Plus, news about Mariah Carey, Billy Bob Thornton, Will Smith, Martin Scorsese, Michael Bay, Jerry Lewis, Tim Russert, Martha Stewart, and others
Britney Spears

SOUND BITES Next time guys drool over a Britney Spears poster, it’ll be for a good cause. The singer is teaming up with former antagonists People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in their anti-fur, pro-faux-leather campaign. Spears, whom PETA criticized for her use of a caged tiger during her MTV Video Music Awards performance in September (curiously, PETA expressed no similar sympathy for the python she wore as an accessory), informed the activists that she was no longer using live animals in performance. ”We think Britney has set a great example of someone who listened to what we had to say and made a change,” PETA spokesman Dan Mathews told the New York Post. Spears will appear in the group’s next ”I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” poster (doesn’t it seem she would rather go naked than wear most anything?), and she’ll also model simulated leatherwear on PETA’s website. ”It’s a lot of fetish wear but also non-leather shoes, belts and bags.” Of course….

Mariah Carey will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Kathie Lee Gifford, Cher, Cheryl Ladd, and the Colgate University Thirteen when she sings ”The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3. Playing the halftime show is U2….

In the wake of high-profile cameos by Robert Downey, Jr. and Marlon Brando, Billy Bob Thornton is the latest movie star to make his music-video debut. He’s appearing in Travis Tritt‘s clip for ”Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde,” centering around a couple robbing a convenience store. Watch for the video, shooting this week, to debut by the end of the month.

REEL DEALS How serious was Will Smith about getting into the mindset of Muhammad Ali to play the boxer in ”Ali”? So much so that he went without sex for a whole year, according to the actor’s trainer. ”Will vowed to have no sex for the year he was training for ‘Ali,”’ said trainer Darrell Foster. ”Sex saps a fighter’s energy and Ali always abstained through fight training. Will wanted to really live the role, experience it all.” Therefore, ”to understand the sacrifices that Muhammad Ali went through to be the greatest boxer ever, Will decided he had to go through it all as a fighter — the pain, sweat and tears, the dieting, abstaining from sex.” Call it rhythm method acting….

Martin Scorsese‘s long-awaited ”Gangs of New York,” once expected to be out by the end of 2001 in time for awards consideration, now won’t be released until next summer. Miramax says it didn’t want to rush the postproduction process. Both Miramax and Scorsese have denied reports that the studio had refused to release the film until Scorsese shortened it; rather, both parties assert that Scorsese has final cut and that there has been no dispute between them….

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