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A Weekly Digest Of Sci Fi Wire

 March 17, 2003
 March 10, 2003
 March 3, 2003
 February 24, 2003
 February 18, 2003
 February 10, 2003
 February 3, 2003
 January 27, 2003
 January 21, 2003
 January 13, 2003

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The Staff



Greenwalt Ponders Buffy's End

David Greenwalt, former executive producer of UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told SCI FI Wire that he's sorry to see the show conclude its run, but added that he thinks it's better to pull the plug now than wait until after the series has grown stale. "I think it is time for the show to end," Greenwalt said in an interview.

Greenwalt added, "Seven years is a great run by any standard. [Creator] Joss [Whedon] never likes anything to get stale." He said that there may still be stories to tell. "Have they done everything they could do on Buffy?" he asked. "No, because it's such a fertile idea. I would hope to see some Buffy movies. But I do think seven years is terrific. Get out while you're still good."

Greenwalt has moved on and is now executive producer of ABC's Miracles and remains a consultant on The WB's Buffy spinoff series, Angel, which Greenwalt co-created with Whedon. Naturally, he knows what's in store for the Scooby Gang. "What they have [planned] for the finale is so extraordinary," he said. "It's like the size of The Lord of the Rings, in terms of the bigness of the battle. It's just great. It will pull out all the stops." Buffy airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Surprises Coming For Angel

David Boreanaz, star of The WB's Angel, told SCI FI Wire to expect a Firefly guest star and a few surprises as the season winds up. Gina Torres, who played Zoe on Fox's defunct SF western Firefly, will appear in upcoming episodes, Boreanaz said in an interview.

"She's coming over for a big arc, and she's going to end it with us, so that's really exciting," Boreanaz said. "Her character will be very pivotal to the changes that are going to happen inside of all of our characters." Torres is the second Firefly star to guest star in one of Firefly creator Joss Whedon's other series; Nathan Fillion will appear in Angel's sister series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in coming weeks.

Boreanaz added to expect the Angel gang once again to be uprooted. "Our living conditions, everything's going to change," he said cryptically. "I think we will probably be finding somewhere else to motivate ourselves." The original Angel Investigations apartment building was blown up in an earlier series finale. Angel airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Willow Sets Up Angel

David Boreanaz, who stars in The WB's vampire series Angel, told SCI FI Wire that an episode, guest starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Alyson Hannigan, sets up Boreanaz's upcoming crossover to Buffy. Hannigan's character, Willow, appeared in the March 19 episode to help deal with Angelus, Angel's evil alter ego.

"There's going to be a lot of stuff that she does that's going to bring up some things for Angel and reasons why he's going over to Buffy," Boreanaz said in an interview. "It's really going to be interesting to see in the next six or seven episodes how Angel actually gets over to see Buffy and why he's going back over there."

Boreanaz added that both Buffy and Angel will offer clues to viewers that sets up Buffy's series finale in May, on which Boreanaz will appear in a guest role.

As for Hannigan's guest spot on Angel, Boreanaz said it was nice to see her work with real-life fiance Alexis Denisof, who plays Wesley. "It's good to see her and Alexis together, since the two of them are getting married in real life," Boreanaz said. "It was good to see her and have her back into the swing of our story. ... They were loving it. I'm sure that any chance you have an opportunity to work with somebody you're so close to really brings out really fun chemistry and a strong sense of relationship, and that definitely shows." Angel airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Spidey's Doc Ock Previewed

Steve Johnson, the prosthetic and animatronic effects artist for the upcoming sequel The Amazing Spider-Man, told SCI FI Wire that director Sam Raimi wanted a real costume for the new villain, Doctor Octopus. "Sam's a fan [of animatronics], and he feels like the fans would prefer to see the real thing," rather than a computer-generated image, Johnson said in an interview. "It's a lot harder when you have a puppet, and you've got 18 performers on the set. It takes a lot longer to shoot than if you do it digitally."

In the comics, Doctor Octopus wears a rig that gives him mechanical arms. Johnson said that Doc Ock actor Alfred Molina has been a trouper in working with the elaborate costume. "He's strapped into a giant torture device, and he obeys our every command," Johnson said.

The costume will undergo some changes, as the makeup team adjusts to Molina's weight loss. "We're having to re-cast him, [because] he's lost so much weight since our initial molding of his body." The Amazing Spider-Man opens May 7, 2004.

Dunst: Spidey Wants Maguire

Kirsten Dunst, who reprises the role of Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming sequel film The Amazing Spider-Man, told SCI FI Wire that filmmakers want Tobey Maguire to reprise the title role. "They're working with Tobey right now to see if he can do the role because of his back," Dunst said in an interview. "That's all I know."

Earlier reports suggested that Maguire was a question mark for the part as the result of a sore back sustained from arduous roles in both the original Spider-Man and Seabiscuit.

In any case, Dunst confirmed that she would return no matter what. "Whatever's going to happen, I'm going to be there on April 12 [when production begins]," Dunst said. "I'm Mary Jane, and I'm going to be working with whatever Peter comes along." The Amazing Spider-Man is scheduled for a May 7, 2004, release.

Maguire Spidey Reports Debunked

USA Today debunked earlier reports that a bad back might prevent Tobey Maguire from reprising the title role in the upcoming sequel film The Amazing Spider-Man. The newspaper also quelled a report that Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko)—the real-life boyfriend of Spidey co-star Kirsten Dunst—was offered the part.

"After doing two physically demanding films in a row, Tobey has experienced mild discomfort in his back, which is in the final stages of healing," Maguire's publicist, Kelly Bush, told the newspaper. "With an April 12 start date around the corner, everyone involved wants to be certain he is able to do the intense stunts."

Maguire, 27, is again undertaking a routine of yoga and weight training to bulk up for Spidey, the newspaper reported.

Ratner Flies From Superman

Brett Ratner will no longer direct Superman for Warner Brothers, Variety reported. The director's option expired last weekend, and rumors were that Ratner (Rush Hour) would drop out amid reports that producers were having a hard time finding an actor who would agree to put on the blue tights.

As of March 19, Ratner was still attached, but later that day, Ratner's camp changed its tune, scrambling to release a statement late that evening, the trade paper reported.

"I have chosen to withdraw as director of Superman," Ratner said in a statement. "The difficulty of casting the role of Superman has contributed to my decision. I appreciate the efforts of Warner Brothers and the entire production team during this process."

Ratner's departure throws the troubled project into further turmoil. Warner reportedly became uncomfortable with Ratner's collaborative decision-making style. Relations between Ratner and Superman producer Jon Peters were also reported to be rocky, according to the trade paper.

New Indy Villains Promised

Frank Darabont, screenwriter of the upcoming fourth Indiana Jones movie, told SCI FI Wire that the sequel's 1950s setting requires different villains from those in previous installments, which were set in the 1930s. "Those pesky Nazis seem to have departed, which is a shame, because I like those pesky Nazis, because you can just squash them all over the place," Darabont said, with tongue in cheek.

Darabont would not say who the new villains were, but assured that the tone of adventure would be consistent with previous Indy movies. "From the standpoint of the fun of it and the adventure of it, [there will be] no [change]," he said.

Darabont added that he has nearly completed a first draft of the script and that director Steven Spielberg is happy with his progress. "The reaction has been quite good," he said. But the writer added that he is approaching the script one day at a time. "Right now, every day is like one foot in front of the other," he said. "It's 'How do I solve this next scene? How do I get this next three pages in its best form?'" The new Indiana Jones movie is still aiming for a July 1, 2005, release.

Serkis, Ball Go On 13

Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) and Samuel Ball have landed key roles opposite Jennifer Garner in Revolution Studios' fantasy film 13 Going on 30 for director Gary Winnick, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film centers on a 13-year-old girl who suddenly finds herself transformed into a 30-year-old woman, the trade paper reported.

Serkis will play the adult Jenna's (Garner) boss. Ball will play her boyfriend, a New York Rangers hockey player. Mark Ruffalo and Judy Greer also star.

Ledger In Mad Max IV?

Heath Ledger told the Moviehole Web site that he's up for a part in Mel Gibson's fourth Mad Max movie, Fury Road, but not playing Max's son. "I did say to [director] George Miller I'd do a walk-on role in it and have Mad Max shoot me in the head," Ledger told the site. "It'll be cool just to be part of a Mad Max movie. I certainly wasn't up for the son role, though."

Ledger also confirmed his involvement in Terry Gilliam's Brothers Grimm movie. "I'm pretty close to nailing [that] down," he said. "As soon as it's [green-lighted], that's what I will be doing."

Potter Phoenix Covers Revealed

The fifth Harry Potter book, The Order of the Phoenix, is still three months away, but British publisher Bloomsbury has already unveiled three cover images, the BBC reported. Two of the covers—for British children's and adult editions—feature a phoenix emerging from flames and are the first not to feature Harry himself.

Illustrator Jason Cockcroft created the children's cover from an idea by author J.K. Rowling and her editor at Bloomsbury, Emma Matthewson. The adult cover was designed by Bloomsbury's design director, William Webb, from a photograph by Michael Wildsmith, the BBC reported.

The cover of the U.S. edition shows a 15-year-old Harry holding his wand in front of a series of doors. It was illustrated by Mary GrandPre. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will hit stores on June 21.

No Special Matrix DVD Due

Warner Home Video announced that it will not release the previously announced The Matrix Special Edition double-disc DVD, but will instead reprice the current Matrix DVD to a suggested $19.99 on April 22. The decision was based on a strategy to broaden the Matrix fan base prior to the May 15 theatrical release of the sequel film The Matrix Reloaded, the company said.

Also on April 22, Warner will reprice the two-pack of The Matrix and The Matrix Revisited, a behind-the-scenes two-hour companion documentary, to a new suggested retail price of $34.99, the company said.

The Matrix DVD will include a mail-in movie ticket offer for The Matrix Reloaded, which must be received by June 6, and a $5 mail-in rebate for The Animatrix DVD, which comes out June 3.

Wahlberg Catches New Dream

Donnie Wahlberg—who plays a mentally disabled man with mysterious powers in the SF film Dreamcatcher—told SCI FI Wire that he originally auditioned for a different role. "I went for Beaver," Wahlberg said in an interview. "And I did Beaver with [director Lawrence Kasdan], and he said, 'OK, well, now let's do Duddits.' And I said, 'I didn't read Duddits. I didn't prepare for Duddits.' And he said, 'Do you want to do it cold?' ... So I just did it cold, and I could tell right when I finished he was going to have me play Duddits."

Dreamcatcher, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, centers on four friends who find themselves in the midst of an otherworldly threat during their annual retreat in the mountains. Duddits, who shares a bond with the four men dating back to their childhood, holds the key to averting a major disaster.

Wahlberg said he was wary of the role because it required preparation similar to what he had done previously for The Sixth Sense, in which he played a troubled ex-patient of Bruce Willis' character. "I had almost killed myself for The Sixth Sense," Wahlberg said. "I basically tortured myself, which worked very good for the part, but that's all I knew. I only knew the wrong way. So to do Duddits, all I could see in front of me was doing that painful, mistake-filled, wrong thing that I had already done. But [Kasdan] really wanted me to do the part, and I really wanted to work with him, and I felt like, 'OK, I'll have to find another way.'" Dreamcatcher opened March 21.

Freeman Mad About Dreamcatcher

Morgan Freeman, who co-stars in the Stephen King adaptation of Dreamcatcher, told SCI FI Wire that his character is a departure from the kind of roles he's played in the past. "This guy is a pit bull without a leash," Freeman said in an interview. "He's suffering from—what is that syndrome when you've been doing one thing just a little too long? His autonomy is out of hand. He's not thinking. He's gotten righteous."

In the film, Freeman plays Col. Abraham Curtis, the leader of a secret military operation, who has cracked under the stress of protecting the world from alien invasion. The character's name was changed from Kurtz, as it originally appeared in King's novel, to avoid any comparison to Marlon Brando's Apocalypse Now character, Col. Walter Kurtz. Any similarities between the two, Freeman said, are merely circumstantial. "Because of the name there's a fleeting thing, but you can't play with it," he said. "What are you going to do? Start saying, 'The horror, the horror?'"

Another reason Freeman said he took the role was the chance to work with veteran filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan. "I like Larry Kasdan's work, and I like him," he said. "We had a nice sit-down dinner before we agreed to do this together, and I really took to him. Besides the fact that it's a departure-type role for me, it was fun to do." Dreamcatcher opened March 21.

SCI FI Debuts Hypercube

The SCI FI Channel premiered Cube 2: Hypercube, the sequel to the critically-acclaimed SF film Cube, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on April 5. The Lions Gate Productions original movie stars Geraint Wyn Davies, Kari Matchett, Neil Crone, Matthew Ferguson, Barbara Gordon and Lindsey Connell.

Cube 2: Hypercube tells the story of eight strangers, who awaken to find themselves in a mysterious cube-shaped room with no recollection of how they came to be there. They quickly discover that they're in a strange fourth dimension, known as a "hypercube," where the laws of physics don't apply, and their only chance for survival lies in exploring a never-ending chain of connected rooms filled with deadly traps. Andrzej Sekula directed the sequel.

Jackman Previews Van Helsing

Hugh Jackman, who stars in Universal Studios' upcoming vampire film Van Helsing, told the Empire Online Web site that the movie deals with the younger version of the vampire hunter from Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. "This is kind of the younger and more adventurous swashbuckling version of Van Helsing, who is, for want of a better word, a mercenary for the Catholic church, who is out there killing or dealing with possessed souls of all different shapes and sizes," Jackman told the site.

The film, directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), brings back many of Universal's classic creatures, including Frankenstein's monster and the Wolfman. "Dracula, whose existence has been known to the church in Transylvania, is kind of starting to get out of control, and so they send Van Helsing on a big mission to find him," Jackman said. "Anna, Kate Beckinsale's character, is the youngest and final member of the [Van Helsing] family, whose job it is to try and track Dracula for 400 years."

Van Helsing, which is currently shooting in Prague, Rome, Paris and Los Angeles, is slated to open May 21, 2004. Universal Studios is owned by Vivendi Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Boyd: King Is The Best

Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin in the Lord of the Rings movies, told the Calgary Sun newspaper that he's seen a rough cut of the upcoming third movie in the trilogy, The Return of the King, and he declared it the best of the lot. "It's incredible," Boyd told the newspaper. "We've started with the best source material, and then the script they wrote is probably the best screenplay I've ever read."

Boyd added, "I was near tears just reading the screenplay. It was so emotional."

Boyd said that in May, he and the rest of the Rings cast will head back to New Zealand to film pick-up shots for King, which opens in December.

Anderson Fans Benefit Charity

Fans of former The X-Files star Gillian Anderson donated more than $5,800 in an online auction of X-Files memorabilia, which went to benefit the British Neurofibromatosis Association, organizers announced. The official Gillian Anderson Web Site is now collecting sponsors and items for a future auction.

Organizers have also posted a Web site for the upcoming auction.

X-Files 2 In The Works?

Dark Horizons reported a rumor that a second X-Files movie might start by the end of the year. The site based its report on comments made by Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) on the British talk show Parkinson.

Anderson reportedly told the show that she and David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) have signed on, as have Robert Patrick (John Doggett) and Annabeth Gish (Monica Reyes). She added that the film might be a prequel set before the events of the TV series.

The cast will also include Brian Thompson as the alien bounty hunter and Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner, the site reported.

Sailors Board Enterprise

Three sailors from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise CVN 65 will appear as crew members on the starship Enterprise NX-01 in an upcoming episode of the UPN series, the official Star Trek Web site reported. The "Sailors of the Year" were selected by an internal Navy committee: Petty Officer Kathy J. Grant (Senior Sailor of the Year), Petty Officer James D. Frey (Junior Sailor of the Year) and Corpsman Thomas P. Hunt (BlueJacket of the Year), the site reported.

The cast and crew of Enterprise invited the sailors to make guest appearances on the show. Their scenes will appear in the upcoming episode "First Flight," directed by LeVar Burton. The episode airs May 14.

It was the second year in a row that "Sailors of the Year" from the real Enterprise have been invited to be on the fictional Enterprise. Last year's honorees made appearances in the episode "Desert Crossing."

Borg Assimilate Enterprise

An upcoming episode of UPN's Enterprise will feature the Borg in a sequel to events depicted in the feature film Star Trek: First Contact, the official Trek Web site reported. The episode, "Regeneration," starts with the discovery in the arctic of debris from the Borg sphere destroyed by the Enterprise E at the beginning of First Contact in 2063.

The episode features a guest appearance by Bonita Friedericy, the real-life wife of Enterprise regular John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox). Friedericy plays one of the researchers investigating the debris.

Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong wrote the episode. David Livingston directed. "Regeneration" is tentatively slated for May 7. Enterprise airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Noxon Captures Still Life

Marti Noxon, who is executive producing Fox's supernatural pilot Still Life, told SCI FI Wire that the family drama differs from her other show, UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which she also executive produces. "It is a genre piece, although it's quite different," she said. "It's narrated and seen through the eyes of the family's son, who died a year before. So it's a little bit Ghost-ish and a little bit Party of Five-ish."

Still Life stars David Keith (Daredevil), Susanna Thompson (Star Trek Voyager), Jensen Ackles (Dark Angel) and Audrey Marie Anderson (Once and Again), Noxon said. If Still Life goes to series, Noxon will remain on board as a writer and executive producer.

"We're shooting the pilot right now in Vancouver," Noxon said. "The director is Mark Piznarski, who did Everwood and Relativity and a bunch of other pilots. The writer is Kip Koenig [Bio-Dome]. We have the potential for getting picked up early and airing early. So we'll see."

Greenwalt Hopes For Miracles

Miracles executive producer David Greenwalt told SCI FI Wire that he's hopeful the ratings for the freshman supernatural series will pick up and that ABC will renew it for a second season. "ABC has been terrific, and they've been very behind it," Greenwalt said in an interview. "They promoted the living bejesus out of us throughout the Super Bowl, and you're going to see a lot more promotion during the Oscars. But, again, if I'm not watching ABC, how do I know about this show?"

Greenwalt added that the network has spent a lot of money on Miracles, which stars Skeet Ulrich as a paranormal investigator. "What I understand is that they are rabid fans of the show and they'd love to see the show stay on the air," he said. But the show's fate ultimately rests on ratings, Greenwalt said. "This show is on the bubble, but I believe it has a very good shot at coming back," he said. Miracles airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Ulrich Cursed With Craven

Skeet Ulrich (ABC's Miracles) will reunite with his Scream director, Wes Craven, and writer Kevin Williamson to play the male lead in Dimension Films' upcoming horror film Cursed, Variety reported. Ulrich joins Christina Ricci, Omar Epps, Scott Foley, Kristina Anapau, Scott Baio, James Brolin, Illeana Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Milo Ventimiglia and Corey Feldman in the story, about three strangers whose paths cross one night in contemporary Los Angeles, the trade paper reported.

Williamson will produce, with longtime Craven collaborator Marianne Maddalena. Shooting begins this month in Los Angeles for a planned early 2004 release.

Greenwalt Gets Film Deal

David Greenwalt, executive producer of ABC's supernatural series Miracles, told SCI FI Wire that he and fellow executive producer Richard Hatem have a deal with Spyglass Entertainment and will be pitching a new genre movie. Greenwalt and Hatem (The Mothman Prophecies) would collaborate on the script, Greenwalt said in an interview.

"The film would be in the genre of a Miracles episode and in the genre of The Sixth Sense," Greenwalt said. "It's something that I think Richard and I do very well together." Greenwalt and Hatem collaborated on the "Friendly Skies" episode of Miracles, among others.

"The movie will be something scary and heartrending, and hopefully it will be something wicked funny as well," Greenwalt said. He added, "We're literally going to pitch Spyglass next week and will write it during the hiatus." Miracles airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Japanese Look Rights Acquired

South Africa-based Distant Horizon has picked up remake rights to the Japanese supernatural horror film Don't Look Up (Joyuu-Rei), originally made by Hideo Nakata, director of the Japanese Ringu, ScreenDaily reported. Distant Horizon's chief executive, Anant Singh, told the site that a top horror screenwriter will be brought on board to complete an English adaptation of the screenplay.

Singh added that he'd love to persuade Nakata himself to direct the English-language version.

The story centers on an old movie fragment containing images of a woman's murder. Joyuu-Rei was produced in 1996 by Bandai Visual, with Bitters End and WoWow. The remake rights were bought by Distant Horizon from WoWow subsidiary Suncent Cinema Works, the site reported.

Purge Ready To Ship

Tri Synergy's upcoming Purge video game is ready for manufacture and will ship to stores next month, Cinescape Online reported. The game mixes first-person-shooter and role-playing-game elements with fantasy and science fiction and can only be played online, the site reported.

The game pits players in the Order versus those in the Chosen. Up to 64 players can compete in any one game simultaneously, the site reported.

Gross Returns To Tremors

Michael Gross, who stars in the SCI FI Channel's upcoming Tremors: The Series, told SCI FI Wire that viewers are in for a wild ride. Gross reprises the role of monster slayer Burt Gummer, which he played in the first three Tremors films. He will also co-produce the series.

"We occupy a niche in the television market that no one else could possibly occupy," Gross said in an interview. "Tremors: The Series is a western, drama, comedy, sci-fi, you name it. It's there."

Gross added, "I think that cable is the perfect place to be, because I think they're looking for niche markets more than the networks, which are looking for the largest, broadest audience they can get. ... The beauty of this piece is, how would you ever pitch it to a network? Thank God we had three movies to show for it first, because I can't imagine pitching this."

The series picks up the story of tiny Perfection, Nev., where townsfolk live with an albino Graboid—an underground-dwelling prehistoric man-eating creature—called El Blanco, which has been declared an endangered species.

"If El Blanco died, our way of life would go with it, because there's this man, Melvin [Tremors film veteran Robert Jayne], who's bought up a good deal of the valley and would love to turn us into suburban Reno, Nev.," Gross said. "So this thing that could kill us also preserves our way of life. So we have this uneasy symbiotic relationship with it. We live with El Blanco as Californians live with earthquakes and people in Arkansas and Indiana and Kansas live with cyclones." Tremors: The Series premieres with two back-to-back hour-long episodes, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT March 28.

Film Expands Bionicle Universe

Bob Thompson, executive producer of the straight-to-video Bionicle: Mask of Life, told SCI FI Wire that the computer-animated film will expand the universe of the Lego toy line on which it's based. In the film, two Matoran find the sacred Kanohi mask and must travel across the island of Mata Nui to protect the mask while being chased by new enemies.

"There are new characters called the Rahkshi, and the Rahkshi are pursuing this mask, because they know that Makuta, [the main villain], wants it," Thompson said in an interview. "They're like hounds hunting down the mask. There's a huge adventure, and two unlikely heroes have to stand up and save the day."

The film will be an opportunity to introduce some new toys in the Bioncle franchise. "We're going to be releasing the [Matoran] in the costume for the Kolhii outfit," Thompson said. "Kolhii is the national sport of Mata Nui. So it'll be the first time that they've been produced in that guise." Bionicle: Mask of Light hits stores shelves in September.

Nick Adds Genre Series

Nickelodeon will add two new genre series to its prime-time schedule, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The network unveiled its schedule March 19 in New York.

Among the new primetime animated series are My Life as a Teenage Robot, about a teen robot's attempts to balance saving the planet with high school, and Danny Phantom, about a boy who turns into a half-ghost, the trade paper reported.

Galaxies To Include Extras

A limited-edition version of the upcoming Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided role-playing game will include a concept art book, sketches and pewter figurines, the GameSpot Web site reported. A producer revealed the news in a post on the game's official message boards, the site reported.

About 75,000 copies of the special edition will be produced, and it will also include a sew-on patch with the game logo and a lapel pin with the imperial and rebel insignia. A spiral-bound version of the manual will be autographed by all the leads on the Galaxies team, the site added.

Galaxies was recently delayed from its planned April release date, and a new release schedule has not yet been announced.

Daddo Marks Twain In Riverworld

Cameron Daddo, who plays Samuel Clemens in the SCI FI Channel's original movie Riverworld, told SCI FI Wire that he knew nothing about the Philip Jose Farmer novels on which the film is based. "It all came about because of the director, Kari Skogland, who I'd worked with before," Daddo said in an interview. "She said, 'Look, I've got a great role for you, Samuel Clemens, if you want to come down to New Zealand and play."

An Australian, Daddo said that he found it difficult to say no, especially since he'd played Huckleberry Finn in the Australian version of the play Big River, based on Clemens' (Mark Twain) book. "So when they offered me the role in Riverworld, since I'd already done so much research and played Huck, I felt like I had a great handle on the man and a great affinity for Mark Twain/Sam Clemens."

Set in 2009, Riverworld depicts an Earth-like afterlife, in which people from all different countries and eras are reborn. "Basically, the humans there get a chance to prove that they are a necessary component of the universe," Daddo said. Samuel Clemens comes back as a young man and realizes that, during his life, he spent time writing and working to the detriment of his personal life, Daddo said. "His children suffered," he said. "His wife suffered. So now he just wants to go by the name Sam and have a boat and travel the riverways. He started out in real life on the river, as a riverboat kid, but he left that behind to become a writer." Riverworld, starring Brad Johnson, premiered March 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Shankman May Helm Jetsons

Adam Shankman is in talks to direct a live-action movie version of The Jetsons for Warner Brothers, Variety reported. Shankman (Bringing Down the House) is also attached to develop a remake of the 1937 Cary Grant ghost movie Topper at Disney, the trade paper reported.

The Jetsons is based on the 1962 animated TV show that featured a family of the future. A previous Jetsons movie was made in 1990, helmed by Joseph Barbera and the late William Hanna, the trade paper reported.

The script is in the process of being rewritten again, with the studio going out to writers shortly, the trade paper reported.

Hall Endorses Paycheck

Michael C. Hall (HBO's Six Feet Under) will star opposite Ben Affleck in Paramount's upcoming SF movie Paycheck for director John Woo, according to The Hollywood Reporter. John Davis and Michael Hackett are producing the movie, which is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Paycheck is set to go into production next month, the trade paper reported.

Paycheck is a futuristic story centering on a man (Affleck) who has part of his memory erased by his employer and begins to find clues to his whereabouts for the past two years. Hall will play the lead FBI agent who is spearheading the investigation into Jennings' memory, the trade paper reported. Aaron Eckhart (The Core) stars as Rethrick, the man who persuades Jennings to give up two years of his life. Dean Georgaris adapted Dick's story for the screen.

Hurd Eyes Micronauts Franchise

Producer Gale Ann Hurd (The Hulk) and Emmett/Furla Films have teamed to revive the Micronauts toy and comic line for feature and television development, Variety reported. Produced and sold in Japan by Takara, Mego Toys' Micronauts were a series of interchangeable space toys that were the basis of a Marvel Comics series, the trade paper reported.

Randall Emmett and George Furla's EFF brought Micronauts to Hurd. The partnership also includes Abrams/Gentile, a New York-based entertainment, design and production company that includes toy and video-game design, animation and prime-television development, the trade paper reported.

Ars Magica Rulebook Online

Atlas Games announced that it will make the fourth edition core rule book for its Ars Magica role-playing board game available as a free download. To obtain the book, visitors can click on the "Free Ars Magica" link.

The free download is hosted by RPGNow, an online seller of digital role-playing game titles. Atlas Games previously made two introductory kits available online for free.

Kusama Mulls Aeon Flux

Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) is the leading candidate to helm Paramount and MTV Films' Aeon Flux, a live-action film based on MTV's futuristic animated shorts, Variety reported. Kusama is in final talks to develop the last part of the script, with the intent to direct Aeon Flux, the trade paper reported.

The movie is based on the animated SF series by Peter Chung, which centers on an acrobatic superheroine who is the top agent in an underground organization, the trade paper reported.

Butler Charges May Be Dropped

Several charges against former Witchblade star Yancy Butler will be dropped if she stays out of trouble, the Zap2it Web site reported. A judge in New York ruled March 17 that the charges, stemming from a January altercation at the home of Butler's uncle, will be erased from Butler's record, provided she has no run-ins with the law for the next year, the site reported.

Butler, 32, was arrested in January on charges of violating an order of protection related to her father, Joe, and harassment. She also allegedly tried to hit her uncle, Henry Jerome, the site reported.

At Monday's hearing, Butler presented Judge Joseph Santorelli with documents stating she had completed a 28-day alcohol rehab program and was continuing outpatient treatment. Butler also entered rehab last summer. Her father was in court with her and agreed to the plan to have the charges dropped, the site reported.

Indy Game Ready To Go

LucasArts confirmed that its Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb PC game is ready for manufacture and will ship to stores on March 26, the GameSpot Web site reported. The third-person action game follows a storyline that takes place shortly before the events in the feature film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the site reported.

Emperor's Tomb combines a variety of gameplay elements, including puzzles, platformer-style jumping and plenty of hand-to-hand combat.

SF&F Writer Fast Dies

Howard Fast, historical novelist and occasional SF/fantasy writer, died March 12 in Old Greenwich, Conn., at the age of 88, the Locus Online Web site reported. Though best known for books like Spartacus (1953) and Freedom Road (1944), Fast published his first short story, "Wrath of the Purple," at the age of 17 in Amazing Stories in October 1932, the site reported.

Fast later sold several fantasy and SF stories, beginning in the 1950s, including the popular novella "The First Men" and the short story "The Large Ant" (both 1960). Fast's genre stories were collected in The Edge of Tomorrow (1961), The General Zapped an Angel (1970) and A Touch of Infinity (1973), the site reported.

Star Wars Galaxies Delayed

LucasArts announced that its Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided role-playing game is entering the final phase of development, but will not ship on April 15 as planned, the GameSpot Web site reported. The third phase of the game's beta testing will also be postponed, the site reported.

"We've received a good deal of constructive feedback and many positive suggestions that, if executed, will genuinely enhance game play for the hundreds of thousands of players who comprise the community," the company said in a statement, the site reported. No new release date was set.

It's Banks. Banks 2

A sequel to Agent Cody Banks begins production in six weeks, though the first film just opened, Variety reported. Star Frankie Muniz will reportedly get $5 million to reprise the role of the teenage spy, the trade paper reported.

Agent Cody Banks took in about $15 million in its opening March 14 weekend. MGM has set sequel deals for both director Harald Zwart and Muniz, who was paid $2 million for the first film, the trade paper reported.

Producer Dylan Sellers and Zwart came up with the sequel idea, which was scripted by Don Rhymer (The Santa Clause). The sequel will be set in locations around Europe.

Briefly Noted

  • "The Current," a song by the Blue Man Group, will be featured over the end credits for the upcoming Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, the group's official Web site reported. T3 opens July 2.

  • The TrekToday Web site reported spoilers for "The Expanse," the upcoming second-season finale of UPN's Enterprise.

  • Sliders star Jerry O'Connell may be up for a role in The Amazing Spider-Man as a competing love interest for Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson, E! Online reported.

  • A remake of the classic 1960s anime Astro Boy is set to air on Japan's Fuji TV on April 6, the 2003 date the futuristic robot was supposedly created, Variety reported. Astro Boy, aka Tetsuwan Atom (Iron-Armed Atom) in Japan, began its TV life on Fuji TV in 1963.

  • A new four-and-a-half-minute trailer for the upcoming animated shorts of The Animatrix, set in the universe of the Matrix films, has gone live online. The nine Animatrix films will be released on DVD in June.

  • Slamdance has partnered with Santa Monica, Calif.,-based Xeolux Entertainment to present SLAM FI, an SF screenplay competition. Final deadline for submissions is April 30.

  • Morgan Freeman, who stars in the upcoming SF film Dreamcatcher, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 18, the Associated Press reported.

  • Cinescape Online reported a rumor that British-born actor Henry Cavill may be in the running to star in the upcoming Superman movie.

  • Rachael Leigh Cook is in talks to star in The WB drama pilot Fearless, based on Francine Pascal's young adult books, about a woman born without the gene that causes fear, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Fire caused $3 million worth of damage to the sets for the upcoming sequel film Riddick, which is shooting in and around Vancouver, B.C., the Dark Horizons Web site reported. No one was injured during the March 15 morning blaze.

  • Novelist-turned-screenwriter William Monahan is writing the script for a proposed Jurassic Park IV sequel film, Variety reported.

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