Samuel L. Jackson defends George Lucas. Plus, news about Anna Nicole Smith, the Osbournes, Julia Roberts, Katie Couric, Lance Bass, Limp Bizkit, Sylvester Stallone, Regis Philbin, and others
Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, ...
Credit: Jar Jar Binks: © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

A History of Us

REEL DEALS George Lucas took a lot of flak over Jar Jar Binks, not just because the character was annoying, but because many viewers thought he bordered on crude racial caricature. Lucas said he meant nothing of the kind when he created the character. Now, Jedi Samuel L. Jackson, Jar Jar’s costar in the last two ”Star Wars” movies, stands up in his defense, saying that critics inferred a racial stereotype only because a black actor, Ahmed Best, did the Gungan’s voice. (Yeah, well, that and the Jamaican-sounding patois, the dreadlock-like flaps on his head, the shuffling gait….). ”I thought it was pretty stupid,” Jackson told the Associated Press, referring to the controversy. ”The fact that Ahmed was doing that character may have sent people to that place. But people want to find things, or they want to assign things to everything. And that’s not always necessary.”

Meanwhile, with ”” around the corner, and with Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into the helmeted Darth Vader yet to be depicted, one old ”Star Wars” hand is hoping Lucas will rehire him. He’s David Prowse, the 66-year-old actor who played the caped villain in the first three movies (though James Earl Jones provided his voice). ”I would love to reprise the Darth Vader role,” he told Reuters. ”If I am 100 percent physically able and they offer the part to someone else, I would be very disappointed.” That’s a big if; Prowse is 66, suffers from arthritis, and has a bad hip. However, he says, ”I should be walking properly by Christmas and can get back into the gym and training. I am going to surprise them all next year.” Plus, he says, noting Christopher Lee‘s lightsaber-wielding performance in the current film, ”If Christopher Lee can handle a lightsaber at the age of 80, then so can I.”

TUBE TALK A suicidal gunman rammed his pickup truck through the gate of CBS Television City on Tuesday evening, leading to a four-hour standoff that ended when he shot himself in the abdomen. The 31-year-old gunman, whose name Los Angeles police did not release, forced the evacuation of the television studio and caused a halt in the production of ”The Young and the Restless.” He first pointed a gun at a mailroom supervisor and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun failed to fire. Then he reloaded and threatened to kill himself unless he was allowed to ”tell my story.” Police evacuated 800 CBS employees from the facility and sent in a SWAT team and two of the man’s relatives in an attempt to talk him out of the standoff. After four hours, the man shot himself and was hospitalized in critical condition; no one else was hurt. Television City, whose 50th anniversary CBS recently celebrated in a nostalgia special, is home to many of the network’s daytime game shows and soap operas, as well as Craig Kilborn‘s ”The Late Late Show,” which is not in production this week. It is also home to CBS corporate offices, but president Leslie Moonves and other top execs were away in Las Vegas for a convention with CBS affiliate stations….

How’s this for a reality show idea: Follow around a minor celebrity, the star’s handler, the star’s 16-year-old son, and a punk-haired young woman also in the retinue. Sounds like ”The Osbournes,” but the minor celeb this time is Anna Nicole Smith. E! has announced an August debut for ”The Anna Nicole Smith Show,” a series built around the former Playboy playmate and sometime actress, her lawyer, her son Daniel, and her purple-haired assistant, Kim. E! claims it came up with the idea before MTV’s success with ”The Osbournes,” asserting that it had wanted to do a Smith show due to several highly-rated airings of the Smith episode of ”The E! True Hollywood Story.” ”Five days of the life of Anna Nicole Smith are far more riveting and engaging than the entire lifetime of most people.” said an E! spokesperson. ”She packs a lot in there.” Nudge, nudge.

In an interview scheduled to air tonight on ”Larry King Live,” Smith says she was never physically attracted to her late husband, nonagenarian Texas tycoon J. Howard Marshall, to whom she was married for a year and a half, only to spend the seven years since in a protracted probate battle over his millions with Marshall’s son. ”There was no physical attraction at all,” she says of Marshall, whom she met in a club where she was stripping. ”I saw a very sick man… And I just wanted to just talk with him.” She says she married him after knowing him for only a week, and that she ”didn’t know at all how wealthy he was.” Uh huh….

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