March 29 issue — Last week Mel Gibson told Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity he was interested in filming the story of the Maccabees—the Jewish liberators whose triumph is celebrated at Chanukah. Could Gibson, whose "Passion of the Christ" has been called anti-Semitic, have been serious? Absolutely, says his publicist, Alan Neirob. "I've heard him talk about this project for years." But Gibson won't be doing it this year—for one thing, he's making a fourth "Mad Max" movie (the first since 1985), called "Mad Max: Fury Road." "Isn't it funny," one industry source muses. "A month ago, everybody was saying 'The Passion' would hurt Mel's career, and now all anyone wants to know is what he's doing next."
Diva Meltdown, Part I
It was a punk-rock kind of week for Courtney Love. Wednesday night she flashed her breasts at David Letterman, after singing a bit of "Danny Boy" in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Later that night she was busted for allegedly throwing a mike stand during her gig at the Manhattan club Plaid and injuring a patron. The next night, at the Bowery Ballroom, she screeched at the crowd—between songs, too—complained her voice was shot after the previous night's adventures and threatened (in vain, it turned out) to make her show a Karen Finley-style performance piece involving a carrot. Too much caffeine!
Diva Meltdown, Part II
In 1999, NEWSWEEK asked Whitney Houston about those substance-abuse rumors. "If it were that bad," she said, "my family would do something about it, trust me." Apparently it was and someone did: last week she went into rehab. (Husband Bobby Brown is out of circulation, too, serving 60 days for a parole violation and for allegedly striking Houston.) "We just want her to get better and feel better," says her friend Natalie Cole. "Whitney has a lot of people who love her and who kept pushing."
Q&A: Ving Rhames
In the remake of "Dawn of the Dead," released last week, Ving Rhames had to face down a scary bunch of zombies. And now the guy's got NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin to deal with.
This must be a first for you. How hard is it to act opposite a zombie?
It's not too difficult. It's only responding to death, and we'll all die at some point.
Who was harder to act opposite: a zombie or Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment"? I've got to be careful with that one, because some actresses could be sensitive and take it not in a joking way. Let me go to the next question.
When you first read the script for "Dawn of the Dead," were you worried you would be killed off in the first 10 minutes?
Well, that's the stereotype, that the black man is killed in the first 10 minutes. I think it was understood that, hey, if I die in the first 10 minutes there's no reason to hire Ving Rhames.
Your real name is Irving?
Yes. I was named after an old radio announcer named Irving R. Levine. God bless him. I don't know who he is or why my mother named me after him.
You went to the "Fame" school. Did you kids really dance in the cafeteria at lunchtime?
Actually, we did. That is true.
You gave your Golden Globe to Jack Lemmon. Would you have done that with an Oscar? Well, I say God laid it on my heart to give it to him. So if God laid it on my heart to give away an Oscar, I would. Just because human beings vote for quote unquote best actor, I don't think it necessarily means best actor. It's just people's opinions.
You were in the "Mission: Impossible" movies. Can you explain the plot of that first one?
[Laughs] No, it's impossible.