Ben Stiller: Alberto Lowe/ZUMA Press
June 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

HOUSE CALL A group of stars and entertainment industry figures have written a letter to Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), warning that their proposed legislation giving Congress more power over content ratings would be unconstitutional. The Media Marketing Accountability Act is being introduced today in the Senate and in the House to regulate the current systems of rating movies, music, TV shows, and video games by penalizing companies that market adult-rated material to kids. To counter a letter that Lieberman sent to President George W. Bush urging passage of the act, lobbying group the Creative Coalition sent its protest letter to the Senators, with signers including Jane Alexander, Lauren Bacall, Chevy Chase, Ben Stiller, and Robin Williams. ”A governmental role in defining ‘acceptable’ entertainment is an indirect form of censorship. There are better, more workable and more tolerant solutions,” Creative Coalition president William Baldwin said in a separate statement. ”The threat of civil penalties is an extreme reaction to a problem whose solution lies in voluntary self-regulation by the creative industries, action these industries have successfully undertaken and continue to improve upon.”

STAIND LIFTER Blink-182 broke Staind‘s cycle, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard chart with ”Take Off Your Pants & Jacket” (350,000 copies sold, according to SoundScan) and ending the hard rockers’ three-week reign atop the chart. The punk-popsters pushed Staind’s ”Break the Cycle” to No. 2 (221,175 sold). Destiny’s Child‘s ”Survivor” climbed back up two spots to No. 3, selling a bootylicious 188,475 copies. It switched places with St. Lunatics‘ ”Free City,” at No. 5 (139,475 units). The ”Moulin Rouge” soundtrack held at No. 4, with 161,550 sold.

Sugar Ray‘s self-titled release bowed at No. 6. ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 6” remained at No.7. Radiohead‘s ”Amnesiac” fell to No. 8, dropping six spots from last week’s debut. Tool‘s ”Lateralus” was No. 9, and Weezer‘s self-titled CD was No. 10. Watch for new releases by Stone Temple Pilots, 311, and Eminem‘s rap group D-12 to shake things up next week.

MORE THUMBS DOWN New cases of movie ad fakery seem to be coming to light every day. One day after Fox Searchlight echoed Sony’s admission that the studios’ own marketing staffers have posed as ordinary moviegoers endorsing their employers’ films in commercials, three other studios have been caught in the act. The Washington Post reports that ads for Universal’s ”U-571,” Artisan’s ”Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” and 20th Century Fox’s ”Anna and the King” used paid actors for their person-on-the-street endorsements. The studios didn’t seem to find the practice deceptive, since the actors weren’t full-time studio employees, and they made up their own lines. It’s not clear, though, whether they actually watched the films they shilled for. Now that the studios are bypassing real critics and real word-of-mouth-generating viewers, the next logical step should be to bypass the rest of the moviegoing public, paying us all to see the movies, whether or not we actually go.

MONSTER EARNINGS Shrek and The Grinch have more in common than just being green, surly, and smelly. Each is also the star of the highest grossing movie of its year. On Tuesday, after just 33 days in theaters, ”Shrek” became the first 2001 movie to reach the $200 million milestone, though ”The Mummy Returns” and ”Pearl Harbor” are expected to follow suit by July 4. It now ranks fourth on the list of highest grossing animated movies, after ”The Lion King,” ”Toy Story 2,” and ”Aladdin.” Only three movies in 2000 broke the $200 million mark: ”Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” ”Mission: Impossible 2,” and ”Cast Away.”

REEL DEALS Nicolas Cage is in talks to star in ”Ghost Rider,” an adapation of the Marvel comic about a motorcycle-riding demon superhero. The $75 million budget would make it the most expensive production in the history of Miramax’s Dimension Films….

DMX is reteaming with ”Exit Wounds” producer Joel Silver for a remake of ”M,” the classic 1931 Fritz Lang thriller about a child killer pursued by both cops and criminals. No word on whether the rapper will take the leading role, which made Peter Lorre an international star, but there’s no denying he’s well-suited to the project — after all, M is his middle name….

It’s hard to dispute producer/director John Woo‘s instincts when it comes to action fare, so when he tells Variety that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are ”one of the greatest action-adventure properties ever,” it must be so. Woo and partner Terence Chang are developing a computer-animated Turtles feature, at a cost of $40 to $60 million, for release at Christmas 2002. The movie will take the franchise, which earned $4 billion in the years before Pokémon and the Power Rangers, back to its ”darker, edgier comic-book roots,” says Turtles cocreator Peter Laird….

At 80, sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury says he’s busier than ever. The Sci Fi Channel has commissioned him to write a TV movie version of his 1951 short story collection ”The Illustrated Man.” ”The Green Mile” screenwriter/director Frank Darabont is set to adapt Bradbury’s ”Fahrenheit 451” for Mel Gibson‘s Icon Productions, and Bradbury says Darabont also will adapt his ”The Martian Chronicles.” All three have been filmed before; as a 1969 movie, a 1966 movie, and a 1979 miniseries respectively. Also, Bradbury’s adapting his novella ”Frost & Fire” into a screenplay, and Pierce Brosnan is still set to star in ”A Sound of Thunder,” based on Bradbury’s story of time-traveling dinosaur hunters. As for his day job, he’s got three books coming out this year, including a novel and a short story collection.

BON VOYAGE For Julia Child to leave the Cambridge, Mass., home where she’s lived for 40 years and move to California seems as shocking as if her neighbor, Harvard University, were to uproot itself and move to Disneyland. But the 88-year-old chef announced that she’s moving in November to Casa Dorinda, a retirement community near Santa Barbara. ”I’m not a New Englander,” the Pasadena native told the Boston Globe, saying she won’t miss the cold winters or navigating with her walker the five-bedroom house where she launched her career, testing recipes for and writing ”Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Of the move, she said, ”You have to make a decision some time. Best to do it while I’m perfectly capable of doing everything.”

DECENT EXPOSURE Fleetwood Mac‘s ”Don’t Stop” was used to introduce Bill Clinton at political conventions, so Clinton returned the favor by introducing Stevie Nicks at a recent music industry convention in Los Angeles, ABC News reports. Asked when he was first exposed to Stevie Nicks, the former president answered, ”I’ve never been exposed to Stevie Nicks.” A congressional investigation is being launched.

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