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A Weekly Digest Of Sci Fi Wire

 June 6, 2005
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The Staff



Batman's Bale Knows His Comics

C hristian Bale, who stars in the upcoming Batman Begins movie, revealed a deep knowledge of the movie's source comic books to SCI FI Wire and said they informed his performance of the Caped Crusader. "I liked the artwork of Alex Ross, but my favorites were the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale stories," Bale said in an interview.

Known for diving into all of his roles and researching everything about them, Bale said that he inundated himself with everything he could about Batman. He felt the images of Ross' artwork best fit the version of Batman he wanted to portray, and he most liked the mood and feel of Loeb and Sale's Dark Victory in 2000, The Long Halloween in 1997 and Haunted Knight in 1995. He admitted he was never into the comic-book craze as a child, but he has since read them all. "I've read a damn lot of them, all that DC sent me," Bale said.

Bale also looked back at the previous Batman movies, as well as the campy 1960s TV show with Adam West, and determined that none of them actually captured the true Batman.

"I don't feel like Batman's ever really been defined in any portrayal, so I felt like this was an opportunity to finally do that, in regards to way that Bob Kane originally intended it when he wrote it in 1939," Bale said. "He intended it as being a dark and terrifying and intimidating character. It's kind of ended up being spoofed more. And then there's great material in the newer graphic novels of Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. So the source material is right there, and I just don't think it was ever taken advantage of until now."

Bale said that he's signed on to do another Batman film, but isn't arrogant enough to assume he's defined the role. But he said he gave it a try. "With Superman, you can really look at Christopher Reeve and the way that he played it, and he's become the defining Superman. Whoever's playing him in the next one has got a really tough job to come up against him. I don't feel like that ever happened with Batman before, so I felt like I had an opportunity to expand and bring something new to it."

Bale plays Batman/ Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, which also stars Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman. Memento director Christopher Nolan helmed the film, which opens June 15.

Batman's Bale Is Private

A nyone who's ever spoken casually to Welsh-born actor Christian Bale knows he has a pretty heavy accent, but he told SCI FI Wire he's purposely disguising his voice during interviews for Batman Begins. "Batman is American. You can't do Batman and talk about being Batman in an English accent," Bale said in an interview. When he did press interviews for American Psycho, he recalled that journalists were shocked over his accent, which he deftly disguised for that film, too.

Bale guards his private life in much the same way as the Bruce Wayne persona he plays in the latest film version of Batman. He lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with his wife, Sibi Blazic, who was a personal assistant for Winona Ryder. He met his wife when he was dating Ryder. Earlier this year, when he and his wife had their first child, Bale wouldn't release the name of his daughter and to date has never revealed her name to the press.

"He's the best person to play this role, and I can't imagine anyone else now in the part," Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan told SCI FI Wire in a separate interview. "He embodies the gravity of the role, protects his privacy and has depth."

For his part, producer Charles Roven said that Bale was a serious contender for the part from the beginning. "He was always on the short list of the guys who had to be tested for the role," Roven said. "For the part you don't need superstars. Take a look at historical casting; for the most part you don't need superstars. For the role all the dynamics you need three [things]: Bruce Wayne as the private Bruce Wayne. He's Batman [with] the incredible physicality and the public Bruce Wayne as a playboy. Chris seems to have all of those aspects as an actor. He was going to throw himself into it in every possible way."

Not one for the Hollywood party circuit, Bale and his wife prefer to be involved in charity causes, particularly for the environment, and he said he isn't yet mobbed by fans when he walks the streets. "I don't know what's going to happen with that," Bale said when asked about paparazzi. "I like to think that you can control it in some ways, just through attitude and, as time goes on, through choice of movies, and it becomes evident that you're not attempting to grasp some kind of celebrity status. That [scenario] kind of sounds nauseating to me and also very restricting."

Does Bale think that being an actor in Hollywood is a bit like being Bruce Wayne, where the public and private personas have to be kept separate and secret? He answers with a simple "yes." Batman Begins opens June 15.

Bale, Oldman Sign For Bat Sequel

K ey Batman Begins cast members and crew, such as star Christian Bale and co-star Gary Oldman, have signed on for a Bat-sequel, but others�including director Christopher Nolan and stars Katie Holmes and Morgan Freeman�have not, according to interviews conducted by SCI FI Wire.

Bale said that he is definitely signed to play the Dark Knight again. But Nolan said that he is not. "I don't really know," he said. "I did enjoy making this one. It's a fascinating character."

Not even fellow actors knew if they were signed on for another Batman: When Oldman, who plays Lt. James Gordon, spoke with reporters in the company of co-star Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), both actors were asked if they were signed to do a sequel.

"I'm not," Freeman said.

"I'm signed," Oldman said quckly. The actors looked at each other with an awkward silence.

Then, Freeman said: "I'm not sure that they really think that Lucius is an integral part of the series, necessarily. But Commissioner Gordon absolutely has to be. Alfred absolutely has to be."

In a separate interview, Caine, who plays Alfred the butler, told SCI FI Wire that he hasn't signed for a sequel. "No, no. We're not signed," he said. He then turned to co-star Holmes, who portrays Bruce Wayne's love interest Rachel Dawes, and asked: "I mean, we'd do it, wouldn't we?" Holmes nodded affirmatively.

Bale said that he isn't sure what story the sequel would tell, but added that he does have hopes for the next installment. "We got a sense of who he is, but there's so much [more]," Bale said. "The psychology of the guy, to me, is fascinating. The guilt element you can expand on. You can expand visually as well. I haven't spoken with anybody about this, but I just really think it would be nice to come up with some kind of R-rated version, too, like a movie that is at one time PG and R, where you do two different edits for it."

Batman Begins also stars Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe and Linus Roache. It opens June 15.

Batman Weight Gain Raised Worries

T hrough interviews with the cast and crew, SCI FI Wire learned that Batman Begins star Christian Bale was the cause of some concern among cast members and crew because he gained 90 pounds rapidly after completing The Machinist and before the start of the Caped Crusader film. "He was going to throw himself into it in every possible way," said producer Charles Roven. "He lost [67] pounds for The Machinist, and [Batman director] Chris Nolan was worried he wasn't going to gain it back. But when you have a guy that dedicated, it shows."

For his part, Nolan said: "I wasn't worried about him putting weight back on to play Batman, because clearly anyone who could lose that much weight was going to be able to put it back on and sculpt themselves into Bruce Wayne. I'd seen his sense of dedication to his craft. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to put the weight back in time for the first screen tests to show the studio. But he put on 80 pounds or something in about six or seven weeks to get fit for our cameras. He then put on a lot more weight, muscle and everything, and built himself up to play Bruce Wayne."

Batman costumers made a body cast for Bale's suit, and Nolan warned them that Bale was going to beef up even more, but they didn't believe him. "The costume people roll their eyes about that a little bit, because they hear it a lot from actors, that they're going to lose weight or work out, but I said this guy is extraordinary," Nolan said. Bale lost 67 pounds for The Machinist, then gained all that back and an additional 30 pounds for Batman Begins.

Michael Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne's loyal butler Alfred, said he thought Bale was a bit too thin when he first heard the fellow British actor was cast for the role. But, he said, "When I saw him, he walked in and I thought it was Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Bale said during interviews that he stuffed his face with pizza, bread, pasta and doughnuts as soon as he wrapped The Machinist, and he may have put on the weight too fast. "My heart was going like crazy. I did it too fast, really," Bale admitted. "The losing the weight was fine. The putting the weight back on really felt unhealthy, just because it was too compressed, the amount of time. It was kind of right down to the line of being ready for playing Batman, less than two months. It's not something I really want to repeat again."

Did it make his doctor nervous? Bale thought for a moment and said: "You know what? I didn't really ever tell him about it at all." Batman Begins opens June 15.

Batman's Caine Recalls Gough

M ichael Caine, who plays Alfred in the upcoming Batman Begins movie, told SCI FI Wire he has met and worked with fellow Brit Michael Gough, who played the loyal butler in all four of the previous Batman films. "Nice man. I did a little part in a Hammer horror picture with him, and I played one of the ghouls or something," Caine said in an interview. "Michael and I were friends. I mean, this is when I was like 22. I had a day's work for 10 guineas. Michael was sort of a bigger star then. But he was very kind to me."

Gough was one of two actors who appeared in all the previous Batman films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). (The other actor was Pat Hingle, who played Commissioner Gordon.)

Caine did not remember that he appeared in the spy thriller The Fourth Protocol in 1987 with Gough and James Bond-to-be Pierce Brosnan.

In Batman Begins, Caine said he referenced a former military colleague to play Bruce Wayne's butler. "My reference was my ex-sergeant in the army," he said. "It's true. It's his voice that I use."

Caine added that he hit it off with star Christian Bale right from the start. "I'd grown up in very big country houses," he said. "Not because I'm in a noble family. My mother was a cook, and so I was always backstairs with the butler and everything. So I knew that relationship, and Christopher is himself very against the master/servant [relationship]. He's very egalitarian, personally. He brought that into Batman, and I knew the lines above which a real butler wouldn't go. ... Familiarity. It worked perfectly."

For his part, Caine doesn't insist that people call him "Sir Michael." "It was a great honor, if you're English, but it doesn't mean anything to anyone else in the world," he said. "So, you know, to go around the world expecting people in other countries, who have no idea what you're talking about, to call you 'sir' is ridiculous. And everyone calls me Michael. I insist on the set, everyone, even the girl, the assistant, they were quite stunned at that. I come from very humble beginnings, and I remember all those things, and also, I was a small-part actor, you have to remember, treated like dirt by the stars sometimes." Batman Begins opens June 15.

Goyer Flashes Back To Origins

W riter/director David S. Goyer told SCI FI Wire that he's taking the story of The Flash back to its beginnings in his upcoming movie based on the venerable DC Comics series. "It will be another origin story, yes. Well, yes and no," Goyer (co-writer of Batman Begins) said cryptically in an interview. "It's going to be very different from any other superhero movie coming out or different from any you've ever seen."

Goyer, who is currently writing the Flash script, added that it's too early to discuss casting yet, though reports have linked Goyer's Blade: Trinity star Ryan Reynolds to the project.

Charles Roven, who is one of the producers on Batman Begins, will perform the same job on The Flash, along with Goyer. For his part, Roven said fans seem happy so far with Goyer's take on the Batman origin story, and said The Flash will tell the story of aspiring athlete Jay Garrick, who acquires the ability to move at superhuman speeds after a chemical alteration. The film is based on the comic-book character that was created in 1939 by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert.

Roven added that it will be important to avoid crossing over into any other DC Comics storylines that may have been addressed in movies already. "We obviously talked about [the] aspect that we don't want to cover any ground already covered by any other comic-book heroes," Roven said.

Bale Jumped At Howl

C hristian Bale told SCI FI Wire that he jumped at the chance to voice a wizard in Hayao Miyazaki's animated adventure Howl's Moving Castle. "I had seen Spirited Away and loved Spirited Away," Bale said in an interview about the 2003 Academy Award-winning best animated feature, which also won Saturn, Golden Satellite and Annie awards. "I spoke to my agent and said, 'If I ever did a voiceover, I'd like it to be for a movie like that.' I found out that Howl's Moving Castle was in the works."

In the English-language version, Bale (Batman Begins) joins a cast that includes Lauren Bacall as the vain Wicked Witch of Waste and Billy Crystal, who voices the fire demon Calcifer. Pete Docter, who helmed Pixar's Monster's, Inc., and Rick Dempsey from Disney co-directed the English version of the science fiction romance.

The story centers around Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer in the English version), a young woman working in a hat shop who falls in love with a mysterious and impetuous young wizard named Howl (Bale), who travels around in a gigantic moving castle. But any potential relationship between the two is complicated when a witch's spell transforms Sophie into an old woman (voiced by legendary actress Jean Simmons) and Howl defies orders in order to participate in a war that threatens their world. The story is loosely based on the writing of Diana Wynne Jones. Howl's Moving Castle opened in limited release June 10.

Comparing Bewitched And Batman

M ichael Caine told SCI FI Wire that he was unaware of the uncanny similarities between his roles in the upcoming Bewitched and Batman Begins until reporters suggested them. "I didn't notice that, [but,] well, it's true, isn't it?" Caine said when it was pointed out that he plays father figures to characters who have to keep their identities a secret in both films. "They're both sort of supernatural. Yeah, that's funny, isn't it? But they're such different films. I'd never put them together in any way, you know?"

In Batman Begins, the Academy Award winner plays the Wayne family butler, Alfred Pennyworth, who becomes a father-like figure to Bruce Wayne when the boy's parents are gunned down. Wayne (played by Christian Bale) becomes the masked crimefighter Batman, and Alfred is the only one trusted with his true identity.

In Bewitched, Caine is father to the witch Samantha Stevens (played by Nicole Kidman), who is keeping her magical powers a secret from her mortal husband (Will Ferrell).

But that is where the comparisons stop, Caine said. Batman Begins is a dark superhero drama; Bewitched is a TV sitcom brought to the big screen with plenty of comedy. "[Batman] was dark and very tough on everything," Caine said. "On Bewitched, it was the first time I'd ever worked in a movie where I never did a scene with a man. I only did scenes with Nicole, Shirley MacLaine [as Endora] and Kristin Chenoweth [as Marie]. And the director was a woman, Nora Ephron. Great, right? So it was a very feminine part for me."

Batman Begins opens June 15, and Bewitched opens not long after, on June 24. Caine added that he doubts there will be much competition between the films.

"[Bewitched] was the first movie I've worked on where the director cooked you dinner on Sunday nights and served it herself," Caine said. "It was great, and it was very, very gentle, and very nice. I love women, you know? I have two daughters and a wife and a housekeeper, so I'm used to this. It wasn't like I had to work, really, just get me some stuff, and people got me stuff, you know? Gave me a cup of tea every now and then."

Docter Tunes Pixar Toons

P ete Docter told SCI FI Wire that he and Pixar, the animation studio where he's worked as an animator, writer and director, have several projects in the works. "I'm developing a film at Pixar," Docter said in an interview while promoting Howl's Moving Castle, a Hayao Miyazaki film for which he directed the English-language version. "I have been for about a year, and I've kind of fit [Howl's Moving Castle] in the middle of that. But it isn't something I can tell you very much about."

Docter, who wrote and directed Monsters, Inc., said that the fate of a possible sequel to that hit animated comedy will depend on whether the Disney-Pixar relationship ultimately continues or disintegrates. Cars, another computer-animated film due for release in June 2006, will be the last Disney-Pixar production if the current distribution deal ends.

Asked how the John Lasseter-directed Cars is coming together, Docter said: "Oh, it's great. It's going to be out next summer. It's got Owen Wilson and Paul Newman [and] a great, amazing [voice] cast. It's probably closer to Toy Story and A Bug's Life in its feel than, say, The Incredibles, because it's the same director as those two. It's a little more of a return to Pixar's center."

Docter Oversees Miyazaki's Howl

V eteran Pixar animator and director Pete Docter told SCI FI Wire that he took on the role of director of the English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle in order to ensure that the dubbed edition stayed true to the Japanese version. "We're just all big fans of his work, and it's a pleasure to be involved and to hopefully contribute in some way," Docter said in an interview.

Docter was joined in the effort by such other Pixar figures as John Lasseter (executive producer), Rick Dempsey (producer/director), Ned Lott (producer/casting) and Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt (English language adaptation). "I think it ends up being sort of a taste thing," Docter said. "I've been involved every step of the way, from translation to casting to directing. And then I was supervising the mix. So it just ended up being kind of a gestalt thing."

Howl centers on Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), a young woman working in a hat shop, who falls in love with a mysterious and impetuous young wizard named Howl (Christian Bale), who travels around in a gigantic moving castle. But any potential relationship between the two is complicated when a witch's spell transforms Sophie into an old woman (legendary actress Jean Simmons), and Howl defies orders in order to participate in a war that threatens their world.

Docter said that the process of making Howl accessible to American audiences began with watching the Japanese-language, English-subtitled print of the film a half-dozen times. "I made a big laundry list of questions," Docter said. "Why does Sophie turn from young to [old]? What's the war about? And all these kinds of questions. I sent them over [to Japan] and was basically told that Miyazaki probably wouldn't answer them: ... 'You just kind of have to figure it out yourself.' So I took my best guess. We didn't add anything that wasn't there in the film. So, of course, we are faithful to the dialogue that's there. But in the end, you just kind of have to trust your own instincts on a lot of things, and that's apparently what Miyazaki [who did not respond to Docter's questions] expects from us." Howl's Moving Castle opened in limited release on June 10.

Howl Producer Trusted Pixar

T oshio Suzuki, longtime producer of Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki's films, told SCI FI Wire that he trusted the Pixar team to oversee the upcoming English-language version of Miyazaki's acclaimed fantasy Howl's Moving Castle. "I will give one example," Suzuki said through a translator during an interview. "For instance, when we look for staff, for a background artist, we hear recommendations from those who worked with us in the past. They recommend somebody, and as long as these people recommended the other people, we trust them, because we worked with them and we got along with them very well."

Suzuki added: "That applies to [Pixar's] John [Lasseter, who executive-produced the English-language edition of Howl,] and Pete [Docter, who directed it]. We trust John very well, and if John recommended Pete that must be a good decision. So we trusted Pete, and we assumed that it would be really good."

Asked what Miyazaki and the staff at Studio Ghibli, which produces Miyazaki's films, think of Pixar's films, Suzuki replied: "We have a lot of the younger animators and young artists who really admire and respect the Pixar films. And in terms of Mr. Miyazaki, not because of Pixar or anything, but he's too old to be greatly influenced by anything. Of course, he likes the Pixar films, but he's kind of stiff. But ... younger people, including myself, really love the films. [Also], when I saw Spirited Away, the English version [which Pixar worked on as well], I really felt, although I do not understand English completely, that the English version was really faithful to the original version. And I thank John Lasseter and the Disney staff and everybody."

Howl's Moving Castle, based loosely on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, centers on Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young woman working in a hat shop, who falls in love with a mysterious and impetuous young wizard named Howl (Christian Bale), who travels around in a gigantic moving castle. But any potential relationship between the two is complicated when a witch's spell transforms Sophie into an old woman (Jean Simmons) and Howl defies orders so he can participate in a war that threatens their world. Howl's Moving Castle, which also features the voices of Billy Crystal and Lauren Bacall, opened in limited release on June 10.

Howl Actors Share Character

B ritish actress Emily Mortimer told SCI FI Wire that she was honored to be asked to provide the voice of Young Sophie in the English-language version of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's animated fantasy film Howl's Moving Castle. A fellow Brit, the legendary Jean Simmons, does the talking for Old Sophie. "I couldn't believe my luck," Mortimer said in an interview. "It was incredible. I got it completely in the most fortuitous way. They put different actresses' voices together. At one point in the film, we sort of coincide. We morph into each other. And so they tested my voice up against Jean's. And I think it turned out to be the most similar or something. I was very lucky."

Simmons, a two-time Oscar nominee who counts among her credits a role as a regular on the short-lived 1991 update of the Gothic television series Dark Shadows, came out of retirement to participate in Howl's Moving Castle. The story, loosely based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, follows the adventures of Sophie, a teenage girl who falls for Howl (Christian Bale), a powerful but unpredictable wizard. After a witch's (Lauren Bacall) curse transforms her into an old lady, Sophie finds herself aboard Howl's moving castle and embroiled in the midst of a war.

"Well, I heard about it from my agent," Simmons said, explaining how she hooked up with Howl's Moving Castle. "He said, 'Would you like to do a feature cartoon character?' And I said, 'Yes, I would love to. I've never been asked to do that before.' I did the voice [over] for Mysteries of the Bible, but that was not a cartoon character. That was not a character. But this is something new, and it was quite an experience. I had just such a good time. And the [Pixar] people I worked with are not so bad, either."

Simmons and Mortimer never met while recording their dialogue, but did meet only moments before they were paired together for promotional interviews. Not intereacting with another actor, Simmons said, was the least of her concerns while looping her lines. "You don't have time to think about it, because you're so busy looking at the screen and the mouth [of your character] to try and fit in the English words to the Japanese version, plus the body movements and all that," Simmons said. "So you don't have time to think, 'Oh, I wish there was another actor here to talk to.'" Howl's Moving Castle opened in limited release on June 10.

Will Holmes Join Cruise's M:I 3?

B atman Begins star Katie Holmes told SCI FI Wire she plans on hanging around the set of Mission: Impossible III, which will star her real-life beau, Tom Cruise, but remained coy about whether she'll actually appear in it. She confirmed that she "met" with M:I 3 director J.J. Abrams, without giving details. "I'm going to be on the set of Mission: Impossible III," Holmes said in an interview. "I'm very excited about that."

If there are any doubts that Holmes and Cruise are close, they were put to rest by Cruise's unexpected appearance beside Holmes during this past weekend's Batman Begins press interviews in Beverly Hills, Calif. The pair were seen in the hallway kissing just before Holmes entered the room where journalists waited to speak with her and Batman co-star Michael Caine.

Caine, who plays Alfred, the butler to Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne in the fifth Batman film, even teased Holmes, who plays Wayne's love interest and childhood friend, Rachel Dawes. "I saw them kissing in the corridor just now," Caine told SCI FI Wire. "They didn't say they were getting married, but I saw them." The Academy Award winner then turned to Holmes with a smirk and added: "Didn't I?"

Since Holmes has hooked up publicly with Cruise, rumors have swirled that she is in line to take over one of the female roles in Mission: Impossible III that became vacant after Carrie-Anne Moss and Scarlett Johansson left the project because of schedule conflicts. No casting replacements have yet been announced. Lindsay Lohan has also been linked with the project, and she confirmed in a separate interview to SCI FI Wire that she had also met recently with M:I 3 director Abrams, but denied that she had been cast.

For her part, Holmes said that she's not sure what she'll be shooting next. But she was all smiles when asked about her relationship with Cruise. "Are you kidding?" she said. "I've never been happier. I'm just so happy, thank you for asking." Asked if Cruise had ever considered playing the Caped Crusader himself, Holmes deflected the question, gushing: "Well, he's my hero." Batman Begins opens June 15.

M:I 3 Gets Green Light

P aramount has officially given the green light to Mission: Impossible 3, sticking with a July 18 start for the Tom Cruise film, Variety reported. The go-ahead from studio chief Brad Grey followed several days of intense negotiations to rein in a budget north of $150 million and a gross payout to Cruise of 30 percent, the trade paper reported.

While the first two previous M:I movies passed $1 billion worldwide, Paramount was willing to shelve the third installment under terms that the previous administration had agreed to.

The studio and Cruise, whose Cruise/Wagner Productions has been housed at Paramount for more than a decade, reached a compromise on June 7, the trade paper reported.

Rodriguez Gets Lost For Real

M ichelle Rodriguez will join the regular cast of ABC's hit SF series Lost in its upcoming second season, playing Ana-Lucia Cortez, another passenger on the doomed Oceanic Airlines flight 815, Variety reported. Rodriguez's casting confirms expectations in the wake of her brief appearance in the show's first-season finale, in a flashback involving Jack (Matthew Fox) in a bar at Sydney Airport, the trade paper reported.

Lost is Rodriguez's first regular TV gig, following film performances in the upcoming supernatural thriller film The Breed, executive produced by Wes Craven, and a voice role in the Hispanic animated feature Sian Ka'an.

Cast Relations Were Fantastic

I oan Gruffudd, who stars as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the upcoming comic-book-based movie Fantastic Four, told SCI FI Wire that there wasn't much time to examine the pre-accident relationships among the story's characters. They include Richards, Sue Storm (Jessica Alba), Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis), who are transformed, respectively, into Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch and the Thing. "We go to space pretty early on," Gruffudd said in an interview. "We have the accident pretty early on. We do the discovery of our powers in the first third of the movie, and from then on it's how we deal with our powers."

Gruffudd, a Welsh actor whose credits include the short-lived SF television series Century City and the big-screen action epic King Arthur, added: "Reed Richards' idea is he doesn't want the public to be exposed to us. He doesn't want to be a part of it. Johnny Storm, on the other hand, wants to be out in the public eye and exploit his powers. So, while Johnny is exploiting the situation, Reed is trying to find a cure to fix his best friend, Benjamin Grimm, who has been turned into this monster." Fantastic Four opens nationwide on July 8.

Fox, Universal Near Halo Deal?

U niversal Pictures and 20th Century Fox are mulling a deal to co-finance a movie based on Microsoft's Halo video-game franchise, written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later), Variety reported. People familiar with the talks told the trade paper that Universal is leading the way on a deal that would divide the film's cost on a 50-50 basis between Fox and Universal; the former would take international distribution, and the latter would handle domestic distribution. Financial details were still being worked out, the trade paper reported.

Microsoft initially demanded a $10 million up-front payment and 15 percent of the gross; that's believed to have been whittled down to $5 million, the trade paper reported. The company's insistence on a January production start may also be jettisoned and replaced with a promise simply to get the movie into theaters by 2007 at the latest.

Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Kids Conjure Up Sharkboy

I t was hard enough to act with nothing behind them on the set, but the child stars of Robert Rodriguez's The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D told SCI FI Wire that they had first-hand help when they needed to imagine the fanciful Land of Milk and Cookies and Train of Thought on Planet Drool while acting before a green screen.

"You don't see anything when you're making it, and then you see it and you're like, 'Oh, my gosh!' Robert and his son have great imaginations to think of that," said Cayden Boyd, 11, who plays Max, the dreamer student in the film. Max gets his name from the middle name of Rodriguez's middle son, Racer.

Added Taylor Dooley, 12, who plays Lavagirl: "Yeah, literally 90 percent of it was filmed in front of a big green wall, so at first we didn't know what it was going to look like."

Taylor Lautner, 13, who plays Sharkboy, said that director Rodriguez guided them. "Robert told us every step of the way, 'This is going to look like this, and this is going to be a giant cookie,' and so on." Lautner, a martial-arts champion, ended up using his skills in the film, including a fight he choreographed himself.

In the movie, the kids fight giant electric plugs, climb across an ice bridge, ride on a never-stopping roller coaster and fly through a tornado. But they said the toughest thing for them to imagine was the Land of Milk and Cookies, requiring them to sit on a giant cookie with ice cream floating all around them. Inevitably, that was the set they were most impressed with once they saw the final three-dimensional computer animation.

"Imaging all that ice cream and cookies around us was hard," Boyd said. "But, boy, it looked good." Sharkboy and Lavagirl, which also stars David Arquette, Kristin Davis and George Lopez, opened June 10.

Sharkboy's Lopez Is Electric

G eorge Lopez, who co-stars in the fantasy kids' movie The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, told SCI FI Wire that director Robert Rodriguez based his villainous character on a former teacher. Lopez plays a teacher who tries to squelch the dreams of the main character, a boy named Max (Cayden Boyd). In Max's fantasy, on the world of Planet Drool, Lopez becomes a big TV-set-like creature who sparks lightning out of his eyes, called Mr. Electric.

"When I was growing up at that age, one of my funniest teachers was Mr. Diaz, and he became Mr. Electridad, and George was perfect for it," Rodriguez said.

For his part, Lopez said: "He told me from the beginning the camera was going to be that close [to my face], and it was going to be that precise, and I got to do some improvising. One of the best things is that from the beginning, I was doing this thing like I was kind of winking, and he thought I had like a tic."

Rodriguez added: "That was good, because I knew I could make sparks come out every time he did that."

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D opened on June 10, and about 45 minutes of it will require 3-D glasses.

Survival Examines Evolution

C anadian SF author Julie E. Czerneda, whose book Survival has been nominated for the Prix Aurora Award for best long-form work in English, told SCI FI Wire that it can be viewed as a parable about the ignorance people have about evolution and how their own bodies fit into the evolutionary pattern. "I find such ignorance terrifying," Czerneda said in an interview. "Every day, we make choices for ourselves and others, choices with consequences. But consumers do far more market research to pick a cell phone plan, for example, than about the plants they'll introduce into their garden. Yet many parts of the world are struggling with ecosystems being overwhelmed by escapees from backyard gardens. It's one of hundreds of simple questions to ask. It takes a respect for the capabilities of life to answer other imperatives than yours."

Czerneda, who won the award in 2002 with In the Company of Others, said that she spent seven years researching biodiversity and migration before setting down to write this novel, which is the first in the Species Imperative trilogy. In Survival, which focuses on the unique and dangerous relationship between Pacific Northwest biologist Mackenzie Connor and Brymn, a Dhryn archaeologist and the first of his race to visit Earth, Czerneda explores what might happen if one species needed to exterminate another species to survive.

The second book of the trilogy, Migration, was released the first week of May. In it, Connor leads an effort to discover how to stop the Dhryn from killing every life form in its path across space. Originally, there were to be just two books, but a third, Regeneration, will be released in May 2006. "The first, Survival, is something of a murder mystery," Czerneda said. "Only by solving the murder, things become much worse. The second was to resolve the 'much worse' part, but I realized fairly soon�my editor had realized even sooner and was waiting for me to catch up�that unless I dropped an entire plot thread, things were actually going to continue to worsen in the second book, requiring the third. It should have been [that way] all along, because the story breaks naturally into thirds: the murder mystery; the deeper investigation, which reveals the true extent of the threat; followed by the search for a way out of the crisis."

The Prix Aurora Awards were created by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association in 1980 to honor outstanding SF and fantasy works by Canadian authors, both in French and English. It will be handed out during Westercon 58, July 1-4, in Calgary, Canada.

Blatty Sues Over Dominion

T he Exorcist author William Blatty has sued Morgan Creek Productions for allegedly failing to pay him an agreed-upon fee for a recent sequel to the franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Blatty, in a suit filed June 3 in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks $750,000, the amount he was reportedly guaranteed if the studio made a second sequel to the original 1973 release, the trade paper reported.

According to Blatty's attorneys, payment for sequels was covered in an October 1996 settlement agreement, which called for a $930,000 payment for a first sequel and a $750,000 payment for each subsequent release. Blatty contends that he was paid for the first sequel, 2004's Exorcist: The Beginning, but not the second, the recently released Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Morgan Creek could not be reached for comment, the trade paper reported.

Fathom Heads South

N BC's upcoming SF series Fathom will be filmed in Wilmington, N.C., the Associated Press reported. The drama, about a new form of life lurking in the sea, will begin shooting in July, the wire service reported.

The pilot for Fathom, which is set to premiere this fall, was shot in California. NBC chose North Carolina in part because of a proposed film incentives program before the state legislature, according to an official press release.

Fathom stars Lake Bell (Boston Legal), Jay R. Ferguson (Judging Amy), Rade Serbedzija (Snatch) and Carter Jenkins (CSI: NY). NBC is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Ratner Replaces X-Men's Vaughn

T wentieth Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment hired Brett Ratner on June 3 to replace Matthew Vaughn as the director of the third X-Men movie, Variety reported. The hiring keeps the film on track for an August start date and a Memorial Day weekend 2006 opening date, the trade paper reported.

Vaughn (Layer Cake) dropped out less than a week ago, with the official reason being that the director didn't want to uproot his family. But the trade paper reported that it appears the exit followed his growing apprehension about taking on such a large assignment in his second outing.

Ratner (Rush Hour), a comic-book enthusiast, was among the helmers considered to direct the first X-Men before the job went to Bryan Singer. Ratner spent a full year developing Superman Returns, the film that ultimately prompted Singer to drop out of directing X-Men 3.

The X-Men 3 budget is locked, and Fox and Marvel consider the script by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg to be at least as strong as that of the first two installments, Variety reported. The original returning stars have been signed, and the cast is bolstered by Kelsey Grammer, Vinnie Jones and Maggie Grace (Lost), who just came aboard as new mutant characters.

Alchemist Is Allegory

C anadian SF author Eileen Kernaghan, whose novel The Alchemist's Daughter has been nominated for the Prix Aurora Award, told SCI FI Wire that she meant to write a story of Elizabethan politics and Renaissance magic. That's featured prominently in the novel, but she inadvertently wrote an allegory about today's world, she added. "It was never intended as a parable for anything happening in the present day," she said in an interview. "I want[ed] to give young readers a glimpse into the glamour and mystery and danger of a real historical period." She then described the parallels: "A society living under imminent threat of attack by a hostile power; a government short of money to finance its foreign wars; plots and conspiracies; spies under every bed; and a government leader threatened by assassination. Not to mention a high crime rate and the prevalence of sturdy beggars."

The Alchemist's Daughter follows Sidonie Quince, who, expecting her alchemist father to fail at turning base metal into gold, tries to find the missing ingredient and instead uncovers a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I and rediscovers her ability to see the future through a crystal. It is the fourth novel to earn Kernaghan a Prix Aurora nomination. She previously won in 2001 with The Snow Queen and in 1985 with Songs From the Drowned Land. "The biggest changes in the Aurora since [then] are the hugely increased number of eligible Canadian titles and, with the coming of the World Wide Web, a higher profile for the award," she said. "Life won't change, but a win would mean greater visibility for the book and likely increased sales. This was certainly true of The Snow Queen."

Next up for Kernaghan is a new young adult historical novel, set in Victorian England. The Prix Aurora Awards was created by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association in 1980 to honor outstanding SF and fantasy works by Canadian authors, in both French and English. It will be handed out during Westercon 58, July 1-4, in Calgary, Canada.

Lohan Denies Barbarella Rumor

L indsay Lohan denied to SCI FI Wire persistent rumors that she's in line to take on Jane Fonda's starring role in a proposed remake of Roger Vadim's camp 1968 science-fiction movie Barbarella, but added that she'd love to do it if offered. "Someone was talking about that the other day," Lohan said with a laugh in an interview while promoting her upcoming family film Herbie: Fully Loaded. "That would be hard to remake! That would make me nervous." She added: "It's a classic, but I don't know. I'd be honored."

The original Barbarella, based on a French comic book, centered on the exploits of a highly sexual, scantily clad superheroine of the future. The movie made a sex-kitten star of the young Fonda, who was married to Vadim at the time. Lohan has always said she wouldn't do nudity in a film, but she seems to be considering it now.

"I wouldn't do it right now," Lohan said when asked about the likely nudity in a Barbarella remake. But she hinted that she's considering a risque role in an upcoming unnamed film. "There is a film that I'm looking into, where there's a love scene, but I don't know if I'm doing any of them."

Lohan is promoting her G-rated revival of The Love Bug, called Herbie: Fully Loaded, which co-stars Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Breckin Meyer and Justin Long. It opens nationwide June 24.

War Earns PG-13 Rating

S teven Spielberg's War of the Worlds has earned a PG-13 rating, Paramount announced. The Motion Picture Association of America awarded the rating for "frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images," the studio announced.

Meanwhile, the film's official Web site has been updated with a countdown to release, a new game map and new film clips and TV spots. War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise, opens June 29.

Plug Pulled On Watchmen Movie

P aramount has pulled the plug on its proposed film version of Watchmen, Alan Moore's celebrated superhero graphic novel, Variety reported. Producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin were taking the project, with British director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) attached, out to other studios, the trade paper reported.

Watchmen came under heavy scrutiny in the wake of Paramount chief Brad Grey's surprise move to replace Donald De Line with Gail Berman as studio president in late March, the trade paper reported. De Line found out about the change while in London meeting with Greengrass about Watchmen and the need to cut its budget, rumored to be $100 million, the trade paper reported.

Paramount had been aiming for a summer start, but began releasing crews working on preproduction at that point.

Lohan Confirms M:I 3 Interest

L indsay Lohan confirmed to SCI FI Wire and other reporters that she talked recently with director J.J. Abrams about a role in his upcoming Mission: Impossible III, but added that she's not sure if she's won the part. This backed off from earlier reports, attributed to Lohan, that she had already won a role in the sequel film, which will star Tom Cruise.

"I met with J.J. Abrams, and he's fantastic," Lohan said June 5 in a press conference at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, Calif. "I don't know what's going on with that. We'll see. I mean, we'll see."

Lohan also denied reports that she's hired a trainer to get into shape for the high-action spy film, which is slated to begin shooting this summer. "I just read that I'm, like, in training right now for it," she said. "I did get a trainer, but I have a sprained ankle, so it's very hard for me to get back and forth to the gym." The actress said she sprained her ankle in a minor misstep while filming the romantic comedy Just My Luck in New York. As for her training, she said: "It's just for me, just to be healthy. I just have been wanting to get healthier, just because when I was working myself through the ground on [Herbie: Fully Loaded, her upcoming family film,] and recording and everything, I'm around people and other actors, and they're saying, 'You need to make sure you take care of yourself and eat right.'"

Plagued with delays and casting changes, Mission: Impossible III recently lost actresses Scarlett Johansson and Carrie-Anne Moss from the cast. Several actresses have been rumored as possible replacements, including Cruise's real-life girlfriend, Katie Holmes. (Meanwhile, in recent interviews with SCI FI Wire, screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci said that the roles originally assigned to Johansson and Moss had been rewritten.)

New Warcraft Grounds Released

B lizzard Entertainment announced the release of the first two player-vs.-player battlegrounds for World of Warcraft, its hit subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Featuring distinctly different map designs and game objectives, the battlefields provide an entirely new dimension of competitive gameplay for both expert and new World of Warcraft players, the company said.

World of Warcraft's battlegrounds are zones where players compete against each other to achieve victory, honor points and valuable in-game rewards.

Blizzard is currently in the process of designing additional battlegrounds, complete with new settings and new styles of gameplay, which will be available for testing in the months ahead.

Brillion Gets Hughes Respect

M att Hughes calls himself a "science fiction and fantasy author" on his Web site. Yet unlike Canadian authors such as Julie Czerneda and Eileen Kernaghan, Hughes has no SF or fantasy awards to show for his 11 years as a published author. That might change in July, because his novel Black Brillion has been nominated for the Prix Aurora Award. Hughes told SCI FI Wire that he thinks this novel earned more consideration because "it's my first SF novel where I dealt more with substance than with satire."

Black Brillion is the third novel in Hughes' Archonate series. The title refers to a cure for a fatal disease one of the characters contracts. Baro Harkless of the Bureau of Security leads an expedition across a barren, human-alien, postwar landscape to find it, but instead finds adventures that throw into question his morals and physical worldview. Black Brillion contrasts with Hughes' previous two SF books, Fools Errant and Fool Me Twice, which follow a different character through sometimes funny and silly adventures.

Hughes has but one award to his credit: the Arthur Ellis Award (the Canadian equivalent of an Edgar) for best crime story of 1999 for a story called "One More Kill." It was also nominated for a Derringer Award.

"Winning [the Aurora] would probably help sell copies of Black Brillion, and it would also help sell copies of The Gist Hunter & Other Stories, my collection of SF shorts being released at the end of July," Hughes said. "Neither result would change my life, but it would help me reach my career goal: to make a reasonable living writing genre fiction so I don't have to go back to writing speeches for corporate CEOs and politicians."

Hughes will return to the Archonate with his next novel, Template. He describes it as "a kind of Oliver Twist tale that starts and ends off-world. Its underlying conceit is that all societies are fundamentally based on one or another of the seven deadly sins. And it features another young hero who doesn't fit comfortably into the societies he encounters, although why that is so is the heart of his mysterious origin. It's sitting in limbo right now while we wait to see how Black Brillion does."

The Prix Aurora Awards was created by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association in 1980 to honor outstanding SF and fantasy works by Canadian authors, both in French and English. It will be handed out during Westercon 58, July 1-4, in Calgary, Canada.

Queens' James Is Genre King

K evin James (TV's The King of Queens) told SCI FI Wire that he will appear in several SF&F; movies next year. He has lent his voice and body movements to the upcoming motion-capture feature Monster House, is among the voice-over cast of Barnyard and will star in the live-action feature Monster Hunt.

"Barnyard is an animated film where I play a cow," James said in an interview. "Yeah, I'm the lead character, a cow. Otis is my name in that. It was fun. It was with Steve Oedekerk, who wrote Bruce Almighty. He's a great guy to work with. Monster House was a motion-capture movie, where they put the dots on your body. It was different, and that's why I wanted to do that. I didn't star in that. I've got a smaller part, but I just wanted to do it for the experience. It was annoying, boy, I'll tell you, to put hundreds of dots on your face every day. You've got to glue them on and rip them off at night. I hated that part of the experience, but it was fun to see your body animated like that, to see it come to life. I play a police officer in that one."

In Monster Hunter, James again works with Will Smith, his co-star in the recent hit comedy Hitch. Smith will produce the family fantasy-comedy, with James in the lead role. "We're going to shoot that next, probably," James said. "I'll play a child psychologist who can actually see the monsters that hide in children's closets. So that will be a big, live-action, high-concept special-effects movie. It's the same writers as Monsters, Inc. [Robert L. Baird and Dan Gerson], which is by design."

Barnyard will be released on Jan. 13, 2006. Monster House is set to reach theaters on July 21, 2006. Monster Hunter will open sometime in 2006.

Slither Slides Into January

U niversal has set a Jan. 6, 2006, release date for its upcoming SF thriller film Slither, starring Nathan Fillion (Serenity) and marking the feature-film directorial debut of writer James Gunn (last year's Dawn of the Dead remake). The film had originally been eyed for a Halloween 2005 release.

Slither also stars Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks and Gregg Henry in a story about an alien parasite that infects a resident of a small town in South Carolina, then threatens to spread to the rest of the population. It recently wrapped production in Vancouver, B.C.

Gunn also penned the Scooby-Doo films and worked on Troma's Tromeo and Juliet.

Fillion is best known to SF fans as Capt. Mal Reynolds on Fox's canceled Firefly series and will appear Sept. 30 in the movie based on the show, Serenity. Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Kidman Bewitched By Happy Feet

N icole Kidman told SCI FI Wire that she's providing a voice for director George Miller's upcoming animated musical, Happy Feet. "I got to sing a little bit," Kidman said in an interview while promoting her next film, Bewitched. "I'm a penguin. I hope a cute penguin."

Miller, like Kidman, is Australian. Though he's directed more than a dozen films, including the Mad Max trilogy and The Witches of Eastwick, Miller's last film was Babe: Pig in the City seven years ago. "He's obviously a huge talent, George, and he hasn't made a film for so long," Kidman said. Asked what songs she performs, Kidman replied: "I just did some pieces. I'm a very small role. I'm a big penguin, but a small role. From Bewitched to a penguin."

Happy Feet follows the plight of Mumble (Elijah Wood), a penguin whose inability to sing causes major problems for him, as penguins meet their mates through song. Other recognizable names lending their voices to the production include Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams. The film will be released in November 2006.

Long Gets Geeky For Sasquatch

J ustin Long (Jeepers Creepers) told SCI FI Wire that he looks like a geek these days because he's shooting The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang with the guys who made Napoleon Dynamite. Long has a mullet haircut, glasses and an attempt at some thin facial hair for the film, about a group of guys who find a giant footprint in a small town and drum up a story about a Bigfoot roaming the nearby hills.

"I'm playing this crazy little redneck name Zurk," Long said in an interview. "Because finding a footprint isn't quite enough, I take it one step further and come up with the Sasquatch turd. They crap, and so I have to think scientifically about it. And that's my character."

Long has appeared in both Jeepers Creepers movies, Galaxy Quest and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. He plays Lindsay Lohan's love interest in Herbie: Fully Loaded, which opens June 24.

Long said he tested his geekiness at a recent Def Leppard concert. "I really felt like I belonged," he said. "The other guys would look at me and nod."

He added that the younger generation of kids still recognize him from Jeepers Creepers horror movies. "Yeah, a lot of little kids are like, 'You lost your eye!' And I'm like, 'You're 4 years old. What are you doing watching that? It's R-rated!' Kids love that movie."

Sasquatch is written and directed by Tim Skousen and is being produced by Kevin Spacey and Jared Hess, who wrote and directed Napoleon Dynamite.

X-Men 3's Ratner Speaks

D irector Brett Ratner, who takes over the helm of the third X-Men movie, shrugged off criticism from fans who fear he'll wreck the franchise in comments to "It's not going to be easy," Ratner (Rush Hour) told the site. "But we're definitely going to hit it."

Bryan Singer, who wrote and directed the first two installments of the Marvel Comics mutant-superhero series, declined to direct the third one. Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn then stepped in with ambitious plans that included the casting of Kelsey Grammar as well-mannered monster Beast and Vinnie Jones as one-man wrecking crew Juggernaut. Weeks later, Vaughn stepped down, citing family reasons, the site reported.

"Bryan Singer left [X-Men 3] because he didn't like the material," Ratner said. "But I don't think this movie is tainted; I think it is fantastic, and the script is amazing."

As for the fans, Ratner said with a laugh: "[They think] I'm the Antichrist!" But, he added, "I don't think about it."

"I'm not Joel Schumacher," he said of the fan-despised director behind the last Batman sequels. "I'm Brett, and all I know is what I know, what I can do and what I have to work with." X-Men 3 begins production in Vancouver, B.C., this summer.

Advent Rising Contest Launched

M ajesco has launched a contest to promote its Advent Rising video game, with a grand prize of $1 million. The "Race to Save Humanity" play-and-win contest takes place on Xbox Live.

Consumers who find hidden "A" icons within the game will be eligible to win hundreds of weekly prizes, as well as the grand prize, the company said. The contest applies to the first 500,000 Xbox copies of Advent Rising. Consumers who buy specially marked packages of Advent Rising will receive a free two-month subscription to Xbox Live to participate in the contest, or they may use their existing account. Once a week for six weeks, an easter egg in the form of the letter A will be downloaded via Xbox Live and hidden within a level of the game. Majesco will publish clues on the contest Web site and distribute to the media the level on which the icon resides.

Once the egg is found, consumers will be given a code and prompted to log into the contest Web site using their Xbox Live Gamer Tag. The first person to do so is that week's winner. The contest ends Aug. 15.

Fallen Angel Grew Out Of Love

C anadian SF author Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, whose novel Fallen Angel has been nominated for the Prix Aurora Award, told SCI FI Wire that she wrote it out of love for the characters. Fallen Angel is a sequel to Guardian Angel. "I wanted to explore the continuing relationship between the main characters," Bedwell-Grime said in an interview, "and [to] delve into what it would really be like to have a supernatural being in your life. Not boring!"

Fallen Angel reintroduces guardian angel Porsche Winter and lust object Alex Chalmers, who is one of Winter's clients, who is coveted by the devil. This time, Winter is in human form and stripped of all her powers. When she sees a she-devil in a downtown Toronto bar, she knows this can only mean trouble, and so it is down to one fallen angel, a small cherub and a former stockbroker to try to save every soul on the planet.

Bedwell-Grime said she enjoyed revisiting Naamah, Head She-Devil and Queen of Seductresses, and adding the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse into the story. Previously, in Guardian Angel, Winter uncovered the devil's plan to assert his authority over the Neverworld and take control of heaven.

A review of Fallen Angel at said, "As with the first novel, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime has written a wonderfully engaging story that combines humor, intrigue and just a little romance. Porsche has to be one of the most accident prone people you could ever wish to read about: No matter what she tries to achieve and how well intentioned she is, somehow she always seems to end up making a mess of things. And for some reason most of her meetings with Lucifer seem to result in Porsche finding herself dressed in very skimpy underwear and high heels!"

While Bedwell-Grime awaits the announcement of who will win the Prix Aurora Award (it is to be given out by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association during Westerncon 58, July 1-4, in Calgary, Canada), she said Guardian Angel has been reprinted "so those who missed Porsche's adventures the first time around will have a chance to read them now."

10.5 Sequel Begins In Montreal

K im Delaney, Beau Bridges and David Cubitt will reprise their roles from NBC's hit SF miniseries 10.5 in 10.5: Apocalypse, a sequel that began filming in Montreal last week. The two-part miniseries will air later this year.

The cast also includes Frank Langella, Carlos Bernard, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Dean Cain, Oliver Hudson, Tamara Hope, Carly Pope, Melissa Sue Anderson and Barbara Eve Harris.

Howard Braunstein, Michael Jaffe and Gary Pearl, whose childhood nightmare served as the basis of the original 10.5, return as executive producers. John Lafia (Child's Play, The Dead Zone) returns to write and direct and also serve as co-executive producer.

In 10.5: Apocalypse, the deadly seismic activities that peaked with a magnitude 10.5 earthquake and devastated the West Coast resume to jeopardize North America, causing catastrophic events. In a desperate bid to save the country, President Hollister (Bridges) calls upon one of the nation's top seismologists, controversial scientist Dr. Samantha Hill (Delaney), to interpret the latest onslaught of quakes. Hill has a new theory, based on her father's (Langella) much-discredited hypothesis from years past, that predicts even greater ruin. NBC is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Meyer: Garfield Sequel Due

B reckin Meyer, who played Jon, the goofball owner of the computer-generated cat Garfield, told SCI FI Wire that a sequel is in the works and that Bill Murray will likely do the voice again. "There's a lot of buzz about a sequel for Garfield," Meyer said. "It did very well. That surprised me. I don't know if it surprised them," Meyer added during press interviews for his latest film, Herbie: Fully Loaded, in which he plays Lindsay Lohan's older brother. "It did very well."

Garfield, based on the 27-year-old comic strip about the wise-cracking, lasagna-eating cat, opened last June to a strong $21 million and made $75.3 million domestically and another $123 million overseas.

"I hear they will get Bill [Murray] for the voice," Meyer said. "I believe they will get Bill. I hear he's very nice. I still haven't met him. We were in different places during the course of the filming, when he was recording," Meyer said. "I'd like to meet him."

Meyer, who now has a 2-year-old daughter, said he often gets parents telling him that they have seen Garfield. "It just came out on DVD, and they tell me they've seen it over and over and over again, because the kids watch it repeatedly. It's constantly in their machine," Meyer said. "I'm glad the kids like it and watch it over and over. I hope there's a movie I do that has a bit of shelf life." Herbie: Fully Loaded also stars Matt Dillon and Michael Keaton and opens June 24.

Briefly Noted

  • Bob and Harvey Weinstein have picked up the family fantasy pitch The Impossible Adventures of Phineas Roone, from sibling writers Adam and Melanie Wilson, about a 13-year-old Brooklyn boy who discovers that a book of fantastical tales is real, Variety reported.

  • Lexa Doig, who most recently played Andromeda Ascendant in SCI FI Channel's original series Andromeda, has joined the cast of Stargate SG-1 in the recurring role of Dr. Carolyn Lam in the show's upcoming ninth season, which kicks off July 15.

  • Disney has added new content to its official Web site for its upcoming supernatural thriller film Dark Water, which opens July 8.

  • John H. Williams will produce Phreex, an animated film revolving around a group of rejected lab animals, based on a script by Matt Corman and Chris Ord, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • DreamWorks Animation has struck a deal with video-game publisher Majesco to become the first studio to provide films for Nintendo's line of GameBoy portable game players, starting with Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, Variety reported.

  • Billy Connolly is set to star in Fido for Lions Gate Films and Anagram Pictures, joining Dylan Baker, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tim Blake Nelson and Henry Czerny in the horror comedy about a little boy and his best friend, a 6-foot-tall domesticated zombie named Fido, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • New Line Cinema is in talks to pick up the film rights to We3, a Vertigo comics series about three household pets stolen by the government and turned into armor-suited killers by a clandestine military program, Variety reported.

  • Fans of Andromeda's Lexa Doig have launched a Web site to commemorate the actress' June 8 birthday.

  • The Web site has posted some behind-the-scenes video of the Superman Returns production in Australia.

  • War of the Worlds star Tom Cruise will be honored with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts/Los Angeles' highest honor, the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film, at its 14th annual Britannia Awards on Nov. 10 in Beverly Hills, Calif., according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Three more law firms filed lawsuits against DreamWorks Animation, all alleging that the company issued false and misleading statements about sales of the Shrek 2 DVD, which in turn fraudulently propped up the price of DreamWorks stock, Variety reported.

  • War of the Worlds star Tom Cruise won the MTV Movie Awards' first lifetime achievement award�presented by his girlfriend, Batman Begins's Katie Holmes�at ceremonies June 4 in Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported.

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