Sean ''Puffy'' Combs is found not guilty
Plus, Downey can't reach a plea agreement, ''Traffic'' and ''Crouching Tiger'' to break $100 million, and more
VERDICT The jury has spoken, and Sean ”Puffy” Combs has been found not guilty of gun possession and bribery charges stemming from a Dec. 27, 1999, incident in a New York nightclub. A Manhattan jury of seven men and five women acquitted Combs Friday evening of allegedly waving an illegal handgun and then bribing his chauffeur to take the fall. According to the Associated Press, Combs clutched his Bible while the verdict was read and then hugged his lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Benjamin Brafman. His mother, Janice, who was in the courtroom, reportedly shouted ”Thank you Jesus” before blowing her son a kiss.
Combs, 31, faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Anthony ”Wolf” Jones, Puffy’s bodyguard, was also cleared of the same charges. The news wasn’t so good for Puffy’s protégé Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow, who had been charged with attempted murder for shooting his gun during the melee. Barrow, 23, was acquitted of the attempted murder count, but he was found guilty on two counts of assault as well as reckless endangerment. He faces 1 to 7 years in prison for each count. No word yet on when Barrow will be sentenced.
LEGAL BRIEF Attorneys for Robert Downey Jr. told a Palm Springs judge Thursday that they cannot reach a plea agreement with prosecutors on drug possession charges against their client. Downey now faces a trial and possible sentence of 5 years in prison if convicted. According to Reuters, Superior Court Judge B.J. Bjork has set a preliminary hearing for April 30. In front of the court, Downey’s lawyer Daniel Brookman told reporters that the prosecutors would only offer a deal that involved jail time, and the actor, who recently won a SAG Award for his stint on ”Ally McBeal,” was unwilling to bargain about serving any time.
BOX OFFICE MILESTONE Now that Oscar nominated films like ”Traffic” and ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” are about to gross $100 million in North America, 2000 is poised to become the year the most films reached the milestone in box office receipts. Counting the two best picture contenders, which should cross the $100 million threshold — today for ”Traffic” and this weekend for ”Crouching Tiger” — 22 films released in 2000 will have hit the coveted century mark. The previous record was 1999, when 21 films grossed $100 million or more. The number of films each year that reach $100 million has doubled since 1995. Which means that if we all take the opportunity of the anticipated writers’ and actors’ strikes to save the money we’ve been spending on movies, we’ll have the down payment on a house by the time the walkouts are over.
ANOTHER RECORD Universal’s comedy ”Meet the Parents,” starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, has broken a record for first week DVD rentals. According to Variety, the in-laws comedy has grossed $4.36 million in DVD rentals, more than any other film ever. In VHS rentals, ”Parents” has grossed more than any other title this year, $17.05 million. In total opening week rental grosses, ”Parents” has made $21.41 million, second only to ”The Sixth Sense,” which generated $25.86 million in VHS and DVD rentals a year ago.
CASTING Three of this year’s Oscar nominees — Benicio Del Toro (”Traffic”), Juliette Binoche (”Chocolat”), Geoffrey Rush (”Quills”), and previous nominee Chloë Sevigny (”Boys Don’t Cry”) — are in final negotiations to star in a romantic epic for Brazilian director Walter Salles (”Central Station”). The untitled period piece is based on author Katie Campbell’s historical novel ”The Assumption of the Virgin,” about the forbidden affair between Italian Renaissance painter Fra Lippi (Del Toro), and the nun who posed for him (Binoche). The film, which Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella are executive producing, will take place in 15th century Florence. Shooting is scheduled to begin in Italy this fall…. Robin Wright Penn may join Michelle Pfeiffer and Renée Zellweger in ”White Oleander” for British director Peter Kosminsky (”Wuthering Heights”). The film adaptation of Janet Finch’s best-selling 1999 novel is scheduled to begin shooting in Los Angeles in mid April. The story follows an imprisoned woman (Pfeiffer) whose teenaged daughter moves from foster home to foster home (Penn, Zellweger). So far, the role of Pfeiffer’s daughter hasn’t been cast.
TUBE NEWS Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, NBC has ordered four more episodes of ”The Fighting Fitzgeralds,” keeping the midseason replacement on the air through May sweeps. NBC had already picked up six episodes of the show, which stars Brian Dennehy as the Irish American father of three adult sons. The comedy, which debuted Tuesday, March 6, has averaged 10.9 million viewers after two episodes, according to Variety. Billy Joel is reportedly in talks to guest star in an upcoming episode. Executive producer (and cowriter, with his brother Brian), Ed Burns (”15 Minutes”) is also supposed to appear on the series. Oh, so Ed Burns is of Irish descent? We never would have known…. Patrick Stewart is returning to prime time, but not for a series. The acclaimed Shakespearean actor will star in ”King of Texas,” an $11 million made-for-TV movie that updates ”King Lear” to 19th century Texas. The two hour adaptation, which is produced by Stewart and Robert Halmi Sr. (”Arabian Nights”) will air on TNT and starts production in mid April. The cast includes Oscar nominee Marcia Gay Harden (”Pollock”) and Lauren Holly as the Regan and Goneril-type characters, with Julie Cox (2000’s ”Dune” miniseries) playing the updated Cordelia. David Alan Grier will, appropriately, play the Fool.
AWARDS ALERT Marc Anthony, Shakira, and Gloria Estefan are some of the finalists for the 2001 Billboard Latin Music Awards. The awards, which are scheduled to take place in Miami Beach’s Jackie Gleason Theater, will be broadcast by the Spanish language television network Telemundo on April 29. Finalists were chosen based on their performances on Hot Latin Tracks and the Billboard Latin 50. Billboard will also present a lifetime achievement award to Los Lobos…. Eminem, Kid Rock, Madonna, and Uncle Kracker are among the native musicians nominated for the 2001 Detroit Music Awards, which will be presented April 6 at the State Theatre. The DMAs are presented annually by the Motor City Music Foundation, a nonprofit volunteer organization that promotes musicians in the greater Detroit area. According to the Associated Press, D-12, The Atomic Numbers, and blues performer Johnnie Bassett are expected to perform. No word yet on whether Eminem and Madonna will appear at the hometown ceremony.