Cybill” star Alicia Witt will play a clerk in ABC’s Supreme Court drama pilot ”The Bench.” ABC confirmed it’s in talks with Sally Field to star in the series.

CASTING Minnie Driver has joined Philip Seymour Hoffman in ”Owning Molony” for director Richard Kwietniowski (”Love and Death on Long Island”). Driver will play the girlfriend of Brian Molony (Hoffman), a Toronto bank manager who secretly gambles away $12 million of the bank’s money. The project, based on Gary Ross’ nonfiction book ”Stung,” will start filming before the possible strikes this summer.

Erika Christensen, Michael Douglas’ druggie daughter in ”Traffic, is in final talks to play another Oscar winner’s (Susan Sarandon’s) experimental daughter in the Fox Searchlight film ”The Banger Sisters.” Sarandon and Goldie Hawn play former rock groupie friends who reunite after more than 20 years. Production starts March 26.

SIGNED Heather Locklear has signed a deal to stay on ”Spin City” for another season, making the comedy a likely candidate for renewal; Charlie Sheen had already agreed to return. ABC is still negotiating with the series’ producers, DreamWorks TV, about bringing back the comedy, Variety reports. But now that both leads will remain with the show, it’ll probably get the green light soon. The only Wednesday night sitcom ABC has already ordered for next year is ”The Drew Carey Show”; ABC is currently in talks with Fox TV about ”Dharma and Greg.”

AWARDS ALERT Actors Angela Bassett and Benicio Del Toro will serve as honorary cochairs of the 16th annual IFP / West Independent Spirit Awards, which are March 24 on the beach in Santa Monica.

Director John Waters has agreed to be the event’s master of ceremonies. Presenters include Joan Allen, Don Cheadle, Holly Hunter, Famke Janssen, Jared Leto, Amanda Peet, Tim Roth, Geoffrey Rush, Chloe Sevigny, Hilary Swank, and Forest Whitaker. The Spirit Awards, which honor the independent film community, will take place under a marquee on the beach, just one day before the Academy Awards. For the fifth consecutive year, the awards will air live on the Independent Film Channel, beginning at 5 p.m. EST. If you don’t have IFC, you can catch the ceremony on Bravo at 10 p.m. EST.

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