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NEWS OF THE WEEK FOR SEP. 11, 2006
Warcraft Conquers The World

Less than two years after its introduction, World of Warcraft, made by Blizzard Entertainment, is on pace to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year with almost 7 million paying subscribers and has become the first truly global video game hit since Pac-Man in the early 1980s, The New York Times reported.

That makes the massively multiplayer online role-playing game one of the most lucrative entertainment media properties of any kind, the newspaper reported. Almost every other subscription online game, including EverQuest II and Star Wars: Galaxies, measures its customers in hundreds of thousands or even just tens of thousands.

Warcraft has more players in China, where it has engaged in co-promotions with major brands such as Coca-Cola, than in the United States: There are more than 3 million players in China and slightly fewer than 2 million in the United States. And as with most video games, a clear majority of players worldwide are male.

There is also a rabid legion of fans in South Korea, which has the world's most fervent gaming culture, and more than a million people play in Europe.

Since the game’s introduction in November 2004, the company has expanded to more than 1,800 employees from around 400. Almost all of the additions have been customer-service representatives to handle World of Warcraft players.

There are servers customized for six written languages: English, both simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, German and French. Spanish is in development.
Fraser On Board Third Mummy

TMZ.com reported that Mummy star Brendan Fraser has already agreed to return in a proposed third installment of the hit franchise. But the Universal Pictures sequel won't be called The Mummy 3, the site reported.

Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have been hired to write the sequel, and Universal has made an offer to Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) to helm, though it's unclear whether Johnston will accept.

Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.
Lost's Mr. Eko Is Busted

Yet another cast member of ABC's Lost has run afoul of Hawaiian authorities for allegedly doing improper things while driving, Zap2it reported.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Mr. Eko on the hit series, was arrested over the weekend and charged with driving without a license and disobeying a police officer, the site reported. He posted $500 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on the charges on Sept. 26.

The 39-year-old actor was pulled over about 2:25 a.m. on Sept. 2 in Waikiki, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported. Further details on the charges, including the reason officers stopped Akinnuoye-Agbaje, weren't available.

Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the third member of the Lost cast to be arrested for traffic violations. Late last year both Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros were charged with driving under the influence in separate incidents on the same night (neither is still with the show). Watros paid a fine and had her license suspended; Rodriguez, who was on probation for another DUI in California, spent five days in jail and was also fined. Rodriguez also did a brief stint in jail upon her return to the mainland.

Several other cast members, among them Josh Holloway, Dominic Monaghan and Naveen Andrews, have been cited for speeding, the paper said, but were not arrested. Lost begins its third season on ABC Oct. 4.
Fountain Booed In Venice

Darren Aronofsky's epic SF movie The Fountain held its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend, where it was booed by some audience members, according to a report on C.H.U.D. That reaction contrasted sharply with the warm reception The Fountain received when it first screened to a small audience of critics and Aronofsky enthusiasts at Comic-Con International in San Diego in July. (SCI FI Wire was among the audience members.)

Leslie Felperin, the critic for Variety, had a typically harsh reaction: "Greeted by booing at its first press unspooling, pic's hippy trippy space odyssey-meets-contempo-weepy-meets-conquistador caper starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz suffers from a turgid script and bears all the signs of edit-suite triage to produce a still-incoherent 95 minutes. A gush of negative word of mouth will keep B.O. figures at a trickle."

In response, C.H.U.D.'s New York-based Devin Faraci, who was also at the Comic-Con screening, slagged Felperin and the others: "[Felperin's review] seriously reads like it was written by an anti-intellectual 12-year-old, or at least by a half-witted critic who spent most of the screening in the bathroom or IMing on a Sidekick. I know people who have seen The Fountain who didn't care for it, but even they have admitted that the movie is a beautiful and well-made piece of work."

The Fountain, about a man's quest to save the woman he loves in three parallel narratives that span 1,500 years, will next play in film festivals in Toronto and elsewhere. The Fountain opens on Nov. 22.
Trek Opening Will Be Fixed

Producers of the upcoming remastered editions of the original Star Trek series told SCI FI Wire that an upgraded and enhanced opening montage will correct problems in the original version, which was limited by the technology of the 1960s. "We didn't change anything, although we did update everything," David Rossi, a visual-effects producer, said in a conference call on Sept. 6. "All the star patterns that were in the original opening are exactly duplicated in the new opening. We smoothed out the motion of the Enterprise. It flies more dynamically now. It occupies real space. It doesn't look like a model anymore. So that's kind of the angle we took on it."

The fixes are being accomplished by rendering the opening sequence, which was originally shot on film using matte paintings and miniature models, completely with digital effects. "The process that Dave just described is one particular shot where the Enterprise's flight path takes a couple of strange bumps to the left and to the right," added longtime Trek crew member Michael Okuda, who is also a visual-effects producer of the remastered episodes. "And there were artifacts of the visual-effects processes back then. And now CBS Digital is able to go in and essentially have an infinitely long track, so the perspective of the ship now is proper. It, as Dave says, occupies real space. It's a subtle change, but it just gives the ship more presence as it flies by you."

Okuda added: "Back in '64, when they shot the original opening elements, [or] '66, there was a physical limit to how far ... back you can get the camera [from the model]. So the perspective changes were limited by the physical length of the dolly track in the studio. What CBS Digital can do is, ... with the digital rendering, you can have your virtual camera infinitely far away and have the ship travel to inches from your nose. And by doing that, the perspective is ... proper. It's just as if the ship is really flying by you." CBS Paramount Domestic Television will release the digitally remastered episodes of Star Trek for air in syndication on more than 200 broadcast stations, starting Sept. 16. —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Updated Trek Will Honor Past

Producers of the upcoming remastered version of the original Star Trek television series told SCI FI Wire that the intention is not to change the series, but merely to enhance its look for a new generation of viewers. "I can tell you that the purpose of this is to completely not change the story and not change the plot, because we are all so passionate about the way it exists," David Rossi, a visual-effects producer, said in a conference call on Sept. 6. "What we're really trying to do here is just enhance the experience of watching Star Trek that people can have."

Longtime Trek crew member Michael Okuda, who is also a visual-effects producer of the remastered episodes, added: "Basically, the approach is that Star Trek is a period piece, albeit a period in the far future. So all the decisions are being made to honor the production style, the style of cinematography, the style of editing. And with that as our guidance, using the original decisions made by the directors and the editors, it follows very logically trying to recreate the look and feel of the original series."

CBS Paramount Domestic Television will release the digitally remastered episodes for air on more than 200 broadcast stations, starting Sept. 16. The first episodes to be remastered include "Balance of Terror," "Journey to Babel," "Mirror Mirror" and the two-part episode "The Menagerie," said John Nogawski, president of CBS Paramount Domestic TV. All told, about half of the original series' 80 remastered episodes will be released this year and half next year.

Eventually, Nogawski said, all of the episodes will be remastered in both their original versions and the abbreviated versions made available for syndication and in both full-screen and high-definition widescreen versions.

As for the extent to which the episodes' visual effects will be upgraded using state-of-the-art technology, the producers said they would include the show's opening, ship exteriors, space battles and other elements—but not live action, interiors, costumes or aliens, except in very specific instances. "There are certain occasions, while that's not really in the scope of work that we're doing, ... where we are going to do things," Rossi said. "For instance, in an episode called 'The Naked Time,' Scotty is trying to cut through a bulkhead outside engineering with a phaser. ... And while there are sparks on the wall, there's no phaser beam. So in a case like that, we're going to go in and add a phaser beam. But as far as just replacing the effects that are currently there just for the sake of replacing them, no, we're not going to do that."

Why the update? Nogawski admitted it was to reach younger viewers. "As we move into eventually a much better television set than there was in the '60s, moving into more lines of resolution all the way up to HD, this show would have not held up to that viewer," Nogawski said. "And that viewer ... is who you're addressing, ... the younger viewer who was not alive when the show was originally produced and may never have watched it up to this date." —Patrick Lee, News Editor
Thing Prequel In Works?

Fangoria.com reported that Strike Entertainment, the production company behind the Dawn of the Dead remake and Slither, is looking for writers to draft a prequel to John Carpenter's classic SF movie The Thing.

Other proposed Thing-related projects have come and gone in recent years. Universal released Carpenter's 1982 movie, which was an update of 1952's The Thing From Another World, which in turn was based on John W. Campbell Jr.'s short story "Who Goes There?"

Universal is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.
Branagh's Flute Ignites Venice

Kenneth Branagh's $22 million film adaptation of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute received its world premiere at Venice's famous La Fenice opera house on Sept. 7, the first time it has hosted a film related to the Venice Film Festival since a fire destroyed the building 10 years ago, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The decision to hold the premiere in an opera house was an honor but also an unusual choice given that British philanthropist Peter Moores—an avid promoter of opera—told journalists that his decision to fund the project was made in part "to get opera out of the opera house, where it can be appreciated," the trade paper reported.

The name La Fenice is Italian for "the phoenix," reflecting its history of being burned to the ground three times in its 256-year history. One of the most important opera houses in Europe, it had to be refitted with a large cinema screen on the front of the stage in order to host the Flute premiere.

The film, with a libretto from British writer Stephen Fry, was greeted warmly after a Thursday morning press screening at a more traditional venue on the Lido.

Branagh took the unusual step of setting the story amid a World War I backdrop.
Durand, Ackles Up For Evil

Moviehole.net reported a rumor that Chris Durand (Halloween H20) will have a role in the upcoming sequel film Resident Evil: Extinction. Durand is one of the zombie film's villains and joins a cast that includes Oded Fehr. Extinction is the third film based on the Capcom video-game series.

Meanwhile, the site reported that Jensen Ackles (The CW's Supernatural) is in talks to play a main character in a proposed fourth Resident Evil movie, which is slated to start filming next year. Ackles would play the popular character Leon Kennedy, the wisecracking cop from the last couple of games.
Singer Produces Trick

Bloody-Disgusting.com reported a rumor that Superman Returns director Bryan Singer will produce Trick or Treat, a horror film to be written and directed by Singer's Superman co-writer Michael Dougherty. Citing an anonymous source, the site reported that the movie will be financed by Warner Brothers, which also produced Superman Returns.

Trick or Treat is slated to hit theaters on Oct 5, 2007, the site reported. No details about the movie were revealed.
Be A Literary Character For Charity

A new auction has begun on eBay for a chance to become a character in a famous author's next book, all to benefit the First Amendment Project. Starting this week, bidders can vie for a place in a work of contemporary literature by one of several authors.

Among the prizes: Meet a grisly death in Douglas Preston's next thriller, be a taxidermied rat in Carl Hiaasen's next children's book, be a comic character in Chris Ware's next graphic work, be a law firm in Elinor Lipman's next book, be an alien from Krypton in Kevin J. Anderson's upcoming science fiction epic or become Stephen Elliott's love interest.

Other authors taking part in the benefit auction include John Lescroart, Phillip Margolin, Francine Prose, Emily Barton, Edward P. Jones, Lorrie Moore, Patricia Polacco and Tim Green.

The nonprofit First Amendment Project is dedicated to providing free and low-cost legal services to protect freedom of information, expression and petition. The auction ends Sept. 23.
Carnival Re-Imagines SF Ideas

Elizabeth Bear, winner of the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, told SCI FI Wire that her new book, Carnival, grew out of her addiction to playing with the old tropes of science fiction and trying to re-imagine them in new ways. "Carnival is sort of a collision of the after-the-bomb story with [the] idea of planetary colonies based on crackpot political theories," Bear said in an interview at the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, Calif., last month. "When I pitched it to my editor I described [it] as putting [Joanna Russ'] 'When It Changed' and [Robert A. Heinlein's] Farnham's Freehold in a box and poking them with sticks until they fought."

In the novel, 100 years ago everyone in the Northern Hemisphere and most of the people on the rest of the planet were killed in an eco-terrorist attack, Bear said. "[It was] sort of a radical 'Free Earther' kind of movement whose position was that the planet would be much better off without people on it or with a much-limited human population," she said. "They set up this self-sustaining nanotech infection that prevents the human population of Earth from ever getting over a few million. You have this remnant population who has all this technology and all this education, ... but they can't really expand anywhere. [So] you have ... people fleeing Earth to go off into space to try and found new colonies and found new worlds. And what has happened is that over the past 100 years the remaining population of Earth has started moving outward again and encountering these [previously established] colonies and conquering them."

The latest colony humanity runs up against is a planet that calls itself New Amazonia, Bear said. "[It's] sort of a 'Planet-of-Amazon-Women' kind of thing," she said. "I'm writing about the collision of these two cultures. ... Earth's society is very sort of patriarchal and totalitarian, but the diplomats that they sent on this mission are a couple of men in disgrace because they have a long-term homosexual relationship, which doesn't fly on Earth but makes them the only people that they can send to this planet."

In addition to Carnival, which is due in November, Bear has two books already released this year: a fantasy novel, Blood and Iron, and a short-story collection, The Chains That You Refuse. Next year will see publication of four books: a "mosaic novel" of her "New Amsterdam" stories from Subterranean Press; the sequel to Blood and Iron, Whiskey and Water; Undertow, a caper SF novel, which Bear described as "The Italian Job meets [H. Beam Piper's] Little Fuzzy"; and a novel collaboration with Melusine author Sarah Monette. —John Joseph Adams
EverQuest II Update Now Live

Game update number 27 for EverQuest II has gone live, offering more intrigue and mystery about the old gods of Norrath, as well as new perks for artisans and even a bit of new fashion for the fall, Sony announced.

In the update, the power of the gods continues to grow in Norrath. The prophets of war and tranquility are campaigning for new followers, and Zek, in the Orcish Wastes, is the place where gamers can determine if they are on the side of chaos and combat or order and peace.

Tradeskill work orders have been added with update 27, and gamers can gain faction, status and wealth for master efforts, beginning with subclass level 20.
Species 4, Games 2 Planned

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that its restructured MGM Worldwide Television Distribution Group would handle the distribution of five sequel films, including follow-ups to the classic 1983 SF movie WarGames and a fourth installment in the Species franchise.

WarGames 2, scheduled to begin shooting in Montreal in November, takes up the story of what happens when top officials try to dismantle the first film's famous computer, which nearly started a thermonuclear confrontation.

Species 4 will continue the story of the first three films by moving the action to Mexico, where new experiments with DNA bring horrific results. Frank Mancuso Jr. will oversee the MGM/360 Production movie, which begins filming in October.

MGM Worldwide Television Distribution Group will also handle the international television sales for Casino Royale, the upcoming new James Bond movie, as well as distribution of more than 4,000 movie titles and 10,000 television series that make up the MGM library. Among the key television properties featured in the MGM catalogue is Stargate SG-1.
Friedman Talks Connor Chronicles

Josh Friedman, executive producer of the upcoming The Sarah Connor Chronicles television pilot, told CHUD.com that the show will explore the world of the Terminator movies on which it is based. "I would like to be able to explore as many different avenues of Terminator mythology as possible," Friedman told the site. "I think to do a show that is a completely Terminator-less environment would probably not be, in the long run, a wise move or the most interesting thing."

Friedman (The Black Dahlia) added that the show won't be part of the trend to serialize long stories. "I always go back to The X-Files, which I think did a good job of balancing close-ended stories with mythology stories," Friedman said. "The show will certainly not be a close-ended, procedural adventure-of-the week show. I would say it's going to be a hybrid. It'll be somewhere in between. It's not going to be a Terminator-of-the week show, but it's also not going to be soap opera."

Friedman added: "I read the talkbacks, and people are pissed. They don't want you to mess with it. The Internet has a love/hate thing with the properties they love: They want more, and they want it done well, but they hate it if [franchise creator James] Cameron's not involved. All I ask is that people withhold judgment until they see it. I think it's pretty f--king cool." Warner Brothers TV has set David Nutter to direct the pilot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, prompting Fox Broadcasting to give an official green light to production.
Bond 22 Pushed Back

The 22nd film in the James Bond series and follow-up to this fall's Casino Royale has been pushed back to Nov. 7, 2008, from its original May 2, 2008, release date, IGN FilmForce reported. The delay will allow for a two-year break between Bond pictures, in keeping with recent tradition, the site reported.

British filmmaker Roger Michell had been in talks to helm the movie, but it was recently announced that he and Eon Productions had reached an impasse. The search is on for a new director.

The rumor mill has suggested that the next Bond movie would be a direct continuation of sorts of this November's Casino Royale, with 007 (Daniel Craig) clashing with the shadowy terrorist network he first encounters in Royale. Bond 22 is said to be based on a story idea by series producer Michael G. Wilson, who previously scripted License to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights, Octopussy and A View to a Kill.
Days Started With A Band

Best-selling young-adult author Scott Westerfeld told SCI FI Wire that his latest SF novel for teens, The Last Days, came about because he wanted to write a band book. "I had it in my head to do a band book, [but] it wasn't enough of an idea until I put vampires in it," Westerfeld said in an interview at the World Science Fiction Convention, in Anaheim, Calif., last month.

The Last Days takes place in the same universe as Westerfeld's critically acclaimed Peeps, he said. "Peeps is a vampire novel in which the vampirism is caused by a parasite," he said. "It's a very science-fictional vampire concept that tries to take all the characteristics of the old legends—cruciphobia, fear of light and all of those things—and come up with sort of evolutionarily responsible reason."

Westerfeld said that The Last Days begins in the same long hot summer of imminent vampire-zombie apocalypse that was featured in Peeps. "But the characters are very different because, whereas the main character of Peeps is a parasitologist and knows everything that's going on, the protagonists of The Last Days are five somewhat clueless teenagers who are trying to start a band," Westerfeld said. "I was sort of inspired by the Simon Le Bon [of the band Duran Duran] quote 'We want to be the band to dance to when the bomb drops.' ... [A nuclear weapon] was the apocalypse of that generation in the '80s, ... and now pandemics are one of the possible apocalypses that are vying to replace them. And the idea of a vampire pandemic is kind of an interesting one."

One of the subplots of The Last Days revolves around the band trying to decide on a name, Westerfeld said. "The thing that I most remember about being in bands was trying to figure out what your name was," he said. "And it's one of those things where you say the same word again and again, and it becomes meaningless. And I remembered those arguments going on, and people being so tired and exhausted at the end of the long night talking about what your band should be called. ... That's something I actually remember from my own band days." Westerfeld added: "They never figure out what to call themselves."

Westerfeld's current work-in-progress is a young-adult alternate history novel set in 1914 called Leviathan. "[It takes place in an] Edwardian England in which biotechnology became viable very early on, like in the 1850s," he said. "Charles Darwin's discoveries in the Galapagos were such that people had been designing species for about 60 years by the time the book starts, at least in Britain. In parts of the continent, they rejected this technology as being unholy, so they had machines [instead]. So it's sort of World War I with the machine powers versus the biotechnological powers."

Another of Westerfeld's novels, Uglies, recently won a Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction. It won in the young-adult category, which prize is known as the Hal Clement Award. The 2005 awards were presented at Worldcon. —John Joseph Adams
Harrison Talks Diary Of The Dead

Producer John Harrison, who is working with George A. Romero on his next zombie movie, Diary of the Dead, told iFmagazine that the movie will begin shooting in October and that it will not be a sequel to Romero's other living-dead movies.

"To some extent, it's George revisiting the origins of the zombie mythology," Harrison (SCI FI Channel's Dune) told the magazine. "It's about a group of college students making their senior project, and suddenly they are attacked, the world starts to crumble around them, and as they are trying desperately to get to their homes together, they continue to have these horrific experiences. They continue to document everything that happens to them as they go and, thus, Diary of the Dead."

Harrison added that the script has "got all of his humor and all of his social commentary and obviously some really great scares."
3-D IMAX Feet Scrapped

ComingSoon.net reported that Warner Brothers has scrapped plans to release a 3-D IMAX version of its upcoming animated film Happy Feet, opting instead to issue a 2-D IMAX version on the same date the movie opens in conventional theaters, Nov. 17.

IMAX Corp. had previously announced that the George Miller-directed movie, about penguins who sing and dance, would be converted into 3-D.

The site reported no reason for the change. The 3-D conversion process can cost up to $10 million. Warner has had success with the IMAX 3-D release of The Polar Express, but July's 3-D release of The Ant Bully didn't do nearly as well. About 20 minutes of Superman Returns was also converted into IMAX 3-D.

Happy Feet, which is set deep in Antarctica, is voiced by Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving.
No Pangs For Messengers Reshoots?

Bloody-Disgusting.com reported a rumor that Eduardo Rodriguez (Curandero) directed reshoots of the Pang brothers' upcoming horror film The Messengers.

It's unclear why the Hong-Kong based Pangs, who helmed principal photography, were not involved with the reshoots, but the Web site reported that test-screening audiences responded positively to the new footage.

The Messegers follows a family that moves into a run-down sunflower farm and and begins to notice alarming changes in the father's behavior as the farm revives. It opens Feb. 2, 2007.
Salon Collects The Fantastic

Multiple-award-winning SF editor Ellen Datlow told SCI FI Wire that this month will see publication of her new original anthology Salon Fantastique. "Salon Fantastique is an adult fantasy anthology that Terri Windling and I edited for Thunder's Mouth Press," Datlow said in an interview at the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, Calif., last month. "It's non-themed fantasy, and we have 15 stories by writers such as Peter S. Beagle, Delia Sherman, Jeffery Ford, Richard Bowes, Gregory Maguire and a bunch of other people. The [idea of the] 'salon fantastique' goes back to the 17th century. Terri ... wrote an introduction about where the salon comes from, the whole idea of a political-literary-art salon that started in France. So this is kind of like [that]: the bringing of interesting voices together."

Datlow said that the story by Gregory Maguire (Wicked) is a dreamy World War I tale. "[It's] really interesting," she said. "Apparently it was written for another anthology, and I don't remember who for or why it was turned down, but [Maguire] said he had a story and [wanted to know if I would] be interested in looking at it. It's not his typical work. I mean, I haven't read his novels, but I've published several of his stories, and his stories are usually very straightforward. ... This one goes back and forth in time, and it's very dreamy; it's basically a young man who's in ... a World War I battle who was shot, and he's thinking back to his past and his childhood and his best friend who's with him. ... [It's] called 'Nottamun Town,' which is based on an English rhyme."

Delia Sherman's story, 'La Fee Verte,' is about two prostitutes in Paris circa 1870, Datlow said. "It's this young prostitute who falls in love with another prostitute who 'sees' the future," she said. "It [covers] five to 10 years of their relationship when the young prostitute becomes a kept woman. [We also see] what happens to the other one and [their eventual] falling out."

Datlow added: "Jeffrey Ford's 'The Night Whiskey' starts off as this really goofy story about this town where the people drink this weird whiskey once a year and end up hallucinating. ... [They end] up somehow getting [stuck in] trees and [have] to be plucked from the trees [by] pluckers, these people who are hired once a year to get them down safely. And [then] it moves into a very dark direction. And Peter Beagle's story is kind of a fantasy about alien creatures and the relationship with a person who hates them for her own reasons. So it's quite a mix."

In 2007, Datlow expects to have three original anthologies published: Inferno, a non-themed horror anthology for Tor; an untitled science fiction/fantasy/horror anthology for Del Rey; and The Coyote Road, a young-adult anthology of trickster tales from Viking. Next year will also see the publication of the Ellen Datlow guest-edited issue of Subterranean Magazine. —John Joseph Adams
Four Sequel Starts Shooting

Tim Story, who returns to the directing chair for the superhero sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, announced on his personal blog that production has just begun on the film. Story wrote: "So it has begun! The Fantastic Four have been photographed for Rise of The Silver Surfer. Felt like old times. Everyone's back in the mix, and really picking their characters up where we last left off."

Story's post appeared Sept. 2, two days into the production. He said that one of the days was particularly long due to the large number of special-effects shots. "Just happened to be one of those locations that we can't come back to and we had a lot of effects shots," Story said. "Those things always take forever. The background plates, then the actor buy [sic] himself, then the crowd. Blah blah blah. Wish we could shoot everything practically, but then again, I guess stretching Ioan [Gruffudd] may not go over too well."

Story also said that he has filmed the first scene with Andre Braugher, who plays General Hager, "an old acquaintance of Reed Richards and one of the major additions to the movie." Fantastic Four: Rise of The Silver Surfer is scheduled to open June 15, 2007.
Carlyle Completes Later Cast

Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) is the latest actor to join the cast of the upcoming zombie sequel 28 Weeks Later, Variety reported. The cast already includes Harold Perrineau, Rose Byrne, Catherine McCormack, Imogen Poots, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner and 12-year-old newcomer Mackintosh Muggleton.

The film has started shooting in London under the direction of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto), the trade paper reported. The story picks up six months after the events of 28 Days Later, in which a virus causing hyper-aggression breaks out in London and devastates most of the population. In the sequel, the military is attempting to return families to their London homes when a new outbreak occurs.

Danny Boyle, who directed the first film, is producing along with Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich and Fresnadillo's regular partner Enrique Lopez-Lavigne.
Pirates Haul Grows To $1B

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is poised to gross more than $1 billion in global ticket sales, becoming only the third movie in history to do so, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The sequel film was the number-one movie at the foreign box office this weekend for the ninth week in a row, adding $11.6 million in 49 territories, for a total of $993.7 million in ticket sales, the trade paper reported. Domestically, the film has grossed $579.5 million.

The global record is currently held by Titanic, which earned $1.8 billion at the box office, followed by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with a total of $1.1 billion. Pirates set a record last week as the first film of the century to win eight straight weekends in a row at the international box office.
NBC Developing Island Drama

NBC has ordered a script for a pilot titled Isla Du Sol, about a young woman who travels to a mysterious Brazilian island, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The woman makes the trip to fulfill her aunt's dying wish, but uncovers a hidden past once she gets there.

The project was created by Tom Wheeler, who produced the 2005 television miniseries Empire and is currently working on an update of The A-Team for The CW.
Righetti Moves To Hill

Amanda Righetti (The OC) will play the female lead in the horror sequel Return to House on Haunted Hill, Variety reported. The film will feature a new group of strangers trying to make it through the night inside the same haunted house.

Victor Garcia is directing the film, produced by Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver's Dark Castle Productions. It is scheduled to begin shooting in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Sept. 11. Warner Brothers is aiming for a 2007 release date.
Illusionist Expands Impressively

Neil Burger's period supernatural romance film The Illusionist expanded to 971 theaters over the three-day Labor Day weekend beginning Sept. 1, and added $8 million in ticket sales to its gross, which now stands at a respectable $12.1 million in 17 days, the BoxOfficeMojo.com Web site reported. The take was enough for a fifth-place finish at the box office.

The film stars Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel in a story set in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna and centering on the love triangle among a magician, a countess and the crown prince of Austria-Hungary.

Independent distributor Yari Film Group will expand The Illusionist to around 1,400 theaters on Sept. 8.
Cruise's Daughter, Suri, Debuts

Suri, the heretofore unseen infant daughter of War of the Worlds star Tom Cruise and his fiancee, Katie Holmes, made her worldwide debut in images first broadcast on the CBS Evening News on Sept. 5, which also marked the debut of new anchor Katie Couric, the Reuters news service reported.

The cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair features the much-anticipated first photo of the dark-haired baby, who was born on April 18. The magazine's 22-page Suri photo spread hit newsstands on Sept. 6, with pictures taken by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.
BRIEFLY NOTED

Former Angel star Amy Acker and her actor husband, James Carpinello, welcomed their second child into the world on Sept. 1 in Los Angeles, People magazine reported; Ava Grace weighed 7 lbs. 4 oz. at birth and has an older brother, Jackson, who's 19 months old.

Marvel's X-Men and Cartoon Network's Ben 10 will support a gaming system from Mattel called HyperScan that will go on sale next month, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The new trailer for the upcoming James Bond movie Casino Royale has gone live and is linked through SCI FI Wire's Trailers page.

StarTrek.com has posted a video detailing some of the restoration work and new digital effects upgrades to the original Star Trek series, with glimpses of the newly digital Enterprise in action.

Ain't It Cool News has posted what it says are images of Optimus Prime from the upcoming Transformers movie.

NineMSN.com reported that 29-year-old Australian actor Sam Worthington is believed to be up for a starring role in Titanic director James Cameron's upcoming SF epic film Avatar.

Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, will speak at the Sept. 9 awards banquet that is part of the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Gala & Conference, taking place at the Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame in Seattle.

When Star Trek relaunches in syndication on Sept. 16, the starship Enterprise will get a digital facelift. Glimpse the ship's spruced-up new look on SCI FI Wire's Photo Gallery page.