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Emmerich to head film festival jury

| Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004

Roland Emmerich, the director of "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," will head the jury at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

Eleven films already have been selected to run in the festival's main competition. They include "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," a new comedy from Wes Anderson , and "Les Temps qui changent (Changing Times)," directed by Andre Techine and starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu .

A festival statement last week said Emmerich, a native of Germany, would head the jury that will award the top Golden Bear prize, but gave no details of its other members.

Organizers already have announced that the world premiere of French director Regis Wargnier 's "Man to Man," a historical adventure epic that stars Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas , will open the 2005 festival -- its 55th edition -- on Feb. 10. The event closes Feb. 20.

German offerings include "Sophie Scholl -- Hope and Resistance" from director Marc Rothemund . It chronicles the last six days of Scholl, who along with her brother Hans was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943 for opposing Adolf Hitler 's regime.

Festival-goers also can look forward to a screen adaptation of Georges Bizet 's opera "Carmen," set in a South African township. The Xhosa-language "Carmen in Khayelitsha" was directed by Mark Dornford-May and stars Pauline Malefane in the title role.

'Spamalot' headed to Broadway

Killer rabbits and a legless knight. Are these the makings of a Broadway musical?

Yes, says Eric Idle , a member of the zany British troupe Monty Python. He wrote the book for "Spamalot," the stage version of the 1975 comedy film classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," now playing in Chicago.

"To me, the musical is best when it's a musical comedy," Idle told AP Radio in a recent interview. "So if you have a very, very funny show, and very good, funny songs, that's what the musical does best."

"Spamalot," directed by Mike Nichols and starring Hank Azaria , David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry , will move to Broadway in February. Music and lyrics are by Idle and John Du Prez .

Idle says the other Python members approved the show.

"They're very cautious about what they allow. They've never allowed this sort of thing before. Everyone was enthusiastic and on board because the songs made them laugh," he says.

Idle said "Spamalot" is upbeat -- not a downer like Andrew Lloyd Webber 's "The Phantom of the Opera."

"All the years when Andrew Lloyd Webber, people with plates over their faces moaning and groaning and singing, was for me dead loss. I hated all that stuff," he says.

Gayheart joins 'Steel Magnolias' cast

Actress Rebecca Gayheart , who gained popularity as the "Noxzema girl" in the skin care company's ads, has joined the cast of "Steel Magnolias," opening on Broadway in April.

Gayheart, 32, appeared on the TV show "Beverly Hills, 90210" in the 1990s, and has more recently been seen on the FX series "Nip/Tuck" and Showtime's "Dead Like Me." Her movie credits include "Scream 2" and "Urban Legend."

She will play bride-to-be Shelby, the role portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 1989 movie version of Robert Harling 's play, it was announced Monday.

Also in the Broadway cast are Delta Burke as Truvy, the owner of a Louisiana beauty parlor, which is where "Steel Magnolias" is set. Christine Ebersole will play M'Lynn, Shelby's mother.

The production, directed by Jason Moore , begins preview performances March 15 at the Lyceum Theatre and opens April 4.

"Steel Magnolias" was one of off-Broadway's biggest hits, opening in 1987 and running for more than 1,000 performances.

Besides Roberts, the film also starred Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine .

83-year-old tenor recovering after attack

Italian tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano is slowly recovering from serious injuries he suffered in an attack at his family's villa in Kenya, hospital officials and news reports said.

Di Stefano, 83, returned to Italy last week and is hospitalized in Milan. He is no longer in a coma, an official at the San Raffaele hospital said Monday.

No other details were released, but the ANSA news agency said Di Stefano was still in the hospital's intensive-care unit. The news agency added that his condition was improving.

The retired tenor was struck in the head during a Nov. 30 attack by unidentified assailants at his house in Diani, about 270 miles southeast of Nairobi. He was injured while trying to defend his wife as the assailants tried to steal her necklace. His wife needed 16 stitches to her head.

Di Stefano was flown Thursday by air ambulance back to Milan, where he has lived most of his life.

During his years of performing, Di Stefano was famous for his powerful voice, impeccable delivery and his duets with Maria Callas .

He sang at the world's top opera houses, including Milan's La Scala, New York's Metropolitan, and in Vienna and Berlin. He made occasional performances until the 1990s, mainly in concerts and recitals.

'Fat Albert' actor fears being typecast

Kenan Thompson , who plays the title role in the new "Fat Albert" movie, hopes he doesn't get typecast.

"You always gotta watch yourself when you're playing such an iconic character, because you don't want to be trying to audition for something else and all anybody wants (you) to do is 'Hey! Hey! Hey!' ... and kick you out of the audition," Thompson recently told reporters, according to AP Radio.

The live-action film, directed by Joel Zwick , is based on the animated TV series that comedian Bill Cosby created in the 1970s about adolescents growing up in Philadelphia.

Thompson said he wore a form-fitting fat suit to play the role.

"I had all this belly to get around and a little more booty, but, you know, it was cool," the 26-year-old actor-comedian said.

Seller of Elvis' water says he's no fanatic

Wade Jones is a fan of Elvis Presley , but says he's not a fanatic.

That's why -- after a grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000 -- he decided to sell three tablespoons of water from a cup that Jones said was used by Presley during a 1977 concert.

"It's one thing to be an Elvis fan, but then you tell them you have this cup of water and they think you're a fanatic," he said. "I'm not like the people bidding on this water."

The water fetched $455 Saturday at the online auction.

Jones was 13 when he watched Presley perform in February 1977 at the Charlotte Coliseum, now the Cricket Arena. He says he watched Elvis drink from the cup while he introduced the band.

After the show, Jones went to the stage to snag a souvenir -- perhaps a scarf that Presley would throw to his audience. When police wouldn't give him one, he asked for the cup and water. He stored the cup in a deep freezer for eight years, then melted the ice and transferred the water to a glass vial.

As proof of the water's authenticity, Jones provides photos of Presley during the concert in which several plastic foam cups can be seen on a stand behind him. Another photo shows Presley holding a cup.

"I'm kind of attached to the cup," Jones said. "I thought it was a little quirkier to sell the water."

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