Plus, Disney tones down ''Pearl Harbor,'' NBC wins the last week of sweeps, and more

By Gary Susman
Updated May 24, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Christina Aguilera: David Fisher/London Features

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‘JUST’ SAY NO If you’re embarrassed by what you looked and sounded like when you were 14, take comfort in the fact that Christina Aguilera feels the same way. She’s suing Warlock Records and her former producers, Robert Allecca and Michael Brown, to prevent the release next month of ”Just Be Free,” a collection of demos she recorded in her Mouseketeer days. She says there was an ”implied agreement” that these songs, rough mixes made in a basement six years ago, were not to be released, but the record is already available for pre- order on such websites as Amazon.com. The suit echoes a similar battle earlier this year between LeAnn Rimes and Curb Records, which she says released an album of unfinished tracks from old sessions without her approval. That’s not what a girl wants.

‘PEARL,’ INTERRUPTED Lest moviegoers in the countries that started World War II take offense, Disney is changing some of the dialogue in ”Pearl Harbor” for audiences in Japan and Germany. ”There are a few, slight modifications in the German and Japanese versions of the picture,” a Disney source told Variety. In Japan, which Disney expects to be the film’s second biggest market, the studio is marketing the movie as a love triangle that stars Ben Affleck.

Not that lines about ”dirty Japs” will sound any less insensitive to some American ears when ”Pearl Harbor” opens here on Friday. The Japanese American Citizen’s League, worried that the movie will stir up the same kind of racist fears that led to the internment of Japanese Americans in prison camps during the war, has noted that almost all of the Asians shown in the film are enemy soldiers, even though many Asian Americans lived in Hawaii and helped in the war effort. JACL president John Tateishi met with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay before ”Pearl Harbor” went into production, and while Bruckheimer says Tateishi had ”legitimate concerns,” the film incorporated few of his suggested changes.

Meanwhile, the military pulled out all the stops to help Disney stage Monday night’s ”Pearl Harbor” premiere aboard an aircraft carrier moored a few hundred yards from where the attack occurred 60 years ago and where hundreds of slain sailors still lie at the bottom of the sea. The USS John C. Stennis was turned into a party boat for 2,000 guests, with a screening of the film accompanied by a fireworks show and a flyover by four F-15 fighter jets in ”missing man” formation to honor the dead.

The $5 million premiere was lavish even for Bruckheimer and Bay, who staged the premiere for ”The Rock” at Alcatraz and ”Armageddon”’s at the Kennedy Space Center. ”The next one will have to be in outer space,” said costar Tom Sizemore.

Stealing the show from the display of hardware and the Hollywood stars in attendance were several survivors of the attack, now in their 80s, and other World War II veterans Disney had invited. The veterans tended to praise the film for its story, even as they quibbled with its authenticity. Two sisters who served as nurses during the attack said, ”We were more straightlaced” than Kate Beckinsale and her colleagues in the movie. Naughty nurses — who knew!

BADA BINGS All it took was a truckload of stunts — including Kathleen Turner playing Chandler’s drag queen dad on ”Friends,” Martin Sheen‘s President Bartlet railing at God in Latin on ”The West Wing,” and Laura Innes‘s Dr. Weaver finally coming out of the closet on ”ER” — for NBC to dominate the final full week of May sweeps. NBC had the top five shows for the week ending May 20: ”ER” (30.7 million viewers), ”Friends” (30.1 million), ”Law & Order,” ”The West Wing,” and ”Will & Grace.” Still, this month’s ”Survivor” hoopla, which helped boost already strong shows like ”CSI,” has CBS eyeing a possible May sweeps month victory, which would be its first in 18 years, once the final three days of sweeps period are tallied.

For ”The Sopranos,” Jackie Jr. wasn’t the only one to go out with a bang. The HBO show’s season finale Sunday drew 9.5 million viewers and was the series’s second highest rated episode ever, after this season’s two part premiere. Not bad for a pay cable program; by comparison, Fox’s season finale for ”The X-Files,” which aired at the same time and featured the birth of Scully’s baby, drew 14 million viewers.

QUITE A ‘CATCH’ Leonardo DiCaprio‘s long gestating ”Catch Me If You Can” may finally have a director. ”Chocolat”’s Lasse Hallström, who directed DiCaprio’s Oscar nominated performance in ”What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” is in talks to do ”Catch,” based on the true story of 1960s con man Frank Abagnale Jr., who was the only teen ever to make the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. The film would shoot next March.

REPOSSESSED ”The Exorcist” director William Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty are claiming that last year’s rerelease of the 1973 film didn’t scare up the profits they’re entitled to. They’re suing Warner Bros., TNT, and TBS, alleging that Warner Bros. gave away for free the rebroadcast rights for the reissue to the cable channels (all three entities are AOL Time Warner companies, as is EW.com) and sold the rights at a below market price to CBS. A Warner Bros. spokesperson called the litigation ”ludicrous.” Well, as they say, possession is nine tenths of the law.

DOG DAYS Daryl Hannah won a libel suit yesterday against London’s Daily Mirror, receiving an undisclosed amount in damages for a story that claimed she’d skipped rehearsals for last fall’s stage production of ”The Seven Year Itch” to fly to Los Angeles for her dog’s birthday. (Call it ”the seven years to one human year itch.”) In fact, she’d skipped rehearsals to fly to the Toronto Film Festival to promote a movie. Guess it’s better to be thought irresponsible than to be thought a crazy dog lover.

HELLO MONTREAL! What with Duran Duran, Guns N’ Roses, and other ’80s bands reuniting, it’s no wonder that Spinal Tap is getting back together, too. They’ll take the stage during Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival, which runs July 12 through 22. Just hope they get billed above the puppet show this time.

Episode Recaps

TURN OVER A Georgia judge granted Jane Fonda a divorce from Ted Turner yesterday, officially ending their 10 year marriage. ”I feel sadness,” she said, in a statement read by her lawyer, adding that she’s still fonda Ted. ”We shared ten years together, and I will always care for him. Now it’s time to move on, and I wish him well.”

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