Friday, January 25, 2008

Mary-Kate Olsen Will Not Be Questioned About Heath Ledger's Death: Police

'We have no interest in questioning her,' NYPD spokesman says; 'Heath was a friend,' Olsen reportedly says in statement.

Despite reports that police were interested in questioning her about the death of Heath Ledger, a New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed to MTV News on Friday (January 25) that officials have no plans to speak to actress Mary-Kate Olsen about the circumstances surrounding the actor's demise.

"We have no interest in questioning her," NYPD Sergeant Kevin Hayes said when asked about the Olsen reports. "We are awaiting the medical examiner's results." Speculation had surfaced that police might be interested in speaking to Olsen, who received four frantic phone calls from Ledger's masseuse when the actor's body was found in his Soho apartment on Tuesday, but Hayes said that police have no plans to interview anyone about the death at the present time. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, so Hayes said police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which could take from 10 days to two weeks.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Olsen released a statement to The Associated Press, saying, "Heath was a friend. His death is a tragic loss. My thoughts are with his family during this very difficult time."

Police have said they believe that Ledger, 28, was already dead by the time his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, phoned Olsen, 21, who is reported to have been dating the actor for several months prior to his death.

People magazine reported on Friday that funeral services for Ledger would remain private and that he would be buried in his hometown of Perth, Australia, though no official plans have been announced by his family. "At this time, we will not be releasing any information," a representative for Ledger said. "There are no plans for a public service." Members of Ledger's family were reportedly set to arrive in Manhattan Friday for his funeral.

Heath Ledger's Last Hours: New Details Emerge

Actor's family is expected to arrive in New York on Friday.

More details have emerged regarding the death of Heath Ledger in a New York apartment on Tuesday, providing insight into the 28-year-old Australian actor's final hours.

According to The Associated Press, police estimate Ledger's time of death between 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Ledger's housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, said she arrived at the apartment at around 12:30 p.m., and approximately 30 minutes later entered the actor's bedroom to change a light bulb and found him lying in bed, face down, with a sheet pulled up to his shoulders. Solomon told police she heard Ledger snoring and left the room, thinking nothing was wrong.

A massage therapist, Diana Wolozin, arrived just before 3 p.m. for a scheduled appointment, the AP reports. When Ledger failed to answer his bedroom door, Wolozin said she called his cell phone; there was no answer. The masseuse told police she then entered Ledger's bedroom and began setting up her massage table. Then, according to the wire service, Wolozin attempted to stir the actor from his sleep, but he was unresponsive. She told police that Ledger's body was cold to the touch.

The New York Post reported that police who responded to the scene suspected Ledger had been dead for some time, due to the lividity of the body (the manner in which blood settles after a person dies).

According to the AP, Wolozin grabbed Ledger's cell phone and called Mary-Kate Olsen, a friend of Ledger's, seeking advice, (the Post reported that the two were an item). Olsen, who was on the West Coast at the time, summoned private security guards to the apartment to assess the situation. After attempting to wake Ledger again, Wolozin called Olsen back and told her she believed he was dead; Wolozin eventually called 911 just before 3:30 p.m. and told them Ledger was not breathing. The AP claims the emergency operator on the other end instructed the masseuse on how to perform CPR. Paramedics arrived at the scene minutes later, as did the security guards.

CNN reported that medical technicians at the scene administered CPR on the body and used a cardiac defibrillator in an unsuccessful attempt to revive him; the actor was pronounced dead at 3:36 p.m.

These new details surfaced as Ledger's former fiancée, actress Michelle Williams, returned to New York with the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Matilda. On Wednesday night, Williams returned to her Brooklyn home (which she'd formerly shared with Ledger), where her mother, Carla, and actress Busy Phillips, Williams' former "Dawson's Creek" co-star and Matilda's godmother, were waiting to console her, according to the Post.

According to the AP, funeral arrangements have been made for the actor. His family, the wire service reports, is expected to arrive in New York on Friday. George Amado, the general manager of the Frank E. Campbell funeral home, where Ledger's body was taken Wednesday, would not provide specific details about the impending funeral.

On Wednesday, the results of a preliminary autopsy on Ledger's body were inconclusive. Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for New York's medical examiner's office, told MTV News more tests were needed to determine the official cause of death. An official pronouncement of the cause of Ledger's death could come early next month. Police involved in the investigation have speculated that Ledger's death was the result of an accidental drug overdose.

On Wednesday, police confirmed earlier reports that crime-scene technicians had found in the apartment a $20 bill rolled in a manner common among cocaine users, but New York Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told CNN on Thursday that tests on the bill recovered from the scene came back negative for drug residue.

In addition, police told the AP that no illegal drugs were recovered from the apartment. According to the wire service, two anonymous law enforcement officials claim they had found six different prescription drugs in the apartment — including ones to treat insomnia and anxiety, along with an antihistamine. On Wednesday, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined to provide a list of the medications police had seized as evidence, saying, "Some of them were sleeping pills, in essence, and some other drugs were there as well. ... We are going to wait for the toxicology report," the results from which could take weeks, according to one police source.

Ledger's family has responded to media speculation about Heath's death, asking that the world wait for the medical examiner to make a determination before jumping to conclusions. The family also denied Ledger was using drugs, as has been widely reported.

Haydn Ledger, one of Heath's uncles, told CBS' "The Early Show" that his nephew would not have done anything to risk his life. "It just wouldn't come into the equation at all," he said. Both he and Mike Ledger — another of the actor's uncles — deferred questions about Ledger's mental state, saying they'd be best answered by his parents.

Many of Ledger's colleagues in the movie community, including actors, directors and casting directors, have commented on his passing as well.

A publicist for Ledger told CNN on Thursday that the actor had been battling the flu and was prescribed antibiotics while filming scenes for "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" in London. Production on the film reportedly shut down abruptly after Ledger's death.

Also on Thursday, released a video capturing a distraught Helena Christensen, who, according to some media reports, was romantically involved with Ledger. The model said she was "really, really devastated," and sends "all my love" to Ledger's family.

The West Australian, based in Ledger's hometown of Perth, published an interview with model Sophie Ward, the sister of model Gemma Ward (and who Ledger may have been involved with), in which she claims Ledger did not have a drug problem. She told the paper he'd been back in Australia during the holidays, and she didn't see him take a sip of alcohol over several nights spent out on the town.

"He was clean and wasn't drinking any alcohol or taking drugs," Ward said. "He smoked cigarettes, but that's about it. He was drinking diet Coke when we were together, and he said he was very committed to not drinking alcohol. I don't believe he took his own life deliberately."

Ward did say Ledger seemed upset about his split with Williams, and expressed a desire to spend more time with his daughter.

"He was a bit edgy — he couldn't really relax," she said. "He said he was going to London but was quite upset because he couldn't see his daughter as much as he'd like to. He was traveling so much, and I think he was just frustrated with it all."

(Watch family and friends mourn Heath Ledger in New York on Friday, see him talk about his evolution as an actor in a 2005 interview with MTV News, and read his colleagues' and admirers' reactions about the tragic news right here.)

South Carolina '08: What's At Stake For Democrats In Saturday Primary?

Obama is heavily favored to win the party's first contest in a Southern state this cycle.

With less than two weeks to go before so-called "Super Tuesday," when 24 states will hold primaries or caucuses for one or both major parties, Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina has gotten somewhat overshadowed.

But in the tightest presidential-nomination race in decades, where every delegate counts — well, not counting the Democratic ones in Florida and Michigan, that is — and a clear front-runner might not emerge until the party's convention in Denver in August, the 54 Democratic delegates up for grabs in South Carolina are more important than ever.

Here's what's at stake for the three remaining major candidates:

Barack Obama:

Good news: Obama is solidly leading in most of the polls in advance of the first Democratic contest in the South, in some by as much as 10 points. Black voters represent more than 50 percent of the state's registered Democrats, and though Obama has resisted making race an issue in the contest, he has begun a more direct outreach to black voters that could help him notch another victory. His win in Iowa proved he could draw a significant amount of white voters as well, so he seems well-positioned to finally put a rest to any questions of his broad appeal.

Bad news: Obama has not won a contest since taking the Iowa caucus on January 3. His appeal to black voters could hit two roadblocks: the fact that former Senator John Edwards won here in 2004 and the continuing popularity of Bill Clinton in the region. Though the allegations are old, recent questions raised by rival Senator Hillary Clinton over Obama's 120-plus "present" votes while in the Illinois State Senate and his ties to indicted Chicago embezzler Tony Rezko have garnered lots of headlines this week as voters in the state make their final decisions.

Hillary Clinton:

Good news: See above. Former Arkansas governor and honorary "first black president" Bill Clinton remains popular in SC, where he won the primary in 1992 and has been campaigning hard for his wife over the past few days. Plus, she's on a roll, having won New Hampshire, Nevada and Michigan, although Democratic delegates in the latter state won't count after being decertified by the Democratic National Committee. Clinton has tried to overcome a now-settled but nasty battle over what the Obama campaign called her racially loaded comments about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in civil-rights legislation.

Bad news: Obama has slammed Clinton for not spending enough time in SC in favor of visiting a couple of Super Tuesday states while sending Bill Clinton to do her campaigning. John Edwards also criticized her earlier this week for being absent the state after a contentious CNN Democratic debate on Monday. And though she won last week's Nevada caucus, Clinton only pulled in 20 percent of the black vote, and since then Bill Clinton has been taking more heat for his sometimes-biting jabs at Obama. National Public Radio news analyst Daniel Schorr suggested in a commentary on Wednesday that the former president's smash-mouth campaigning is, well, not very presidential, and that it may "boomerang" against candidate Clinton and hurt her campaign.

John Edwards:

Good news: The former North Carolina senator — and native son of South Carolina — is in his element in the South, especially in the state where he won his only 2004 primary. He was seen as the levelheaded one during the Monday debate, rising above Obama and Clinton's name-calling and sniping, and vowing to focus on the real problems facing voters and represent the "grown-up" wing of the party. Some pundits have said his measured tone might buoy his chances and could cut into the Clinton vote if voters sour on the increasingly negative tone of her campaign. A win could pump life into a campaign that has been largely overshadowed by the Clinton/Obama show.

Bad news: Despite Edwards' oft-repeated stump story about his father's toil as a millworker in the Palmetto State, he's polling third in his own backyard and doesn't appear to have a shot at winning. Even with the aforementioned win in 2004 and rhetoric about the hardships facing small-town and rural America amid recent bad economic news, Edwards trails in a state with the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 6.6 percent. The multimillionaire ex-lawyer has yet to notch a caucus or primary win, and his decision to accept federal matching funds will limit the amount of money he can raise through the rest of the cycle, putting him at a huge disadvantage to the Obama/Clinton cash machines. Another loss could result in even those meager donations drying up. And, finally, his history-battling dilemma was perhaps crystallized in a line Obama used in the debate Monday night. He said the race is one where "you've got an African-American, and a woman and ... John."

Jack Black Confesses To Stare-Down With 50 Cent, Uncovers The Wii's Appeal

'I met Fiddy one time ... we exchanged eye contact,' 'Be Kind Rewind' star says from Sundance.

PARK CITY, Utah — Although you won't get to see many of the Sundance '08 films until late this year into next, one of the most enjoyable flicks up here was "Be Kind Rewind," a flick starring Jack Black and Mos Def that wears a quirky badge proudly on its sleeve. "Rewind" hits theaters everywhere February 22 and received a special slot at Sundance largely in tribute to writer/director Michel Gondry, the visionary behind such films as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

Telling the story of two numbskulls who delete all the VHS tapes in their video store and try to refilm the movies with themselves as the stars, "Rewind" is a movie made for people who love movies. It also helps if you love Jack Black — and since we do, we were eager to catch up with him at Sundance to discuss his ab-tastic T-shirt, his theories on the popularity of the Wii, and a new project opposite Michael Cera.

MTV: "Be Kind Rewind" is about "Sweding," the process of remaking a classic film with you and your friends in the lead roles. Of all the great movies to come from Sundance over the years, what one would you like to Swede?

Jack Black: If I could redo any classic Sundance movie, I'd go with "Sex, Lies, and Videotape."

MTV: You wanna be James Spader?

Black: I'd be Spader. ... He's the creepy guy, but he ends up being the really good, nice guy.

MTV: It's probably not the first time that you and Spader have been mentioned for the same role over the years.

Black: [He laughs.] Yeah, It's always me and Spade. It's a battle to the death for acting supremacy.

MTV: I hate to call you out, but we've been going around to all these swag lounges, and it seems that every time somebody talks about which celebrities are coming in next for free stuff, they always list yourself.

Black: Oh really?

MTV: So what have you been doing with yourself lately?

Black: Well, I've just been going and doing interviews promoting my new movie. ... And, yeah, I've been going into swag kiosks and looking at what they have. Taking what I need and discarding the rest.

MTV: What booty have you scored so far?

Black: I've got one of those things over there. A camera? A flip camera, video camera. I don't know what it does, but I think it's good. And I got some sunglasses, I got some flip-flops, which will be really be handy while I'm out here. And I got some stuff for my lady.

MTV: How does it work? Do you just walk in and say, "I'm Jack Black! Gimme stuff!"

Black: No, there are strings attached. You do have to take pictures with the products, and you don't know what they're gonna do with those pictures.

MTV: I heard you were going to the Gibson Lounge to do some rocking out on their guitars. True?

Black: That's what I heard too, but I did not do any rocking. I need warning! I can't just start, like, rocking. I have to practice and figure out all my moves beforehand. I take it very seriously. They think it's just like, "Yeah, start rocking." But it doesn't happen like that. You've gotta get your game face on. You've got to do your preparations.

MTV: The Wii Lounge also claimed you were coming over to play their downhill-skiing game.

Black: I did not go to the Wii Lounge either, but I was thinking about this the other day: The Nintendo Wii is the most popular of all video game systems right now — more than the Xbox, more than the PlayStation. And the reason is simple: because it's called Wii. It just sounds fun! Weeeee!

MTV: Makes sense. Which of this year's Sundance films are you going to try to see?

Black: I kinda want to see the 3-D U2 movie. And I also want to check out this one called "Where the Hell Is Osama bin Laden?" [Editor's note: The documentary is actually called "Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?"] That's all I know. What else is good?

MTV: "The Yellow Handkerchief" is pretty cool.

Black: It's just pretty cool? 'Cause I'm not interested in pretty cool. I'm interested in "Oh my God!"

MTV: The George A. Romero zombie film ["Diary of the Dead"] is "Oh my God" in some ways.

Black: [He laughs.] All right, I'm going to that.

MTV: We've talked to all kinds of people at Sundance throwing big parties: 50 Cent, Paris Hilton, Nick Cannon. Will you be hanging with any of them?

Black: Maybe Fiddy. I might see him around, I don't know. He didn't call me.

MTV: Are you and 50 Cent good friends?

Black: I met Fiddy one time. I wouldn't say we're good friends. But we exchanged eye contact. And it was real. It was on!

MTV: Who has the more intimidating stare?

Black: It was close. I was pretty intense.

MTV: You've got a T-shirt on that really flaunts your abs. Have you been working out for your next role?

Black: Yeah, I'm playing ["Rocky IV" actor] Dolph Lundgren. I've been doing a lot of workouts, and I'm trying to get the reverse farmer's tan.

MTV: But for real, your next flick is the comedy "Year One" with Michael Cera. Is that why you're growing this beard?

Black: Yeah, it's a comedy set in biblical times, and back in biblical times, they didn't have the Mach 3 razor.

MTV: How is your comedic style jelling with Cera's straight-man routine?

Black: It's been working. We've had a week of filming already, and he's incredible. He's so funny and great. We're a team. I think we make a good team.

Stone Temple Pilots Reunion Tour Close To Becoming A Reality, Sources Say

Negotiations are still ongoing for potential U.S. summer trek.

The rumors began a few weeks back: Stone Temple Pilots — the grunge act featuring frontman Scott Weiland, bassist Robert DeLeo, guitarist Dean DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz that has been on hiatus since 2002 — would be revived this summer for a one-off reunion tour of the U.S. And for weeks, nothing has been confirmed.

While no one from the STP camp has said definitively that the comeback is a go, Weiland did recently tell The Miami Herald that fans should "be on the lookout" for an STP reunion in the coming months. And then there's this week's Billboard story, which says that Weiland's Velvet Revolver bandmate Slash claimed the singer will rejoin his former bandmates in Stone Temple Pilots for a handful of summer reunion shows this summer — although the article contains no quote of him saying that.

Hmmm. Last anyone can remember, Slash was never a member of Stone Temple Pilots, and it hasn't yet been revealed what the guitarist actually said on the matter. What MTV News can tell you is that negotiations are still ongoing, but it's looking very likely that Stone Temple Pilots will be coming to a town near you this summer. According to numerous sources close to the band and others who work in various capacities throughout the industry, the reunion tour is on. Some claim venues have already been reserved throughout the country for the trek, and others say they're actively trying to secure their bands opening slots on the proposed run.

The fact that the DeLeo brothers' post-STP band, Army of Anyone, are on indefinite hiatus might make the reunion even more of a genuine possibility. Velvet Revolver, on the other hand, just kicked off a tour on Thursday night and are expected to begin writing material for their next album in the spring.

So, will the STP reunion happen this summer or will it not? If the tour does indeed go down, then it would be one of the biggest reunions in recent years — and would follow something of a rock trend. Bands like Rage Against the Machine, the Police and even Led Zeppelin have all re-formed in recent years. In the meantime, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

'The Color Purple' Ends Broadway Run Weeks After Fantasia's Exit; Movie Version May Be On The Way

Addition of Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, 'Idol' contestant LaKisha Jones couldn't save floundering show.

"The Color Purple," the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical that turned Fantasia into the unexpected darling of Broadway, posted its closing notice yesterday. The surprise announcement comes less than three weeks after the "American Idol" winner ended her critically and commercially hailed run in the Broadway show.

Sources tell MTV News that a movie version of the musical, starring Fantasia, is likely.

While it is common for shows to suffer a post-holiday lull in ticket sales, "The Color Purple" was unable to fill the void left when its unexpected standout star finished her contractual run January 6.

Fantasia burst onto the Great White Way in April of last year, making her Broadway debut as Celie, the used and abused Southern woman who, over the course of four decades, finds her voice and herself. It was an emotionally charged and exhaustingly compelling performance that left audiences — both regular theatergoers and Fantasia fans — completely riveted.

As her contracted run dwindled, the producers decided to give the role of Celie to an unknown actress, Zonya Love. But they also brought in more recognized stars to cover supporting roles. Versatile singing star Chaka Khan, gospel singer BeBe Winans and "American Idol" fourth-place finisher LaKisha Jones all joined the cast recently.

Because of the costs associated with putting "names" into a show, producers usually only do so if they are hoping for an extended run. But box-office receipts didn't show any promise. According to reports, "The Color Purple" was running at 76.8 percent capacity during the holiday week of December 23. For the week of January 13, its first without Fantasia, it ran at 45.9 percent capacity.

It was an unlikely pairing: the epic Broadway musical and the talent-show winner. Since winning season three of "Idol" in 2004, Fantasia recorded two R&B albums, Free Yourself and Fantasia, neither of which seemed to showcase a future Broadway star. Indeed, at the time producers asked her to consider playing the role in New York, Fantasia had not only never seen a Broadway show, but had never seen a musical.

Music insiders, too, considered Broadway an unusual choice for Fantasia — and vice versa.

"I thought she was going off to that pasture where all the Idols go," Keith Murphy, an editor at Vibe magazine, told MTV News back in July.

Critics, poised for the kill, instead melted. The difficult-to-please New York Times reviewers referred to her as "pretty terrific. So terrific that this earnest but mechanical musical is more effective and affecting than it was when it yawned open a year and a half ago." Even Fantasia's most recent album started climbing the charts — quite the opposite of going out to pasture.

While she was only supposed to do the show for six months, she re-upped to take the musical through the new year, telling MTV News, "The cast, crew and producers have been wonderful to work with and are all very supportive. I have the best of both worlds right now. I am very blessed."

This closing comes on the heels of the demise of another once-popular show, "Rent," which recently announced it would be closing June 1.

Contributing to the demise of these shows is the 19-day strike by the stagehands' union, which happened in November and December of last year. Those holiday weeks are used to featherbed the lean weeks of January and February, when shows typically underperform.

Still, there is hope that "The Color Purple" will live on — with Fantasia. Though details of the possible film version of the musical are still sketchy, if it happens, it would be the fourth incarnation of Celie's tale. The story began as a novel by Alice Walker, published in 1982, and was then adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985. That movie, which stars Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, garnered eight Academy Award nominations. The $11 million musical opened in 2005.

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Heath Ledger's Death: Awards Shows Struggling With How To Pay Tribute

'Something's gonna be done. We just don't yet know what,' a representative for the Independent Spirit Awards says.

Almost immediately after the sudden death of Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger on Tuesday, tributes from colleagues, friends, family members and fans began to flood in. Many have been moved to honor the man some called one of the best actors of his generation.

Now, three days after Ledger's death, many awards shows are trying to figure out how best to do the same thing.

"Something's gonna be done," a representative for the Independent Spirit Awards, who did not want to be named, told MTV News. "We just don't yet know what."

A previous ISA Best Male Lead nominee for "Brokeback Mountain," Ledger was slated to receive the Robert Altman Award with director Todd Haynes and the cast of "I'm Not There," a film in which Ledger was one of six actors to play the role of Bob Dylan. The 28-year-old actor was to be among the very first recipients of the award, named last year in honor of director Robert Altman.

Ledger's presence at the ceremony, which he attended last year with then-fiancee Michelle Williams, will be sorely missed and appropriately noted, sources said.

"Obviously it's on everybody's minds over here. It's been discussed: 'What are we going to do about Heath?' " another ISA source, who also did not want to be named, revealed to MTV News. "We're figuring out what to do, but we're working on something. Luckily, we've got a month."

Compounding the delicate matter for the ISA is the fact that Ledger is not the only nominee to pass away. Also up for an award is writer/director Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered in New York in November 2006. A nominee for Best Screenplay ("Waitress"), Shelly and Ledger will be similarly honored, according to the ISA.

While the Independent Spirit Awards has time on its hands in composing an appropriate tribute, the Screen Actors Guild Awards is not so fortunate. Though not up for a SAG Award this year, Ledger, a two-time nominee — again, for his work on "Brokeback Mountain" — should be honored at this year's ceremony if time permits, a source told MTV News. A representative for the awards show said they were working furiously to insert Ledger into a video-memoriam package, although it's been complicated by the fact that he died so close to the show's airdate, which is Sunday.

Also planning to acknowledge Ledger is the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Awards, a show that honors individuals and projects for their positive representations of the gay community. Along with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, Ledger was lauded for his portrayal of a homosexual ranch hand in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain."

"GLAAD intends on acknowledging Heath Ledger's death at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards," publicist Nick Adams told MTV News. "We are still in the early stage of production, and do not know at this time what form that will take."

Representatives for the Academy Awards could not be reached by press time.

The most interesting tribute, however, may not come from colleagues. In the wake of Ledger's death, the Web site — which for months has been the primary location of online viral marketing for "The Dark Knight" — was updated recently with a black ribbon. Ledger recently completed his role as the Joker in the highly anticipated sequel.

Jennifer Lopez And Marc Anthony Do Disney; Plus Gnarls Barkley, Mary J. Blige, Krist Novoselic, Bjork & More, In For The Record

Gnarls almost done with second LP; Blige responds to steroid allegations; Novoselic donates to Ron Paul campaign.

Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Whoopi Goldberg and Jessica Biel are among the celebs captured in a new Disney installment of work by esteemed Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz. In the images, Lopez is portrayed as Jasmine and Anthony as Aladdin in a "Whole New World" scene, while Biel is dressed as Pocahontas, running through a forest. "I was a huge Disney fan growing up as a kid, and Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Ariel — all those characters were huge for me," Biel said in a statement. The "Disney Dream Portrait Series" will be featured throughout the year at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. ...

Gnarls Barkley don't have a release date or name yet for their second album, but it's nearing completion, according to Danger Mouse is busying himself with other projects in the meantime, including lending production to the Black Keys' Attack & Release; Martina Topley-Bird's The Blue God; and Shortwave Set's new LP, which is tentatively titled Replica Sun Machine. ...

Mary J. Blige recently spoke with MTV Base about the ongoing New York steroid probe in which she was recently named. "I really don't want to clear anything up, because I've been spoken about for so many years — rumors I'm pregnant, I'm a man, I'm this, I'm that, why? At the end of the day, I have nothing to prove to anyone. I am Mary and that's that." A report that surfaced in the Times Union last week claimed Blige was among tens of thousands of people who might have used or received prescribed shipments of steroids and injectable human-growth hormone in recent years, although law-enforcement officials said they don't have any evidence that laws were violated. ...

Krist Novoselic, the former Nirvana bassist who has been politically active in Seattle in recent years, has voiced his support for a 2008 presidential candidate, and it's ... Ron Paul? Novoselic alluded to the Republican long-shot candidate in his Seattle Weekly column earlier this month, saying, "The Internet is already doing this with campaign phenomenon like Howard Dean in 2004, and this year with Ron Paul." The Web site shows that he made a $250 contribution to the candidate in mid-September. ...

Björk has nixed her planned appearance at the Big Day Out on Friday night (January 25) in Sydney, Australia. "Doctors have advised Björk to rest due to swelling of the vocal cords," Ken West and Vivian Lees, who produce and direct the festival, said in a statement posted on the Icelandic singer's Web site. "This is a great disappointment to Björk, who is on her first tour of Australia in 12 years." She is slated to rejoin Big Day Out on Monday for a show in Melbourne, followed by performances February 1 in Adelaide and February 3 in Perth. ...

The Reminder (Feist), Kala (M.I.A.), Neon Bible (the Arcade Fire), Cross (Justice) and Sound of Silver (LCD Soundsystem) have all made the cut as finalists for the Shortlist Music Prize. Also in the running are In Our Bedroom After the War (Stars), Sky Blue Sky (Wilco), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Spoon), Businessmen and Ghosts (Working for a Nuclear Free City) and Untrue (Burial). The winner will be announced in February. ... Dem Franchize Boyz will bounce back on April 1 with their third effort, Da Point of No Return, which is anchored by the first single, "Talkin' Out Da Side of Ya Neck." Also look for featured appearances by Mannie Fresh on "Mr. Feel Good" and Blaze on "Turn Heads." ...

Marvel Studios is the latest company to reach an agreement with the striking Writers Guild of America, it was announced Friday. "Marvel Studios' signing of an interim agreement with the Writers Guild is more good news for our membership," WGA East President Michael Winship and WGA West President Patric Verrone said in a joint statement. "Marvel is committed to fairly compensating their writers and now they can move forward with their planned production schedule." ... Yes! Will Ferrell has received the James Joyce award in Ireland, where he has been traveling with his dad and brother to trace their family roots, according to The Associated Press. The "Blades of Glory" actor accepted the award — which has been given to Jesse Jackson and others in the past — on Wednesday night and addressed more than 1,000 students at the University College Dublin. "As I perused my leather-bound volumes of 'Ulysses,' 'Finnegans Wake,' 'Dubliners,' 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,' standing in my mahogany library, a lot of feelings ran across my mind. Like: 'Damn, I should have read these books,' " he reportedly said. ...

My Morning Jacket — who sold out their June 20 show at NYC's Radio City Music Hall in just over 20 minutes — have arrived at a title for their new album. Evil Urges, the band's fifth LP, is due June 10. ... Bono hailed Bill Gates on Friday when the Microsoft chairman announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend $306 million on environmentally friendly technology and farming techniques to help aid millions of impoverished Africans. "It's a very special moment in time, I think, for Davos, and people here," Bono said in the Swiss city, according to The Associated Press. "This is Bill Gates' last trip to Davos as Microsoft leader, and I think it is an extraordinary thing that this man has not just changed the world once, but has now set aside the next act of his life to change the world again, and I think we should just mark this moment." ...

The summer music-festival scene just got a bit less crowded. Less than two months after announcing their plan to host a three-day camping music festival on a 500-acre farm in Vineland, New Jersey, the forces behind Lollapalooza (C3 Presents) and England's Reading Festival (Festival Republic) have announced that they've pulled the plug on the event. Originally scheduled for August 8-10, the Vineland Festival, which never announced a lineup and had faced considerable opposition from area residents concerned about noise and traffic, will now attempt to launch in 2009. Organizers cited "overall festival traffic in the Northeast"— apparently referring to the just-announced All Points West Festival, which is scheduled for the same weekend in Liberty State Park, New Jersey, and is being coordinated by the people who bring you Coachella every year. Organizers also noted big bands touring the area around the same time as the reason for scrapping the event. ...

Heads up, straight-edge hardcore fans: Ex-Minor Threat drummer Jeff Nelson has thrown up for auction on eBay a bunch of rare and unique items from the band and other hardcore acts. Items include fliers, posters, 7-inches and more. ... Want your name to appear in a Saosin release? The band is launching a contest with mobile marketing company Mozes that will give fans the chance to have their name featured in the credits of the booklet that will accompany their forthcoming "Saosin Live" DVD/CD package. Interested? Text SAOSINDVD to 66937 and join the band's mobile list and follow the prompt. ... UB40 might want to rename themselves "UB39," at least for the time being: The British group, which was huge in the '80s, has lost its frontman. "No words can express how upset I feel today that I have been forced to make this decision," Ali Campbell wrote in a Friday post on his Web site. UB40 said in a statement of their own that they will continue without Campbell, a founding member of the band.


Despite widespread reports that Sean "Diddy" Combs had changed his name to Sean John, his rep clarified the situation to MTV News on Thursday (January 24). "Recent reports of a name change are totally false, he is still Diddy," the rep wrote. "He is currently in 'Sean John' mode as the upcoming Sean John fashion show is scheduled for February 8 in New York." ...

One of Britney Spears' friends was deposed Thursday by Kevin Federline's lawyer Mark Vincent Kaplan as he prepares for an April trial involving a request by Spears' ex for primary physical custody of their children. Sam Lufti had previously avoided a notice to appear by Federline's team of lawyers but was eventually served in November. ... Lionsgate said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with striking writers to work on its projects, according to Reuters. "Lionsgate signed an interim agreement with the Writers Guild of America today," the entertainment company reportedly said in a statement. "The writers' issue seems on its way to being solved, and Lionsgate felt it was an important time, particularly in view of our TV series, to have our writer partners get back to work. We look forward to a broad industry agreement soon." ...

John McCain is getting support from another Vietnam veteran, albeit a fictional one: Rambo. Sylvester Stallone recently voiced his support for the Arizona senator, who is in a tight race for the Republican presidential nomination, on TV's "Fox and Friends," according to a press release from his campaign. "I like McCain a lot," Stallone said. "A lot. And you know, things may change along the way, but there's something about matching the character with the script. And right now, the script that's being written — and reality — is pretty brutal and pretty hard-edged, like a rough action film. ... You need somebody who's been in that to deal with it." When host Brian Kilmeade informed McCain of the "Rocky Balboa" star's endorsement on Thursday morning (January 24), he reportedly replied, "I'm going to Philadelphia and running up the steps." ...

Bono swung by the Pentagon to talk about Africa and global poverty with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The two reportedly met for 20 minutes and discussed plans to construct a new U.S. military command for Africa. The U2 singer was reportedly in Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional budget committees, and his meeting with Gates was not publicized ahead of time. ... Trey Anastasio spent the weekend in the pokey for violating the conditions of his drug-treatment program last year, The Associated Press reports. The former Phish frontman was punished for an unspecified violation of a court contract that resulted after he pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance in April. Anastasio, who lives in Richmond, Vermont, was in a jail in upstate New York for two days. ...

Scarlett Johansson has finally firmed up details surrounding her first music album, a collection of mostly Tom Waits covers. Anywhere I Lay My Head will drop May 20 and feature 10 Waits tribute tracks plus an original cut. The "Nanny Diaries" actress hammered out the effort in Maurice, Louisiana, during a five-week visit at Dockside Studio in spring 2007. She got some assists from Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Sean Antanaitis from Celebration and TV on the Radio's David Sitek, who produced the LP. ... The 35th annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll has named Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem as its top album of 2007. The rest of the top 10 albums in the poll, voted on by hundreds of rock critics, included In Rainbows (Radiohead), Kala (M.I.A.), Back to Black (Amy Winehouse), Neon Bible (Arcade Fire), Graduation (Kanye West), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Spoon), Raising Sand (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and Magic (Bruce Springsteen). Winehouse topped the singles list with her hit "Rehab," followed by "Umbrella" (Rihanna), "All My Friends" (LCD Soundsystem), "1234" (Feist), "D.A.N.C.E." (Justice), "Paper Planes" (M.I.A.), "Stronger" (Kanye West), "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" (UGK) and "Young Folks" (Peter Bjorn and John). ...

This year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest will take place April 25-27 and May 1-4 and feature sets from the Roots, Raconteurs, Keyshia Cole, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Santana, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Sheryl Crow, Galactic, Ozomatli with Chali 2na, Jimmy Buffett and dozens of other roots, blues, soul, Cajun and jazz artists. ... Motion City Soundtrack, Phantom Planet and the Hush Sound have slipped onto the bill for the Honda Civic Tour, which will be anchored by Panic at the Disco. The cities the trek will hit have also been announced: San Francisco (April 10); San Diego (April 12); Phoenix (April 13); Tulsa, Oklahoma (April 15); Ruston, Louisiana (April 17); Dallas (April 18); Austin, Texas (April 19); Houston (April 20); Clearwater, Florida (April 22); Miami Beach, Florida (April 23); Lake Buena Vista, Florida (April 24); Atlanta (April 26); North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (April 29); Washington, D.C. (April 30); Orono, Maine (May 2); Troy, New York (May 3); Rochester, New York (May 6); New York (May 7); Philadelphia (May 9); Wallingford, Connecticut (May 10); Boston (May 11); Montreal (May 13); Toronto (May 14); Cleveland (May 16); Columbus, Ohio (May 17); Indianapolis (May 18); Detroit (May 20); Chicago (May 23); Milwaukee (May 25); Minneapolis (May 27); St. Louis (May 30); Council Bluffs, Iowa (May 31); Kansas City, Missouri (June 1); Denver (June 3); Salt Lake City (June 4); Vancouver, British Columbia (June 6); Seattle (June 7); Portland, Oregon (June 8); Las Vegas (June 13); and Anaheim, California (June 14). ...

Uncle Murda was shot in the head late Tuesday night but the injury was not serious, according to New York's Daily News. The popular upstart rapper, who was signed to Roc-A-Fella Records by Jay-Z and backed by DJ Green Lantern, suffered a minor head wound after he was grazed by a bullet while sitting in a parked car in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. There is no word on whether the rapper has been released from the hospital. Calls made by MTV News to reps for Uncle Murda were not returned as of press time. ... Danny Glover was convicted for trespassing on Thursday (January 24) in Niagara Falls, Ontario, according to AP. Canadian Niagara Hotels had charged the actor and two other men after they protested at a Sheraton in September 2006. The protest was part of a larger effort to boost salaries and improve working conditions for hotel workers in North America. They will be sentenced February 8. ...

Los Angeles city officials have asked a judge to ban members of the Mob Piru street gang from congregating in a neighborhood of Compton, California, and included on their list of 200 gang members was former Death Row Records boss Marion "Suge" Knight. The Los Angeles Times reports that Knight's name was on the request, which would ban members of the gang from congregating, carrying guns, drinking alcohol in public or staying out past 10 p.m. Knight, who has struggled to get his label back online after a number of legal tangles and prison time, told the paper he thought the injunction was a "publicity stunt" and that it should not have included him. "This is crazy," he said. "I'm a 42-year-old businessman, not a gang member. I don't even live in Compton anymore." A hearing on the matter is slated for Thursday (January 24). ...

Perez Hilton won an $85,000 judgment on Wednesday in a defamation lawsuit brought by celebrity DJ Samantha Ronson. According to AP, a judge ordered Ronson to pay the blogger $85K, plus an additional $2,000 if Hilton (born Mario Lavandeira) requests it, in the suit over a report on Hilton's blog last year. The post repeated a claim from that said Ronson planted cocaine found in friend Lindsay Lohan's car during a May car crash involving the actress. "Perez Hilton will take steps to make sure every dime is collected," his lawyer Bryan J. Freedman said. "This should make one careful before filing a lawsuit against him." The judge removed Hilton from the suit in November after the blogger's attorneys argued he was protected by free-speech rights. Ronson's attorney unsuccessfully argued that Hilton's lawyers' fees were excessive and that he should get no more than $13,400 to recover his legal costs. ...

And the hits just keep coming ... just not the ones the music industry is looking for. According to numbers released by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, global music sales fell by around 10 percent in 2007, falling at a faster rate than they did in 2006, despite a growth in digital-music sales of around 40 percent. The IFPI said illegal downloading continues to be a major problem, with the ratio of illegally downloaded tracks to legal tracks sold at around 20 to 1. Also included in the report was news that the first-ever global music-download sales chart was topped by Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which sold 7.3 million downloads across the world. ...

Gallows, a punk band from England, are the latest act to be banned from playing the House of Blues at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, according to The Onion's A.V. Club. The group was reportedly barred from playing its scheduled show there Tuesday night because Disney objects to the group's lyrical content. Machine Head and Cannibal Corpse suffered similar fates at venues located on Disney property last year.

Britney Spears Misses Driving-Charge Hearing; Says She's 'Sick, But In A Good Way'

'I don't think it will go to trial,' singer's lawyer tells reporters outside courthouse; case was continued until February 20.

Twice in one week, Britney Spears has ditched court proceedings, forcing her lawyers to carry on without her. Her latest no-show was for a hearing early Friday morning (January 25) regarding her charge of driving without a license in Van Nuys, California.

Judge T.K. Herman expressed frustration that the misdemeanor charge, which stemmed from an incident in August, was taking so long to resolve, telling the court, "It's apparent that both sides are waiting for other developments. I'm throwing a monkey wrench in those plans."

Herman ordered the singer's attorney and the Los Angeles deputy city attorney to confer about whether this case would go to trial or if a plea agreement could be made. Though the prosecution offered a deal where if Spears would plead guilty, she'd only have to pay a $3,000 fine, her attorney J. Michael Flanagan rejected the offer, saying it wasn't worth having a criminal offense on her record.

"There is no dispute to the facts," Flanagan told reporters outside the courthouse. "There is only a dispute as to the law applicable to the facts. Normally, in California, a charge of driving without a license would be dismissed once the individual has corrected the situation. I would like to see this case dismissed. I don't think it will go to trial."

The case was continued until February 20.

Though Spears had been ordered to appear in court, the singer opted instead to stay up all night Thursday, making runs to Rite Aid and practicing a dance routine at 24 Hour Fitness, during which she made a few cryptic comments.

When asked if she was sad about Heath Ledger's passing, Spears told photographers and videographers, "He's still here. No one ever really dies." And when cautioned to cover up in the rain, otherwise she might get sick, Spears responded, "I'm already sick, but in a good way, if you know what I mean."

Lil Wayne Hit With Felony Drug and Weapons Charges Over Arizona Bust

Rapper is allowed to leave the state and will reportedly play scheduled show in Richmond, Virginia.

Three days after border police stopped him at a checkpoint and turned up a variety of drugs and handguns on his tour bus, Lil Wayne was hit with felony drug and weapons charges in a Yuma, Arizona, courtroom on Friday (January 25).

The Associated Press reports that 25-year-old Wayne (born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) was in court as the Yuma County attorney filed one count each of felony possession of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of dangerous drugs, misconduct involving weapons and possession of drug paraphernalia. Wayne's Arizona attorney, James Tilson, could not be reached for comment at press time.

A preliminary hearing in the case has been set for February 12, and the judge lifted a bail restriction on Wayne that allows him to leave the state. Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Friday morning that Wayne was expected to appear at his sold-out show at the Landmark Theater in Richmond. The rapper's manager, Cortez Bryant, reportedly told the paper that Wayne would "definitely" be performing, explaining that he would fly out of Phoenix on Friday afternoon following his court appearance and land in Richmond in time to perform at the gig.

The latest legal entanglement for the rapper came on Tuesday when a search of his tour bus at a border checkpoint near Dateland, Arizona, uncovered nearly 4 ounces of marijuana, more more than 1 ounce of cocaine, 41 grams of ecstasy, drug paraphernalia, $22,000 in cash and a .40-caliber pistol that was registered to Wayne in Florida, where he has a concealed-weapons permit. Wayne was released from a Yuma County jail Wednesday night after posting $10,185 in bail. No information was available on one of the other men who was arrested at the same time and was expected in court on Friday as well. A third man was charged Friday with possession of marijuana.

The arrest is the most recent in a string of legal problems Lil Wayne has faced in the last six months. In July, the rapper was arrested on gun-possession charges just a few hours after his first major performance in New York. Three months later, he missed a scheduled concert after being arrested and jailed in Boise, Idaho, on a felony fugitive charge, which Wayne's lawyer blamed on a paperwork mix-up.

Heath Ledger In Retrospect: '10 Things' You Didn't Know About The Actor

Recently departed actor was named after character in British novel; had role as a gay character well before 'Brokeback Mountain.'

In the wake of Heath Ledger's tragic death this week, the Oscar-nominated star is being remembered as a loving father and a talented, charming actor. But while Ledger left behind a burgeoning career that stretched from starring roles in 1999's "10 Things I Hate About You" through July 18's Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight," and beyond, his résumé is even deeper than you probably thought. And as Hollywood continues to come to grips with Ledger's death, there's a lot about the soft-spoken star that most people didn't know. Here are "10 things" about Heath Ledger that might help shed more light on the sadly departed 28-year-old.

1. His name has roots in a classic British novel.

Heath and his sister Katie are named after characters in Emily Brontë's 1847 classic, "Wuthering Heights." The protagonist of the book is Heathcliff, a violent and sadistic villain, according to Columbia University professor Nicholas Dames, who specializes in 19th century British literature.

"One of the things that Heathcliff is known for in the novel is laughing, although only laughing at the spectacle of someone else's pain. In that sense, he's a deeply screwed-up figure. ... That's kind of like the Joker," Dames said, referring to Ledger's "Dark Knight" character. "The funniest thing for the Joker is hurting somebody else."

On a side note, Ledger and Michelle Williams bought a house in 2004 in Bronte Beach, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

2. He was a Shakespearean actor.

Ledger's first major Hollywood role was in the teen comedy "10 Things," a modern-day remix of William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." But Ledger had actually dabbled in Shakespeare before that. In the mid-'90s, he joined the Globe Shakespeare Company in his hometown of Perth, Australia.

3. He was obsessed with Nick Drake.

Nick Drake was a British singer/songwriter who died in 1974 at age 26 after overdosing on antidepressants. One of Ledger's final artistic statements was a music video for Drake's song "Black Eyed Dog" that he directed and in which he starred. At the end of the clip, Heath depicts himself drowning in a bathtub.

"[In] ancient Greek culture, drowning was the worst possible death simply because your body couldn't be found," Dames said. "For a while in the 19th century, there was a fascination with drowning. ... Virginia Woolf comes to mind. ... There is this fascination [with drowning] as a method of suicide because it comes from Shakespeare."

4. His "Brokeback Mountain" character wasn't his first gay role.

Ledger wasn't afraid to play gay. And not just because he was dreaming of Oscar glory. Long before "Brokeback," one of the actor's first parts came in 1996 via an Australian TV series called "Sweat." Ledger was offered a choice of roles on the show, and he picked the character of Steve "Snowy" Bowles, a gay bicyclist. Later he reasoned that very few gay parts were being portrayed on Aussie television, and by taking the part he was more likely to be noticed.

5. He was a music man.

Last year, Ledger announced plans to start a record label with Ben Harper called "Masses Music Co." Heath also directed the rocker's 2006 video for "Morning Yearning." The song is melancholic and beautiful, and the clip depicts dancers and violinists in silhouette, drenched in sunlight and shrouded by fog.

6. His daughter's name might have an unusual connection.

Ledger and Michelle Williams' 2-year-old daughter is named Matilda Rose. We don't know why they gave their daughter this name, however, it's worth noting that there's a famous Australian folk song called "Waltzing Matilda." The lyrics tell a story that involves the death of a man who commits suicide by drowning himself in a lake.

7. Jake Gyllenhaal is Matilda Rose's godfather.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal famously co-starred in "Brokeback Mountain," the heartbreaking story of two cowboys in love. In the award-winning film, Gyllenhaal played the role of Jack Twist, who dies at the end of the film, and Ledger was Ennis Del Mar. Matilda Rose will now have Jack Twist as a surrogate father figure.

8. Ledger was a jack-of-all-trades.

As a kid, Ledger was a chess player.

"He played younger groups ... and may have played in the state tournaments, even the state championship," Norbert Muller, a spokesman for the Perth Chess Club, said. But, he added, "I don't really remember him performing that well."

Ledger also enjoyed painting.

"I love what I do, but if it all came crashing down, it wouldn't be the end of the world," he told The Sunday Times in 2000. "I'd just sit on my arse and paint."

But the young Ledger wasn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, either. He played hockey. His dad, Kim, was a race-car driver, and according to, he spent quite a bit of time at the racetrack in his youth.

The site posted a note from a reader who identified himself as "R. of Perth," who claimed to have grown up with Ledger near a speedway racing circuit.

"I remember the night he was a little boy and his dad was racing speed cars at Claremont Speedway (my dad was in the race, too)," the reader wrote. "His dad was coming third, then, in the final corner, the two lead cars spun out and Heath's dad ... took the lead and won the state title race.

"Heath was standing a couple of rows in front of me with his mum and sister, and they were all so excited, jumping up and down and cheering," the reader continued. "He was about as happy as a little boy could be watching his dad become a champion. ... Later Heath would pit crew for Graham Jones, and I crewed for my dad and brother. Heath and I were both the youngest on our crews, so that meant our job was to take the fiberglass bonnets over to the hoses and wash the mud off after each race. Really dirty work, but he managed to stay cleaner than the rest of us."

9. Perth was Ledger's refuge.

The actor's homeland was his safe place, his refuge. Ledger's final trip to his native country was for Christmas 2007. It was a happy time.

10. Ledger's first acting role was as Peter Pan.

He played the character in a school-theater production when he was 10. Like the mystical boy who could fly, Ledger would never grow old.

Heath Ledger's Body Transported From Funeral Home

Hectic scene outside funeral chapel contrasts with fans' calm tributes at actor's residences.

NEW YORK — The block surrounding the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, where Heath Ledger's body was being held for a private viewing on Friday (January 25), was a mass of photographers, police officers, satellite trucks and confused-looking passersby. Many were hoping to catch a glimpse of Ledger's parents, who had reportedly flown in from their native Australia to view the body of their son, who died on Tuesday.

Each black sedan that pulled up to the building was greeted with the pop of flashbulbs and a rush of paparazzo, but Ledger's parents were not seen (there were other viewings taking place at the home). At around 4 p.m., a large pine casket was carried from the funeral home's side entrance by several attendants, and placed into a waiting hearse. NYPD officers told MTV News that the casket contained Ledger's body, but would not confirm where the hearse was heading. According to several reports, its destination was an area airport, where the actor's body would then be flown back to his hometown of Perth, Australia.

Downtown, outside the apartment building where Ledger died, a much calmer scene was taking place on Friday afternoon.

"He was a star on the screen, now he's a star in heaven," said 63-year-old Lucille Lozada, just moments after leaving a half-dozen yellow roses on the sidewalk. "I hope he rests in peace."

She kissed her fingertips and slowly planted them on a tribute poster of the actor that read, "Heathcliff Ledger dies young, but love is immortal."

She then pulled a sheet of lyrics from her pocket and, in a quivering whisper of a voice, sang Bill Withers' 1972 song "Lean on Me."

Outside the building, flowers, candles, and handmade tributes blanketed the sidewalk as mourners paid their respects and passersby stopped to observe the makeshift memorial. A brand-new copy of Emily Brontë's novel "Wuthering Heights" — which inspired Ledger's first name — was among the items here.

Lozada said her favorite Ledger film is "A Knight's Tale." She's also an artist. "I think I'm going to do a portrait of him." After a brief, emotional moment of reflection, she lit some candles and said she was going home.

A poem posted outside the apartment building read:

"For Heath: (from a fellow 28 yr old Aussie actor) A beautiful person, A gifted soul. You brought talent & heart To every role. You'll be so missed Now you're gone ... But in our movies and memories You will always live on."

In Brooklyn that morning, the scene outside the house where the Ledger and Michelle Williams had lived with their daughter, Matilda Rose, was quieter. A smattering of paparazzi waited outside the house; actor Busy Phillips, along with family and friends, was reportedly inside.

Tributes outside the house included these:

"Let god take u into his arms. 1 love. - Marco Castillo, Cris Castillo"

"I served you Food at Brawta. Your Favorite. Jerk Chicken."

A couple of blocks away from the house is a Caribbean restaurant called the Brawta Caribbean Café. Restaurant owner Jennifer Ewers said Ledger was a regular. He would sit at a table near the window, where he enjoyed his usual order of jerk chicken, rice and peas, and steamed cabbage. She said he also would order Sorrel, a red-colored drink with medicinal properties that Ledger had grown to like after a waitress had recommended it. Ledger and his 2-year-old daughter used to play hide-and-seek outside the restaurant.

"He was always pleasant, always smiling," Ewers said. "He would walk down the street like a normal person. He was just a guy in the neighborhood.

"He [was] a gracious man. All the neighborhood, they'll all tell you."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger's Video For Nick Drake Song: Eerie Postscript To Actor's Death

Appearing at a news conference at the Venice Film Festival in September to promote the Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There," Heath Ledger, who died on Tuesday, spoke of his "obsession with an artist by the name of Nick Drake," an English-born singer/songwriter whom he characterized as a "very mysterious figure."

"I was obsessed with his story and his music and I pursued it for a while and still have hopes to kind of tell his story one day," a soft-spoken and fidgety Ledger told the assembled media, though he also said that any such aspirations had "faded away."

But in an eerie postscript to the actor's own death on Tuesday, MTV News has learned that Ledger recently shot and edited a music video for a Drake song called "Black Dog," so titled because of a Winston Churchill quote describing depression as such. It is also reportedly the last song Drake recorded before overdosing on antidepression medication in 1974 at the age of 26.

A representative for Drake's estate described the "gorgeous" and "extremely moving" clip as a stark black-and-white composition, consisting mainly of the director turning the camera on himself. In the end, Ledger is seen drowning himself in a bathtub.

The video, which has not been released commercially and has apparently not yet leaked to the Web, has been screened just twice, once last Labor Day weekend at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle and a second time in October at "A Place to Be," an event honoring Drake held in Los Angeles.

Ledger also directed Ben Harper's video for "Morning Yearning" and announced plans to start a label with the singer called Masses Music Co. last year. The label's first signing was a singer from Ledger's hometown of Perth, Australia, named Grace Woodroofe; Ledger also directed a video for her cover of David Bowie's "Quicksand."

While Drake garnered just a cult following during his life, his music has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. In 2000, Volkswagen scored a ubiquitous television ad with the title track from his 1972 album, Pink Moon, after which Drake's albums reportedly sold more in one month than they had in the previous 30 years. This past November, fans were treated to a limited-edition box set that included not only the three albums Drake recorded in his short career, but also a book and a DVD documentary about his life.

Heath Ledger Said He Hoped To Evolve As An Actor And Person In 2005 Interview

Heath Ledger, found dead Tuesday at 28, was a fast-rising star set to explode this summer with his appearance in "The Dark Knight." But long before he would ever voyage to Gotham City, the Australian actor was already assured a place in cinematic history thanks to a little trip up "Brokeback Mountain."

Ang Lee's Oscar-winning masterpiece pitted the reticent and conflicted Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) against the more open and baby-faced Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) as the pair struggle with their forbidden sexuality. Ledger, whose performance was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, brought an uncommon inwardness and shyness to the character. As played by the actor, Del Mar was a man of compactness, of few words, and even fewer unnecessary gestures.

Ledger himself was in many ways the opposite of the character — by all accounts, he was a man of astonishing intelligence and self-awareness. Nowhere is that more evident than in an interview the actor did with MTV News' John Norris in 2005 to discuss the landmark film.

John Norris: I want to ask you first about the different paths that Ennis and Jack take in sort of dealing with this situation. It strikes me that Ennis is really the tragic figure in this film. Even though Jack pays the ultimate price, at least he has moments in his life where he sort of realizes who he is. Do you agree?

Heath Ledger: That's true. I think that's part of Ennis' problem — that he has no self-realization. I, as the actor playing him, took the time to investigate him and to discover what exactly his battles were. What was preventing him to express and to love? And one of the conclusions I came to was that he's battling himself. Like he's battling his genetic structure, if you will, and all the beliefs, fears and traditions that were passed down from his father, and so on. And that was so deeply embedded and installed in him.

So then I wanted to physicalize it in his walk and into his speech. ... Ennis, he wasn't as self-aware as to ask himself these questions, so he didn't really know what I knew about him. Essentially, as an actor, I had to go in front of the camera and think ... less.

Norris: Certainly when most gay Americans, and probably a lot of straight Americans, hear the word "Wyoming," one of the first things that comes to mind is Matthew Shepard and what happened to Matthew. ... Was the name Matthew Shepard something you guys even talked about in shooting this film?

Ledger: We certainly, um, were aware of it. But we were definitely trying not to mimic or portray any story outside of the short story of Annie Proulx's [on which "Brokeback" was based] and the script that we'd been given. And we certainly didn't want to be making any political statements. We kept ourselves on a fairly strict budget of the information we were given in pre-production and just tried to create something from that.

Norris: Yours, as is everyone's, is an incredible performance. ... When you hear people say ... "Who knew this was in Heath Ledger?," is that flattering? How do you feel about that?

Ledger: I don't know. I just hope I get to continue to do that. I mature as an actor as I mature as a person, and ... I'm hoping to continue to evolve in both areas.

Heath Ledger's Colleagues, Admirers React To Actor's Unexpected Death

PARK CITY, Utah — News of the tragic death of 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger shocked actors and filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday (January 22). The revelry of the festival, a celebration of the best of independent filmmaking, was instantly muted as those who knew and revered him spoke to MTV News.

"All I'll say is, I send total love to the family," said Josh Lucas. "It's too painful for me."

"Oh man, it's ripped through Sundance," sighed veteran actor William H. Macy. Everybody's talking about it."

In town to promote his latest documentary, "Made in America," Stacy Peralta — who wrote "Lords of Dogtown," which starred Ledger — told MTV News he was still in disbelief at the news. "When I heard Heath passed, I was just shocked," he said, explaining that he heard the news via text message. "It can't be possible. How could that possibly happen to him? He was young. He was vibrant. He was healthy. He had an incredible career and a child. I'm shocked."

Bijou Phillips, clearly moved by the loss, compared the tragedy to the recent death of her friend and frequent co-star Brad Renfro. "Brad Renfro also died this week, who I did three movies with," she said. "It's just crazy. Two young, really talented actors die in their sleep in the same week? It's just not cool. I don't know what's going on, but it's got to stop."

Actor and director Clark Gregg, whose film "Choke" features Phillips, said the entire cast learned of the loss together and, despite not knowing him well, the news deeply affected everyone.

Phillips, who had met Ledger a few times, turned her thoughts to the child Ledger leaves behind, 2-year-old Matilda. "Career is great, performances are great. When these guys go and leave little kids behind, that's when I go, 'Ugh, those little kids!' " she said.

"He should be proud of the legacy he left behind," insisted Jason Ritter. "[Ledger] seemed to make acting choices with integrity; he didn't seem to just take the big movies with the big bucks. He took movies that challenged him as an actor, he did a fantastic job, and he seemed like a really great guy as well."

"If he had done nothing but 'Brokeback Mountain,' he would be remembered for a long time," Macy, who wrote and starred in "Deal," marveled. "It was the most stunning performance I'd seen in a long time. My wife [actress Felicity Huffman] is from the West, and she couldn't believe his performance. It's shocking, it's sad. Felicity said it best: 'Sometimes, with talent like that, it comes with a dark side.' And I guess it got the best of him."

Describing the actor he saw on the set of "Lords of Dogtown," Peralta said, "He was open. He was kind. He was considerate." As conflicting reports circulated as to whether the young actor took his own life or was the victim of an accidental overdose, Peralta lamented the pain he surmised Ledger was in. "There's a fallacy about being famous. It's not what we think it is. The only value in life is the value you share with people. I just hope he's OK now. I hope Heath Ledger is resting in peace now.

"What's so sad for him is as far as an actor is concerned, he was finally discovering the talent that was within him," Peralta continued.

Ledger's next film is the hugely anticipated Batman sequel "The Dark Knight." His haunting performance, only glimpsed in trailers, was already being touted as a clearly inspired turn. "Choke" actress Gillian Jacobs admitted, "It's going to be really difficult to watch that movie." Putting the tragedy in the context of her surroundings, she continued, "It's difficult in the midst of this film festival that's a celebration of everything we love about this business. Tragically, this isn't an unfamiliar tale within Hollywood."

"Absolutely," Ritter said when asked if he'll be seeing "Dark Knight." "I heard he was incredible in it; I've heard that for months now."

In the end, the words that seemed to be on everyone's lips in Park City were the "what might have beens?" and the "what ifs?" Shaking his head, Peralta articulated what many were thinking in the snow-covered landscape of Utah: "He left so much potential behind. Think of what he could have done."

"He'll be missed," said Macy. "I'll never get to act with him. I'm sad."

Heath Ledger Found Dead In New York

Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger was found dead in a New York apartment late Tuesday afternoon (January 22). The star of such critically acclaimed films as "Brokeback Mountain," "Monster's Ball" and the upcoming Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight," Ledger was 28.

An NYPD spokesman told MTV News that the body was found at approximately 3:30 p.m. As yet, there is no official cause of death, although CNN reported that the NYPD suspects a possible drug overdose. "Pills were found in the vicinity of the bed," police spokesman Paul Browne told CNN. "This is being looked at as a possible overdose, but that is not confirmed yet." The pills appeared to be over-the-counter sleeping medication, police spokeswoman Barbara Chen said. Ledger was unresponsive when he was found by a housekeeper who had gone to wake him for an appointment with a masseuse, according to Browne. The New York Times reported that an autopsy will be conducted on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the office of the city's chief medical examiner.

Ledger is survived by a 2-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose, with ex-fiancee Michelle Williams.

Ledger's dad, Kim Ledger, made a statement about his son's death on Australian television Tuesday. "We, Heath's family, confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda," Kim Ledger said. "He was found peacefully asleep in his New York apartment by his housekeeper at 3:30 p.m. U.S. time. We would like to thank our friends and everyone around the world for their well wishes and kind thoughts at this time. Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life, but few had the pleasure of truly knowing him. He was a down-to-earth, generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and selfless individual who was extremely inspirational to many. Please now respect our family's need to grieve and come to terms with our loss privately."

"This is an unimaginable tragedy. Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years," said Todd Haynes, who directed Ledger in the recent Bob Dylan biopic "I'm Not There" and was among many people commenting on the actor's death. "There is no finer person on this Earth."

Named for a character in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights," it was perhaps fitting that Ledger, the Australian son of a teacher and a race-car driver, rocketed to fame in the neo-Shakespearean "10 Things I Hate About You" opposite Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. From there he quickly rose up the Hollywood ladder in such films as "The Patriot," "A Knight's Tale" and "The Brothers Grimm."

Mel Gibson, who starred alongside Ledger in "The Patriot," remembered the young star for his promise. "I had such great hope for him. He was just taking off, and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss," Gibson said in a statement. "My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

But it was in 2005 that Ledger would score his biggest acting triumph, as a homosexual cowboy in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain." His critically acclaimed performance as Ennis Del Mar, a Wyoming ranch hand who has an affair with an aspiring rodeo rider (Jake Gyllenhaal), earned him widespread public admiration. For his work in the film, Ledger was named Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

In particular, Ledger was singled out for his decidedly "inward" performance. Del Mar spoke out of the corner of his mouth, his motions rigid and conflicted. For Ledger, the character's journey was one of "self-realization," he told MTV News in 2005.

"I, as the actor playing him, took the time to investigate him and to discover what exactly his battles were. What was preventing him to express and to love? And one of the conclusions I came to was that he's battling himself," Ledger asserted. "Ennis, he wasn't as self-aware as to ask himself these questions, so he didn't really know what I knew about him."

Amid all the lauds and pageantry, Ledger told MTV News at the conclusion of filming "Brokeback Mountain" that he hoped to use the film as a springboard to future personal growth.

"I mature as an actor as I mature as a person," he said of his newfound acclaim. "I'm hoping to continue to evolve in both areas."

Though he recently was one of six actors to portray Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," Ledger's year was to be defined by his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." After months of speculation, Ledger was awarded the role in July 2006, and while Internet chatter initially said he was miscast, the recent appearance of the first "Dark Knight" trailer had everybody from worldwide fans to comic book artists singing his praises.

In a statement released to media, Alan Horn, president and COO of Warner Bros., and Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Picture Group, said they were "devastated" by Ledger's death.

"The studio is stunned and devastated by this tragic news. The entertainment community has lost an enormous talent. Heath was a brilliant actor and an exceptional person."

Ledger himself sang the praises of Nick Drake, an English singer/songwriter who died in 1974 at the young age of 26; Drake is perhaps best known for his song "Pink Moon," which was used in a Volkswagen commercial. According to a representative for the Nick Drake Estate, Ledger recently shot and edited a music video for a reissue of the artist's song "Black Eyed Dog" (So titled because of a Winston Churchill quote describing depression as a "black dog"). The video, which has never been seen by the public, is a stark black-and-white composition, consisting mainly of the director turning the camera on himself. At the end of the video, Ledger drowns himself in a bathtub. The song "Black Eyed Dog" was the last recording Drake made before overdosing on pills.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tom Cruise Scientology-Video Glossary: What Is He Talking About?

The actor talks for nine minutes in his instantly famous Scientology video. Can you figure out what he's actually saying? Here's a guide.

Tom Cruise talks for nine minutes in his instantly famous Scientology video — now, can anyone figure out what he's actually saying?

Apparently, non-Scientologists are just "spectators." It's a far nicer thing to call us — kind of like "Muggles in "Harry Potter" — than the term they usually use, "wog," which is more equivalent to the derogatory "Mudbloods" in the "Potter" books. Here's a breakdown of some of the other Scientologese words, acronyms and turns of phrase — culled from a variety of sources, including books, Web sites, and current and former church members — that might get lost in translation:

LRH: L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology and author of sci-fi books such as "Battlefield Earth" and "Mission Earth."

"I take this as a half-ack": What was that sound? A furball? Actually, a "half-ack" — a half-acknowledgement — means you were encouraged. In LRH's communication theory, you have to give signals to pre-clears (people who have not yet "cleared" themselves of unwanted emotions) — like "good," "OK," "I got that." Get that?

KSW: Keeping Scientology Working. Refers to a policy LRH published in 1965 that requires all Scientologists to follow his words and rules exactly.

"It is something that you have to earn": Cruise is referring to taking Scientology courses. According to the church, to get to the higher levels of Scientology — he's an OT VII, the highest level is OT VIII — you must complete a number of courses and auditing sessions, a sort of Scientological take on the Catholic confession. And it all costs; depending on your level, the tab for wisdom can be hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To finally learn what the basis of Scientology's precepts are (about how we got remnants of space aliens known as thetans trapped in our system), you must attain the level of OT III. The secrets of Xenu aren't free!

"Am I going to look at that guy or am I too afraid?": Cruise's relentless stare is actually a technique from "Success Through Communication" training routine (TR) drills. According to former and current members, pre-clears have to learn to look someone straight in the eye for hours. It's supposed to generate self-confidence and intimidate the other party. No blinking!

"... Because I have my own out-ethics": The church says ethics are moral choices but belong to a distinct moral system, based on LRH's book "Introduction to Scientology Ethics." If you misbehave, you have "out-ethics." If you're behaving, you have your ethics "in." To put your ethics "in" someone else, as Cruise later says, is to make someone else conform.

"The ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions": "Conditions" refer to LRH principles, which are charted on a scale. It's a Scientologist's goal to "improve conditions," which means improving your relationship with yourself and to those within your group. The "conditions" (in order) are: confusion, treason, enemy, doubt, liability, nonexistence, danger, emergency, normal, affluence, power change and power, according to numerous accounts of church practices. These are the practical applications of "ethics."

Tech: Otherwise known as "ethics tech." The methods and principles learned in Scientology courses.

"Orgs are there to help": Not Orcs from "Lord of the Rings" — orgs, as in Scientology churches and other organizations, such as Narconon, Criminon and Second Chance, all of which can be found online.

Criminon: Scientology group that recruits through prisons, promising alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

SP: "Suppressive Person." An SP is someone who commits suppressive acts, like murder, criticizing Scientology or altering LRH's teachings, according to former and current members. Journalists are automatically considered SPs because they traffic in bad news and so are barred from entering Scientology. Psychiatrists would also be SPs, so Cruise says, "Crush these guys! I've had it! No mercy! None! Go to guns!" as a call to arms. Since all's fair in war, LRH once issued a policy called "Fair Game" that decreed that anyone who opposed Scientology could be "tricked, sued or lied to and destroyed." The church says it no longer officially practices this, however, it is still a fairly contentious organization.

PTS: "Potential Trouble Sources," as in Scientologists who are losing the faith or are being influenced by an SP.

PTS/SP: A course in how to "handle" and/or "disconnect" PTS and SPs, which usually costs about $1,600, according to estimates from church members.

"Ways to Happiness": Actually, "A Way to Happiness," a booklet of the Scientology version of the 10 Commandments, except theirs has 21 Commandments. The number-one precept is "Take Care of Yourself." Also on the list: "Don't Be Promiscuous," "Set a Good Example," "Do Not Murder," "Do Not Harm a Person of Good Will" and "Flourish and Prosper."

Perhaps "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry said it more succinctly: "Live long and prosper."