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NEWS OF THE WEEK FOR JUL. 02, 2007
Whedon Auctions Dinner For Charity

Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is auctioning off himself—that is to say, dinner with him—to benefit Equality Now, a charity that promotes equal rights for and fights violence and discrimination against women around the world.

Fans can bid for one of five seats at a private dinner with Whedon, who also created Firefly/Serenity and Angel, at Comic-Con International. "For three hours, Joss gets to be your biggest fan," Whedon writes on his official auction page on eBay.

The dinner is being sponsored by Dark Horse Comics, which is currently publishing Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer season-eight comic series, and MySpace.com. Auction Cause is handling the auction.

The auction will also feature other items, including a watch and autographed comics. The auction kicks off July 2.
Potter V Kiss Was Momentous

David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, told SCI FI Wire that shooting a scene in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has his first kiss with schoolmate Cho Chang (Katie Leung) was an emotional experience for those who have known Radcliffe since the first film.

"What was really charming was many people who had spent a lot of time with Dan growing up through these films, ... they all gathered around the monitor," Yates said in a press conference in London last weekend. "It was like they were watching someone they loved very much snogging for the first time, and they got very emotional, actually. It was quite sweet. They got quite choked up watching this very odd, strange thing, but very beautiful thing."

Yates said that he took care to make the actors feel comfortable while they were performing the scene. "We just wanted to create, for the kiss itself, an environment which felt very [intimate]," he said. "We cleared the set. When I've done sex scenes in the past on a film, you always get anyone who's non-essential out of the way. Because everyone wants to gawk, for a start. And of course, just outside the set there's a monitor, and everyone's gawking. So everyone can see. And Katie was very sweet and charming, and Dan was very sweet and charming. We talked about first kisses generally, and what first kisses felt like. And Michael had written it in this way to be as tender and as true as possible."

David Heyman, who has produced all five films in the series based on the books by J.K. Rowling, said in the same press conference that he was one of those feeling surprisingly touched by the scene. "As the person up here who has been with them since the beginning, this is weird," Heyman said. "I mean, it was a very weird and emotional thing, that kiss. It's somebody who you are very protective over, who you care for immensely, who you're close to and you've seen grow up from the age of 10. I remember when I first saw Dan in the theater, and it was obviously a very significant moment for me. And then to be sort of 15 feet from him kissing is really moving and also really uncomfortable. I mean, let's face it, it's not really comfortable standing 15 feet from anyone when they've got their tongue down somebody's throat. But when it's somebody you care for as many of us care for Dan, it was weird. But really moving."

Heyman wasn't the only one who was affected by the momentous occasion. Many of the crew felt sentimental while watching the dailies.

"That was one of the best-attended dailies, and people were choked up, they were really moved by it," Heyman said. "I think one of the things David captures — not just the kiss, but throughout the film, and he talked about it a little bit — he really encouraged the kids to push their craft, but he also encouraged them to bring as much of themselves to the table, I think more so than ever before. They're older now, they've had more encouraged the kids to push their craft. ... He encouraged them to participate in their performances much more than I think they ever have before, in part because they're able to. And they sought it out and they really took it." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens July 11. —Cindy White
Potter's Radcliffe Coy About Fate

Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in the upcoming sequel film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, backed off earlier statements that he hoped for the boy wizard's demise in the upcoming seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's best-selling series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released on July 21.

"A couple of years ago I said that I really, I would like Harry to die," Radcliffe said in a press conference in London on June 22. "Because I think that is ... a conclusive ending. ... I'm sort of going to stay away from that now, because the next day the headlines will be 'Radcliffe Wants Harry Dead.' Which is, you know, awful. But I do think it would be fitting, in a way, because when you consider the prophecy that was made about him and Voldemort and things like that, one of them has got to go."

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, based on the fifth book in Rowling's series, a prophecy ties Harry's fate with that of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Many fans believe that this indicates Harry will die in the last book. But Rowling has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.

Radcliffe and his co-stars were surprised to learn that bookmakers are laying odds on the likelihood that certain characters will die and that they are overwhelmingly in favor of Harry not surviving. "That's hilarious," Radcliffe said when he heard the news. "That's interesting. The public must really love me."

In the same press conference, Rupert Grint, who plays Harry's best friend, Ron Weasley, was conflicted about whether he wanted his character to perish. "I wouldn't really mind [Ron dying] if it was a really cool scene, if it was done in a really cool way," Grint said. "It doesn't really matter, because it's the last one, but I think I'd like him to sort of survive. I don't know. There's a lot of rumors going around, so I don't know what's going to happen."

Emma Watson was more firm in her desire to see her character, Hermione Granger, live through the end of the series. "I'm sort of praying that she's going to make it," Watson said of her character. "I don't know why, but I think she's going to make it. I hope so. I really hope. But then, in a way, I guess also, I don't know. ... It would just be nice to like sort of wrap the characters up and sort of know which direction they're going in, and, like, hopefully you know Hermione will have a really cool career in something or other or would be doing something really great with her intelligence."

The three actors have become friends with Rowling over the years, but none of them has been given any sneak peeks at what the final book contains. "None of us get a preview," Radcliffe said. "Only J.K. Rowling's husband has recently found out what happens. I don't think anyone else knows."

Watson added: "The security on the books ... is pretty tight. I think we get one the night that it is released. But not before." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens July 11. —Cindy White
IMAX Touts Potter In Second Life

The IMAX Corp. will make use of Second Life to promote the upcoming IMAX version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which will feature 3-D elements.

IMAX will give virtual-world inhabitants (avatars) of the online realm access to special Potter content and a chance to screen the IMAX version of the movie, which opens on July 11.

IMAX will work with "virtual street teams" in Second Life, known as “buzz agents,” from July 9 through July 16 to give away virtual rewards, including IMAX T-shirts, IMAX 3-D glasses and IMAX director's chairs.

The company will also offer tickets to IMAX theaters to see the movie.

Residents of Second Life will be able to visit a virtual IMAX office to view the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix trailer, receive various promotional items and learn more about the latest movie releases in IMAX theaters.
Potter V Is True To The Dark

Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in the upcoming sequel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, told SCI FI Wire that the script doesn't shy away from Harry's dark side, which plays an important part in J.K. Rowling's original book.

"A lot of people had a problem with the fifth book because they didn't like Harry's anger in it," Radcliffe said in a press conference in London on June 22. "They felt he was too angry. And J.K. Rowling did just say, 'If you haven't understood Harry's anger in the fifth book, then you haven't understood the four books previous to it.' Because if you did, then you would see that he has a right to be this angry."

The fifth film finds Harry facing a wizarding world that refuses to acknowledge his claim that the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. Even Hogwarts comes under scrutiny from the Ministry of Magic, which appoints the bureaucratic and sadistic Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. But Harry and his fellow students fight back by training on their own in secret.

"In terms of Harry's character, it's about sticking to your guns," Radcliffe said. "And if you know something is the truth and you know that it's right, then you can't let yourself be compromised by other people and outside forces. And I think that's what Harry and Dumbledore [Michael Gambon] both do in this film."

In the same press conference, Emma Watson, who plays Harry's friend Hermione, offered her take on Harry's predicament in the film and why he is so angry. "I guess in a big way what this film is about is Harry's in a really, really difficult place," she said. "He feels really isolated. He wants to isolate himself, because he thinks if he does that he won't have as much to lose, and I think a lot of the film is about Harry's journey to realizing that he doesn't have to do it on his own and the importance of his friends and the importance of just friendship and that you need to sort of look at it in a positive way. And that actually the friends he has and the people he has behind him, while it's scary he might lose them, it actually gives him something to fight for. And that makes him much more powerful, a much more powerful wizard than Voldemort." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens July 11.—Cindy White
Potter's Staunton Doesn't Kid Around

Award-winning British actress Imelda Staunton, who plays Dolores Umbridge in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, told SCI FI Wire that she was pleased to find that her part was serious and demanding, not silly. Based on the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's series, Order of the Phoenix finds Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) contending with both the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and Umbridge, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, who refuses to believe that Voldemort is back and leaves her students ill-prepared.

"I sort of thought, 'Well, it'll be a lot of wand pointing, and it'll be a lot of effects and a bit of silliness,'" Staunton said in an interview. "But actually it was a very serious piece of work."

Staunton, who was nominated for an Oscar in Vera Drake, said she found some scenes difficult to do. "It was horrible doing the scene when Dolores makes Harry do his detention, and the blood appears on his hand," she said. "You put yourself in that realm as a person who's capable of doing that, and it was very uncomfortable for me afterwards. I did the scene fine, but then I felt horrible. It was horrible, horrible being someone like that. But Dan, he could handle it. He's been through enough on these films."

But Staunton added that she took great joy in playing Umbridge in a sequence that highlighted the character's ability to be both sweet and well-meaning as well as controlling and duplicitous. "I do love her beginning speech to the whole school, which is just so stupid!" Staunton said.

"She's there, and she really believes that she's going to help all these children to a better place," Staunton added. "I don't know if you're familiar with the institute we have here, called the WI, which is the Women's Institute. If you saw [the film] Calendar Girls, it's that organization. And I would say Dolores has her hat and handbag and a very nice, crisp, clean outfit, coming into this place and just knowing she is going to do an amazing spring cleaning." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens on July 11. —Ian Spelling
Campbell Begs For Battlestar Role

Bonnie Hammer, president of USA Network and SCI FI Channel, told reporters that The 4400 star Billy Campbell approached her after the network's upfront advertising presentation in New York last month and begged her for a role in the final season of Battlestar Galactica.

"He literally assaulted me, trying to do whatever he possibly could to bribe me to have me bribe [executive producers] Ron [Moore] and David [Eick] to create a character arc inside Battlestar Galactica," Hammer said in a press conference during SCI FI Channel's digital press tour in Vancouver, Canada, on June 26. "That is the only show he ever wanted to be in. That is the only show he would do for free. Billy Campbell, literally, saying, 'Give me an arc, any kind of arc, in Battlestar Galactica, please.' And it was very hard to get away from."

At the same press conference, SCI FI's executive vice president, original programming, Mark Stern, confirmed that the producers of the show are trying to work Campbell into the show.

"Actually, I think we're trying to figure that out," Stern said. "And the free part was really great. Although I don't know if his agent really liked that. But we were like, 'OK, we can do that.'"

Hammer added: "I had witnesses, too."

Battlestar Galactica is currently filming its fourth and final season, which kicks off in November with a special two-hour event entitled "Razor." The show's additional 20 episodes will return in early 2008. Campbell can now be seen in The 4400, which airs on USA on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. —Cindy White
Bamber Talks Battlestar's End

Jamie Bamber, who plays Lee "Apollo" Adama on SCI FI Channel's original series Battlestar Galactica, told SCI FI Wire that the atmosphere on the set is charged with the awareness that the fourth season will be the show's last.

"Inevitably it changes the vibe, because there's suddenly a horizon, and you can see over the horizon," Bamber said in a press conference on the set in Vancouver, Canada, on June 26. "Knowing it's the last time changes everything. So, yeah, it's a different deal."

Despite feeling sentimental, Bamber added that he believes it's the right time to end the show. "There's also a real peace of mind that comes with the fact that we're going to get to finish this story," he said. "And this story has always begged an ending. And we're going to get to give it to you. So there's a lot of excitement and anticipation that's attached to that. But it feels like ... every moment that passes is gone forever now. It's like the last performance of a play on the last night. You start with your monologue in the first scene and you know when you finish it, that's the last time you'll ever do it."

Bamber added: "There are things that my character has done for the last time already. And those are sad, because speaking very personally, this has been just a huge part of my life. ... So, yeah, it changes everything to know that it's over. But in a good way. I can't say that I'm melancholic about it."

Bamber is looking forward to returning to his home in Los Angeles when the show is finished, but will always have a connection to Vancouver, where Galactica is filmed. "When I first got back to Vancouver I had that real nostalgia thing," he said. "I know what Vancouver will forever mean to me now. It'll be that Pavlovian response. I will start seeing Vipers and things as I walk down Robson Street, and I'll start remembering those experiences of being in a strange place, starting this journey and being scared of what it might be to play this character. And, no, I'm just grateful that we had this long to do it and that we're going to get to end the stories." —Cindy White
Flash Honors Past, With Updates

SCI FI Channel's upcoming original series Flash Gordon will update the story for a new age, while still honoring the past incarnations with a retro look and feel, Mark Stern, executive vice president of original programming for SCI FI Channel, told reporters.

"I think there is definitely a conscious effort on the part of [executive producer] Peter Hume and his writers in L.A. to be true to the original material," Stern said in a press conference on the set of the show in Vancouver, Canada, on June 27.

Stern said that the show, starring Eric Johnson, will incorporate elements from the source material, the King Features newspaper comic strip and subsequent incarnations, including the 1930s film serials starring Buster Crabbe and the 1980 feature film. But he added that the material will be updated to make it more contemporary and avoid campiness.

"If you're going to do something from the '30s or '70s, even, it's going to have that kind of very stiff or campy vibe," Stern said. "And I think there's been a real conscious effort also to stay away from camp here, to make it fun, to make it grand, to make it relatable and yet not take itself too seriously, but not just be frivolous either."

Flash Gordon originated as a comic strip in the 1930s and has seen many adaptations, including film serials, comic books, television series and feature films. The 1980 movie, directed by Mike Hodges and starring Sam Jones, has achieved a kind of cult status because of its campy style and a memorable soundtrack by Queen. A cover version of that music could be heard in a recent promotional spot for the new series on SCI FI. Stern confirmed that the theme would be used in the marketing campaign for the series, but not in the actual show.

"[We're] looking at updating the Queen song just a bit," he said. "So it's definitely the Queen song we all know and love, with a little something extra. Because it is about communicating the fact that it's not the '70s Sam Jones movie with people in spandex and everything we love about that movie. The show is not that campy. But how do you not use that music? It's so wonderful. So we're trying to have a little of both, to have our cake and eat it, in that regard. But I don't believe the music is actually going to be in the series itself."

One departure from the source material is a new character called Baylin (Karen Cliché), a bounty hunter from the planet Mongo. She finds herself trapped on Earth and becomes a comrade of Flash (Johnson); his former girlfriend, Dale Arden (Gina Holden); and scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov (Jody Rasciot), who are able to travel back and forth through a portal between the two worlds.

"I think that there's an amazing chemistry, actually, between this group," Stern said. "What's great about what Peter's done is to kind of add Baylin into this mix of this couple that have kind of been estranged now, but there's still chemistry. And now you've got this kind of sexy alien in the middle of it, and when hasn't that happened before? And so they're trying to figure out that whole dynamic now. And then you've got Jody, who's just this great energy in the middle of all that."

The villain of the show will still be the dictator Ming (not called "the Merciless" in this version), played by John Ralston. He still rules over Mongo with an iron fist, but he'll have a contemporary spin as well.

The show will take Ming "into more of a kind of Saddam Hussein, dictator type of character and play with some of those themes of control over the masses and propaganda," Stern said. "And he's not just this dictator in the old-school sense."

What does that mean? Stern added: "I think a kind of dictator for the modern age is a little more savvy and is a little more about getting the P.R., and he's really more concerned about putting the right face on everything while he's torturing and killing people."

Flash Gordon is currently filming its first season of 22 episodes and will premiere on SCI FI Channel in August. —Cindy White
Transformers Stars Got Blasted

Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson, who play soldiers in Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie, told SCI FI Wire that they found themselves surrounded by very real explosions, gunfire and crashing cars during the production. "You had all the explosions going on around you," Duhamel said in a group interview in Beverly Hills, Calif. "[It] gets your adrenaline running right there, to have all the sounds."

Duhamel and Gibson play members of a U.S. Army squadron who narrowly escape an attack by a giant alien robot in Qatar, only to find themselves caught up in epic battles between factions of robots in the United States. In reality, the actors found themselves a part of one of action director Bay's patented military campaigns.

"He's like, 'Dude! I'm trying to make you look heroic here. Jesus, listen to me. I'll make you macho,'" Duhamel (TV's Las Vegas) said with a laugh. "Yeah, so it made me feel even more like a nerd."

Gibson said he found himself surrounded by explosions and gunfire "every time we touched the set. Every once in a while, we got to, like, do a scene without explosions, where we could actually get our dialogue out. But for the most part we were talking in between bombs."

Gibson added: "And then we would always end up having dialogue at the end of the street, after running down, like, a half a mile of explosions. I mean, cars [crashing], they would be just crazy. You're running up the street like this, and you'll just see cars like [explosion sound effects], so you're just running, and you're [like,] 'Oh, s--t!' I mean, it was full-blown. And then, at the end, it was time for your close-up. And after all that stuff you just seen—explosions, car wrecks, people shooting, tanks rolling over cars—now you're supposed to deliver your line."

And the lines were chock-full of Bay's beloved military jargon. "Yeah," Gibson said, mimicking a line of dialogue: "'We are alpha 273 degrees, two minutes north latitude.' What? Yeah, I remember all of my dialogue. It was so hard to memorize the s--t in the beginning." Transformers, based on the 1980s toy and animated TV franchise, also stars Shia LaBeouf and Jon Voight. It opens July 3. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Voight: Transformers Had Fast Pace

Veteran actor Jon Voight, who plays the secretary of defense in Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie, told SCI FI Wire that working with the peripatetic actionmeister is different from other directors.

"Laughter is necessary when you're working on a film like this," Voight said wryly in a group interview in Beverly Hills, Calif. "But Michael is ... so active on the set. Some directors just sit in front of a monitor, you know, and you don't get much interaction. But with Michael he's in everybody's [face], you know, energy. He'll be painting sometimes, lifting the camera. He's everywhere, you know? So he's quite an amazing persona on a set."

Voight, who's been nominated four times for an Oscar and won for 1978's Coming Home, signed on to Transformers in part because he enjoyed working with Bay before, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 2001's Pearl Harbor. But Transformers—about giant alien robots who bring their centuries-old battle to Earth—was different.

"Pearl Harbor, he didn't say one word to me," Voight recalled. "I just came in and did it. He just nodded, and that was it."

On Transformers, things were a bit more harried. "Being an actor [who] comes from stage and [as a] student in classes and stuff, you want to have time to interact in another kind of way, you know?" he said. But, he added, gesticulating wildly: "Then you get to movie-making in Hollywood in 2007, and it's, you know, 'Makeup!' 'Get out there!' ... [The director says,] 'Do something with the camera!' [Then he'll say to the actor:] 'You come in here, say this line! Let's go!' [I'll say,] 'Oh, OK.' It's a little different for me now. I just have to adjust to this." Transformers, which is based on the 1980s toy line and animated TV series, stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. It opens July 3. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Transformers' Turturro Aped Bay

John Turturro, who plays a preening government agent in Michael Bay's Transformers movie, told SCI FI Wire that it was easy getting Bay to go along with his outlandish performance: He simply based it on Bay.

"I kept looking at him, and I was thinking, 'Well, maybe I should do it more like Michael Bay, you know?'" Turturro said in an interview in Beverly Hills, Calif. "At least a little bit. And I would say, ... 'Well, I was doing you.' He'd say, 'Well, that was really funny.' ... He's such a narcissist.[laughs]. 'You're in love with yourself,' I said, 'so you're just seeing me through you, ... but you're better-looking, so it's OK.'"

In Transformers, which is based on the 1980s toy and TV franchise, Turturro plays Agent Simmons, a top-secret operative who tracks down Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) because he may hold the key to the ancient war between factions of giant alien robots that is playing out on present-day Earth.

Turturro wasn't shy about saying that the famously prickly action director has an ego. "I lay it right out there," the character actor said. "He knows he's in love with himself."

Turturro added that he found the key to unnerving the commanding Bay on his own set. "Trying to talk to the director's mother, this is my new theory about acting," he said. "When she showed up on the set, I talked to her at length, and she said he was always good in school, he always drew, he made these little films and he always loved baseball. ... She had a lot of nice things to say about him. Of course, he was a nervous wreck that I was talking to his mother. Trying to find his weak spots." Transformers opens July 3. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Transformers Is 'E.T. With Action'

Roberto Orci, the screenwriter who wrote the upcoming Transformers movie with longtime partner Alex Kurtzman, summed up the movie simply: It's "E.T. with action."

In other words, Orci said, a combination Steven Spielberg movie (he's a producer) and a Michael Bay movie (he directed). On top of that, the writing team behind J.J. Abrams' Mission Impossible III and the upcoming Star Trek film had to remain true to the mythology and history of the 1980s toy line and animated TV show on which the film is based.

"There's a lot of great richness in terms of, you know, Optimus Prime is a great character in any incarnation," Orci said in an interview in Beverly Hills, Calif., earlier this month. "The friendships, which are great. It's just a great idea for an approach to a movie."

Transformers centers on two teenagers (Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox) who find themselves caught up in an epic battle between two factions of giant alien robots, who have brought their centuries-old battle to Earth.

"Obviously, it was a cartoon," Orci said about the difficulty of adapting the franchise for a live-action epic movie. "Obviously, before that it was a toy line. So we knew part of the difficulty was going to be overcoming the cynicism related to the toy line and the kiddie factor related to the cartoons. So the approach was to try to make it as realistic as possible without losing some of the fun, and those two things are sort of at odds."

The other big challenge was creating relatable human characters, Orci said. "A lot of the cartoons, some of them don't even have any humans in them, and there's not really a whole lot of humans we could draw from in the source material," he said. "To come up with the human element, and making it from the human point of view that allows you to discover the Transformers: After all, they are robots in disguise, so there's got to be somebody to hide from. So that was kind of the biggest change."

Beyond that, the movie sticks pretty closely to the franchise's central mythology, Orci said. "It's Autobots [and] Decepticons from their planet, Cybertron," he said. "They screwed it up in a civil war. It's environmentally falling apart. They're looking for other energy sources. Their war comes to Earth. A lot of the same characters. Sam Witwicky, caught in the middle. There's a lot that's from the [mythology] that we preserved." Transformers opens July 3. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Transformers' Fox Kicks Butt

Megan Fox, who co-stars with Shia LaBeouf in Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie, told SCI FI Wire that she was glad her character knew cars and got to kick butt. "Both of the female characters in the movie were very strong characters," Fox told reporters in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Rachael [Taylor]'s character's very intelligent, and I felt that they were representing women very well."

Fox plays the high-school crush of LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky, a popular girl with a secret past who finds herself caught up with Sam in an epic battle between giant robots on Earth. Fox got to do a lot of her own stunts, which had its costs.

"I lost my two big toenails at one point," Fox said. "Not to, like, a specific accident. It was just the constant running in the wardrobe boots, which rubbed my toenails off."

One big challenge was acting opposite giant robots that weren't there but would be added in post-production as computer animation. "All of the robots were represented by window-washing poles," Fox said. "And they were all height-appropriate to each character. ... We were looking in the right direction. And sometimes they had attached ... I never had a tennis ball, but ... [Industrial Light & Magic] has these red glowing ... balls. They would attach them to the top, and that's the face. And the rest you sort of create [in your imagination], and we have to create together, because we have to move at the same time, like we get approached by the same thing, so it was difficult." Transformers opens July 3. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Transformers Reborn On TV

Cartoon Network Studios and Hasbro are co-producing a new animated Transformers series, which will premiere in January and is hoped to build on the momentum created by the highly anticipated live-action feature film opening July 3, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

There have been three other Transformers series on Cartoon Network and eight series altogether since 1984. But this is the first one Hasbro is co-producing with Cartoon rather than its Japanese toy and production partner, Takara.

Cartoon and Hasbro executives told the trade paper that the new series, Transformers Animated, will be significantly different from the others, adding humor, never-before-seen characters and a new premise in which the Autobots fight evil humans in superhero fashion much more frequently than they battle the Decepticons, the traditional Transformers enemy since the franchise launched as a toy line in 1984.

The animated series won't pick up on any of the themes from the Paramount/DreamWorks film, which is directed by Michael Bay.

In the new Cartoon series, the robots will have a lot more human qualities, allowing kids to identify with the characters much more than in previous series.

The plan is to produce 26 half-hour episodes, as well as a 90-minute special that will serve as the series premiere. Matt Youngberg (Teen Titans, The Batman) is the supervising director of the series, and Sam Register (Teen Titans) will serve as executive producer.
Sunshine Echoes Past SF Films

Danny Boyle, the English-born director of the upcoming SF movie Sunshine, told fans that he undertook the space movie as a way to break out of his comfort zone, but soon found himself bumping up against similarly themed films from the past.

"There are three titans, really, which just hover over everything," Boyle told a preview audience at the 20th Century Fox studio lot in Los Angeles on June 28. "2001 [A Space Odyssey]; the first Alien, the Ridley Scott Alien; and Solaris, the [Andrei] Tarkovsky Solaris."

Like those films, Sunshine centers on the crew of an interplanetary space mission. In Sunshine, a crew of seven astronauts, incuding Cillian Murphy and Fantastic Four's Chris Evans, are on a mission to reignite the dying sun and save Earth.

"It's quite a narrow genre, this kind of sci-fi," Boyle said. "And you keep bumping into [the other films] in the corridor that you're in. You can't avoid them. And you feel like you're in their footsteps all the time."

In particular, Boyle said, "You have these meetings where you talk about basic ingredients, like the ship, the suit. All these different things. And you can hear them, these amazing directors, having the same conversation in the room almost, like ghosts. You know they've been there and said, 'What are we going to do with the suit? We've got to be able to see who's in it, but you've got to protect them.'"

Boyle, who is best known for Trainspotting and his recent hit, 28 Days Later, made Sunshine on a budget of $40 million, and it's his biggest film so far, featuring massive visual effects and an epic SF storyline about people trapped in extreme circumstances. "I've never done anything where it's so narrow," Boyle said. "And these kinds of films usually boil down to a ship, a crew, a signal. They're the three ingredients that they're usually made up of. And it is amazing. ... And I think until we colonize space, we will be sort of limited like that to a steel tube with some actors inside, and then something happens. A signal makes them change their minds about something." Sunshine opens July 20. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Ratatouille Found Unlikely Stars

Two of the voice actors in Disney/Pixar's animated film Ratatouille were recruited by accident from their day jobs as animators, they told SCI FI Wire.

Lou Romano, who voices the key human character of Linguini, is an illustrator and production designer for Pixar Animation. "I just came in to the office to lay some of the voice tracks temporarily, but Brad [Bird, the writer/director,] liked what I did with the character, so he expanded the role, and he asked to keep me on as the voice," Romano said.

Peter Sohn, who is a story artist and animator, voices Emile, the brother of the movie's hero, Remy, a rat who longs to be a gourmet chef. Sohn experimented doing voices on Bird's previous film, The Incredibles, but mostly worked as an animator on that movie and on Osmosis Jones, Finding Nemo and The Iron Giant.

"They were simply the best voices, and Pixar isn't about just getting celebrity names for the voices," Bird said. "They let me pick the best voices for the roles, and this was what we came up with."

Romano had some acting training before becoming an animator. He previously voiced the role of teacher Bernie Kropp in The Incredibles and did the voice of Snot Rod in Cars.

"Yeah, I did some art on Monsters, Inc. and then Iron Giant and worked with Brad again on Incredibles as production designer," Romano said.

Romano's character of Linguini was always a bit of a Napoleon Dynamite kind of slacker dude. "In earlier versions he was completely nonverbal, so Brad beefed his character up a bit," Romano said. "He became more multidimensional. He was always a bit of a klutz, though."

Ratatouille opened nationwide on June 29 and also stars the voices of Brian Dennehy, Brad Garrett, Peter O'Toole and Ian Holm. —Mike Szymanski
Ratatouille Video Interviews Live

Brad Bird, the writer/director of Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille, and his stars Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo and Lou Romano spoke with SCI FI Wire about the new movie. Oswalt voices Remy, a rat in Paris who longs to be a gourmet chef in the city's finest restaurant. Bird is the Oscar-winning director of The Incredibles. Ratatouille opened June 29.
Ratatouille Mixes Toon Styles

The creators of Disney/Pixar's next film, Ratatouille, told SCI FI Wire that they used a unique blend of animated styles for the movie, about a rat in Paris who longs to be a gourmet chef. But writer/director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) was adamant about using no motion capture—a fact he included in the movie's closing credits.

"He was poking fun a little bit," producer Brad Lewis said in an interview. "We love animation, and we're awfully proud of our animators, and we believe that what we do is artistry. ... We have a different way of communicating through animation and don't choose to put balls on people's faces and draw over it. People think that's how it's all done nowadays."

Indeed, the film's closing credits feature hand-drawn animation, a novelty at Pixar, which is best known for its hit computer-animated films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. (Ratatouille itself is completely computer-animated.)

"A lot of the new animators came from a computer 3-D training [background]," Lewis said. "One of the gals came walking down the hall and said, 'Paper cut! I got a paper cut again!' She got her hands [cut] on the [closing-credit] drawings."

Lewis said that animation changed quite a bit in the six years that he worked on Ratatouille. "The hair articulation [on the rats], the lighting, some software that helps change small things like fire under the broiler, the water-rapids scene—[all of that] was different," he said. "But when production starts, you're pretty well limited to the software at the moment. You're locked into what you can do." Ratatouille, featuring the voices of Patton Oswalt and Peter O'Toole, opened June 29. —Mike Szymanski
Ratatouille Sparked To Oswalt's Rant

Comic actor Patton Oswalt, who voices Remy the rat in Pixar's animated Ratatouille, told SCI FI Wire that director Brad Bird picked him for the role after listening to Oswalt's rant about food on his comedy CD.

"I was riffing on how horrible the Black Angus restaurants are," Oswalt said in an interview. "Not their food. Just their ads, where they say, 'You will eat all of it.' ... It's so brutal."

The film's producers sparked to Oswalt's voice, producer Brad Lewis said. "We heard this small voice and thought it was right," he said. "It had a lot of conviction and passion. Brad said, 'I think that's our guy.' And he was right. I looked at hordes of different actors, and they were just not right, but he was. So we brought him in."

In the movie, which Incredibles creator Bird wrote and helmed, Oswalt voices Remy, a rat in Paris who longs to be a gourmet chef.

"Remy was hard to cast," Lewis said. "We had two other people before him for the part, but, unfortunately, they didn't work out. When we heard him, he was perfect for Remy."

Oswalt said he is as much a "foodie" as the rat he portrays, which came as a pleasant surprise to Ratatouille's filmmakers. "I love food," he said. "I love gourmet chefs. I love to eat. We hit it off well."

Ratatouille opens nationwide on June 29. On July 17, Oswalt's next comedy CD, Werewolves and Lollipops, drops. (Oswalt said it has nothing to do with either werewolves or lollipops.) —Mike Szymanski
Ratatouille, Short Share A Character

When Pixar's next animated film, Ratatouille, opens later this month, it will be accompanied by a short that features an early version of a key Ratatouille character, writer/director Brad Bird told SCI FI Wire.

Lifte is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom and centers on a comical alien abduction.

"There's a secret about Lifted, though," Bird said. "You know the character that is lifted up out of his bed by the aliens? The model of that was Linguini."

Linguini is the Parisian garbage boy who befriends Remy, a rat who longs to be a gourmet chef, in Bird's Ratatouille.

Bird added that Lifted was nominated last year for an Oscar for the best animated short film. Bird, who has his own Oscar for The Incredibles, added: "Gary has a lot of Oscars."

Rydstrom, who worked for Skywalker Sound, won seven Oscars for his work in films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan.

Ratatouille opened nationwide on June 29 and stars the voices of Patton Oswalt, Brian Dennehy, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O'Toole and Ian Holm. —Mike Szymanski
O'Mara Time-Jumps In Mars

Jason O'Mara (Resident Evil: Extinction) has been tapped as the lead in Life on Mars, David E. Kelley's time-travel drama pilot for ABC, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Based on the BBC series of the same name, the show centers on a detective (O'Mara) who finds himself transported back to the 1970s after his girlfriend is kidnapped.

The project, from 20th Century Fox TV, David E. Kelley Productions and Kudos Film & Television, was ordered as a pilot this past development cycle, but production was pushed to summer because of difficulties casting the lead.

Kelley is executive-producing the pilot with Kudos' Stephen Garrett and Jane Featherstone.

O'Mara was previously cast as Philip Marlowe in Marlowe, ABC's well-received drama pilot about the famous detective.
Diaz Opens The Box

Cameron Diaz will star in The Box, a horror thriller being directed by Richard Kelly (Southland Tales), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sean McKittrick and Kelly are producing via their Darko Entertainment label.

The story revolves around an unhappily married couple who receive a small wooden box on their doorstep. At the push of a button, the box brings its bearer instant wealth but also instantly kills someone the bearer doesn't know.

Diaz will play the wife. Casting of the other key roles, including the husband, is expected shortly.

The script, written by Kelly, is adapted from a Richard Matheson short story titled "Button, Button." The short story was the basis of a well-remembered Twilight Zone episode from the 1980s that Matheson adapted using a pseudonym.

Box is eyeing a November start in Virginia and aims to be a PG-13 release, like the recent John Cusack horror movie 1408.
Near Death Optioned

Fox Searchlight has optioned Carter Blanchard's SF spec script Near Death, with Aaron Kaplan and Sean Perrone attached to produce, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is described as a psychological thriller set in the world of near-death experiences.
Wind Unwinds Rogue's Life

Fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss, whose novel The Name of the Wind is a finalist for this year's Quill Awards, told SCI FI Wire that it is book one of a trilogy in which a fugitive hero tells his life story.

"But since the story is told from his point of view, you get the whole truth, warts and all," Rothfuss said in an interview. "It's a behind-the-scenes peek into the classic rise and fall of the hero: Sometimes he reveals the mundane roots of the fantastic stories that have sprung up around him, while other times we learn [that] the truth of this man's life is far stranger than any tavern tale could ever be."

The protagonist of the trilogy, Kvothe, was inspired, in part, by Cyrano de Bergerac, Rothfuss said. "I read Cyrano de Bergerac just a few months before I started working on this book, and his character really blew me away," he said. "He was a poet, a philosopher, a swordsman. He was proud, arrogant even."

Rothfuss wondered why he had never seen a character like that in the fantasy genre, he said. "The conflict in that story doesn't come from some evil wizard," he said. "More often than not, Cyrano's clever mouth gets him into trouble."

Kvothe was also influenced by Casanova's memoirs, Rothfuss said. "The man led an extraordinary life; he didn't just spend his life breaking into nunneries," he said. "I borrowed some of his adventuring, reckless, devious personality and brought it into the mix."

Rothfuss wanted Kvothe to be a magician, but not yet another cliche wizard, he said. "I thought about the archetypal magician figures we have: Gandalf, Merlin, even Moses," Rothfuss said. "The key isn't that they can do magic; what makes them cool is that they know what's really going on in the world."

The difficulty in writing something as long as a novel—or, in this case, a trilogy—is that you have to stick to it for a really, really long time without any tangible reward, Rothfuss said. "In my case, I worked on the book for nine years before I got an agent, [and] then it was another three years before we sold it to a publisher," he said.

Rothfuss had to get used to telling his friends that he couldn't come out to play because he had to work on the book, he said. "Most people don't ... understand that it's real work and that you can't just skip out on it whenever you want," he said.

Rothfuss was determined to make The Name of the Wind something truly different—not just another Tolkien rip-off, he said. "So I made a list of all the things I didn't want my book to do," Rothfuss said. "No hobbits. No evil sorcerer trying to destroy the world. No elves with bows and dwarves with axes. No quest to stop the unspeakable evil." —John Joseph Adams
Gosling Signs On Lovely Bones

Oscar-nominated Canadian actor Ryan Gosling has signed on to co-star in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones for DreamWorks and Film 4, joining Rachel Weisz, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Based on Alice Sebold's best-selling novel, the film is told through the voice of Susie Salmon, who is murdered but continues to observe her family on Earth after her death. Jackson and his The Lord of the Rings partners Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh wrote the script.

Gosling will play Susie's father, Jack Salmon. He nabbed his first Oscar nomination this past year for his lead role in Half Nelson.

The role of Susie has yet to be cast.

The Lovely Bones begins filming in October in Pennsylvania and New Zealand.
Kids Informed DinoSapien

The producer of the upcoming Discovery Kids SF series DinoSapien told SCI FI Wire that he got ideas for the show by talking to kids at his wife's social studies class. BBC executive producer Rick Siggelkow said he bounced a lot of ideas off the pre-teen target audience as well as his two teenage daughters.

"It's true that when you mention dinosaurs you think the audience is 9-year-old boys, but we wanted the girls and adults to get involved with this series, too, and I think it's wrong to assume that boys won't watch a show that has a girl in the lead: After all, we wanted a sort of Lara Croft character as the lead, with dinosaurs," Siggelkow said. "We wanted a girl action hero with a poignant story, where she searches for her father."

DinoSapien follows the story of Lauren (Brittney Wilson), a camp counselor at a Dinosaur Camp. Her mother runs the camp; her father disappeared while researching dinosaurs. Three dinosaurs have evolved to modern times and interact with Lauren, a secret that she tries to keep.

What ideas did Siggelkow get from the kids? Feathers on the head of one of the modern dinosaur characters. "One kid in my wife's class suggested that we have the feathers look sort of like a punk hairdo, so we did," the producer said. "And the kids we show it to like it, so it obviously works."

Siggelkow added that he sought feedback from neighbor children and the local elementary school, as well as his daughters' friends. One obnoxious blonde character, Courtney (Mackenzie Porter), is based on one of those friends, he confessed. "I got a lot of lines from the real-life counterpart," he said. "Courtney is not dumb. She's pretty and funny, just a bit lazy."

The show is planned for one 15-episode season, but there's room for more. "The story is open enough to allow us to come back and have more shows," Siggelkow said. "We already have some of the new season worked out. We just have to see if we get the OK." DinoSapien debuts July 7 on Discovery Kids. —Mike Szymanski
Warner Loses, New Line Eyes Conan

Weeks after Warner Brothers lost the rights to Conan the Barbarian, New Line may move in to make a movie based on Robert E. Howard's mythical conqueror, Variety reported.

Warner spent the last seven years trying for a film that veered from the Arnold Schwarzenegger films to something more reverential toward Howard's original pulp novels, the trade paper reported.

Larry and Andy Wachowski, John Milius (who directed the original and wrote the script with Oliver Stone) and Robert Rodriguez took turns developing it. Rodriguez got closest but left the project for Grindhouse. Boaz Yakin was hired last year to start again.

Warners had a spring deadline to be in production but balked because it didn't have a script in which it was confident. Paradox, which had extended its original option agreement three times, declined another extension.

If New Line makes the deal, the studio will have to start from scratch, as Warner owns the various drafts it developed.
Barker Unveils Jericho

Horror auteur Clive Barker (Hellraiser) unveiled Jericho, a gory horror video game set in a remote desert outpost, at the second annual Hollywood & Games Summit in Hollywood on June 26, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Originally conceived as a novel, Jericho took hold of Barker's imagination as a game, which will be released in the fall, he told the confab.

"Maybe if games hadn't existed, I would have said, 'Make it a movie,'" Barker told the gathering. "But I much prefer the idea of having 20 hours to play this world, to enter this labyrinth."

Jericho deals with the mysterious reappearance of a lost city in a remote desert, IGN.com reported. When a form of evil that goes right back to the dawn of days resurfaces there, a Special Forces squad, trained in both conventional warfare and the arcane arts, is sent in. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the evil that lurks at the heart of the city before it destroys humanity.

(The game is not related to the CBS post-apocalyptic TV series of the same name.)
'Dreams' Imagines Films That Weren't

Fantasy author Tim Pratt, whose story "Impossible Dreams" won this year's Asimov's Readers' Award for best short story and is a finalist for the Hugo Award, told SCI FI Wire that the story concerns a guy named Pete, a somewhat undersocialized movie buff who totally lives for cinema. "One day while walking home from work, he notices a video store he's never seen before, and when he goes inside, he finds movies that were never made in his world," Pratt said in an interview.

Pete realizes he's somehow stumbled into a shop from an alternate universe, and he's understandably excited by the possibility of seeing movies from a parallel world, Pratt said. "Before long, however, he becomes equally intrigued by the shop's clerk, a young woman named Allie who seemingly has no idea she's a purveyor of miracles from another universe," he said. "It's your basic heartwarming cross-dimensional cinemaphile romantic comedy."

All of the imaginary movies Pratt mentions in the story are genuine might-have-beens based on actual near-miss possibilities, or at least specious Hollywood apocrypha, he said. These might-have-been films include the director's cut of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons; I, Robot, based on the screenplay by Harlan Ellison; Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Tom Selleck instead of Harrison Ford; and The Return of the Jedi directed by David Lynch.

Pratt has always liked stories about mysterious wonder-filled stores that appear and disappear, he said. "[I've] tried my hand at writing one or two of them in the past, but they always felt far too derivative to me, just rehashing stories by better writers I'd read as a kid," Pratt said. "One of the things about those stories that I obsessed over was the fact that stuff doesn't really make you happy, no matter how cool or magical that stuff might be."

At most, magical stuff only distracts you from your life for a little while—it doesn't truly transform you, Pratt said. "Transformation has to come from within, and the impulse toward self-transformation is often spurred by meeting another person and discovering things about yourself through that relationship," he said. "So I wanted to write a little magic-shop story where the proprietor of the store was more important than any of the stuff in the store!"

"Impossible Dreams" was first published in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, but it can also be found in Pratt's new collection, Hart & Boot & Other Stories, he said. "My next project is a light, fast, funny urban fantasy series about an ass-kicking sorceress named Marla Mason," Pratt said. "The first book is called Blood Engines, and it will be followed by (at least) three sequels, all stand-alone books with continuing characters. ... I have a lot of work to do. It may cut into my movie-watching time." —John Joseph Adams
Myles Bites Into Moonlight

Sophia Myles has been tapped as the female lead in CBS' upcoming vampire drama Moonlight, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Moonlight, from Warner Brothers TV and Silver Pictures, centers on a private investigator (Alex O'Laughlin) who is a vampire and struggles with the repercussions of immortality, vampire adversaries and his love for a mortal.

Myles will play his love interest, Beth Turner, a beautiful, ambitious Internet investigative reporter who is always on the hunt for the big story. Myles replaces Shannon Lucio, who played the part—then a TV reporter—in the pilot presentation.

Myles has appeared in such films as Underworld: Evolution and Tristan + Isolde and next appears in The Weinstein Co.'s Outlander.
Fishburne Transmuting Alchemist

Laurence Fishburne and A-Mark Entertainment have acquired the film rights to the best-selling novel The Alchemist from Warner Brothers Pictures with the intent of making the movie themselves, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Warners acquired author Paulo Coelho's philosophical book—about a traveler journeying the world during the Inquisition in order to find man's purpose in the world—in 2003 as a Fishburne vehicle. Since its debut in 1988, the book has been translated into 56 languages and has sold more than 40 million copies in more than 150 countries.

Fishburne wrote the screenplay for the film and also is set to direct. Barrie Osborne (The Lord of the Rings) is producing alongside Akeelah and the Bee producers Fishburne and Helen Sugland.

The filmmakers' take is described as "Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones," with a sweeping adventure centering on a young Spaniard who embarks on a quest to find a hidden treasure within the Egyptian pyramids and ends up discovering a personal treasure that eclipses his wildest expectations.
Lopez Goes To Dogs In Border

Comedian George Lopez told SCI FI Wire that he's providing the voice of a lovelorn Chihuahua in the upcoming animated feature film South of the Border.

The film, directed by Raja Gosnell (the Scooby-Doo movies), also features the voices of Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Salma Hayek, Piper Perabo, Cheech Marin and Battlestar Galactica's Edward James Olmos.

"It's about a lapdog [Barrymore] in Beverly Hills that's a Chihuahua that ends up with the niece of this really rich woman [Perabo]," Lopez said in an interview. "She goes to Rosarito for the weekend with her friends, and the dog gets out and gets picked up by people who hold dog fights. And here's this kind of pampered Chihuahua in Mexico that has to find her way back to the United States."

Lopez, who co-starred in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl 3-D, added that he plays a Chihuahua named Papi who falls in love with Barrymore's character, named Chloe. "When she's not where she's supposed to be in Beverly Hills, me and my owner go to Mexico to try to find her and bring her back home," Lopez said.

South of the Border is currently in production. Walt Disney Pictures will release the film in summer 2008. —Ian Spelling
Toy Story 3 Details Discussed

Pixar producers told SCI FI Wire that the proposed Toy Story 3 is definitely a go, despite recent rumors to the contrary about its fate and the participation of original stars Tim Allen and Tom Hanks.

"Toy Story 3 is going to happen, and it's going to be good," director Brad Bird said while promoting his animated Ratatouille. "I'm not involved with it, but I know about it, and I see that it's going to be real good. We wouldn't do it if it wasn't going to be good." Allen and Hanks will be back. Toy Story 3 is eyeing a 2010 release date.

Pixar producer Brad Lewis confirmed Toy Story 3 is in the works. "I'm very excited to see what is going to be done with it," Lewis said, adding that he has no involvement with the project.

Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2, will direct Toy Story 3. —Mike Szymanski
Darkness Falls For Xbox, PS3

Game publisher 2K announced that The Darkness is now available in North America for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Darkness is a next-generation, first-person action game that features an immersive and gritty storyline written in collaboration with comic-book writer Paul Jenkins.

Set in the seedy underbelly of New York and the ethereal realm of The Darkness, the game lets players assume the role of mafia hitman Jackie Estacado, heir to "The Darkness," an ancient power that awakens within him on his 21st birthday. Jackie can use traditional weapons as well as his terrible new powers to seek revenge on his own crime family.
Producer Develops Kids' SF TV

The TV producer who helped bring Thomas the Tank Engine and Ace Lightning to the United States told SCI FI Wire that his next two projects will involve time travel and aliens. "I haven't yet done anything with time travel or aliens, and so those are my next two passions," said Rick Siggelkow, the BBC producer who has a series called DinoSapien debuting July 7 on Discovery Kids. "I think science fiction is perfect for the 'tween' age group, so I'm developing those two projects next."

Siggelkow said that he got the time-travel idea when he was scouting locations for the DinoSapien show, which tells the story of a summer camp where real dinosaurs visit the campers.

"I discovered out west a group of ghost towns and sets that were built in the desert but sort of just sitting there and not being used," Siggelkow said. "I would like to revive the western, but do it through time travel."

Another project that Siggelkow is developing is called Alien Download. "I've always been interested in aliens and have never done anything with aliens, so I'm going to do something like that," he said. "I know it sounds like a video game, but everything seems to be going in that direction, I guess."

Siggelkow has just finished the final episode of the first season of DinoSapien and added that he has a lot of irons in the fire, most of which involve science fiction. "Kids and sci-fi naturally go together," he said. "Science fiction is just a good story for a lot of kids." —Mike Szymanski
Imprint Revives Classic SF&F

Erik Mona of Paizo Publishing told SCI FI Wire that the company's new imprint, Planet Stories, aims to bring classic fantasy and science fiction adventure stories to a new generation of readers. "Essays on the history of the genre are filled with references to people like Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, but finding their work in print is virtually impossible, and it's got nothing to do with the quality of the stories themselves," Mona said in an interview.

Modern readers have plenty of choices when it comes to 10-volume epic fantasy series or paranormal romance stories about demons dating dragons in modern New York, but much of the legacy of the pulp-fantasy genre is being forgotten, Mona said. "Where does a modern reader turn to read a thrilling tale of swashbuckling and derring-do?" he said. "Until Planet Stories, the answer has been 'almost nowhere.'"

Planet Stories will launch in August with The Anubis Murders by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, Mona said. "[It's] an exciting fantasy-mystery-adventure set in an alternate version of our own world around the time of the Dark Ages," Mona said. "It features the exploits of Setne Inhetep, philosopher-wizard to the pharaoh of ancient Egypt, amateur detective and inveterate troublemaker."

September will see the release of Michael Moorcock's City of the Beast, a swashbuckling tale of Mars in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mona said. "The book features scientist Michael Kane, who accidentally transports himself to Mars of the distant past and encounters deadly blue giants, ancient cities, terrible beasts and the gorgeous Princess Shizala," he said.

Planet Stories' October title, Black God's Kiss by C.L. Moore, is notable in that in addition to the five classic "Jirel of Joiry" stories last reprinted in the 1980s, it also includes the rare story "Quest of the Starstone," Mona said. "[It was] written with Moore's husband, Henry Kuttner, [and] features a meeting between Jirel of Joiry and C.L. Moore's other famous creation, the spacefaring smuggler (and Han Solo template) Northwest Smith," he said. "For the first time ever all of the stories of Jirel will be available in a single volume."

One title per month will follow, including: Elak of Atlantis by Henry Kuttner, The Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett, Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith by C. L. Moore, Lord of the Spiders by Michael Moorcock, The Samarkand Solution by Gary Gygax and The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett, Mona said.

Every book in the Planet Stories line is currently out of print, but shouldn't be, and is an exceptionally fun-to-read, rollicking adventure story, Mona said. "These are books that were wildly popular in their time, many with numerous editions from multiple publishers," he said. "Most of them are of historical importance to the genre, as in the case of C.L. Moore's 'Jirel of Joiry' stories, which feature the first significant female sword-and-sorcery protagonist by one of the earliest and most important female writers in the field." —John Joseph Adams
Indiana Jones Video Posted

IndianaJones.com has posted video of the first day of shooting on the upcoming fourth Indiana Jones movie.

Production began on June 18 in New Mexico. Director Steven Spielberg appears in the brief video, which also shows executive producer George Lucas. The action from the first day involves a vintage Army vehicle and a '50s-style hot rod.

The new Indiana Jones movie is a Lucasfilm Ltd. Production, directed by Spielberg and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Frank Marshall returns as producer, with Kathleen Kennedy joining Lucas as executive producer. It is scheduled for worldwide release on May 22, 2008.
Science Informs DinoSapien

The creator of the upcoming Discovery Kids series DinoSapien told SCI FI Wire that a lot of real science was used in creating the show's fictional dinosaurs, which have survived and evolved to modern times. BBC executive producer Rick Siggelkow said that he talked to experts at the Natural History Museum in New York and found that plenty of scientists speculate what would have become of dinosaurs had they lived.

"These experts knew about the skeletal and muscle structures of dinosaurs, how they moved, their facial features, and they are leading experts in the field," Siggelkow said.

DinoSapien follows the story of Lauren (Brittney Wilson, from Nickelodeon's Romeo), a young girl who is a camp counselor at a dinosaur camp. Bronson Pelletier, Mackenzie Porter, Jeffrey Watson, Suzanna Hamilton and Lexi Gingras also star.

The experts included paleontologist Dale Russell, who constructed a model of a speculative modern dinosaur. Russell spoke with dinosaur animator Hall Train, who builds special-effects models for museums and theme parks. Gregory Paul also helped develop the design and look of the three main dinosaur characters in the show.

The result was Eno, a creature descended from dromaeosaurs, a member of the raptor family that lived in the rain forests and could jump like a kangaroo. Eno has feathers on his head, like hair, and he understands humans.

"We had to make something that people could identify with, too, like E.T., who was really ugly, but everyone cried when you thought he was going to die," Siggelkow said. "It was important to have some emotional tie to the main character, but dinosaurs don't have many facial muscles, so it's all in the eyes. We had to have expressive eyes."

For the show's villainous dinosaurs, producers developed two Diggers, descended from ornithopods, which had blunt heads and armored plates on their backs and lived in caves.

"We spent a lot of time on research and development to make sure that the dinosaurs could look real," Siggelkow said. "I think if we had more dinosaurs in the show everything would have fallen apart, but because we could concentrate on three of them, we could make them more believable. ... Kids are expecting more from the effects, the bar is set so high now." Yowza Animation created the dinosaurs. DinoSapien debuts on Discovery Kids on July 7. —Mike Szymanski
Neverwas Hits DVD In July

Neverwas, a straight-to-DVD fantasy film starring Ian McKellen and Aaron Eckhart, hits retailers on July 3 from Miramax, the studio announced.

The film, about a man's search for the magical world of his father's children's book, also stars Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange.

Eckhart plays Zach Riley, a psychiatrist who returns to the mental hospital where his father, a famous children's novelist, committed suicide decades ago.

The mysteries of Zach's tragic early life, contained within the pages of his father's masterwork Neverwas, are slowly revealed to the psychiatrist with the help of a wide-eyed schizophrenic named Gabriel (McKellen). Joshua Michael Stern wrote the film and makes his feature-film directorial debut.

Neverwas will carry a suggested retail price of $29.99.
Dragon Caught Twixt Heaven, Hell

Fantasy author Liz Williams told SCI FI Wire that her latest novel, Precious Dragon, follows Detective Inspector Chen, the liaison officer among Earth, heaven and hell for the local police department. "He is a mild-mannered, conscientious man in his 40s who is married to a demon and who lives on a boat," Williams said in an interview. "He also owns a badger, who sometimes changes into a tea kettle."

Chen's partner is Zhu Irzh, a demon vice cop and seneschal in the vice squad of hell, Williams said. "Unlike similar outfits on Earth, they promote vice rather than try to solve any crimes," she said. "After attempts by his family to set him up with various local demons, he's now going out with an industrialist from Earth with a shady past. He's occasionally troubled by twinges of conscience and morality and is considering therapy for it."

The book, which is the third Detective Inspector Chen novel, is set in an imaginary but contemporary Chinese city and follows the lives of a number of people, Williams said. "One is a cleaner with an unusual daughter who is involved in the preparation of the daughter's wedding," she said. "Another is the son of the emperor of heaven. Another is a rent boy who sings in an opera chorus."

The series is set in the same milieu as one of the first short stories Williams ever wrote, which featured the cleaner, old Mrs. Pa, she said. "That came about after a trip to Hong Kong to visit a journalist friend of mine who lived on a houseboat and who was dating a vice squad cop," Williams said.

The plot of Precious Dragon kicks off when Chen and Zhu Irzh are sent on a fact-finding mission under a government initiative, Williams said. "[This] involves a trip to hell and some very dubious machinations on the part of heaven," she said.

Williams did a lot of reading about Chinese mythology as research, she said. One of the most interesting pieces of mythology she uncovered was the idea that the Chinese hell is heavily bureaucratic and divided into government departments—the Ministry of Epidemics, the Ministry of Lust and so forth. "I've added my own ideas to each ministry as to what they actually involve," Williams said.

In addition to her reading, Williams has visited China on several occasions, she said. "[I visited] the south of the country and also China's Wild West, which should be featuring in a future novel," Williams said. —John Joseph Adams
Bird Mulls Incredibles Sequel

Brad Bird, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning animated film The Incredibles, told SCI FI Wire that he still is working out a story good enough to justify a sequel.

"I have to come up with a story that is as good as or better than the original," Bird said in an interview on June 22 while promoting his next Pixar movie, Ratatouille. "If I could come up with something like a Toy Story 2 with the same characters from Incredibles, then I would do it in a second."

Bird has been developing a new storyline for the superhero family introduced in 2004's The Incredibles. "I have ideas," he said. "I have a few bits and pieces, but I don't have it all together."

Pixar, which is partnered with Disney, is developing other sequels, including Toy Story 3. "People think we're against doing sequels, and we're obviously not," Bird said. "We've made one, and we're going to make another. It's just not part of the Pixar business plan to do sequels for the sake of doing them. If it's a story we want to tell, we will go after that story."

Bird added: "Walt Disney used to say, 'We don't make films to make money. We make money to make films.' And that is very much Pixar's philosophy and why we're in the game."

Bird's latest movie, Ratatouille, centers on a rat in Paris who longs to be a gourmet chef. It opened nationwide on June 29 —Mike Szymanski
Hewlett's Breakfast Sells Best

Stargate Atlantis star David Hewlett's black comedy film A Dog's Breakfast, which marks his directorial debut, broke into the top 20 DVD sales on Amazon.com, where it went on sale last week. The site is now taking preorders for the straight-to-DVD film, which will be released on Sept. 18.

A Dog's Breakfast also ranked in the top 10 on the retail site's Movers and Shakers list.

Hewlett, who plays Atlantis' prickly genius Rodney McKay, wrote and directed A Dog's Breakfast, which centers on squabbling siblings Patrick and Marilyn, who are driven over the edge when Marilyn brings home her new TV-star fiance from the space soap opera Starcrossed.

In addition to Hewlett, the movie features Atlantis co-stars Rachel Luttrell (Teyla) and Paul McGillion (Dr. Beckett), as well as Stargate SG-1 star Christopher Judge (Teal'c). The film's crew includes Stargate producer John G. Lenic, cinematographer Jim Menard and an amalgamation of the Atlantis and SG-1 shooting crews. The cast also includes Amanda Byram. Hewlett is also working with his real-life partner, producer Jane Loughman, and his sister, actress Kate Hewlett.
SG-1's Shanks Looks Ahead

Stargate SG-1 ended its 10-season run last week, but star Michael Shanks told SCI FI Wire that the saga continues in two direct-to-DVD movies, which softens the blow. Shanks, who has played Dr. Daniel Jackson since the show began, was on set when writer-director-producer Robert C. Cooper called "Cut!" for the last time as production wrapped on "Unending," the series finale, which aired June 22 on SCI FI Channel.

"It was great, but it didn't change things that much, because we were still at the end of a long season, and everyone was quite tired and emotional, and we knew it was still the end of something," Shanks said in an interview. "But we were very happy knowing there wasn't a wrecking ball waiting outside or four guys with crowbars waiting to tear our stuff down, or we might have been far more emotional about it."

Shanks and his SG-1 castmates Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black and Beau Bridges return in the two DVD movies, Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum, which are in production.

"We knew [we] were going to come back and see each other," Shanks said. "We knew we'd get a chance to play these characters, and that did take the curse off the last moment of walking through the gate."

The Ark of Truth will wrap up the Ori storyline. Continuum takes SG-1 on a new adventure.

Shanks acknowledged that the show's end was momentous. "It was the end of an era for us, and we didn't really know 100 percent what the movies would be or how it would all pan out," he said. —Ian Spelling
Half-Life Is A Twofer

Cross-genre author Shelley Jackson, whose novel Half-Life was co-winner of this year's James Tiptree Jr. Award, told SCI FI Wire that the book is about conjoined twins Nora and Blanche.

"Nora, the narrator, is clever, sarcastic, self-centered and plagued by a guilty conscience," Jackson said in an interview. "Blanche is asleep. As a child, she was sweet and gullible, but Nora begins to suspect that she's learned a thing or two since then and has found a way to control things from behind the scenes."

Nora is not like the other conjoined twins—"twofers"—in her small San Francisco community, Jackson said. "She hates the cute rhyming names (Cindi and Mindi), the rhetoric of selves-help, the T-shirt slogans (YESIAMESE)," she said.

Blanche has been asleep for 15 years, and Nora likes it like that way, Jackson said. "But now she has reason to think—to fear—that Blanche is waking up, [so] she goes in pursuit of a renegade doctor who performs illegal surgeries on disaffected twofers," she said. "It turns out it's hard to escape your past, especially when it's growing out of your rib cage."

Jackson began writing Half Life about 15 years ago, when she first started writing fiction seriously, she said. "My husband at the time insists that I got the idea from an interview with Nabokov in which he said he had wanted to write about the sex lives of Siamese twins, but that his wife had put her foot down," Jackson said. "That sounds perfectly plausible, but I don't remember it at all."

But Jackson, who is also an artist, does remember doing drawing after drawing of two-headed women, she said. "Having two heads seemed to me to be a vivid metaphor for a divided sense of self," Jackson said.

What interested Jackson even more was discovering that having two heads was not just a metaphor but—for a few of us—a real state of being, she said. "How would we think about identity if being conjoined were the norm?" Jackson said. "How would our language change to accommodate singular bodies, plural selves?"

As research for the book, Jackson said she did a lot of reading about conjoined twins, from ancient ballads to old legal arguments—and it was pure pleasure. "What was really difficult was figuring out how to structure the book," she said. "I wanted the novel to feel like its protagonists: conjoined—like two books straining either to merge or tear themselves apart. To write something that was not quite unified in the normal sense, but didn't disintegrate into chaos either, was very tricky." —John Joseph Adams
BRIEFLY NOTED

AOL.com has posted a teaser trailer for the upcoming fantasy film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman, which opens on Thanksgiving weekend.

IMAX Corp. announced that Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf will be released domestically in IMAX 3-D simultaneously with the motion picture's premiere in conventional theaters on Nov. 16.

Mysterious e-mails are being sent directing users to a Web site, Rorschachs Journal, that appears to be the start of a viral marketing campaign for Watchmen, Warner Brothers' upcoming movie based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, to be directed by Zack Snyder.

Michael Bay's Transformers premiered June 28 in South Korea, days before its July 3 United States opening, the Associated press reported.

Hundreds of young Japanese fans, many wearing witch costumes and holding magic wands, screamed at the June 28 world premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Tokyo when star Daniel Radcliffe appeared as white smoke spewed on the stage, the Associated Press reported.

Melinda McGraw and Nathan Gamble have joined the cast of Warner Brothers' Batman sequel The Dark Night, Variety reported; McGraw will play the wife of Gary Oldman's character, Lt. James Gordon, while Gamble will play their son.

East of Doheny is concocting an animated film with the Gotham Group based on the Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist children's book series, about a quirky girl scientist, Variety reported.

Stephen St. Leger and James Mather are on board to write and direct The Lost Squad for Rogue Pictures, based on a Devil's Due comic written by Chris Kirby, about the supernatural action-adventures of a squad of U.S. soldiers who take on weird missions during World War II, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Paramount Pictures has pre-emptively picked up the film rights to The Foundation, an upcoming comic book to be published by Boom! Studios and written by John Rozum, based on the prophecies of Nostradamus, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi told MTV.com about his plans for a possible fourth film, whether he would helm it and what villains he'd like to see.

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first book in the hit series, fetched $18,000 at auction in London on June 26 and went to an anonymous buyer, the Associated Press reported.

Iron Man director Jon Favreau on June 25 announced the end of shooting on his MySpace.com blog; the final scenes were shot in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

Disney and Pixar have posted a teaser trailer and official Web site for their upcoming computer-animated SF film Wall*E, which is due in the summer of 2008. It's linked through SCI FI Wire's Trailers page.

Missy Peregrym has landed the female lead on The CW's upcoming one-hour dramedy Reaper, about a 21-year-old slacker (Bret Harrison) who becomes a bounty hunter for the devil (Ray Wise), according to The Hollywood Reporter; Peregrym will play the slacker's pretty co-worker, on whom he has a crush, and replaces Nikki Reed, who played the role in the pilot.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper reported that the fourth Indiana Jones movie will film along the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii for three weeks in August.