Animation legend William Hanna dies, an Oscar scaffolding injures five, Britney's Pepsi ad to debut Sunday, Sting to appear on ''Ally McBeal,'' and more

By Sandra P. Angulo
Updated March 23, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
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BOX OFFICE No doubt the one thing on everybody’s mind this Oscar weekend is — World War II. Well, probably not. But ”Enemy at the Gates” — which debuted last week at No. 2 on the movie chart — is likely to take the top spot at the box office as the critically favored feature cashes in on positive word of mouth and expands to more than 2000 theaters nationwide. Meanwhile, current champ ”Exit Wounds” is expected to cede a large portion of its audience to this weekend’s newcomers, the Jennifer Love Hewitt/ Sigourney Weaver flick ”Heartbreakers” the men in love drama ”Brothers” and the gross-out escapade ”Say It Isn’t So” (starring Heather Graham and Chris Klein). Of the three debut films, analysts predict that ”Hearbreakers” will perform best, battling ”Exit” for second or third place. ”Heartbreakers” is a physical comedy, which is hot these days,” says Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source. ”Older adults really like that. It will be close.” Hewitt Takes On DMX! There’s a marquee title that could lure us away from the awards. — Lori Reese

IN MEMORIAM William Hanna, the half the team responsible for Scooby, Fred and Wilma, Tom and Jerry, and dozens of other beloved cartoon characters, died on Thursday. Hanna, the cofounder and cochairman of Hanna-Barbera Studios, passed away in his North Hollywood home, Reuters reports. He was 90 years old. Hanna and his partner Joseph Barbera, now 89, met on the MGM lot in 1937 and got their start by creating five ”Tom and Jerry” cartoon shorts a year for MGM. The duo ended up with nearly a dozen half hour shows on the weekly TV schedule. Among their most popular animated shows are: ”Scooby-Doo,” ”The Flintstones,” ”The Jetsons,” ”Josie and the Pussycats,” and ”Yogi Bear.” The Hanna-Barbera Studios have been owned by Warner Bros., a division of EW.com’s parent company AOL Time Warner, since 1996. Hanna is survived by his wife, Violet, two children, seven grandchildren, and all cartoon lovers of the world.

TUMBLIN’ DOWN Three days before the Shrine Auditorium becomes ground zero for the entire entertainment industry, a scaffolding collapsed and injured five people. A breeze caused the structure to fall down Thursday, but officials are currently investigating, reports Variety. One individual received neck and back injuries and is in serious but stable condition. Two of the accident victims (riggers) were on top of the scaffolding when it fell; two others were underneath it; and the fifth was trying to get off the bleachers set up in front of the auditorium. Most had cuts and bruises. Of course, the big question is whether the accident will affect Oscar day events. ”It will not delay the ceremony at all,” John Pavlik, spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, said at a press conference Thursday. ”We actually were a little bit ahead of schedule today, so we are not terribly concerned about getting back on schedule.”

AD DRESS This year, many teens and men may want to tape the commercials during the Oscars. Britney Spears‘ first Pepsi ad will premiere during ABC’s broadcast of the 73rd Annual Academy Awards (8 p.m.), according to AP. The commercial features Spears dressed in a midriff baring bustier top and lowriding jeans prancing around with a group of dancers. Spears signed a multiyear, multimillion dollar deal with Pepsico last February that includes new TV ads and cosponsorship of her next worldwide concert tour.

TUBE NEWS Sting will play himself on the April 30 episode of ”Ally McBeal,” Launch.com reports. In the upcoming episode, Sting is being sued because one of his sexy performances in concert causes a couple in the audience to break up. Sting hires Robert Downey Jr.‘s attorney character Larry Paul for legal representation. Makes sense. After watching Sting’s tantric stylings, what woman wouldn’t leave her husband?

REEL DEAL Director Martin Campbell (”Vertical Limit”) has signed on to make a sequel to his 1998 blockbuster ”The Mask of Zorro.” According to Variety, Columbia Pictures has already enlisted the original screenwriters (Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio) to pen the sequel. Campbell reportedly wants Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta-Jones to reprise their roles for the second action adventure.

CASTING Monica Potter (”Along Came a Spider”), Henry Thomas (”All the Pretty Horses), and Anthony LaPaglia (”The House of Mirth”) will star in the romantic comedy ”I’m With Lucy.” The $15 million production, directed by Jon Sherman (”Breathing Room”) starts shooting April 16. ”Lucy” features Potter as a recently dumped young woman who subjects herself to many blind dates in search of the right man.

AWARDS ALERT The Essence Awards 2001 will pay special tribute to actor Samuel L. Jackson, tennis siblings Venus and Serena Williams, and neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black. The awards show, which Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley will host, will be taped April 27 at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Fox will air the ceremony as a prime-time special some time in May.

INFANTICIPATION Canadian crossover superstar Shania Twain and her husband, record producer Robert ”Mutt” Lange, are expecting their first child. Twain and Lange live in Switzerland, where she is currently working on her fourth album. The couple’s spokeswoman, Samantha Johnson of Universal Music Canada, confirmed Thursday that Twain, 35, is pregnant. Johnson did not confirm, though we suspect, that Twain feels like a woman.

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