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NEWS OF THE WEEK FOR APR. 03, 2006
Charmed Cast Blasts WB

Now that they're wrapping up the eighth and final season of The WB's Charmed, the show's cast and crew blasted the network's handling of the long-running supernatural series in interviews with SCI FI Wire. "We were never treated that well," star Holly Marie Combs, who plays Piper and became producer after the fourth season, said in an interview on the show's set in Los Angeles. "We were never promoted properly by the network. The only way we ever got a billboard on Sunset Boulevard was when Shannen [Doherty] called up and insisted." (Doherty, who played Prue Halliwell, left the show after three seasons.)

"Then, the network dishonors us by saying we were canceled, axed, cut," star Rose McGowan said. She replaced Doherty and stayed on for five seasons as Paige. "They asked me if I wanted to be a producer, too, and I asked if there was more money attached to that, and they said, 'No,' and I said, 'Forget it.' ... This last thing about being canceled seems like the last annoying pissing match going on with the show. It was extremely rude."

Both Combs and McGowan said that their contracts run out after the eighth season, and none of them had planned on returning anyway. "There was nothing to cancel," McGowan said. "They didn't have us. ... Instead, we continue to get treated like the ugly stepchild of the network. Anyway, I'm proud of what we accomplished."

Charmed made history as the longest-running TV series featuring multiple female leads, surpassing Laverne & Shirley by half a season. "No one expected us to last more than three episodes, and here we had ratings that were higher than Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] at times," executive producer Brad Kern said. "We had no lead-in show. We were moved around a lot, and it still lasted as long as it did."

Brian Krause, whose character, Leo, was cut last season due to budgetary concerns, will return for the finale. "I can't guess what Paramount and The WB were doing, whether it was money or whether they brought other characters in or whatever," Krause said. "I don't know if they were trying to groom talent to go on to something else. I don't know. For me, honestly, it turned out to be a blessing, really, to go out and work on my short movie and work on a couple of other projects. So they kind of did me a favor by being able to get out there and get into pilot season."

The final two-part episode will be shot through April 17 and will air on May 21. —Mike Szymanski
Charmed Spinoffs Possible?

Cast and crew of The WB's Charmed, which ends its eight-season run this spring, told SCI FI Wire that various ideas for spinoff series were tossed around, but most think the prospects are unlikely. Producers pitched the idea of a spinoff series centered on Brian Krause's character, Leo Wyatt. "I'd love to do it," Krause said in an interview during a visit to the show's set at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles this week. "I'd jump at the chance. ...The greatest thing about the character that I play is that my character has integrity, and ... I think that my character brought up the idea and emotions of right and wrong."

Series executive producer Brad Kern said The WB network wanted the eight-year series to end with the possibility of characters going off on their own series. "We started this season with a mandate to come up with a way to keep the show going or have some spinoff characters. That's the way that The WB picked up the show," Kern said. "But I have to say ... the show has had an amazing run, and we don't want to end the show a year too late, a year after when it should've been canceled, and there is always that possibility. We feel good about the way that we're ending, and again, you don't get that opportunity in television to end the show on your own terms."

One of the most likely spinoffs would center on the new character of Billie, played by Kaley Cuoco (ABC's 8 Simple Rules). But Cuoco said it's not going to happen. "No," she said. "There is not going to be a spinoff, not for me, not for my character. I think I want to go back to a sitcom."

Don't count on Charmed stars Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs or Rose McGowan to recreate their Halliwell sister characters in another series anytime soon. Milano and Combs have been on the show for eight years, and McGowan joined after five. "There won't be a spinoff with us or our characters," said Combs, who is also a producer. "That's for sure." The Charmed finale airs May 21. —Mike Szymanski
Doherty Didn't Charm Kern

Brad Kern, executive producer of The WB's Charmed, told SCI FI Wire that he didn't ask original cast member Shannen Doherty to join a host of returning actors for the series' upcoming finale and added that he had his reasons. Doherty's character, Prue Halliwell, was killed off in 2001; though the series' magical storylines would have allowed the return of the character, Kern said: "There are a lot of issues, mostly internal and financial, as to why we didn't ask Shannen back." He added in an interview on the show's set on March 28: "Prue's memory will be kept [alive] and be honored, but we didn't ask Shannen to come back. ... The show is more about the sisters who are here, not the one who's not." Indeed, the character of Paige (played by Rose McGowan starting in 2001) has been on the series longer than Doherty's Prue.

Kern added that another high-profile cast member won't return: Julian McMahon, whose character, Cole Turner, lasted until 2003. "He did return for the 150th episode, and that was very cool," said cast member Holly Marie Combs, who plays Piper Halliwell and is also one of the show's producers. "We all enjoyed it." She added that McMahon, who went on to play Dr. Doom in the Fantastic Four movie and to star in the F/X TV series Nip/Tuck, is quite busy. "He told us that he would love to come back for the 200th episode, but we never quite got there." As far as Doherty, Combs rolled her eyes and said: "Well, that's a whole other show."

Kern said during the set visit that many of the fans' favorite characters from the past will be returning. The three sisters' grandmother and mom (Penny and Patty), the "future Chris" and others will be joining the end of the show for the wedding of Phoebe (Alyssa Milano). "In one scene we will have 12 characters," Kern said. "The director is going crazy trying to figure out how to shoot it." Kern wrote the final episode only two weeks ago, but has been planning elements of the end of the series for five years.

Brian Krause, who plays Leo, is also returning after budget cuts forced his role to be scaled back last season. "I don't really understand the reasoning about cutting my character, when they put other characters in that cost just as much or more, but I'm glad to be here for the end," Krause said.

The last episode will be completed in mid-April. "I get teary-eyed just talking about it," Milano said. "We're all pretty emotional. It's been such a big part of our lives." Kern said the actresses have all played a part in writing how their characters will end up in the finale.

Kern said that he doesn't plan a spinoff show and added that he hopes fans will be satisfied that many of the loose ends will be tied up. "It's a valentine to the fans that we will get all of the favorite characters we could afford to come back for the last episode," Kern said. "It will include family from the past and also future generations to show that the life of Charmed will go on, even if it's not on TV." —Mike Szymanski
Snyder In Line For Watchmen?

Ain't It Cool News reported that director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) has entered talks with Warner Brothers to helm the long-gestating film version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's seminal superhero graphic novel Watchmen.

The site also reports that script revisions are underway to fine-tune a script by David Hayter (X-Men).

Snyder is currently at work on a movie adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300.

If it's true Snyder is in talks, he would be only the latest in a line of directors attached to the film, including Requiem for a Dream's Darren Aronofsky.

Watchmen, first published as a series of comic books in 1986-'87, concerns a plot to kill the members of the Crimebusters, a group of superheroes. A commentary on the entire superhero genre of comics, Watchmen was considered one of the first "adult" comics and helped bring respectability to the medium.
LaBeouf Confirmed In Transformers

Variety confirmed a report that Shia LaBeouf will star in Michael Bay's upcoming big-budget action movie The Transformers: The Movie.

LaBeouf is in final negotiations to play a lead role in the DreamWorks/Paramount live-action production. Shooting starts in late May, with a July 4, 2007, premiere envisioned.

Budgeted well north of $100 million, Transformers will star LaBeouf as the unlikely hero Sam in a story based on the comic book, cartoon and Hasbro toy line that was popular in the 1980s. The movie centers on the central saga of the Autobots vs. the Decepticons. The rest of the cast is expected to be finalized shortly.

Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura are producing the film, with Steven Spielberg and Hasbro's Brian Goldner executive-producing. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci penned the screenplay.
Potter VI Is Book Of Year

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth title in the best-selling boy-wizard franchise, was named Book of the Year March 29 at the British Book Awards, the Reuters news service reported.

Rowling, whose books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, was able to reassure young readers around the globe that the final book in the Potter saga was on target.

"I am enjoying writing the last book in the series, and it's coming along nicely," Rowling told Reuters.

Rowling fought off an eclectic band of authors to land the prize, including Sharon Osbourne, for her autobiography, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, for his book on Italian cooking.
Solaris Author Lem Dies

Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, best known for his novel Solaris, died in his home city of Krakow on March 27 after a battle with heart disease, the Reuters news service reported. He was 84.

Lem, whose books have sold more than 27 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages, won widespread acclaim for The Cyberiad, stories from a mechanical world ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974.

Solaris, published in 1961 and set on an isolated space station, was made into a film epic 10 years later by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and into a 2002 Hollywood remake shot by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney.

Born on Sept. 12, 1921, in what is now the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Lem studied medicine before World War II. After the war, communist censorship blocked the publication of his earliest writing.

After the fall of communism in 1989 Lem ceased writing science fiction, instead devoting himself to reports on near-future predictions for governments and organizations.

He wrote essays on computer crime, as well as technological and ethical problems posed by the expansion of the Internet.
F/X Maven Readies Lem's Invincible

Producer and visual effects master Volker Engel told SCI FI Wire that he's in the early stages of writing a big-screen version of The Invincible by Polish SF writer Stanislaw Lem, who wrote Solaris. "We're in a wonderful phase of writing right now," said Engel, who started the company Uncharted Territory with Marc Weigert after winning an Academy Award for visual effects for Independence Day. "We are working with a producer who has the rights to a number of Stanislaw Lem's works."

Lem is one of the most celebrated communist-bloc SF writers. His books, which include Memoirs of a Space Traveler, Mortal Engines, The Futurological Congress and Peace on Earth, have been translated into 40 languages.

"This is a fascinating story," Engel said. "The Invincible is about a rescue mission on another planet. The crew of Invincible investigates the loss of another ship on a planet called Regis III in this early novel by Lem. The story involves robots and machine evolution."

Engel and Uncharted Territory worked on SCI FI Channel's original miniseries The Triangle and SCI FI's miniseries Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King.

Their next project is a World War II spy thriller, and Engel's company also plans to get back into the SF genre again soon. "We are big science fiction fans," he said. "We'll always be doing something in that." —Mike Szymanski
Dark Shadows' Curtis Dies

Dan Curtis, a producer and director who created the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows, died March 27 at his Los Angeles-area home after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, the Associated Press reported. He was 78.

Curtis, who was diagnosed four months ago, died at his home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, Jim Pierson, a spokesman for Curtis' family and for Dan Curtis Productions, told the AP. Norma Mae Klein, Curtis' wife of 54 years, died March 7 of heart failure, Pierson said.

Curtis' pitch to ABC for a Gothic-flavored soap opera led to the creation of the 1966 series Dark Shadows, about odd, supernatural goings-on at a family estate in Maine. The popular heroic vampire character Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) was added in 1967.

The show, which ended production in 1971, became a cult favorite that counted young viewers among its fans. It spawned two feature films, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971), both directed by Curtis, and a 1991 NBC prime-time series starring Ben Cross.

A prolific TV movie producer, Curtis drew heavily from mystery and horror genres and often collaborated with Richard Matheson (who wrote for the classic Twilight Zone series). Among their projects were The Night Stalker in 1972 and a 1973 sequel, The Night Strangler. (Curtis did not participate in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a short-lived 1970s series starring Darren McGavin, but was a consultant-producer on the 2005 ABC remake, Night Stalker.)

Curtis is survived by his daughters, Cathy and Tracy.
Soylent Helmer Dies

Richard Fleischer, who directed several memorable SF films—including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage and Soylent Green—died March 25 of natural causes in Woodland Hills, Calif., the Associated Press reported. He was 89.

Fleischer died at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, his son, Mark, told the AP.

The director's father, Max Fleischer, and his uncles Dave and Louis, pioneered animated shorts in New York, starting in 1920 with the innovative Out of the Inkwell series. In the 1930s, they became rivals to Walt Disney with their popular Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor comedy shorts.

A quiet-spoken but firm-minded director, Richard Fleischer never achieved the recognition of his more flamboyant contemporaries, but his name was on a wide variety of well-known films, including Fantastic Voyage (1966); Doctor Dolittle (1967); Soylent Green (1973); Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonja (1985).

Conan star and current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised Fleischer as "a true Hollywood legend," the AP reported.
Critics Lukewarm On Rings Musical

A new musical version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings opened last week in Toronto to mixed reviews, the Reuters news service reported.

Touted as the most expensive stage production yet, the musical won plaudits for its leaping orcs and menacing dark riders, but was criticized for its tangled plot.

The musical featured a cast of 55 in 500 costumes, who engaged in fight scenes and acrobatics atop a 40-ton, computer-controlled stage floor featuring 17 elevators, which spun and rose amid magic and illusion, the wire service reported.

The musical will play Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre before moving to London's West End.
Ice 2 Cast Goofed And Riffed

The cast of the animated sequel film Ice Age: The Meltdown told SCI FI Wire that they ad-libbed lines, a practice that is generally discouraged in animation. That's in part because many of the cast members had experience as stand-up comedians.

Star Ray Romano, who voices Manny the mammoth, took a break from the comedy circuit to promote the sequel to 2002's hit animated film. Like Romano, co-stars John Leguizamo (Sid the sloth) has a long history in stand-up comedy. The cast also includes Josh Peck and Tonight Show host Jay Leno. "I think comedians as a whole have low self-esteem, [and] that's me," Romano said in an interview. "And [comics] love being on stage and [getting] adulation from the audience. ... So to have a venue like this to explore our talents is pretty great."

"Having stand-up comics isn't easy, because they do tend to go off on tangents that we don't necessarily need, and we have to animate the words differently, but a lot of time it's worth it," director Carlos Saldanha said in an interview. He signed on to direct Meltdown after completing Robots with Robin Williams. "I know what it's like to work with comedians who know how to work on stage, and believe me, they add a lot to the project, and I encourage their own input all the time."

Romano said his woolly mammoth character is not unlike his own stand-up persona, but he added that Leguizamo truly took advantage of the experience. "If anyone can improvise, he can," Romano said. "His character was more manic and all over the place."

Leguizamo explained: "I threw in some funny lines, and ... the bad singing was all me, and it's great to see they use that in the promos."

Peck (The Josh & Drake Show) impressed Leguizamo. "John and I are native New Yorkers, and I was the rookie to the cast of all-stars, and he encouraged me to relax," Peck said. "And I added my own stuff here and there. Of course, with Seann [William Scott] right next to me when we were filming, it was easy to just riff off each other and play off the characters. We were 'possums, after all."

Queen Latifah also joins the cast, as Manny's mammoth love interest. "I think my work with a live audience and my work on stage really helped me feel comfortable about throwing in a bit of me when I was in the studio reading the lines," she said. Ice Age: The Meltdown opened March 31. —Mike Szymanski
Scrat Beefs Up In Ice 2

Carlos Saldanha, director of the animated sequel film Ice Age: The Meltdown, told SCI FI Wire that he has beefed up the role of the obsessive creature Scrat, which made a big impression the first time around. "No one could have known that Scrat would be such a big hit," Saldanha said in an interview. "He became a phenomenon, so we amped him up a bit and gave him more to do. I didn't understand it at first, but people loved him."

Scrat is still voiced by Chris Wedge, who directed the first Ice Age and is producing the second. Scrat is still eager to collect his acorn nuts and, as in the first movie, plays a major part in what happens to the other animals in the film. "In the first movie, Scrat was only in the beginning and end and sort of was forgotten in the middle," Saldanha said. "But now we've given him a part that makes sense that we keep coming back to his character and see what he's doing. I can relate to Scrat. He's the finest. I think a lot of people can relate to his determination."

For his part, Wedge said: "Audiences tuned in to Scrat right away, because everyone relates to an underdog. Now that we've given him new dimensions for the second film, we expect an even bigger response to Scrat."

Ice Age: The Meltdown brings back voice stars Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo and puts them with newcomers Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, Jay Leno and Queen Latifah.

Latifah, who voices a confused mammoth, said she got motivation from the character of Scrat. "Scrat is my motivation, and the determination of Scrat is my determination," she said with a laugh. "Scrat will die for what he loves. He inspires me to get up every morning and fight, and the thing I feel passionate enough for, I'll go for, just like him. I always look for new ways to challenge myself and accomplish more than what is being done." Ice Age: The Meltdown opened nationwide March 31. —Mike Szymanski
Ice 2's Latifah Played 'Possum

Queen Latifah, who voices a new character in the animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown, told SCI FI Wire that she studied animals for her role as a female mammoth. The Oscar-nominated actress and singer said she went to the zoo to look at elephants and opossums for her role as Ellie, the woolly mammoth who thinks she is an opossum. "I researched a 'possum to see what he does and how he plays dead," Latifah said. "He eats pretty much anything, but he doesn't really sleep hanging by his tail, like my character does."

When Ray Romano's character, Manny the mammoth, meets Ellie, she is hanging upside down in a tree with her two brothers, voiced by Seann William Scott and Josh Peck. "I slept upside down a couple of days and became nocturnal. I played 'possum," Peck said in a separate interview. "I studied them a bit to try to figure them out."

Director Carlos Saldanha said he wanted the characters to be opossums, but when he did more research on the creatures he found out they were much slower than he wanted them to be for the parts. "Opossums are funny," he said. "We wanted them to be faster than they are, but when we studied them, they were real slow. We kind of revved them up for the movie."

Ice Age: The Meltdown also stars the voices of Denis Leary, John Leguizamo and Jay Leno. It opened nationwide on March 31. —Mike Szymanski
Anderson Returns To SG-1

Richard Dean Anderson, former star and executive producer of Stargate SG-1, returns to the series for its historic 200th original episode, SCI FI Channel announced. Production on the bicentennial episode begins April 5 in Vancouver, Canada. Anderson, who will be reprising the role of Gen. Jack O'Neill, will also make special guest appearances in a number of episodes of both SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis that will air in the upcoming new seasons, which are slated to premiere this summer.

Stargate SG-1's 200th episode, "200," will center on the SG-1 team as they serve as advisors on a television series that bears remarkable similarities to the goings-on at Stargate Command. As they pitch to the producer the many adventures that they have been involved with over the years, the team discovers that truth really is stranger than fiction, but that nothing is stranger than the machinations of Hollywood. In addition to Anderson, "200" will feature a guest appearance by fan favorite Willie Garson (Sex & the City).

Currently in production on its 10th original season (its fifth on SCI FI), Stargate SG-1 is now the longest-running SF series on American television, surpassing The X-Files and every iteration of Star Trek.

Executive-produced by Robert C. Cooper and co-creator Brad Wright, Stargate SG-1 stars Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Michael Shanks, Claudia Black and Beau Bridges. SG-1 is produced by Double Secret Productions, in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Sony Pictures Television. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
SG-1's Nemec Is Doomtrooper

Former Stargate SG-1 star Corin Nemec told SCI FI Wire that he welcomed the opportunity to return to the genre in the upcoming SCI FI original movie SS Doomtrooper. Nemec stars in the film as Capt. Malloy, an American soldier who, in post-D-Day France, leads a unit on a top-secret mission to thwart a Nazi plot to create an army of supersoldier/beasts.

"I like the genre a lot," Nemec said in an interview. "I enjoy doing films and television in the genre, and I also enjoy action-adventure, because that's a lot of fun for me as an actor. When I initially read it, I was very surprised at the character development that was in the script and the character relationships. I thought that it was well done. And the fact that it was done in World War II was very cool to me. That sounded like a lot of fun, to go into a period piece that was also an action-adventure story and also in the genre. And it was a lot of fun."

Nemec added: "The director, David Flores, is so passionate. He's, like, 24 years old and was just so passionate about getting a really, really interesting look for the film. His template was Band of Brothers, especially for the exterior scenes, and I thought he did a great job."

Fans of Nemec—who also recently completed the upcoming independent features Nice Guys, The American Standards and Parzania—will no doubt get a kick out of an inside joke in SS Doomtrooper. Nemec rose to fame as the star of the television series Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and a character in the film is named Parker Lewis. "That came from SCI FI New York," Nemec said. "They thought it would be funny to just do a little nod to that. ... We were already over [in Bulgaria] shooting, and they asked if it would be all right if they made reference to it. I'd like to think I have a decent sense of humor, so I was like, 'That's cool. I don't care.' And I think it's pretty funny." SS Doomtrooper premieres at 9 p.m. ET/PT on April 1. —Ian Spelling
SG-1 Winks At Serenity

Brad Wright, co-creator of SCI FI Channel's original series Stargate SG-1, offered SCI FI Wire a few spoilers on the show's upcoming 200th episode, which tips its hat to a much shorter-lived SF series about civil-war veterans in space. The episode will be part of the 10th season, which debuts this summer.

The 200th episode will bring back the character of Martin Lloyd (Willy Garson) and his fictional TV show Wormhole X-treme, which was the subject of the 100th episode, "Wormhole X-treme," and is a parody of SG-1 itself.

"The 200th, ... as we've all put our heads together on that one, is based on a great idea [executive producer] Robert [C. Cooper] had, and we've all written bits and put them all together, and Robert went through it, and then I went through it," Wright said in an interview on SG-1's Vancouver, Canada, set earlier this month.

This time around, the SG-1 team helps Lloyd turn Wormhole X-treme into a movie. "Even though the series was canceled after three episodes, it did well on DVD," Wright said. "It's a little nod to Serenity, I suppose." Serenity is based on the failed Fox TV series Firefly, which was canceled in the middle of its first season, but which went on to sell well on DVD, warranting a feature film.

As for Wormhole X-treme, Wright said: "The Air Force loves it, because they love the notion of a television series out there that is ostensibly [based on the] real events in SG-1, in Stargate Command. So plausible deniability. ... It's a series of, I guess you could call them vignettes or flashes, scenes, that are kind of unusual."

In the episode, which also marks the return of former SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson, viewers can expect the kind of broad, insidery humor that characterized the 100th episode. "'Wormhole X-treme' was pushing it," Wright said. "This is pushing it twice as far. But, you know, it's the 200th episode." —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Burned M:I III Stuntman Sues

A stuntman who was badly burned on the set of Mission: Impossible III filed a lawsuit March 29 against Paramount Pictures, Tom Cruise's production company and others who allegedly were responsible for the incident, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Steven Wheatley filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court with his wife, Mary Wheatley, seeking unspecified damages for negligence and other claims arising from the June 6, 2005, accident at the S.O.S. FilmWorks site managed by the Agua Dulce Movie Ranch near Los Angeles, the trade paper reported.

Wheatley claims that "suddenly and without any prior warning" the explosives for the stunt detonated, engulfing him in a fireball that burned 60 percent of his body.

Among other claims, Wheatley accuses the defendants of failing to ensure that there were fire extinguishers at a relatively close distance or fire department officials nearby to help prevent his injuries.

Representatives for Paramount and Cruise's C/W Productions said it was their policy to decline comment on pending litigation, the trade paper reported.

Mission: Impossible III opens May 5.
IMAX 3-D Superman Coming

About 20 minutes of the upcoming superhero film Superman Returns will become an "IMAX 3-D Experience," IMAX and Warner Brothers announced. The IMAX version of the movie will debut on June 30, the same day Bryan Singer's film hits conventional theaters.

"The test scenes that have been converted into IMAX 3-D look, sound and feel absolutely amazing," director Singer said in a statement. "The magic of IMAX 3-D will envelop audiences in this story, enabling them to feel the emotion, drama and suspense in a completely new and unique way."

During select sequences of the film, a visual cue designed by Singer will indicate when audiences should put on and remove their IMAX 3-D glasses.
Saturns Honor Harryhausen

Legendary visual-effects guru Ray Harryhausen will receive the George Pal Memorial Award at the upcoming 32nd annual Saturn Awards, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, one of three special honors to be presented, the academy announced. Harryhausen is the filmmaker behind such fantasy film classics as Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans and inspired other filmmakers working in the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

Superman Returns star Brandon Routh, meanwhile, will receive the Rising Star Award from the organization. Routh's Superman Returns director, Bryan Singer, will present the award.

The Filmmakers Showcase Award will go to writer/director Shane Black, who wrote the 1987 action film Lethal Weapon. Black is being recognized for his work in the 2005 film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; that film has received five Saturn Award nominations.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films is a 34-year-old organization devoted to honoring and recognizing the quality of genre entertainment. This year's awards will take place May 2 at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City, Calif.
Karavans Opens New World

SF author Jennifer Roberson told SCI FI Wire that her new novel Karavans is set in her first fantasy world since 1983, but added that that doesn't mean she hasn't been busy. "Since 1983, I have been very busy writing eight volumes in the Cheysuli series; six in the Sword-Dancer saga, a collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott; and several historical novels," she said in an interview. "So while Karavans is the first new solo fantasy universe I've created since then, it's not for lack of writing!"

Not only is the new world, Alisanos, her first in 23 years, Roberson also had to write about it differently from her other universes. Alisanos is central to the plot, so Roberson devotes much of Karavans' 425 pages to introductions, a "very challenging" process, she said. "I had to introduce the world through the experiences of the characters, to make it central to their adventures, and to let readers visualize it clearly," she said. "That requires much more than a cursory presentation of a setting that exists mostly to showcase the characters [as with her Cheysuli and Sword-Dancer worlds]. ... The world-building is absolutely essential to the story arc and would be as important in any subsequent volumes."

Not that Roberson objects to creating a challenging new world for her to write. "I never want to write the same thing over and over again," she said. "That's how writers go stale. So I constantly challenge myself with different viewpoints and formats. I think Karavans offers readers the mysticism of the Cheysuli series and the accessibility and humor of the Sword-Dancer saga, all wrapped up in a realm that's larger than life."

Karavans, which hits stores on April 4, is the first of at least three books. It follows expectant parents Davyd and Audrun as they move their family to a new place under threat from the darkly magical and foreboding Alisanos, a land that can change locale at will and is doing so for the first time in 40 years.

Roberson currently is writing the second Karavans novel, but will return to the Cheysuli world for three new books. She also has a historical novel on the back burner. —Lee Barnathan
Paramount Buzzed Over H.I.V.E.

Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to H.I.V.E., a young-adult novel by British writer Mark Walden that will be produced by Lynda Obst, Variety reported.

The title is an acronym for the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, a school where kids with off-the-charts criminal acumen are educated to become supervillains, the trade paper reported.

The book is set up at Bloomsbury U.K., and the domestic and other world territorial publishing rights are being auctioned this week at the Bologna Book Fair.
Englund Helming Killer Pad

Robert Englund, best known as Freddie Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, will direct Killer Pad, a supernatural horror-comedy from producers Wayne Rice and Avi Chesed, Variety reported. The movie is slated to begin shootIng late next month in Los Angeles.

Dan Stoller wrote the movie, which stars Shane McRae, Eric Jungman and Daniel Franzese, and rapper-indie music mogul Master P will do the soundtrack.

The story revolves around three friends who use money from an insurance claim to move out of their parents' homes and into a Hollywood Hills house that they refuse to believe has a dark history.
BBC America Scares Up Jekyll

BBC America will develop a new series based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic SF tale Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among other new dramas set to air next year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jekyll will consist of six 90-minute episodes and will update Stevenson's tale to the modern day. James Nesbitt stars in the title role of a man with two personalities. They share the same body, but Hyde is unaware that Jekyll is now married and will do anything to protect his family from the dark side. It will premiere in the second quarter of next year.

BBC America general manager Kathryn Mitchell told the trade paper that the offshoot of the venerable British broadcaster wants to broaden its appeal to a slightly younger audience, "but we don't want to lose those loyal viewers."
Wolf In Lindskold's Blood

SF author Jane Lindskold, whose new book Wolf Hunting is a SCI FI Essential novel, told SCI FI Wire that her fascination with all things canis lupus goes back to her childhood. "When I was 10, I recited Mowgli's Song [from The Jungle Book] to my startled fifth-grade class," Lindskold said in an interview. "As I grew older, I read a considerable amount about wolves and discovered that real wolves are far from being ravening brutes. Their pack nature has a huge appeal for me. As the eldest of four children, I have never identified with the orphan isolate so common in science fiction/fantasy. I'm a pack animal, and I like writing about pack animals."

So far, Lindskold has written eight books featuring wolves or coyotes. Wolf Hunting, the fifth of six books in the Firekeeper saga, follows Firekeeper, a human girl raised by wolves, in her attempt to restore the sanity of the oracular jaguar Truth, who lost it in the previous book Wolf Captured (2004).

To keep herself interested in writing each new book, Lindskold doesn't write about each character in each book. In Wolf Hunting, only Firekeeper; Truth; Blind Seer, Firekeeper's faithful wolf companion; and Derian Carter, Firekeeper's counselor, return from Wolf Captured. "Continuity is challenging, but because my characters grow and change, I don't find writing about them tiring," Lindskold said. "Firekeeper in Wolf Hunting is quite a different person than she was in Through Wolf's Eyes [the first book in 2001]. Blind Seer and Derian have also changed, both becoming stronger people in their own right."

At 528 pages, Wolf Hunting is the shortest book yet in the series, called "a quick read" by Publishers Weekly. Lindskold said that she trusts the reader to possess the interest and intelligence to remember key details, making her work less redundant. "Also, since each book is designed to stand alone, there isn't the same need to recap all of the first four books for someone to follow the events," she said. "Finally, I use shifting point of view to keep the interest level high. By shifting who is viewing a certain event, I keep reportage on what's going on elsewhere to a minimum. I'll also think about who will see events in the most interesting and provocative fashion."

Lindskold has submitted the sixth book, Wolf's Blood, to her editor. But first comes the re-release of her first novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls (1994). Wolf's Blood will be followed by a new series, Breaking the Wall; its first book will be called The Thirteen Orphans. —Lee Barnathan
Horton Hears Best SF&F

SF reviewer Rich Horton told SCI FI Wire that he will be editing two new "year's best" anthologies for Prime Books, which will collect the best short fiction published in the genre in 2005. "I came up with an idea for a new 'best of the year' [volume] to be devoted solely to stories published online," Horton said in an interview. "I thought it would be nice in particular to get many of those stories into print for the first time. I suggested this to Sean Wallace at Prime, but he thought it was not a sufficiently commercial idea: 'too niche,' as he said. ... But a few weeks later he e-mailed me and asked if instead I would be interested in doing a couple of broader books: Science Fiction: The Best of the Year and Fantasy: The Best of the Year."

Although Horton hasn't edited a "year's best" anthology before, he's been producing what he calls a "virtual best of the year" list for the past several years. "John O'Neill [editor of the fantasy magazine Black Gate] actually suggested I [compile such a list] and gave [it] that name and hosted a copy of this year's virtual best of the year list [on Black Gate's Web site]," he said. "This was an outgrowth of the fairly extensive magazine-by-magazine, book-by-book, Web-site-by-Web-site short-fiction summaries I had already been doing, [which are also hosted on the Web, courtesy of the Speculative Literature Foundation site]. And, of course, these were an outgrowth of my somewhat obsessive reading in support of [my] reviewing efforts, first at Tangent and, for the past five years or so, at Locus."

Horton said that his tastes are not particularly radical, but he emphasized that he does try to cast a wide net. "I like the occasional slipstream story, for example, and I also like Analog fiction at its best," he said. "My definition of SF is very 'broad church.' That said, this year's SF volume turned out to have a pretty high proportion of stories I'd call hard SF, or at least fairly hard SF. I also feature a good proportion of stories by rather new writers ... [and from] at least slightly offbeat markets: The New Yorker, Strange Horizons, Amazon.com, [Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet], Flytrap, Nature [and] a convention program book. I can't claim to equal Judith Merril's ability in this area, however!"

The first two volumes are due out in May. Each book is about 125,000 words long, which translates to 15 stories in the SF volume and 17 in the fantasy volume, Horton said.

In May, Prime Books will also publish Horror: The Best of the Year, which will be edited by World Fantasy Award-nominated editors John Gregory Betancourt and Sean Wallace. —John Joseph Adams
Europe Gets Silent Trio

Konami of Europe will release a trio of Silent Hill PlayStation 2 survival horror games to accompany the release of a new feature film based on the franchise, but no American release has been announced, the GameSpot Web site reported.

The Silent Hill Collection will comprise the PlayStation 2 games Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room. The games will be released throughout Europe in April and May, depending on when the cinematic adaptation of the series, also called Silent Hill, hits local theaters. It will carry a suggested retail price of 44.95 euros (about $54).

The Silent Hill film is directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and debuts in American theaters April 21.
Spiderwick Twins Sought

Paramount Pictures is seeking one pair of identical twin boys aged 9-11 to play the lead roles in The Spiderwick Chronicles, a new fantasy film based on the best-selling series of books. No acting experience is necessary. Interested twins and their families can log on to the official casting Web site to learn how to submit an audition tape. The film will begin production in summer 2006.

The Spiderwick Chronicles deals with the three Grace children: troubled Jared; his bookish twin, Simon; and their sister, Mallory, a fencing jock. They move to the ancient Spiderwick mansion, where they discover a Brownie, an enchanted creature, living in the walls. They soon find a book—Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You—that opens their eyes to the invisible, odd and sometimes dangerous world of dragons and boggarts, phookas and fairies, sprites and goblins.

The Spiderwick Chronicles is directed by Mark Waters, from a screenplay by John Sayles, based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. The producers are Mark Canton, Julia Pistor, Ellen Goldsmith Vein and Gregory Goodman. The executive producers are Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
Matrix Online Enhanced

Sony Online Entertainment announced that Combat Revision 2.0, the first major enhancement to its The Matrix Online game, debuted March 28.

Combat Revision 2.0 modifies the player interface to let players feel more "in the moment" by making it easier to focus on the fight itself, the company said. Players can see who is going to take damage and whether a special attack succeeds or fails without having to look away from the on-screen action.

The enhancement goes live in time for the first anniversary of The Matrix Online. SOE will also introduce new game adventures wrapped around the "Piece of Blue Sky" in-game concert. As part of the in-game celebration, all current active players who attend the concert event will get in-game concert T-shirts and baseball caps.
Analog Serializing Rollback

Analog Science Fiction and Fact will serialize Robert J. Sawyer's 17th novel, Rollback, in four installments, beginning with the October issue, which goes on sale Aug. 1, Sawyer told SCI FI Wire. Analog will run the book's full text in its October, November, December and January-February 2007 issues.

"I'm thrilled to be back in Analog," Sawyer said in a statement. "The single most important thing a book needs is word of mouth. The beauty of serialization is that on the day Rollback hits the stores in hardcover, 40,000 people will have already read it. You can't beat that kind of exposure." Rollback will appear in hardcover in April 2007, published by Tor.

Rollback is centered on 87-year-old Dr. Sarah Halifax, who is offered a chance at rejuvenation, or a "rollback," to decode an alien transmission. She agrees, on the condition that her husband also gets a "rollback," but when the procedure succeeds with him and fails with her, it forces Halifax to struggle with the new age gap.

Rollback is Sawyer's fourth novel to be serialized in Analog. Sawyer's last appearance in the magazine was in the January-February 2004 issue, with the short story "Shed Skin," which won the Analytical Laboratory Award, voted on by Analog readers, for best short story of the year. "Shed Skin" was also a Hugo Award finalist. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Hope Author Feintuch Is Dead

David Feintuch, an award-winning SF writer and antiques entrepreneur, died March 16 in his hometown of Mason, Mich., the Lansing State Journal reported. He was 61.

Feintuch was perhaps best known for his Hope series of seven novels, about the spacefaring adventurer Nick Seafort. One finished novel still may be published, the newspaper reported. Feintuch was 52 when he won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1996.

Feintuch was also a prominent citizen in Mason, where his investments molded aging buildings into antiques shopping attractions. He owned and managed the Mason Antiques District.

Feintuch, a native of New York, began as an attorney before switching to the antiques business. He also bought and renovated old houses and other buildings in Mason, studied 20th-century music and pursued photography.

Feintuch is survived by a daughter, Jeanette "Jettie" Feintuch.
New PSP Untold Ships

Sony Online Entertainment announced that Untold Legends The Warrior's Code has shipped for the PSP in North America. The Warrior's Code is the next game in the Untold Legends series, following the top-selling Brotherhood of the Blade.

The Warrior's Code is a new action role-playing game, featuring an enhanced combat engine and new 3-D graphics with new special effects, spells and lighting and new multiplayer game modes.

Untold Legends The Warrior's Code carries a suggested retail price of $39.99.
Dragon King Rose In Africa

The producer of SCI FI Channel's original miniseries Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King told SCI FI Wire that South Africa stood in for all of the show's ancient European forests, shorelines and expansive vistas. Volker Engel said in an interview that the original miniseries was the largest independent film ever to shoot in the area near Cape Town and added that much of the filming was done in the same warehouses where his company also shot SCI FI Channel's miniseries The Triangle.

"The benefits of shooting in South Africa [have] to do with the expense and with the logistics," the German-born Engel said. "We were shooting in December and January, and we couldn't have done any of that without a lot of snow and mud in Europe at that time of the year." It was summer in South Africa at the time. The production also shot in France, Alaska, Wales and parts of the United States. In addition, the real Rhine River in Germany, where the miniseries is set, is no longer a pristine filming location. "We found out early on that we can't go to the Rhine River anymore, because there are power lines everywhere," Engel said. "That is why whenever you see the long shots over the river, and flying over the river, that's the Missouri River, not the Rhine River."

Although he had never been to South Africa before shooting, the film's director, Uli Edel (Little Vampire), quickly found "an incredible variety of landscapes and locations perfect for the settings," Engel said. "And, I'm glad that when you watch Dark Kingdom and The Triangle, you are not noticing that they are shot in the same location. Of course, it was pure coincidence that both of those projects were shot in South Africa. We were dealing with different production companies, and they were very different projects, but it turned out to be the best for both."

Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King premieres at 9 p.m. ET/PT on March 27. —Mike Szymanski
Kelley Travels To Mars

David E. Kelley is writing Life on Mars, a time-travel crime drama pilot for ABC, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show, targeted for fall 2007, is based on the BBC's 2006 drama, which stars John Simm as a 21st-century detective who, following a car crash, mysteriously finds himself working as a cop in the 1970s.

Kelley is set to pen the pilot script and to executive-produce the pilot.

Kelley's 20th Century Fox TV-based David E. Kelley Productions is producing the project with the original series' producer, British company Kudos Film & Television, and 20th TV.

Life on Mars, named after the David Bowie song, debuted on BBC 1 on Jan. 9 with an initial run of eight episodes. It was created by Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah, who also collaborated on Kudos' hit crime drama for the BBC, Hustle. Kudos' producing credits also include the hit BBC series Spooks, which has aired on A&E as MI-5.
Warcraft Maker Sued

Makers of the wildly popular World of Warcraft online game have been sued by an eBay seller who claims he was improperly barred from selling copies of his own unofficial gaming guide, the News.com Web site reported.

The suit, filed last week in a California federal court, alleges that Blizzard Entertainment, its parent company, Vivendi Universal, and the Entertainment Software Association were wrong to order eBay to terminate auctions of The Ultimate World of Warcraft Leveling & Gold Guide, a book by 24-year-old Brian Kopp of Bronson, Fla.

The massively multiplayer online fantasy role-playing game has attracted 6 million subscribers since it debuted in 2004.

During several months beginning last August, Kopp sold several hundred copies of his guide, which contains tips on playing the game and accumulating points, at roughly $15 apiece. Weeks after his first auction went live, Blizzard, Vivendi and the ESA began sending repeated takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, asking eBay to yank the auctions because of copyright and trademark infringement concerns, News.com reported. The auction giant's general policy is to halt auctions when it receives such complaints and to suspend a user's account after it racks up a certain number of warnings.

Kopp filed counternotices protesting the infringement claims. Because the companies did not respond to the documents within 14 days, eBay was free under the DMCA to reinstate his auctions, which it did. But by November, eBay had accumulated enough takedown warnings from the companies to warrant suspending Kopp's account. He restarted his sales under a new username, which quickly earned suspension, too.

The suit seeks monetary compensation, an injunction preventing the entities from interfering with Kopp's book sales and a judgment that his book is protected by the First Amendment and doesn't interfere with intellectual-property rights.

Representatives from Blizzard, Vivendi and the ESA did not respond immediately to News.com's requests for comment last week.
Myrick Helming Harnois' Solstice

Writer/director Dan Myrick will get behind the camera for the first time since co-helming The Blair Witch Project when production starts in New Orleans on Endgame Entertainment's horror thriller Solstice, which stars Point Pleasant's Elisabeth Harnois, Variety reported.

Solstice centers on a young woman who gathers with her friends at a lake house for the summer solstice after the suicide of her twin sister. Myrick wrote the screenplay for the movie, which also stars Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and Tyler Hoechlin (Road to Perdition).

Solstice was scheduled to begin production last year, but that was delayed after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
Jane, Malkovich Join Mutant

John Malkovich will portray a 23rd-century corporate overlord opposite Thomas Jane in Simon Hunter's SF action thriller The Mutant Chronicles, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Producer Edward J. Pressman made the announcement on March 24.

Malkovich's character, Constantine, heads a United Nations-style council of four corporation-run countries that have pillaged Earth's natural resources. When a marauding army of "NecroMutants" wages a battle against humans for the little that remains, Constantine is tempted to destroy the planet and evacuate some of its people rather than allow it to be overtaken, all with the corporations' best interests in mind.

Jane plays Maj. Mitch Hunter, a Marine who leads the humans in their fight and becomes Constantine's antagonist. The story is based on the popular role-playing board game.

Both Jane and Malkovich were attracted to the project based on a seven-minute trailer Simon Hunter put together, along with Philip Eisner's screenplay, Pressman told the trade paper.

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in early summer in London and on the Isle of Man.
Win A Call From Kong's Jackson

To promote the upcoming DVD release of King Kong, MSN Entertainment is sponsoring a competition to win a 15-minute telephone call from director Peter Jackson.

Entrants in the United States are asked to send an e-mail of 100 words or less, with the subject line "Peter Jackson," saying why they want to win the chat with Jackson, who co-wrote and helmed the giant-ape movie. One winner will be chosen.

The DVD of King Kong comes out on March 28.
BRIEFLY NOTED

Peter Dinklage (TV's Threshold) has signed on to play the evil scientist Simon Bar Sinister in a live-action Underdog movie, based on the popular kids' cartoon series, which starts shooting April 10 in Rhode Island under the helm of Frederik Du Chau, Variety reported.

28 Weeks Later, the follow-up to the 2002 hit zombie movie, will be on the slate of Fox Searchlight's new Fox Atomic teen division, Variety reported.

Jason Isaacs, who portrays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, told SCI FI Wire he's not set yet to appear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which begins filming in October: "I'm hoping to do it, but it's not yet certain. I would be sick to see someone else with my wig on."

California production coordinator Christopher Ell won the grand prize in Universal's "Slug It Out!": Slither TV Spot Contest, taking home $25,000 and being rewarded with an airing of his spot during NBC's My Name Is Earl on March 30 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Chicken Little topped the national DVD sales chart for the week ending March 26, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

TV Guide Online's Ask Ausiello reported that Tippi Hedren (The Birds) will appear in the season premiere of USA Network's The 4400 on June 11.

The Island star Scarlett Johansson tops FHM's poll listing of the "100 Sexiest Women in the World"; Johansson, 21, is currently shooting the magic-themed movie The Prestige in London.

Paul Kincaid, administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and chairman
of the jury, has resigned; Kincaid was involved in setting up the award in the 1980s, served as a judge for the first two years and took over as administrator in 1995.

Frank Coraci is attached to direct Hawaiian Dick, a supernatural private-eye thriller, set in 1953 Hawaii, about a down-on-his-luck big-city detective who gets involved in a kidnapping case of a local island girl who turns up dead but won't stay that way, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

DreamWorks Animation has posted a new Web site with information about the upcoming films Over the Hedge, Shrek the Third and a Madagascar sequel coming in fall 2008.