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A Weekly Digest Of Sci Fi Wire

 April 4, 2005
 March 28, 2005
 March 21, 2005
 March 14, 2005
 March 7, 2005
 February 28, 2005
 February 22, 2005
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 February 7, 2005
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The Staff



BBC Apologizes To Who Star

T he BBC, which earlier reported that Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston was leaving the show after the first season, issued an unusual apology to the actor for mischaracterizing his reasons for departing. The BBC said that it failed to consult Eccleston before confirming the actor's departure and that it erroneously attributed statements to the actor that he was leaving because he feared being typecast and found the show's schedule grueling.

In fact, the BBC reported, the network broke an agreement with Eccleston not to reveal that he had planned to film just one season of the hit show all along. "The BBC regrets not speaking to Christopher before it responded to the press questions on Wednesday 30 March," the BBC's head of drama and commissioning, Jane Tranter, said in a statement. "The BBC further regrets that it falsely attributed a statement to Christopher and apologizes to him."

The BBC has already ordered up a second season of the new Doctor Who, which is airing in the United Kingdom to record ratings. The BBC confirmed that it is in talks with actor David Tennant as a possible replacement for Eccleston.

De Ravin Delivers On Lost

E milie de Ravin, who plays Claire on ABC's hit series Lost, told SCI FI Wire that she doesn't know whether her character's new baby will turn out to be good or evil. "I guess that's yet to be revealed, whether the baby is normal or not," de Ravin said in an interview. "It seems normal."

De Ravin's character gave birth on the April 6 episode of the show. To play Claire's new infant, "We've got twins we're working with," de Ravin said. "They're very cute and very tiny. I think it's definitely going to add a dynamic to the set, having a baby around."

Until the recent episode, "Do No Harm," the Australian actress had spent months walking around the Lost set in Hawaii sporting an ever-expanding pregnancy suit. Actually depicting the child's birth presented a whole other challenge, she said. "That was an interesting episode to shoot, not being a mother myself," she said. "Talking to my sisters, who both have children, and doing all the research I did about this labor that was obviously looming for Claire since day one, and really getting into it for the episode, was such a strange thing, because it's such a gritty, personal thing, giving birth. It's different for every woman in every situation. I'm really happy with it. It turned out really well."

It helped, de Ravin added, that an obstetrician was on set. "She was great, guiding along, helping, because we wanted to make it as realistic and natural as possible for TV," de Ravin said. "I think TV often skims over birth. They're usually not very realistic, and we were trying to go for as gritty as we could and as real as we could." Lost airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Fury Leaves Lost

D avid Fury, a key writer and co-executive producer of ABC's hit series Lost, told SCI FI Wire that he will not be returning for the just-announced second season, but will immediately begin working on two other series, The Inside and 24, and maybe develop a show on his own. The series' writers have wrapped the first season of the hit SF drama.

"I'm very proud of Lost and my contribution to the show, but for numerous personal reasons, I feel like it's time for me to move on to other things," said Fury, best known for being a writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "I spent seven years of my career in one place [working on Buffy and its spinoff series, Angel], and it's a lot of fun to work in different worlds. Lost was a lot of fun, and I have a great deal of gratitude for [series co-creators] J.J. [Abrams] and Damon [Lindelof]. I know the show will continue to be great, and I look forward to viewing it."

Fury wrote four scripts for Lost, including the fourth episode, "Walkabout," which centered on Terry O'Quinn's character, Locke, and contained a whopper plot twist. "I think my favorite will always be 'Walkabout,'" Fury said in an interview. "It helped set the tone for what the show could be outside of the pilot. It was also served so well by the performance of Terry O'Quinn and some great production values and direction."

Fury will reunite with his former Whedonverse colleagues at The Inside, a Fox drama co-created by Tim Minear (Angel, Wonderfalls) and Howard Gordon (Angel, 24). "I'll be starting this Monday [April 11]," Fury said. "I'm very excited about it. Tim and I have been anxious to work on something together, and this was a nice opportunity. I had wanted at the very least to write a script for him, but there was a lot of backstage goings-on with Tim and Howard, and they made it happen for Fox to bring me over. I'll be a full-time co-executive producer for the remaining six episodes left in [The Inside's] 13-episode order. Then, as soon as I'm done with that, I'll be going over to 24. I've been playing in the genre world for so long now, it will be interesting to go over there."

As for the long-term future, Fury revealed that he may head back to Abrams' camp again someday. "I've been talking with Bad Robot, J.J.'s company, about possibly developing a show. I would love to develop with J.J., and he would love to develop with me, so we are going to try and make that happen." Lost airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The Inside is slated to premiere in the fall.

Episode III Emperor Speaks

I an McDiarmid, who plays Emperor Palpatine in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode III�Revenge of the Sith, offered SCI FI Wire spoilerish details about his mysterious and malevolent character, who rivals Darth Vader as the most evil character in the saga. "I think the Emperor is the incarnation of evil, and he's only really interested in power and manipulation," McDiarmid said in an interview. "Nothing else gives him any pleasure. He's a Sith from way back, and they don't have a moral universe. They want to create power for themselves by destroying others. It's very interesting to play a character that is irredeemable. There are even real people that have that kind of motiveless malignancy. It's like watching [former Yugoslavian president Slobodan] Milosevic, somebody that only seems interested in power and manipulation."

Scottish-born McDiarmid first appeared in the Star Wars films as the Emperor in Episode VI�Return of the Jedi in 1983, and he said that creator George Lucas brought him back for the series of prequel films. "When I heard George was going to do prequels, I kind of hoped he would give me a ring, and he did," McDiarmid said. "I knew he was in town, and I went in and had a 10-minute meeting. I hadn't seen him in 20 years, and he looked exactly the same to me. I had a glass of water. He asked, 'Do you know anyone that would like to play an Emperor?' I said, 'It's funny you should say that.' � He said, 'OK, you can give the water back,' and that was that," McDiarmid said with a chuckle. "He told me a little about the progress of Palpatine through the prequels and what the journey would be like. He said he would start quiet and end big, and that's exactly what's happened."

Episode III marks the end of the Star Wars saga, and McDiarmid admitted that he is sad to see it end. "I'll miss it, and it was great the last six years going to Australia to make a film," he said. "I think it's terrific for me that the final film is also my character's apotheosis. He really explodes in all his unbridled evil. Hypocrisy goes to one side and you see this creature for what he really is. It's been interesting to play the character in the last two movies on the sidelines, and now he moves into the middle. It's a very satisfying personal climax and a privilege." Star Wars: Episode III opens May 19.

Episode III Has New Chewie

P eter Mayhew, who returns to the Star Wars saga as the Wookiee Chewbacca in Episode III, told SCI FI Wire that he will look slightly different from his incarnations in previous installments. "Chewie is younger in Episode III, so it meant they had to make a different costume, because Chewie is now lighter-colored," Mayhew said in an interview. "He's like a puppy that is one color and changes as he gets older."

Mayhew played the furry co-pilot in the original Star Wars trilogy and once again puts on the suit for the last prequel, Star Wars: Episode III�Revenge of the Sith. "The actual costume itself was no different, except we've got a 'cool suit' running through it now, so that's wonderful," Mayhew said. "But once I get the costume on, that character comes out. There are no two ways about it. Chewie is one of those characters that never said a line throughout the whole of the three movies, and this one just finishes that off nicely. Chewie is a rock star anyway. He's one of those characters that you either love him or hate him, and most people love him."

A frequent Star Wars convention guest around the world, Mayhew said that fans still ask about the legendarily bad '70s television program, Star Wars Holiday Special, that revolved around Chewbacca and his family. "No matter where it is, someone will come up and say, 'Holiday Special,'" Mayhew said with a laugh. "I usually blow it over and say it was something we did because we could do it. The mere fact that George [Lucas] doesn't like it is right, and for me it was just another job. Maybe if George had just put it out, probably all the fans would have forgotten about it. But George is the governor, and we do what George wants. If he wants to put us in a dashiki, it's up to him, and we will do whatever he wants and be glad of it!" Star Wars: Episode III opens on May 19.

Carnivale Packs Up Tents?

H BO may not renew its supernatural series Carnivale, which ended its second season March 27 with above-average ratings, Variety reported. The finale delivered an audience of 2.4 million viewers, but insiders told the trade paper that the show is not likely to return.

An HBO spokeswoman told Variety that a decision has not yet been reached. Carnivale creator and executive producer Daniel Knauf, however, has already begun developing a comedy series project for rival pay cable network Showtime, the trade paper reported.

Enterprise Talks Denied

O rganizers of Trek United, the fan fund-raising campaign to save UPN's canceled Star Trek: Enterprise, are telling fans that they are in secret discussions with Paramount representatives about keeping the show alive, and that the reps have left open the possibility the show may return. But a spokesman for Paramount denied to SCI FI Wire that such talks are taking place, adding definitively: "That is not true. The decision to end the show is final."

So what's the truth? "I think it's probably a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing," Candice McCallie, the Houston-based spokeswoman for Trek United, told SCI FI Wire in a separate interview. "I mean, it's a large company, of course, and we've talked to a couple of different people there. Now, as far as whatever they're telling you, my guess is, you know, we've tried to be as open as possible about it. Maybe telling people that we're talking with Paramount was a mistake. But ... until something is signed sealed on the dotted line, they're not going to say anything different from what they said back in February." McCallie declined to name the group's Paramount contacts, except to say they were "people above the producers."

McCallie added: "Just because he doesn't know what is going on doesn't mean that we haven't talked to someone or spoken to someone about the possibility of the show coming back. ... Obviously, if the possibility wasn't there, they wouldn't fool with us. They would never even acknowledge our existence. I mean, what would be the point?"

Trek United has raised nearly $3.14 million in pledges and contributions from fans eager to finance a fifth season of Enterprise, and McCallie said that donors are promised their money back if the show doesn't come back, "except for the 5 percent handling fee to cover the banks and Paypal and all that kind of stuff."

Some fans have raised concerns about Trek United and its campaign on the official Star Trek: Enterprise message boards. McCallie said that she understood such concerns, but added that the group has been aboveboard in its representations. "The legally binding document is there," she said. "It's all open on the Internet. All of our names are out there. ... We've [been] pretty open about the whole entire thing. Our only goal is to try to get the show back, and we're spending a lot of time and a lot of work and a lot of money out of pocket, and there's no reason for us to do that if we can't get the show back, because, obviously, we've got a legally binding agreement with the contributions. So there is no danger of our embezzling the money or anything like that."

Bay Confirmed On Transformers

M ichael Bay will direct The Transformers for DreamWorks and Paramount, with Steven Spielberg executive producing, Variety reported. The news confirmed rumors about the movie, which is scheduled for a Thanksgiving 2006 release. Shooting will begin in the fall, the trade paper reported.

Spielberg reportedly came up with a new take, which he imparted to writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; the original script was by John Rogers. Kurtzman and Orci built on the idea and pitched it to Bay, whom they worked with on DreamWorks' upcoming SF action film The Island, and he sparked to it, the trade paper reported. Kurtzman and Orci are expected to turn in a script within a month, at which point DreamWorks is hoping to lock in Bay.

The Transformers is based on the toy line, which spawned a comic series, TV show and animated feature in the 1980s.

Bloom Updates Pirates Sequels

O rlando Bloom, who reprises the role of Will Turner in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, told Dark Horizons that the film began shooting nearly four weeks ago in the Caribbean and will then move to Los Angeles and continue shooting through the rest of the year.

Bloom added that the two sequels appear to be shooting separately, though early reports suggested they would be shot simultaneously, and said that he hasn't read the third film's script yet. Bloom told the site that the Caribbean shoot is mostly for the second and some of the third film, while most of the third will be done in Los Angeles.

As in the first Pirates film, "Will is the straight man who moves the story forward, and he continues that," Bloom said. "He becomes more of a pirate, but piracy is not in his blood in the same way it is for Jack Sparrow [Johnny Depp]."

Bloom added: "There are plans to darken Will up a little, and make him a little more questionable, which will then resolve themselves."

Reynolds Sought For The Flash

D avid Goyer, who is currently writing a movie version of DC Comics' classic The Flash series, confirmed to SCI FI Wire that he'd like to see his Blade: Trinity star Ryan Reynolds in the title role. "I think he would be great in it, and he loves the character," Goyer said in an interview while promoting the upcoming DVD release of Blade: Trinity, which he wrote and directed. "We don't have a green light or anything like that, but he's certainly the person that I would be interested in playing Wally West."

Reynolds himself expressed his interest in the role while doing publicity last week for his upcoming supernatural horror film, The Amityville Horror.

Goyer, who hopes to also direct The Flash, said that Warner Brothers (which owns the rights to all of the DC characters) is awaiting the first draft of the script before making any definitive decisions about the project. "I've certainly discussed him with Warner Brothers, but right now it's too early to say," Goyer said. "Until I finish it and turn it in, they won't give it the green light."

Goyer has adapted several comic-book films for the big screen, including all three Blade installments and the upcoming films Batman Begins and Ghost Rider. He said he is excited to see the impending resurgence of the DC universe to rival the recent popularity of Marvel Comics films, such as Spider-Man and The X-Men. "It'll be curious to see if they can pull anything off beyond Batman and Superman," he said. "Like if they can actually get The Flash or Wonder Woman on screen, and if so, can they be successful? That'll be the real test. If they can do Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, those ones, that'll be the test of whether or not they can give Marvel a run for their money."

Reynolds Says No To Nightstalkers

R yan Reynolds told SCI FI Wire that he's not interested in reprising his Blade: Trinity character, vampire killer Hannibal King, in a proposed spinoff film. "No, I don't want to do a Nightstalker movie," Reynolds said, referring to the project that would reunite Reynolds' character with Jessica Biel's Abby Whistler.

Reynolds added that he doubts a Nightstalker film will come together, despite some early speculation. "I mean, that was just something they just kind of gauged our interest on, to spin off Blade," he said. "I don't think it's going to [go]. I think people, if they go see a Blade movie, they want to see Wes [star Wesley Snipes]. That's who they've watched all this way. So I suggested to New Line if they want to spin that off, take the characters and do something totally different with them, ... outside of the realm of vampires or whatever."

In any case, talk of a Nightstalkers spinoff film has cooled since 2004's Blade: Trinity, the third installment in the Marvel Comics-inspired franchise, pulled in $52.4 million at the domestic box office, much less than the previous two chapters.

George May Return To Alias?

M elissa George, who played the ill-fated Lauren Reed on ABC's Alias, told SCI FI Wire that it's possible her character might return in some form. "Definitely a big chance," George said in an interview. "I've got some storyline ideas for them."

George played Reed, the duplicitous wife of Michael Vartan's Vaughn, in last year's third season of the hit spy series. At the end of the season, she was gunned down and fell in a well. But that doesn't mean she's actually dead, George revealed (though she appeared early in season four as a corpse). "The bullets were here, here and here [pointing to spots on her body], and nothing where it does any damage," George said with a smile.

But have the producers asked her back? "Yeah, you know, we've spoken about it," George said. She has completed shooting the films The Amityville Horror and Derailed. "[Now] it was like, ... 'What do I do?'" George said. "But there's been no need for Lauren Reed. She was a little bit of a pain in that show. " The Amityville Horror opens April 15.

George Hung Out For Amityville

M elissa George, who stars in the upcoming remake of The Amityville Horror, told SCI FI Wire that she had her own frightening moments on the production, particularly shooting a scene where she has to rescue her young daughter from the roof of the house. Director Andrew Douglas shot the scene practically, meaning that George was climbing around on a roof 50 feet above ground level with 8-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays her daughter.

"That was freaky," George said in an interview. "I didn't like that too much. Because little Chloe, you know the scene where she falls off the edge? All for real, you guys. No green screen. All that walking is for real. She had a crane with two pieces of skinny wire that was above her head, and she was balancing by herself [along the roof's ridgeline], and then they just rubbed out the wire."

As for herself, George said, she was hooked with a single safety wire as she struggled to hold Chloe as she dangled off the edge of the roof. "I'm leaning over, and they put a tiny wire around my waist hooked to the side," she said. " You can't believe how horrible [it is] looking at everyone [as if] they were like ants. They were so small. You were up so high. And little Chloe had to have, like, a harness [on] and hang over the edge, and then the crane [camera] would go around and shoot these great, gorgeous, romantic shots."

Between takes, Chloe was so relaxed that she would pretend she was hanging by her neck. That in itself freaked George out, she said. "She was pretending that she was hung, as a joke, and I'm like, 'That's so not funny, little girl. You're adorable and everything, but what you're doing right now. ... ' She was dangling off the edge, 80 feet above the ground, not scared at all, and I'm looking at this kid like, with her eyes rolled back in her head," she added with a shudder. Amityville Horror opens April 15.

Weirdness Haunted Amityville

M elissa George, who stars as beleaguered wife and mom Kathy Lutz in the upcoming remake The Amityville Horror, told SCI FI Wire that weird things happened during the movie's filming�including the unexpected death of her real-life counterpart. "[Kathy Lutz] died the first week of filming," George said an interview. "We got a call. ... She wasn't well. She had a breathing problem. And I never got to meet her, and then we were filming, and we get an announcement saying Kathy Lutz just passed away. She was 50-something. Very young. We didn't expect it."

George added: "It was a little scary that she chose our movie to [die], the time of filming. It was a little weird. There were a lot of weird things that happened on that movie, actually."

Producers said that lights on the film's Wisconsin set, which resembled the real-life haunted house in Amityville, N.Y., would inexplicably turn on and off. And there came a gruesome discovery, George said.

"We were filming, ... and we were at the boathouse, and the police came by, because ... they said they found a dead body that had just floated to the surface," George recalled. " We were, like, 'Awesome!' We were, like, 'That's making everything much more comfortable in this movie,'" she added, with tongue in cheek. The Amityville Horror, based on the book and 1970s film of the same name, opens April 15.

Facing Amityville's House

A ndrew Douglas, who directed the upcoming remake of The Amityville Horror, told SCI FI Wire that he fought to keep a key element in the movie: the house's signature eye-like barn windows. "There was a point in the whole scouting [and] designing preparation process where some people wanted it to be just a full-on haunted Victorian house," Douglas said in an interview. "And I'm tearing my hair out going, 'No, no! It's got to have a damn face.'"

The production went so far as to build a false facade featuring the trademark stepped roof and windows on the front of a real house in Wisconsin, which stood in for the house in Amityville. The facade transformed a Midwestern Victorian house into an ersatz Long Island Dutch colonial, and the look was key, Douglas said. "It can't just have pointy bits, like Van Helsing. It's got to have a face, because this is what we respond to. ... I remember the poster for [the original 1979] Amityville more than I remember the film. And the poster had ... eyes, and the balcony was teeth. ... It's a Halloween mask." Amityville Horror, starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, opens April 15.

BloodRayne Due For PSP

M ajesco announced that its popular BloodRayne series of vampire games is in development for the PSP handheld entertainment system. Full Fat is developing the title, which will make its handheld debut this fall, the company said.

BloodRayne features a character born from the union of a vampire and a human. The PSP game will explore BloodRayne's own purpose and history, explaining and resurrecting dead characters from previous games while developing new characters specifically for the PSP, Majesco said.

The PSP game will feature two-player, co-op wireless multiplayer modes, with a playable second character. BloodRayne will be unveiled during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, May 18-20, in Los Angeles.

Stoker Horror Nominees Named

N ominees have been announced for the Horror Writers Association's annual Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in the field of horror writing. The awards, named in honor of the author of Dracula, will be presented at the HWA annual conference and awards banquet in Los Angeles on June 25.

Organizers announced that Michael Moorcock will receive the Life Achievement Award, and Delirium Press will get the Specialty Press award. A full list of nominees follows.

Novel: The Wind Caller by P.D. Cacek, The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King, Deep in the Darkness by Michael Laimo, In the Night Room by Peter Straub

First Novel: Covenant by John Everson, Black Fire by James Kidman, Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas, Stained by Lee Thomas

Long Fiction: "The Turtle Boy" by Kealan-Patrick Burke, "Zora and the Zombie" by Andy Duncan, "Lisey and the Madman" by Stephen King, "Dead Man's Hand" by Tim Lebbon, "Northwest Passage" by Barbara Roden

Short Fiction: "Just Out of Reach" by Gary Braunbeck, "A Madness of Starlings" by Douglas Clegg, "Nimitseahpah" by Nancy Etchemendy, "Hunting Meth Zombies in the Great Nebraskan Wasteland" by John Farris, "Singing My Sister Down" by Margo Lanagan, "Guts" by Chuck Palahniuk

Fiction Collection: 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories by Michael Arnzen, The Machinery of Night by Douglas Clegg, Demonized by Christopher Fowler, Fears Unnamed by Tim Lebbon, Fearful Symmetries by Thomas F. Monteleone

Anthology: Quietly Now, Kealan-Patrick Burke, ed.; The Many Faces of Van Helsing, Jeanne Cavelos, ed.; Shivers III, Richard Chizmar, ed.; The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 17th Annual, Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, eds.; Acquainted With the Night, Barbara and Christopher Roden, eds.

Nonfiction: The Road to the Dark Tower by Bev Vincent;, Ralan Conley, ed.; Hanging Out With the Dream King by Joseph McCabe; The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel by Thomas F. Monteleone; Hellnotes, Judi Rohrig, ed.

Work for Young Readers: Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker, Oddest Yet by Steve Burt, Robot Santa: The Further Adventures of Santa's Twin by Dean Koontz, Fall (Witch Season series) by Jeff Mariotte

Illustrated Narrative: Lost Loves by James Lowder, Aleister Arcane by Steve Niles, Heaven's Devils by Jai Nitz, Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson by Tom Pomplun

Screenplay: Hellboy, Dawn of the Dead, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shaun of the Dead

Poetry Collection: The Women at the Funeral by Corinne De Winter, The Desert by Charlee Jacob, Men Are From Hell, Women Are From the Galaxy of Death by Mark McLaughlin, Waiting My Turn to Go Under the Knife by Tom Piccirilli

Alternative Forms: The Goreletter by Michael Arnzen; Flesh & Blood magazine, Jack Fisher, ed.; The Devil's Wine, Tom Piccirilli, ed.; ChiZine, Brett Savory, ed.

Superstition Story Is True?

P roducer Andrew Form told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming supernatural movie Superstition is based on a true story. "It's about a real experiment in Toronto, where a guy believed that he could create a ghost," Form said in an interview. "They put a group of people in a ... s�ance room, and he thought with their minds they could all create this entity. And in the experiment, some weird stuff happened."

Form is producing with his Amityville Horror producing partners Michael Bay and Brad Fuller for Paramount. Fuller said that the producers are rewriting Neal Marshall Stevens' spec script. No director is yet attached.

Freak Writer Moves Ahead

C hildren's author Darren O'Shaughnessy, who writes the hit Cirque du Freak series of vampire novels under the pen name Darren Shan, told the Reuters news service that he started way before a certain boy wizard made it fashionable to write fantasy for young people. "I focused on adult books for most of my early writing years, but was eager to try a kids' book one day," O'Shaughnessy told Reuters. "Just for fun, not for profit. This was back before Harry Potter, when everyone and their blind, deaf dog could tell you there was no money in children's books."

O'Shaughnessy's series centers on a boy who becomes a vampire's assistant in a macabre freak show. O'Shaughnessy's 12 books have sold 8 million copies worldwide, and Hollywood is now toying with the idea of a movie adaptation, the wire service reported.

The final book came out last year, and O'Shaughnessy has already embarked on a new project, Lord Loss, the first in a new series he calls The Demonata, which will be out later this year, Reuters reported.

"The first book is very much like a horror story—easily the paciest, grittiest book that I've written," O'Shaughnessy said.

Fountain Is "Psychedelic"

D arren Aronofsky, director of the upcoming SF epic film The Fountain, told the Web site that the film is a "psychedelic sci-fi" movie. The movie stars Hugh Jackman as a time-jumping immortal and plays out over centuries.

"One of the big things was the fountain of youth, which I thought was a really cool theme," Aronofsky told the site. "It's an old theme and one of the oldest stories that mankind has been telling. It's in Genesis, with the tree of life. It's in Gilgamesh, and Ponce de Leon searched for it. But Hollywood hasn't really done much with it, unless you count Nip/Tuck and Extreme Makeover."

Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) wrote and directed The Fountain, a story about the search for the fountain of youth, which takes place in the 16th century, contemporary times and in the future. The subject has special relevance for these times, Aronofsky said. "People are saying that our kids are going to live to 110," he said. "What does that kind of lifetime mean? They don't give us any tools in high school or elementary school to think about dying and death. The only thing that they do is to tell you to collect autumn leaves and say how beautiful they are. But they don't ever tell you that when we look at old people, we sort of shut it off and lock them up in old age homes and don't include them in our lives. So it was interesting to start exploring that literature as I started to get a little older." The Fountain, which also stars Constantine's Rachel Weisz, doesn't have a release date yet.

Connery Back As Bond

S ean Connery has agreed to reprise his role as James Bond for Electronic Arts' upcoming video-game version of From Russia With Love, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Connery will record dialogue for the game, and his likeness will appear as it did in MGM's 1963 hit movie, the trade paper reported.

Connery will be joined by other likenesses from the original cast of the film as the game brings to life such characters as the original Q (Desmond Llewelyn), Donald "Red" Grant (Robert Shaw), Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), Kerim Bay (Pedro Armendariz) and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). In addition, EA will work with Hollywood talent to round out the game, the trade paper reported.

The game is slated for release in the fall on PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, meaning it will come out before MGM and Danjaq Productions' feature-film remake of Casino Royale, which is scheduled for completion next year, the trade paper reported.

Langella Joins Superman

F rank Langella will play newspaper editor Perry White in Superman Returns, replacing British actor Hugh Laurie, who had said in January that he had all but clinched the part. Variety reported that Langella will play the Daily Planet editor in Bryan Singer's film, which is set to shoot in Australia for Warner Brothers.

Langella joins a cast that includes Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris penned the script.

The Hollywood Reporter said that Laurie was originally cast in the role, but bowed out because of a scheduling conflict with his Fox medical series, House, which Singer executive produces.

Episode III Fans Take Calls

S tar Wars fans have already begun lining up in Hollywood, Calif., for Episode III, as they have for the last two prequel films, to raise money for charity�and this time they're taking calls. The fans, who began lining up at Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 1, are answering a public pay phone at (323) 462-9609, the Episode III Web site reported.

"We've been doing this for the last six years as a fund-raiser for the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation," fan Sameer Bakhda, 29, told SCI FI Wire in an interview via the pay phone at the theater. Bakhda, a native of Chicago, added: "It's one last time that we get to get together and stand on line in Hollywood, ... and hopefully one last chance for George Lucas to do something good."

The Web site said that it has raised more than $6,200 in pledges for the foundation, a children's charity. Bakhda said about 250 people had already gotten in line for Star Wars: Episode III�Revenge of the Sith, which doesn't open until May 19.

Theron Voices Flux Game

C harlize Theron, who stars in the upcoming SF movie Aeon Flux, will voice the video game based on the movie, Majesco announced. Majesco will publish the game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, coinciding with the movie's release sometime in the fall.

Theron plays the title character, a rebel against the rulers of an oppressive city-state in the far future. She stars with Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy), Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, Jonny Lee Miller and Pete Postlethwaite in the film, which is directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight).

Majesco's Aeon Flux ties together the film with Peter Chung's MTV animated series, on which it is based. Terminal Reality (BloodRayne) is developing the game, which features a blend of stealth, speed and acrobatic combat.

Loeb Has The Spirit

C omic-book writer Jeph Loeb has been tapped to pen a big-screen version of The Spirit, based on the comic hero created in 1940 by Will Eisner, Variety reported. Odd Lot Entertainment and Batfilm Productions will develop the project.

The Spirit centers on a masked detective who is believed dead and uses that to his advantage to fight the criminals of Central City from his base at Wildwood Cemetery, the trade paper reported.

Eisner, in whose name the comic industry gives its most prestigious award, died earlier this year after giving the project his approval, the trade paper reported.

Loeb is a supervising producer on The WB's Smallville, and his comic credits include the Eisner Award winners Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, the trade paper reported.

Proximity Nears Big Screen

U niversal Pictures has acquired screen rights to the Top Cow comic series Proximity Effect, Variety reported. Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay will produce via the Sommers Co.; Jason Rothenberg (Surrogate) will write the script, the trade paper reported.

The comic centers on a woman who exhibits extraordinary powers, but only when she is within a certain distance of a particular guy, the trade paper reported.

Sommers (Van Helsing) does not plan to direct, but Proximity becomes one of several properties he and Ducsay have set up since forming their company at the studio.

Proximity Effect will be executive-produced by the comic's creator, Roger Mincheff. Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Janssen Rises For X-Men 3

F amke Janssen will return for a third X-Men movie, which will reportedly deal in part with the transformation of her character, Jean Grey, into the evil Dark Phoenix. Variety reported that Janssen has signed a deal to return for Fox and Marvel Entertainment's X-Men 3, to be directed by Matthew Vaughn. Janssen's character, a psychic mutant, appeared to perish at the end of the second installment in the franchise, X2, but fans of the Marvel Comics series know that that merely sets the stage for the new storyline.

Hugh Jackman has already made a deal to return as Wolverine, and Halle Berry, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are expected to reprise their roles in the film, which is slated to shoot this summer, the trade paper reported. A release date of May 26, 2006, is planned.

Tsunami Auction A Success

A drian Paul, star of the Highlander TV series, told SCI FI Wire that his Immortal Aid charity auction raised $45,000 for the residents of a Thai island nearly destroyed in the South Asia tsunami last December. "I thought [$15,000] would be great for a little auction," he said in an interview. "And when it went to [$20,000] I was so excited. I kept calling my brother every day as we got the numbers coming in."

Paul's brother, Andrew, is a resident of Koh Phi Phi island and a survivor of the disaster who inspired the online auction. It took place in February and featured unique Highlander-related items from Paul's own collection. "He basically just survived when the wave came in," Paul said. "When I heard this, I wanted to go and help him, and he said, 'You can't really do anything right now, because there's nothing you can do.' And I said, 'Well, the best thing for me to do is to try and raise money, and awareness for it.'"

Paul said he was impressed by the generosity of fans, who bid as much as $2,000 for items such as prop swords and costumes from the show. But it was one fan's offer to return the crew jacket she bought that really amazed him. "The lady said, 'I'll keep it, but just for a little bit, then I'll give it back, and you can keep it. Or you can donate it again,'" Paul said. "So what I might be doing is taking that jacket and selling it again and saying, 'You can keep it or you can continue the circle. Sign it, and we'll give it to the next person and the next person. We'll make this a continuing thing.' So it's been very interesting to watch how people have been so generous. Some people just said, 'Just keep the item. I'll just donate what the sum was that was raised.' And I think that's fantastic."

Two more Immortal Aid auctions are planned for the future to raise money for two separate charities: one for children orphaned by the tsunami and another to rebuild businesses on the island by delivering food, water and supplies. For Paul, it was important to concentrate on one specific area where he knew he could make a difference. "There are many other celebrities and many other people that will want to deal with something else," he said. "If you are concentrated on one thing and you are directed towards one thing, then you can get information on that thing, people can see where their money is going to. The money that goes out to them goes to these charities, and it 100 percent goes to the people that need it." Additional information about the auction is available at the Highlander WorldWide Web site.

007 Rumors Fly

V ariety contains a roundup of rumors and assertions about who may or may not assume the mantle of James Bond in MGM's next 007 film. Complicating the issue is the impending takeover of MGM by Sony, which will end MGM's run as an independent studio, the trade paper reported.

Among the rumors and reports Variety related:

�The Bond franchise-controlling Broccoli clan has patched things up with Pierce Brosnan and were negotiating a two-picture, $40 million deal. Alternatively, a rumor says that Brosnan has agreed to make one more film, while Sony and the Broccolis groom a new agent for a film to take over after that. Brosnan's representatives denied to Variety that any talks are taking place.

�The British press reported that U.K. actor Daniel Craig has been offered a three-picture deal by the Broccoli family, a report that other sources downplay.

Angeleno magazine reported that Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon is the next 007, with a cover that reads "Meet the Next James Bond."

MGM has denied that any Bond has been chosen.

Games Outsell Music For Men

M en spend more money on video games than they do on music, research group Nielsen Entertainment said, lending credence to a growing belief that video games are displacing other forms of media for the attention of young men, according to a report on the Reuters news service.

Video gaming in general is starting to attract an older audience, with nearly a quarter of all gamers over age 40, the agency added.

The interactive unit of Nielsen Entertainment conducted a random survey of 1,500 people in January and February for its report. Nielsen Entertainment, a unit of VNU NV of the Netherlands, is best known for its benchmark SoundScan music sales service. Its corporate sibling Nielsen Media Research is the standard for TV ratings, Reuters reported.

For males, Nielsen said, games now rank only behind DVDs as a purchase category, ahead of CDs, digital MP3 files and other ways of buying music. Nielsen also found that African-Americans and Hispanics spend more money on games each month than Caucasians, the news service reported.

Definitive Heinlein Set Due

M eisha Merlin Publishing has been chosen by the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust and the Butler Library Foundation to publish The Virginia Edition: The Definitive Collection of Robert A. Heinlein, according to a report on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Web site.

The project will consist of 46 titles spanning the entire writing career of the legendary SF author. The Virginia Edition will contain all of Heinlein's novels and short stories; all of his nonfiction titles; several volumes of his letters and personal correspondence; and the vast majority of his interviews, social commentaries, speeches and articles, the site reported.

The publisher will be assisted by several Heinlein experts, including Eleanor Wood (Robert Heinlein's agent), Art Dula (the literary executor of the Heinlein estate) and Bill Patterson (Heinlein scholar, organizer of The Archives).

At the request of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust, The Virginia Edition will be sold only as a set in a limited edition of 5,000 sets. The first volume, I Will Fear No Evil, will be published in fall of 2005, followed by a new title every five weeks. The price has not been established, the site reported.

Hill Helming Garfield 2

F ox has signed director Tim Hill to helm its sequel to the family comedy Garfield: The Movie, Variety reported. Hill's directing credits include Max Keeble's Big Move and Muppets in Space.

Hill was a writer on Nick Films' SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. He and Tim Rubiner sold Game Over, an animated comedy pitch, to Warner Brothers, the trade paper reported.

Fox received a solid performance last summer from Garfield, based on the long-running comic strip and produced by Davis Entertainment, with $75 million domestically and $114 million in foreign markets, the trade paper reported.

Smith Promises Sparks

D oug Liman, director of the husband-vs.-wife spy thriller Mr. and Mrs. Smith, told USA Today that the movie features a scene to die for. In the big summer movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play married spies who don't know they've been contracted to kill each other.

It's "about the challenges of maintaining a marriage," Liman told the newspaper. As for the big scene, Liman said, people should watch for a fight involving automatic weapons. It's one "people will talk about for years to come," he promised.

The movie may have to compete with reports that Pitt and Jolie are an item in real life, which Pitt has denied. "I'm hoping people view the movie on its merits," Liman said. Mr. and Mrs. Smith opens June 10.

Goyer Crosses Threshold

D avid Goyer, who co-created the CBS SF television pilot Threshold for CBS, told SCI FI Wire that the show's premise involves a new kind of alien invasion. "It's an interesting one-liner," Goyer said in an interview while promoting the DVD release of his latest film, Blade: Trinity. "It has to do with an alien invasion, but you never see the aliens. It's a very novel approach to an alien invasion story, because they're invading us through our DNA. They're bio-forming us. They're altering us."

Goyer said he based the idea of the series on an obscure scientific fact. "Something like 80 to 90 percent of our DNA is junk DNA," he said. "We don't know what it does. And the aliens have figured out a way to activate it and are slowly, literally, changing our chromosomes. They're basically, over the course of generations, turning us into them. Along with that they've got genetic racial memories, things like that, that they're starting to implant in us."

Goyer will direct the pilot and serves as an executive producer on the series, alongside Brannon Braga (Star Trek: Enterprise) and David Heyman (the Harry Potter films). Goyer said he has been involved in every aspect of the series so far, from writing to casting to editing. "I did all of that," he said. "I ended up doing a draft of it with Brannon. I was the one that set it up at the network, and then we brought Brannon in, and he and I wrote it, and he and I cast it, along with David Heyman. We did the whole thing."

Although CBS has not officially made a commitment to the series, Goyer is optimistic that the show will be on the network in the fall. "That's what they say," he said. "You never know for sure until you do the up-fronts [the yearly event in New York City where the networks roll out their schedules], but we're just finishing the post on it now. We'll know for sure in about five weeks."

Briefly Noted

  • Lesley Ann Warren joins the cast of ABC's hit Desperate Housewives on April 10, playing Susan's (Teri Hatcher) mom, Sophie Bremmer, TV Guide Online reported.

  • Speaking at the British Independent Film Awards in London last night, Ian McKellen confirmed he'll return as Magneto if filmmakers make another X-Men sequel, Contact Music reported.

  • Frankie Muniz will play a techno-geek opposite Samaire Armstrong and Jon Foster in the supernatural horror movie Stay Alive, about a video game inhabited by a vengeful spirit , according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Spoiler alert: Ian Somerhalder, whose Lost character appeared to perish in the April 6 episode, has signed a one-year talent holding deal at ABC and Touchstone TV, Variety reported.

  • Battlestar Galactica will air Sundays on the Universal HD cable network, starting April 10.

  • Fans are already lining up at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Calif., for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode III�Revenge of the Sith�but Fox and Lucasfilm may decide to open the movie at the Arclight theater several blocks away, Variety reported.

  • ABC gave an early order for second seasons of its two top series�Desperate Housewives and Lost�as well as a fifth season of Alias, the Hollywood trade papers reported.

  • Paris Hilton, who appears in the upcoming horror film House of Wax, will host "The Paris Hilton Podcast: Countdown to House of Wax," her personal account of events leading up to the film's May 6 premiere, starting April 29.

  • Producer Chris Moore will make his directorial debut on Race With the Devil, a remake of a 1975 horror thriller in which a satanic cult targets two couples on a skiing trip, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Paramount updated its official War of the Worlds Web site on April 4, with new content, a new look and new downloads, the studio announced.

  • Ryan Reynolds told that he hopes to play the title superhero in David Goyer's upcoming comic-book film The Flash, adding: "There's nothing contractual about it. David Goyer and I have always said we would like to do it together, and Warner Brothers seems to approve of that."

  • Producers of The Island, Michael Bay's upcoming SF action movie, told SCI FI Wire that the film's trailer may appear in theaters attached to prints of Star Wars: Episode III�Revenge of the Sith, which debuts May 19.

  • Scifidimensions, an online magazine of science fiction, is seeking entries for its short-fiction contest, whose deadline is May 31.

  • King Kong director Peter Jackson reveals plans for two back-to-back sequel films in what appears to be an elaborate April Fool's Day prank on the Web site.

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