Plus: Congress holds hearings on hip-hop culture, effect Sutherland's arrest will have on ''24'' is unclear, McAdams, Mirren tapped for ''State of Play,'' and more...

By Mike Bruno
Updated September 27, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: James Devaney/

Universal signs Aniston for Traveling
Jennifer Aniston will star alongside Aaron Eckhart in the Universal Pictures drama Traveling. Writer/producer Brandon Camp, who created the Fox series John Doe, will make his directorial debut on the project. The story, written by Camp and his longtime partner Mike Thompson, is about a widower (Eckhart) whose book about grieving turns him into a phenomenon. Reinvented as a charismatic self-help guru, he falls for a woman (Aniston), who is a floral designer working at a Seattle hotel where he is holding a seminar, and is forced to confront the fact that he hasn’t come to grips with his own loss and practices none of the principles he teaches. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2008. Aniston is currently shooting a small role in New Line’s Ken Kwapis-directed ensemble comedy She’s Just Not That Into You, which is being produced by Drew Barrymore and her Flower Films partner Nancy Juvonen. She will then move right into the Stephen Belber-directed Management with Steve Zahn. She is also set to star with Owen Wilson in Fox 2000’s David Frankel-directed Marley & Me, but that project has been postponed at least until spring. (Variety)

Congressional hearing focuses on hip-hop
Levell Crump, aka David Banner, and Percy Miller, aka Master P, were among the hip-hop artists and record label executives who defended hip-hop at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 24), telling a House subcommittee that it is wrong to single out the genre for reprobation. ”Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California, but in his movies he killed half of Cambodia and he went to Mars and blew up Mars,” Crump said. ”But that’s okay because he’s a white man and he’s an actor.” The artist went on to reiterate the argument that hip-hop merely reflects the society in which in was bred. ”Hip-hop is sick because America is sick,” he said. Miller had a different take, saying he has sworn off the use of words like ”bitch,” ”ho,” and ”nigga” after he realized he had to turn down his own music in his car when his kids were with him. ”This whole thing is about growing up,” he told lawmakers. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., didn’t seem to have plans to push for a legislative solution, but he did want action on the part of the artists and the industry. ”Let me say this, you can’t justify the word nigger because my slave master used it…. I don’t want to ape and imitate my slave master,” he said, adding, ”There is a problem — a deep-seated, deeply rooted problem in our country. The paycheck is not an excuse for being part of the problem.” (Hollywood Reporter)

Effect Sutherland’s arrest will have on 24 is unclear
The future of Fox TV series 24 is cloudy following Kiefer Sutherland’s DUI arrest Tuesday (Sept. 23) morning, which violates a five-year probation. Sutherland faces a mandatory minimum of four days in jail because of a prior DUI conviction and a maximum sentence of a year in jail. It is not clear how a possible long-term jail sentence would affect production of 24, which is in the first year of a two-season pickup. Sources describing the night in question say Sutherland drove straight from the set of 24 to a Fox party kicking off the fall season, which took place at hotspot Area, and was offered a company limo service but declined. The actor, who was on probation from a similar 2004 conviction, was stopped by police just after 1 a.m. after making an illegal U-turn and failed a sobriety test. Sutherland also had a 1993 conviction for alcohol-related reckless driving. He will appear in court on Oct. 16. (Hollywood Reporter)

McAdams, Mirren tapped for State of Play
Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, and Robin Wright Penn have joined Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Jason Bateman in the Universal Pictures/Working Title adaptation of the British miniseries State of Play. McAdams will play a newspaper reporter investigating the death of the mistress of a fast-rising congressman. Mirren will play the newspaper’s editor, a role played by Bill Nighy in the British series. Wright Penn will play the congressman’s estranged wife who becomes romantically involved with the politician’s former campaign manager (Pitt), who leads the newspaper’s investigative team. Norton plays the congressman, and Bateman plays the other lead reporter. Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) is directing from a script written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom). McAdams is set to star in New Line’s Robert Schwentke-directed adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife and recently wrapped Neil Burger’s The Return. Mirren next stars in National Treasure: Book of Secrets for Disney and Inkheart for New Line. Wright Penn next will be seen in Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf and the Barry Levinson-directed comedy What Just Happened? for 2929 Prods. and Warner Bros. (Variety)

Kevin James writing, starring in Mall Cop
Columbia has tapped Kevin James to write and star in its comedy Mall Cop. The actor will play a mild-mannered security guard who patrols a mall that’s taken over by highly organized thieves. Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions is producing. James teamed with Happy Madison on I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. The project also reunites James with Columbia’s parent company, Sony, where he starred on the long-running sitcom The King of Queens and co-starred with Will Smith in the film Hitch. (Hollywood Reporter)

Chaka Khan, LaKisha Jones join Broadway’s Color Purple
Chaka Khan and fellow singer BeBe Winans will join the hit Broadway musical The Color Purple on Jan. 9. The duo will portray battling lovebirds, Sofia and Harpo. Meanwhile, American Idol finalist LaKisha Jones will play the Church Soloist, a woman who opens the musical with a rousing gospel number, in all performances from Dec. 19 through Jan. 9. After Jan. 9, Jones will play the Soloist in evening performances and play Sofia at matinees. The show, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, stars 2004 Idol winner Fantasia Barrino as Celie. (AP via Yahoo!)

Burnett sets up father quiz show with NBC
Reality vet Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) has set up the quiz show My Dad Is Better than Your Dad at NBC, which has placed an eight-episode midseason order. The show will have fathers and their families facing off against other families in a series of stunt-driven challenges. Players will compete for prizes during the course of each episode, with a cash sum serving as the grand prize. Dad will be Burnett’s third primetime quiz show, in addition to Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader and the recently set up truth-or-consequences show Amnesia at NBC. (Variety)

NBC taking advantage of new Nielsen rule
NBC will take advantage of a new Nielsen rule that allows networks to count unduplicated viewers watching a replay in the same broadcast week in the ratings of the original broadcast, as long as the national commercial content remains the same. NBC will do that Saturday night when Heroes will air with the same national commercials that aired during the Monday night season premiere. What’s more, the hour being added to Monday’s ratings won’t be counted in the weekly average, which allows NBC to eliminate an hour of typically-low Saturday night ratings from its weekly total. Most other networks will not take advantage of the new rule because airing the same commercials is too difficult. NBC said its plan with Heroes will probably only be a one-off and not a regular occurrence because it’s a challenge to coordinate. (Hollywood Reporter)

Palm Pictures releasing Marley documentary this winter
Palm Pictures has acquired Africa Unite, a documentary about the family of the late Bob Marley and their first trip to Ethiopia in 2005. The film contains rare footage of Marley performing, as well as corresponding footage of his family performing his songs at the Africa Unite concert in Ethiopia. Palm will distribute the movie theatrically this winter, with a DVD release in the first quarter of 2008. (Variety)

Heriot directing indie Gospel
Director Drew Heriot will make his feature debut on the indie The Aquarian Gospel, which tells the story of Jesus from ages 13 to 30. Producers plan on using actors along with modern-day spiritual leaders in cameo roles, portraying prominent historical and religious figures that Jesus encountered. Heriot directed self-help documentary The Secret, which sold more than 2 million DVD copies. (Variety)

Leth to direct remake of Italian La scorta
Denmark’s Asger Leth is set to make his American directorial debut on Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s remake of 1993 Italian film La scorta from a screenplay being written by Peter Craig (The Town, Hot Plastic). The original movie was about four policemen assigned to guard a special prosecutor trying to bring mob bosses to justice and their frustration as they watch government insiders thwart the prosecutor at every turn. Leth’s 2006 documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil was about two brothers who are gang leaders and henchmen of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Variety)


Page Six: Miss J. Alexander, the fierce judge on America’s Next Top Model, gave a hint as to who the winner of this year’s contest will be: ”She’s extremely religious,” Miss J told Page Six.

E! Online: Paris Hilton will take a break from club-hopping this November and head to Rwanda as part of her new, post-jail commitment to use her celebrity to bring the spotlight to what she feels are important causes around the world. ”There’s so much need in that area, and I feel like if I go, it will bring more attention to what people can do to help,” Hilton said.

Cindy Adams: A contestant on The Price is Right was so excited to be on the show and meet new host Drew Carey that she literally wet herself on camera.