Friday, March 14, 2008

Naomi Watts' Ultra-Violent 'Funny Games' Has Serious Message For 'Saw,' 'Hostel' Fans

'We are guilty sometimes of going, 'This is cool when brains hit the wall,' says actress, who stars in nihilistic thriller.

"Funny Games," the new thriller from Austrian director Michael Haneke, is the most nihilistic, depraved, sadistic torture flick imaginable. It is a punishment to watch in every conceivable way, an enduring agony that plays like the cinematic equivalent of the rack: First it stretches, then pulls, then breaks you in slow, unmitigated, unrelenting cruelty. It is the type of movie that makes you want to yell expletives, to throw things at the screen in rage.

Hooray!, thinks Naomi Watts, who not only stars in but produced "Funny Games," a shot-for-shot remake of Haneke's 1997 foreign-language original.

"I think that people are going to have extreme reactions to it," she said. "That's certainly what happened to me when I saw the original. I felt angered but excited that I felt so much."

To stress the film's plot — psychopaths invade summer home, torture and kill Watts, her husband (Tim Roth) and their child — would be to miss the point of what amounts to a philosophical and intellectual exercise. In the same way, for instance, that Stephen Colbert brutally satirizes right-wing pundits by becoming even more right-wing, Haneke's film aims to raise a mirror to violence by becoming even more horrific. If he can push the envelope to an absurd degree, he seems to be saying, astute audiences will be more aware of their own rapidly growing desensitization. "Funny Games,"
then, isn't meant to be enjoyed so much as it's meant to be experienced.

"I think that Michael is trying to show violence in all of its ugliness and brutality so that we are more mindful as audience members and think more carefully as we cheer it on and crave it," Watts said.

But "Funny Games" goes even further. Haneke not only aims to show audiences the horror of modern-day cinematic violence, he aims to make them complicit in it as well. It's our fault movies are what they are, the movie declares — literally. At several points throughout the film, the perp played by Michael Pitt directly addresses the audience: "You're rooting for them," he says of Watts and child. In one section toward the end he gives a moment of catharsis and then dramatically takes it away, by rewinding the film.

It's a finger wag, a condemnation. You like "Die Hard" or "Rambo" or, worse yet, "Saw" or "Hostel"? Shame on you, this movie says — you need to feel bad about that.

"I think that is Michael's intention a little bit, yeah," Watts said. "He thinks violence is revolting and inexcusable, and that's why he depicts it in an authentic way. It's not cool, it's not sexy, it's not funny. It's grotesque. And we crave those movies and it's not pleasant.

"[In this movie] you have been through the experience and felt like you were a part of it," she continued. "So you acknowledge that we are guilty sometimes of going, 'This is cool when brains hit the wall. That's fun!' We're getting lost in that. But he's making you more conscious. He shines the light on you in saying, 'See, you want this? I'm going to give it to you.' But no, that's not this movie."

Whether or not the movie succeeds on that level depends in large part on whether or not it reaches the very audience that needs it most. But any audience member should ultimately be "prepared for the work," Watts said. "The ones who stay do get to do that work and maybe, hopefully, they go away with something. I felt it provoked a huge discussion.

"To me," she added, "that felt like a success when a movie is really impacting you in such a way."

If, that is, you can stomach it.

"Funny Games" opens Friday.

Check out everything we've got on "Funny Games."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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R.E.M. Add Classic Flavor To Night Of New Faves, Including White Williams, YACHT & More: South By Southwest '08

Plus, Lightspeed Champion aim to take over the fest with a whopping 14 shows.

AUSTIN, Texas — If you somehow managed to make it all the way down to the Convention Center, wait in line to get your badge, wade through the crowds on Sixth Street, stand outside a tiny bar (or promotional space) for an hour to squeeze into a showcase that was "at capacity," down some gristly BBQ, scam a couple free beers and not die of heat exhaustion, then you still wouldn't have been able to catch the biggest show of Wednesday at South by Southwest.

Because that show actually happened on Thursday.

Well, now we're splitting hairs. R.E.M. actually took the stage at Stubb's, Austin's landmark BBQ shack/ rock space, at 12:20 a.m., making Wednesday's most-anticipated, most-attended gig actually a great kick-off to Thursday's rock action.

And from minute one, Athens' premiere elder statesmen knew all eyes were squarely on them. Frontman Michael Stipe strode to the mic, rose his arms, Messiah-like, and greeted the masses ("Children of South by Southwest," he laughed, "come to me!") before the band launched into "Living Well's the Best Revenge," the lead track off their upcoming Accelerate album (the promotion of which was, in theory, the reason they were playing SXSW).

"We're going to play a lot of new songs tonight," Stipe smiled. "Luckily, they're under two minutes. So if you don't like it, you can go take a pee."

But no one moved. And they were rewarded with a one-two punch of vintage R.E.M.: "Second Guessing" (from their sophomore album, '84's Reckoning) and "Drive," the lead track on '92's Automatic for the People. Camera phones were held aloft, Stipe's oft-inscrutable lyrics were shouted back at him, and everyone basically behaved unlike a SXSW audience is supposed to — they were acting like fans attending a once-in-a-blue-moon show by a truly legendary rock band. Equal parts flaunting of the new album and joyous, intense workings of older classics, the gig — and R.E.M. themselves — was solid, tight and really quite stunning.

"Well, this is Stubb's Bar-B-Q, and I've never been here before," Stipe said at one point. "It's a great pleasure."

And you get the feeling he meant it.

(Check out photos of R.E.M. and other bands performing at South by Southwest here.)

Other Highlights of a Wild Wednesday in Austin, From Our Intrepid (and Tired) MTV News Team

John Norris:

White Williams. I got to know these synth-pop guys from Ohio-via-Brooklyn a couple of months back and was psyched to run into them in our hotel this morning. They seemed quite excited as well (and they'd better be) to be playing shows at SXSW '08. Unfortunately, their first was a tough one. At the Peacock, an all-blue lounge/ party space well east of Sixth Street, White Williams — now a four-piece with the recent addition of a live drummer — were wedged onto a stage that was maybe 30 square feet, with a guitar player, Hayes Shanesy, who was so sick that he spent the night before at a Dallas hospital. Suffice it to say, they'd all had better days. Still, they soldiered on with a too-brief set that had a newfound edge, thanks to the ol' drum kit, which rendered synth-pop songs into (nearly) rock.

Lightspeed Champion frontman Dev Hynes is a native Texan-turned-Brit who used to be in an art-punk group (the Test Icicles), but, with the help of Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis, has just released a beautiful country-tinged pop album called Falling Off the Lavender Bridge. They turned in a terrific acoustic set Wednesday at Antone's. Earlier in the night Dev told me that Lightspeed may indeed be the "champion" of this year's SXSW — he is playing no less than 14 shows here this week! "I was told that Black Lips played 12 shows last year," he said (sounds about right), "but I guess we got 'em beat."

Out at La Zona Rosa — a big barn of a club that held the "Free Yr Radio" party — the crowds were small (thanks, R.E.M.) but the lineup was huge with talent, including the fantastically fuzzed out Times New Viking and Brooklyn indie giants Yeasayer, both of whom deserved — and usually get — more attention.

James Montgomery:

Forget R.E.M. and Times New Viking. The best band on display Wednesday night at SXSW was undoubtedly the Plastic Constellations, Minneapolis' premiere purveyors of fist-pumping, buddy-hugging, six-pack chugging, adrenaline-surging rock. And, yeah, I know I've wasted a bunch of virtual ink on these guys already, but they're going on indefinite hiatus after the release of next month's We Appreciate You album. That — coupled with the sheer lack of recognition they receive — makes me a tad bit wistful. And their gig at the Mohawk — which doubled as a label showcase and a farewell show — made me even more teary-eyed (though that could've just been caused by all the beer being tossed into the air) amid the flailing guitars, karate kicks and super-good times. So, basically, it ruled like every other gig TPC have played over their decade-plus together. It's a shame you never got to see them.

At the same showcase (sorry, I didn't mention it earlier, but it was for Frenchkiss Records, which is a totally great label), I also really enjoyed Call Me Lightning and Tejas' own Fatal Flying Guilloteens, both of whom played music that sounds exactly like their names — hard, fast and dangerous (though the 'Teens also added a large degree of blood, sweat and honest-to-goodness, seizure-inducing, strobe-aided terror). Both were awesome and made you want to fight someone.

Other highlights: YACHT (Gil's got more on them in a second) and Does It Offend You, Yeah? at the Levi's/Fader Fort, getting to hear three songs from the Cab's upcoming Whisper War album (while sitting on their tour bus, no less) and running into actor/musician Lukas Haas on the street outside Stubb's. Apparently he's playing a show here Thursday.

Gil Kaufman:

South by Southwest is best when it's like one of those sampler platters at a Chinese restaurant, the kind where you don't necessarily know what everything is, but it doesn't really matter, because even the stuff that doesn't taste that great is still pretty interesting. Which explains a day that began with Los Angeles' Foreign Born — who, though together twice as long as Vampire Weekend, still kind of reminded us of that buzztastic New York combo — and ended with Nashville's spazzy surf-punkers Be Your Own Pet.

In between, I was treated to the anarcho digital terror of YACHT, whose singer/rapper, Jona Bechtolt, jumped into the audience at Emo's to bounce along with the hyped-up crowd and ended the show by repeating the "thank you" on his prerecorded digital track. And though John covered London's Lightspeed Champion above, I primarily want to give props to him for managing to work a shout-out to Elijah Wood into his set.

Speaking of celebrities, Austin's great for rubbernecking. Hey, there's former neon-dreadlocked 'NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick, wobbling his way down the street, hoping to see anything good, including a band we've never heard of called I Laid Your Mom (we think he made that one up). And there's Cisco Adler, roving with an eight-person crew and hoping someone notices him. And though the woman working the door at Stubb's didn't recognize them, we saw Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and former Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell ducking in to see R.E.M. at midnight.

And despite all that, uh, star power, perhaps the best moment of the night came just before the hyper set from Nashville's Be Your Own Pet, when a suave gentleman up front was trying to chat up a few young ladies and asked them if they were going to see Vampire Weekend. "What's Vampire Weekend?" squeaked one of the girls, proving she may be the only non-blogger here, as well as one of the only people not trying to get into the VW show. All hype was forgotten, however, when Pet took the stage and lead singer Jemina Pearl — wearing yellow tights under a microscopic black miniskirt and a gray sleeveless T-shirt — proceeded to bounce around the stage like tattooed pinball, rolling on the ground and smashing into her bandmates as they chopped out double time surf-punk tunes from their upcoming second album, Get Awkward.

We're all over the bands, BBQ and hipster parties at SXSW '08. Check out the MTV Newsroom Blog and You R Here for more.

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Charlize Theron Talks Dirty About 'Sleepwalking,' 'Hancock' And How She Lost 'Showgirls'

It just so happens that this serious Oscar winner has a filthy mouth and a wicked sense of humor.

Don't be fooled by the serious subject matter of Charlize Theron's latest flick, "Sleepwalking." The statuesque star of "Monster" and "The Italian Job" likes to laugh, as you'll see in the conversation below.

MTV News caught up with the Oscar winner while she was promoting the film in which she co-stars alongside Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb and Dennis Hopper. Theron also produced the movie, a look at a trio of characters (Theron, Stahl and Robb) who must confront their lineage (in the form of a disturbing Hopper) and accept responsibility for the actions they take. (Here's our review of "Sleepwalking" after its Sundance screening.)

But again, that stuff sounds pretty sobering, whereas a chat with Theron is anything but. It can even turn X-rated.

MTV: Your co-star, Nick Stahl, has corroborated what I've heard before: that you have a filthy mouth. Care to comment?

Charlize Theron: This stuff gets me into trouble. Sometimes I find it hard to articulate my true emotions, and therefore, as a performer and as an actor I have to resort to filthy language. You heard it first right here.

MTV: Were you able to control yourself in the presence of your young co-star, AnnaSophia?

Theron: Yes, I try to be very responsible around her, and when I make mistakes and slip, I apologize profusely, and she is very forgiving. And that is why I liked working with her, because she did not judge me.

MTV: We aren't judging you either.

Theron: I feel a little judged right now. [Laughs.]

MTV: What would I have to do for you to start hurling expletives at me right now?

Theron: Well, you f---ing look at me like that one more time, I'm gonna f--- you up. [Laughs.] Look, that was just for show. I don't really speak that way at all.

MTV: Audrina from "The Hills" was at your premiere the other night, so now it can be told. You are a huge fan of the show and friends with all of them, right?

Theron: [Confused.] What?

MTV: Do you know about "The Hills"?

Theron: "The Hills"?

MTV: "The Hills." You don't. OK. It's all good.

Theron: I do not know what "The Hills" are. Oh, now you're going to make me look like the old fart. God, you're a mother----er! Unbelievable! You're supposed to make me look like the cool movie star! Come on! Get with it! What is "The Hills"?

MTV: "The Hills" is a reality show that is very popular.

Theron: On MTV? I'm so sorry. I will try to watch that.

MTV: We'll send you a DVD. I'll bet AnnaSophia watches.

Theron: [Sarcastically] Well, then maybe you should have saved that question for her! [Laughs.]

MTV: OK, let me take you back down memory lane. Is it more disturbing to get into the head of someone like Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," or to do a sex scene with James Spader [in "2 Days in the Valley"]?

Theron: You are a dark man. Are you in therapy? You know what? I don't know what to say to that. You're pretty amazing. I have not been speechless yet. I'm really impressed.

MTV: Here's a random unsubstantiated rumor I found on the Internet: You were almost cast in "Showgirls." True?

Theron: You read it in the bible of truth. Why are you even asking me?

MTV: I want to hear it from the source.

Theron: It was the second audition I ever went to. From what I hear, they really liked me. I think the talks fell through with the actress [Elizabeth Berkley] that ended up doing it, and so they reopened it up and started casting it again, and that's when I came in. And then they somehow sorted out that deal. But at some point [director] Paul [Verhoeven] was interested in me doing it, yeah.

MTV: I'm pretty excited to see "Hancock" this summer. You and Will Smith in a unique take on a superhero story. Rumor has it that you get some superhero action in it.

Theron: Oh, I get superhero action! Oh, yeah.

MTV: I meant, are you a superhero at any point?

Theron: Oh, no. I just get some superhero action. That's much better than being a superhero. And superhero action by Will Smith? You can't get any better than that. I was like, where do I sign? I just recently saw it. It's really an original film. [Director] Peter Berg really did something that I haven't seen before, so I'm very excited to be a part of it. I love it. It kind of flips off the whole idea of genre. You couldn't categorize it into any genre.

MTV: You worked again with Jason Bateman in it. There's talk of an "Arrested Development" movie. Are you in?

Theron: Oh, really? [Sarcastically] Not if he's in it. Dear God. Yeah, he's a talentless hack. I don't get it at all. Cute, tight a-- though. It's like it's on a shelf. But zero talent.

MTV: Is it true you are going to produce and star in a remake of "Lady Vengeance"?

Theron: Yeah, I'm very excited about it. We're in the very early stages of developing it right now, but I'm a huge fan of director Park Chan-Wook. I really love that whole trilogy, but really love that last one.

MTV: He's got quite a style and a fervent following. It's going to be a tall order to remake that.

Theron: We're intimidated almost beyond belief. He made an almost perfect film. I wouldn't do it if it wasn't for him and his encouragement. He came to me and said he really wanted us to do this. He didn't want to direct it. He really wanted to see that story told in an American society. If he wasn't so encouraging, I don't think I could go through with it. It'll be a different director.

MTV: Very cool. Looking forward to it. Thanks so much.

Theron: A--hole! [Laughs.]

Check out everything we've got on "Sleepwalking."

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.

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Earth Crisis Want To 'Nurture' Hardcore Scene; Plus Metallica, Black Dahlia Murder & More News That Rules, In Metal File

EC frontman Karl Buechner worries that labels are 'just going for the easy sell, for shock-value stuff.'

For six long years, the members of Syracuse, New York, vegan straight-edge hardcore outfit Earth Crisis — which called it quits in 2001, only to re-form last year — have been busy doing other things.

Frontman Karl Buechner, for instance, has spent much of his time working with his other band, Freya, while guitarist Scott Crouse and drummer Dennis Merrick moved out to the West Coast to pursue new interests. But Earth Crisis have never forgotten about their ideals.

"I've never thought of us as a political band, because when people think of that term 'political band,' they either assume you're right-wing or left-wing — but we've always come from our own direction, more of a spiritual source," Buechner explained. "Personally, I'm not very impressed with either [political] party in the States right now. It seems like there are a lot of simple solutions, and neither side seems to be headed towards them."

Nonetheless, Earth Crisis' personal politics — on environmentalism, human rights, animal rights and sobriety — will likely shape Buechner's lyrics, as the reunited band continues to write songs for what will be its first new album since 2001's Last of the Sane. "But our message, it's one I feel all people can support, no matter what religion they follow or what side of the political spectrum they associate themselves with," he said.

So, for longtime Earth Crisis fans, this next album — which the band has yet to title — won't sound too far off from EC of old. "We've got six songs [written] so far, and hopefully, we'll record them this year," the singer said of the LP, which the band hopes to have in stores sometime in '09. "Hopefully, we'll be playing some of these new songs we've written on this tour we're on [with Sworn Enemy, Shai Hulud, Terror, Down to Nothing and Recon, which runs through March 23 in Albany, New York]. People ask me what the songs sound like, and the best way to describe it is it's a mixture between [1995's] Destroying the Machines and [1998's] Breed the Killers. Stylistically, it's most like songs from those albums."

For Earth Crisis, the timing is ripe for their return, and with any luck, the band will reinvigorate what's been something of a monotonous hardcore scene these last few years — and teach the young kids out there, trying to make it in the metal game, just how it's done. The reunion also has the band excited about catching up with old friends.

"We made some genuine friendships over the years with bands that we toured with and people we stayed with — scenes we played year after year," he said. "Now, a lot of these people we're going to be seeing are dads or moms and have legit jobs — people who are e-mailing us and telling us they're stoked to see us come out. I think that's going to be fun."

Admittedly, though, Buechner's not so sure younger audiences will be as enthusiastic about Earth Crisis' resurrection — but he's positive members of the bands that are popular today will be psyched.

"Our goal as a band was to write songs that appeal to our taste in music, and a lot of other bands, to an extent, will take elements from groups that inspired them and fuse it into their sound," the singer said, without naming names. "Certain bands will sound similar to bands they grew up listening to, and that's almost inevitable. Our goals are the same as they were back in 2001. Hopefully, we can make our old fans happy and get some of the younger guys into some of these ideas too."

Plus, today's hardcore scene isn't as vital as it was back when EC cashed their chips in. But Buechner believes there's still good hardcore groups to be heard — fans just need to find them.

"There's plenty of quality hardcore out there, but a lot of the bigger labels now are not supporting and nurturing the genuine hardcore bands," he said. "They're just going for the easy sell, for shock-value stuff, where these guys basically wear a costume and their music is pop — anything that will sell to seventh- and eighth-graders. Hardcore brought us up, it taught us a code of ethics, and it gave us a scene — a group of friends to unify with, to accomplish things with. I want us to be able to nurture that.

"Hardcore will last forever, but it's just not trendy, and it could never be trendy, because when it's genuine, it's substance," he said. "What's going to sell more: records with an 'X' on the cover or CDs with an inverted pentagram or a pot leaf on them? I think it's pretty obvious."

The rest of the week's metal news:

After waiting years for word on when we might be able to expect their new album, Metallica have finally revealed that they'll be finished tracking the effort in six weeks; the band would like to have the record in stores this fall. Drummer Lars Ulrich told Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on his BBC6 radio program that he likes "what I've heard so far. I'm not one of the great sellers of 'the new record's the best thing we've ever done and it sh--s all over the last record and it's way heavier.' I'm not a great believer in all that horsesh--. I like it, and I'm one of Metallica's harshest critics. So far, it feels pretty good, but there's still plenty of time to f--- it up, so let's see what happens." ...

We here at Metal File don't usually go the "blind item" route, usually because it drives us mad when other news organizations do it. But we've heard a rumor that's too good to pass up — and we can't be more specific than that. Let's just say one of the country's best-known metal acts looks to be parting ways with its major label and plans to return to its original label home in the next few months. We'll keep you posted and bring you more as it's made official. ... The dates for this year's Summer Slaughter Tour — featuring the Black Dahlia Murder, Vader, Despised Icon, Aborted and Cryptopsy, among others — have been announced. The trek gets under way in Detroit on June 20 and will wrap July 28 in Chicago. ...

In other tour news, Overkill, Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer will be hitting the road together in the fall. The jaunt begins September 25 in Houston, Texas, and runs through October 18 in Sayreville, New Jersey. ... Sad news this week: Black Death drummer Phil Bullard reportedly died — way back on February 6 — after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 59 and is survived by two daughters, Philicia and Earlicia; four grandchildren; and two sisters. ...

A May 27 release date has been set for former Emperor frontman Ihsahn's debut solo album, which will be called angL. The nine-track offering will feature a special guest appearance by Opeth frontman Mikael Ã…kerfeldt, on the track "Unhealer." ... Floridian blackened metal outfit Kult Ov Azazel have updated fans on the progress they've been making on Destroying the Sacred, the band's forthcoming fourth LP. The band plans to record the effort this fall and claims the record will boast a Possessed cover. Other songs set to appear on the album include "Prelude to Holocaust," "The Plagues of Mankind" and "The Lucifer Principal."

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'Jackass' Star Steve-O Hospitalized For Observation After Friends, Family Become Alarmed By His Behavior

Friends, family became concerned for the stuntman's life after he said in e-mails that he was ready to die.

Steve-O has been hospitalized for observation, sources close to the stuntman confirmed to MTV News on Thursday (March 13).

On Sunday, the "Jackass" star was planning to execute a stunt where he would take a 25-foot fall onto concrete, a fall he hoped to break with cardboard boxes and trash cans, so long as his friends showed up to provide them. "50 Cent got shot nine times at once and survived, and he is forever a legend," Steve-O (real name: Stephen Glover) wrote to his e-mail list. "I betcha I break more than nine bones if nobody comes with something to catch me, because, mark my words, I will fall!" In separate e-mails, he wrote repeatedly, "I'm ready to f---ing die."

But it wasn't an injury from this stunt that landed him in lockdown at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Sunday, after being taken there by Johnny Knoxville and Dimitry Elyaschevich, according to their mutual friends. Rather, it was concern over his recent behavior that precipitated it. "He's in the hospital now," one of his friends told MTV News. "Not for injury, for observation." His friends estimate that he'll be in the hospital for 14 days.

A week before the stunt, Glover had been arrested for allegedly vandalizing his neighbor's property, and a felony drug charge for possession of cocaine during the incident was added this week, his arraignment for which was scheduled for Thursday. As Glover was not available to enter a plea, an attorney went to court on his behalf to explain the circumstances and ask for a continuance, so the arraignment was pushed back until March 26.

It was Glover's arrest a week ago that precipitated this situation, however. As a result of the vandalism charge and the subsequent media attention, Glover was evicted from his apartment and decided to do the stunt as a last hurrah, to take advantage of the clearing from the loft. In planning that stunt, the references to dying and suicide in his e-mails concerned his friends and family the most, especially coming on the heels of his girlfriend rejecting a marriage proposal, which he also wrote about. "These last e-mails definitely had something to do with it," another friend said, "but he's been headed towards this for a few months."

"My family is convinced that I've got bipolar disorder," Glover wrote in November. "I don't know if I agree, but I've come to terms with the fact that I'm somewhat f---ed in the head. ... I agreed to go to a psychiatrist for a professional evaluation, to try and figure out what specific category of nutjob I fall into. I've decided that I want to make a rad project out of finding what the f--- is wrong with me. I sure hope this psychiatrist is down with me having my evaluation filmed."

No word on whether Cedars-Sinai is allowing Steve-O to document his lockdown, as a rep for the hospital could not confirm his admittance, citing patient confidentiality, but regardless, his friends predict he'll be fine in a few weeks. "Once he dries out in there," one friend said, "he'll be back to happy old funny Steve-O."

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Game Apologizes For Confusion Surrounding His Release From Prison

'Due to the sensitive negotiations on this matter I felt it appropriate not to give an exact date on my release,' MC says in statement.

The Game released a statement Thursday (March 13) confirming that he was in fact released from prison last weekend, and apologized for the conflicting reports earlier this week regarding his status.

"I apologize for the conflicting news on my release, but due to the sensitive negotiations on this matter I felt it appropriate not to give an exact date on my release," the statement reads. "I am truly grateful to my attorney, family and management for doing a great job in this respect. Upon my release I went directly to the studio with producers Cool & Dre and recorded several records, including my street record 'Big Dreams.' Thank you to all my fans as well for the support."

Earlier in the week his attorney confirmed in an e-mail to MTV News that the rapper was dismissed from his scheduled 60-day sentence after only eight days due to overcrowding at the facility. The rapper's management, however, issued a statement later that day claiming Game had been transferred to another facility, causing confusion about his whereabouts. A prison official at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility confirmed to MTV News the rapper had in fact been released on Sunday and was not transferred.

The Los Angeles native (real name: Jayceon Taylor) checked into the Twin Towers on March 2 to serve a sentence for a felony charge of possession of a firearm in a school zone.

The felony gun charge stemmed from an incident that occurred in California in February 2007. Prosecutors argued Game punched a bystander and threatened him with a gun during a pickup basketball game at the Rita Walters Educational Learning Complex in Los Angeles. The rapper wasn't arrested for the incident until three months later, when police searched his home for three hours in connection with the incident.

In February of this year, Game pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to prison and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service and serve three years' probation. The rapper was originally on the hook for three counts of making criminal threats and possessing a firearm in a school zone. Two of the charges were later dropped in a plea deal, and the rapper then pleaded no contest to the firearm possession.

According to a publicity rep for Game's management, "Big Dreams" will be serviced to DJs beginning March 18. His next album, L.A.X. Times, is due in June.

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'American Idol' Castoff David Hernandez On Stripper Scandal: 'Adversity Is My Best Friend'

'If this is the worst thing that people are going to say about me in my career, then it's OK,' Hernandez says after 'Idol' ouster.

Tens of thousands of aspiring singers try to make the "American Idol" cut each year, longing for fame, fortune and a record deal. But once the newcomers put themselves out there, they're fresh meat for gossip blogs, tabloids and prying fans.

Like Corey Clark and Antonella Barba before him, David Hernandez was thrust into the spotlight only to have his past threaten his rise to the top. Producers let the onetime male stripper stay in the competition, but just a week after his former profession was exposed, Hernandez was sent packing by the "Idol" faithful.

Was it his shaky rendition of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" that did him in, or was America not ready to idolize an ex-exotic dancer? We caught up with the Glendale, Arizona, 24-year-old to see what's next, how he handled the pressure and what it's like in the "Idol" bubble.

Q: Do you think your past strip-club job was a factor in your exit from the show?

A: I think it was based on song selection. I think America is smart enough to know by now that personal lives should not influence [an artist's] musical career. ... I did a pretty good job of blocking it all out. You probably saw on TV, you know, I watched my performance back from Tuesday night, and I was very happy with my stage presence and all that. It's just unfortunately not the best song selection in the judges' eyes, and America voted.

Q: How did you handle that pressure?

A: I think adversity is my best friend. I think it's something that inspires me. It makes me work harder. I don't have anything to say to the people that tried to bring me down or count me out. I just tell them, "Count me back in," because honestly, that's all you can do. In this industry, you have to have thick skin and know that people are going to say bad things about you, and if this is the worst thing that people are going to say about me in my career, then it's OK.

Q: Did you tell producers about your former job when you made it to Hollywood?

A: Uh-huh, absolutely. If they weren't comfortable with it, I wouldn't have been on the show. Everything is out there and open, and the media can be vicious sometimes, and thank God I have thick skin and a great family behind me.

Q: Were you surprised to be the first sent home from the top 12?

A: I was genuinely shocked. I really didn't think that I would be going home. Honestly, based on all the things the judges have said about my vocals, I thought that I would definitely be in the bottom three, [but] I didn't think I deserved to go home. Everything happened for a reason. But when I was on the show and I said, "Wow," I was genuinely like, "Wow." [Laughs.] I was definitely shocked, but I'm very happy. There's probably going to be a lot of doors opening with this one closing.

Q: A lot of people thought Kristy Lee was the one getting the boot. Why do you think you left instead?

A: The competition right now is so intense — and everybody can sing — that there's nobody who's safe right now. Vocals, they're very important, but I think at this point, song selection is very, very important for people. I can't really say why it was my time to go or why so-and-so stays.

Q: In your interview package on Tuesday night, you talked about taking a Beatles class in college. Do you think your experience this week proved how tricky it is to sing their music?

A: With the Beatles being so legendary, it's really tough to cover them, kind of like how it's tough to cover a Whitney [Houston] or a Celine [Dion] or a Luther [Vandross] song. Most people already have it set in their minds how they want the song to sound. It's hard to change it and make it your own. ... Actually, ["I Saw Her Standing There"] wasn't my first choice. My first choice was "Let It Be," but that was already taken [by Brooke White]. ... In my mind, I did the best I could and made it my own. ... The [Beatles] course was really an elective course, and just because I took the course doesn't mean I was going to sing the song any better.

Q: What did you miss most while you were on the show that you're looking forward to doing now?

A: I'm looking forward to eating pork-flavored ramen noodles and having a deep, deep breath away from the paparazzi. I'm definitely looking forward to that. I just want to go to my mom's house and lie on the couch with her cats for, like, 48 hours and watch nonsense TV.

Q: Are you fan of reality shows besides "Idol"?

A: I'm going to stay away from reality shows for a while. [Laughs.] I've just been on one for the last eight months, and I'm just needing a break. I'm probably just going to watch reruns of "Friends." I just want to relax and take a deep breath.

Q: What did you learn about the music business from this experience?

A: I've learned that all's fair in love, war and entertainment. [Laughs.] You know what? It's been an interesting experience, and I've only begun to see the tip of the iceberg. I really believe that this is the beginning of my career, and I've been given an amazing platform. ... I have huge aspirations for myself. I've learned a lot about self-confidence and about being a great performer.

Q: Would you encourage other aspiring singers to try out for "American Idol"?

A: Absolutely. ... You have to realize that even being in the top 24, millions of people are watching you. I used to dream about having a fanbase of about 1,000 people. Now I have I don't know how many millions of people who would go out and support me and come to a concert. No matter how far you get in this competition, especially this season, I think that all the top 12 will be winners.

Q: What do you have planned next?

A: I'm going to be on "Ellen" and the "Today" show, and I'm actually going to shop around for a record deal. I'm looking for labels who are interested in me right now. I would like to have an album released in the next year, and then there are definitely other options, like Broadway. I'm definitely keeping my mind open to all that kind of stuff. I would love to do Broadway, but more importantly, on top of everything, I definitely want a record out in the next year. So that's my long-term goal. I have been singing for a while, and that's one of my passions — I mean, that is my passion.

Q: What will your first album sound like?

A: My first album is definitely going to be pop- and R&B-influenced, and I would like to collaborate with people like Alicia Keys, [producer] David Foster, and also I would like to write my own songs on the album. It's definitely going to be an eclectic kind of vibe. I'd like to put a little bit of rock and R & B in it too. That's the kind of image I want to put out there. I'm more of an R&B, grit-and-grind kind of singer.

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions. And relive six seasons of "Idol" hot messes and high notes in six minutes with our video timeline.

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CBS chief: please kill "American Idol"

By James Hibberd and Paul J. Gough

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) -
With CBS close
to losing the total viewers race for the first time in five
years, CEO Leslie Moonves called Fox's ratings hit "American
" a "monster" and urged somebody to "kill that show."

"While we're in repeats, 'American Idol' continues to be a
monster," Moonves said Thursday at the McGraw-Hill Media Summit
in New York City. "It's a phenomenon. If somebody would kill
that show, I'd really appreciate it. But it's a national
phenomenon, and it continues to do extremely well. It's tough
to compete with it."

Fox has won the past three broadcast seasons among the
adults 18-49 demographic and is expected to win this season as
well. CBS has many crime procedurals popular with older
audiences and has won among total viewers the past six seasons.

But after the writers strike gutted networks that rely
heavily on scripted programming, Fox's reality-driven slate
with such shows as "Idol" and "The Moment of Truth" has
outpaced competitors this season by a wider margin than ever. A
couple weeks ago, Fox surpassed CBS among total viewers. Fox
currently averages about 11.5 million to CBS' 10.6 million,
ABC's 9.4 million, NBC's 8.5 million and the CW's 2.6 million.

Even with CBS' scripted programming returning to the air in
the coming weeks, Fox's first-place position is expected to
hold through the conclusion of the May sweep.

Moonves acknowledged CBS wasn't going to be able to
overtake its rival.

"Yeah, we'll finish No. 2," he said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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    Warner Bros. unveils "Racer" at confab

    By Gregg Kilday

    LAS VEGAS (Hollywood Reporter) -
    Warner Bros. unleashed
    candy-colored, neon-bright footage from a supercharged "Speed
    ," promised an epic crime story in its latest Batman
    movie, "The Dark Knight," and welcomed George Lucas back to the
    fold after a nearly 40-year absence Thursday.

    The studio previewed its summer lineup at ShoWest, the
    annual conference organized by the nation's movie theater

    Producer Joel Silver introduced a fast-paced four minutes
    and 10 seconds from "Speed Racer," a big-screen adaptation of
    the TV toon set for a May 9 release. It comes from
    writer/directors Larry and Andy Wachowski, the brothers behind
    the "Matrix" movies.

    Silver explained that the Wachowskis took on the project,
    in part because they wanted to make a family-friendly movie
    their nephews and nieces could watch.

    Christopher Nolan spoke on behalf of "The Dark Knight,"
    which, he said, would continue "the epic tale" begun in his
    2005 release "Batman Begins" by telling "a really epic crime
    story" when it is released July 18.

    He showed the movie's opening bank heist sequence, which
    has already played in theaters. The sequence introduces
    audiences to Heath Ledger as the Joker. And after calling the
    movie's other leads, Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal to
    the stage, Nolan paid tribute to the late actor, saying, "It's
    a great performance. ... I'm very proud to have been able to
    work with him."

    Turning to lighter fare, Warners also previewed a sequence
    from its spy spoof "Get Smart," a spy spoof based on the 1960s
    TV series. Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway star in the June 20

    "Almost 50 years later, our movie adaptation stands in the
    shadow of that great series, trying just not to completely
    suck," director Peter Segal deadpanned.

    The studio, which is in a recycling mode this summer, will
    launch the girls-night-out-movie "The Sisterhood of the
    Traveling Pants 2
    " on August 8.

    Sanaa Hamri, who has taken over direction of the film,
    which reteams America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn and
    Blake Lively, explained that the new installment takes up three
    years after the first ended. "The girls are a little older, a
    little wilder," she said.

    Although the film, set for August 18, began as a TV series,
    Lucas said he decided it really belonged on the big screen
    since it contains "a little bit of anime, a lot of action and
    it's exactly like the features, only more stylized."

    Lucas directed his first feature, 1971's "THX 1138," for
    Warner Bros.

    Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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      Nine Inch Nails album earns $1.6 million on Web

      DENVER (Billboard) -
      The online release of the new Nine
      Inch Nails album
      , "Ghosts I-IV," resulted in just under 800,000
      transactions in its first week, totaling $1.6 million in
      revenue, the industrial-rock band has revealed.

      The tally includes free and paid downloads, as well as
      advance orders for physical configurations like various
      limited-edition vinyl releases, CDs, and a boxed set.

      "Ghosts I-IV," the band's first release since becoming a
      free agent last October, went on sale March 2 at its Web site,
      http://www.nin. Fans can receive the first nine songs from
      the 36-track project for free, or can pay $5 for the entire
      digital album.

      NIN will not release traditional sales figures to
      SoundScan, whose data are used to compiled the Billboard 200
      albums chart.

      A $10 double-CD set will reach stores on April 8. A $70
      deluxe edition and a $300 autographed version will ship May 1.

      After Nine Inch Nails' contract with Interscope expired,
      the label released a remix album, "Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D." The band's
      last studio release, "Year Zero," debuted at No. 2 on the
      Billboard 200 last April with 187,000 copies.


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        The 3-D revolution won't work without real stories

        By Gregg Kilday - Analysis

        LAS VEGAS (Hollywood Reporter) -
        Everywhere you turned at
        the movie industry's annual ShoWest convention this week,
        executives were looking at the future of the film business
        through rose-colored, albeit polarized, glasses.

        Real D 3-D and Dolby Digital 3-D were busy showing off
        their competing wares, and the studios were just as busy doing
        a little branding of their own. Disney, a pioneer in modern-day
        3-D, boasts that its offerings come in Disney Digital 3-D,
        naturally, while DreamWorks Animation, which will be rolling
        out all its movies in digital 3-D starting next year, will bill
        its movies as Ultimate 3-D.

        "I believe this is an opportunity for all of us to actually
        grow admissions, not just revenues," he said.

        But for all the talk surrounding born-again 3-D, the new
        crop of 3-D movies on display here suggests that the more
        things change, the more they stay the same.

        3-D might bring added value to the movies, but 3-D by
        itself is not likely to push a movie beyond its targeted
        demographics. It will allow theater owners to charge higher
        ticket prices, but will it necessarily attract more admissions?

        Upcoming titles might offer some answers.

        New distributor Summit Entertainment, for example, showed
        off an extended sequence from its August 22 release "Fly Me to
        the Moon
        ," directed by Ben Stassen. The film revolves around
        three houseflies that tag along on the historic Apollo 11 moon
        . The 3-D allows the weightless objects on board to
        drift out over the audience, and there are nice shots of the
        lunar landing. But "Fly" has to be classified as a cute kids
        movie with an overlay of historical fact to appeal to the
        parents who accompany their children to the multiplex.

        Currently, Disney's "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best
        of Both Worlds Concert
        " is spoken of reverentially, as if it
        were the holy grail of 3-D. Thanks in part to those
        premium-priced tickets, the concert movie climbed above the $60
        million mark in little more than three weekends. But the
        unanswerable question is whether a 2-D movie devoted to preteen
        favorite Hannah would have attracted just as many ticket

        For once 3-D is in place and the initial novelty wears off,
        filmmakers probably will find themselves back where they began.
        All those 3-D effects aside, it's still the story that
        ultimately puts moviegoers in those seats.

        Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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          Rocker Lou Reed takes aim at new technology

          By Gary Graff and Jonathan Cohen

          AUSTIN, Texas (Billboard) -
          Lou Reed is lashing out at new
          modes of audio technology, saying that "people have got to
          demand a higher standard" than current MP3 music files.

          The edgy rocker delivered the keynote speech at the South
          By Southwest Music Festival
          + Conference, which is underway in
          Austin, Texas.

          Reed was interviewed Wednesday by producer Hal Willner, who
          recently worked with him on the opulent "Berlin" concerts in
          which the musician delivered a theatricalized concert version
          of his under-appreciated 1973 concept album of the same name.
          Those shows are the subject of "Lou Reed's Berlin," a
          documentary by Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel that
          had its American premiere at SXSW.

          In typically glib and dry-witted form throughout the
          wide-ranging 55-minute conversation, the bespectacled Reed
          bemoaned the current state of audio and other digital
          technologies, noting that "it's like the technology is taking
          us backwards. It's making it easier to make things worse.

          During the session, Reed said he plans to stage the
          "Berlin" shows in Europe this summer but not in the United
          States. The "Berlin" concert concept "wasn't an audition to do
          more of these things" with any of his other albums, though he
          said 1992's "Magic and Loss" and 1978's "Street Hassle" would
          be good candidates if he did want to try it again.


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            Ed McMahon recovering from neck injury

            By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer
            2 hours, 17 minutes ago

            LOS ANGELES - Former "Tonight Show" sidekick Ed McMahon broke his neck in a fall last year and was recovering after two surgeries, his publicist said Thursday.

            Susan DuBow said the fall happened last March. She said she did not believe McMahon was at his Beverly Hills home when it happened.

            "It's been a tough year, but I'm working hard in rehab and doing the best I can to get through it," the 85-year-old McMahon said in a statement.

            DuBow said she was not allowed to release any further information for legal reasons. McMahon was recently seen walking around at a public event in a neck brace.

            McMahon is perhaps best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick for decades on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson." He worked with Carson on the game show "Who Do You Trust?" in 1957 and was known for never failing to laugh at Carson's quips.

            McMahon's trademark opener for each "Tonight" show was: "And now h-e-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!" followed by a small bow toward the star.

            In March 2005, McMahon fell at his home in a gated community in Beverly Hills. He suffered mild concussion and received several stitches for a gash in his forehead.

            McMahon also was co-host with Dick Clark of the "Bloopers" shows and he has made regular appearances on The Jerry LewisLabor Day Telethon.

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              Who wants to be Paris Hilton's new best friend?

              By Dean Goodman
              1 hour, 46 minutes ago

              LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
              Who wants to bask in the reflected
              glory of Paris Hilton? That's the challenge the ubiquitous
              socialite is throwing out to 20 men and women who will compete
              in an MTV reality show to be her new "BFF" (best friend

              Hilton, 27, unveiled the series, with the working title
              "Paris Hilton's My New BFF," during a news conference at a
              luxury home high in the Hollywood Hills on Thursday.

              Production on the 10-episode series is slated to begin in
              Los Angeles at the end of May, with an air date scheduled for
              the fourth quarter of 2008.

              Wannabe members of Hilton's entourage must submit their
              details to a web site, http://www.parisbff, where online
              voters will decide their fate. The 20 finalists will move into
              a house with Hilton, and will learn from the master about
              "normal girl stuff," like fashion, parties and shopping.

              The winner, joining a long list of trusty sidekicks such as
              Dr. Watson, Tonto and Karl Rove, will get "an all-access pass
              to the VIP section of the VIP section," according to a

              At least until the inevitable celebrity feud flares up,
              which Hilton joked would "probably" inspire a new reality
              series. She declined to detail how the winner would be chosen,
              and what exactly they would win.

              What is she looking for in a best friend?

              "Someone that I can just trust, someone who's not gonna
              stab me in the back like has happened a lot in this town,
              someone I can have fun with," said Hilton, who co-created the
              series with Michael Hirschorn and Stella Stolper, former
              executives at VH1, the cable channel sibling of MTV.

              Of course, Hilton already has a BFF, Nicole Richie, her
              co-star in the reality series "The Simple Life." Hilton said
              Richie understands the potential dilution of her BFF status,
              and is busy with her new baby anyway.

              (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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                Slater to star in espionage drama

                By Nellie Andreeva
                1 hour, 44 minutes ago

                LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -
                Christian Slater is
                NBC's next drama leading man. Sources said the network is close
                to handing out a series order for an untitled drama described
                as "The Bourne Identity" meets "Jekyll & Hyde." Slater would
                play a mild-mannered suburban dad who learns that his alter ego
                is a spy.

                It comes from writer-producer Jason Smilovic, who
                originally developed it as a feature at Fox several years ago.

                NBC declined comment.

                Slater has been courted for years to do a primetime series
                and was regularly offered pilot gigs. But, aside from guest
                appearances on NBC's "The West Wing" and ABC's "Alias," he
                largely stayed on the sidelines until last year, when he was
                attached to another NBC drama, "Dirty Little Secrets," which
                did not survives the development stage.

                Slater, 38, rose to fame in the 1990s with such films as
                "True Romance," "Interview with the Vampire" and "Broken
                ." His recent credits include smaller movies like "Bobby"
                and "Alone in the Dark."

                Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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                  Steve-O charged with cocaine possession

                  1 hour, 12 minutes ago

                  LOS ANGELES - Steve-O of "Jackass" fame has been charged with felony possession of cocaine, according to court documents posted on celebrity news site TMZ.

                  The documents show that Steve-O, whose real name is Stephen Glover, was charged Monday. A message left for his manager, Ben Feigin, wasn't immediately returned late Thursday.

                  The 33-year-old co-star of MTV's irreverent stunt show was arrested March 3 at his Hollywood home for investigation of vandalism and possession of a controlled substance.

                  Glover allegedly had a small quantity of drugs on him, police said at the time.


                  On the Net:



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                    Snoop Dogg to remix ABC soap opera theme

                    NEW YORK - Snoop Dogg is bringing some street cred to "One Life to Live." The 36-year-old rapper will make an extended cameo on the ABC soap opera to perform two songs from his new album, "Ego Trippin'," at the Ultra Violet club in the town of Llanview, the network said Thursday.

                    Snoop's episodes will air May 8 and May 9, and feature his re-mixed version of the show's theme song. He will also act in scenes.

                    "I've been a fan of `One Life to Live' since I was a baby," said Snoop, who's set to perform "Sensual Seduction" and "Life of Da Party."

                    "My momma always had it on the tube in tha crib growing up. The opportunity to change up the theme song and give it some of my flavor will make the show the Life of The Party."

                    Mary J. Blige, Nelly Furtado, Chris Botti, Erykah Badu, Timbaland and Keri Hilson have also performed on the show.


                    ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.


                    On the Net:



                    Snoop Dogg:


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                      Mercado seemed destined for 'Idol' stage

                      By MITCH STACY, Associated Press Writer

                      SARASOTA, Fla. - Syesha Mercado is one of those determined "American Idol" contestants who realized her gift early, jumped on the path to stardom and didn't stop trudging until she reached television's biggest stage.

                      The striking 21-year-old singer, dancer and actress grew up performing in the Sarasota area before moving to Miami for college. She's been singing since she was a toddler in a musical family that included three sisters and mother Zelda, a former Motown backup singer.

                      As a child, Syesha — it's pronounced "sigh-EE-sha" — sang in church and grew accustomed to performing in public — she once sang the "National Anthem" at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Her turns in musicals such as "Pippin" and "Seussical: The Musical" at a Sarasota arts high school drew raves. She's acted in commercials, sang in a band, won a car in a statewide singing contest and even appeared briefly on a reality TV show.

                      So nobody back home is surprised that she's standing among the final 11 on the Fox TV show that has the potential to make her a household name. And, they say, it couldn't happen to a nicer person.

                      "When she was going to high school, she was aspiring to do that kind of thing. I remember she and her friends talking about it," said Johnnie Mnich, theater director in the elite performing arts program at Booker High School. "I think it was a matter of time before it happened. She knows what she wants, and she knows what she's good at."

                      Mnich recalls marveling at Mercado's talent when the she won the lead in the musical "Once on This Island" as a sophomore.

                      "I was just blown away," he said. "I was amazed at the level of expertise and strength and training."

                      Bruce Merkle, 20, spent all four years in the Booker arts program acting and singing with Mercado. They shared their first stage kiss in "Once on This Island."

                      "She's sounded like that since she was 14, as long as I can remember," said Merkle, now a stage actor and still close friends with Mercado. "She's the real deal. And she's genuinely a nice person. She's very grounded and knows what she wants."

                      While in middle school, Mercado was accepted into a program for low-income children that involved mentoring and an eventual college scholarship. Her positive attitude, big singing voice and lack of pretense won people over from the beginning. She got to meet former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as part of the program, and he promptly asked her to sing for him.

                      "We were all just in awe of her singing ability, and you meet her and she's just as sweet as her voice sounds," said Lisa Bechtold, local director of the scholarship program, called "Take Stock in Children."

                      Bechtold said Mercado's sunny disposition never wavered, even after her family lost their house in a fire while she was in high school. In an early "American Idol" interview, she talked about her father, Jose, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and being in and out of her life. He recently graduated from a rehab program.

                      "She's had lots of hurdles in life, but I've never heard her complain." Bechtold said.

                      After graduating from Booker in 2005, Mercado studied theater briefly at Florida International University in Miami but left to pursue acting and singing. She was chosen for a 2006 ABC-TV reality show called "The One: Making of a Music Star," but few people watched and it was quickly canceled.

                      A few weeks ago, acerbic "Idol" judge Simon Cowell hailed Mercado as "one of the most talented girls in the competition," but her take on the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life" on Tuesday night drew only lukewarm praise from the three judges.

                      She ended up in the bottom three, but survived as David Hernandez was sent packing instead on Wednesday night. That thrilled her admirers, who have dubbed themselves "Syesha's Faneshas."

                      "I'm living my dream right now," she said on the show Wednesday.


                      On the Net:

                      American Idol: http://www.americanidol/

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                        Crow Says She'll Sing With Fleetwood Mac

                        LOS ANGELES - Sheryl Crow says she'll soon be singing with Fleetwood Mac, a move sure to give new life to the classic rock band, which hasn't toured in several years.

                        "I don't want to make any official announcements, but I will say that we definitely have plans for collaborating in the future, and we'll see what happens," Crow told the AOL music Web site Spinner in a story posted Thursday.

                        The 46-year-old singer didn't give a date, but said it could happen next year.

                        She's already thinking about what she'd like to perform. "I'd love to do `The Chain,' I'd love to do `Second Hand News,'" Crow said.

                        Crow said she looked forward to working with friend Stevie Nicks.

                        "I think the person I learned the most hands-on from is Stevie Nicks because she allowed me not only to co-write with her but also to produce her, and she's a true artist," she said.

                        Crow would give the band and Nicks a boost. According to Spinner, Nicks had said she wouldn't continue with Fleetwood Mac without keyboardist Christine McVie, who retired from touring in 1998. McVie joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970 shortly after marrying the band's bass guitarist, John McVie.

                        Fleetwood Mac last toured in 2004.

                        Crow is currently touring after the release of her latest album, "Detours."

                        Phone and e-mail messages left with representatives for Fleetwood Mac and Crow were not immediately returned.

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                          Can Spitzer call girl cash in?

                          By JAKE COYLE, AP Entertainment Writer
                          2 hours, 41 minutes ago

                          NEW YORK - The collateral consequence of scandal often is newfound celebrity, and for the 22-year-old call girl involved in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, prospects are rising.

                          The prostitute identified in court papers as Kristen is an aspiring musician named Ashley Alexandra Dupre. Her identity was only first reported Wednesday, but already her fame is skyrocketing.

                          Curious about the woman so integral in the New York governor's downfall, many have flocked to MySpace to view her photos, music and biographical information. That material was removed Thursday after over more than 5 million visited her page.

                          Dupre's page had portrayed her as a New Jersey native who left a broken home to pursue a music career in New York. Court papers allege that Spitzer paid thousands of dollars for her services with the Emperor's Club VIP.

                          "I have been alone," she wrote. "I have abused drugs. I have been broke and homeless. But, I survived, on my own. I am here, in NY because of my music."

                          Dupre had also posted two songs at the music sharing site Aime Street, which allows musicians to earn a 70 percent cut of download fees, which are determined by their popularity. The songs, "What You Want" and "Move Ya Body" are dance-pop tunes a la Britney Spears.

                          On "What We Want," she sings: "I know what you need/ Can you handle me?"

                          As of Thursday evening, the songs had been listened to by some 200,000. Downloads were selling for 98 cents each, though "What We Want" had previously been selling for less than 20 cents. That song was also making it onto the nation's radio airwaves.

                          "After the first play, a lot of the reaction was negative," said Sharon Dastur, program director of New York's Z100 (WHTZ-FM). "But after the second play, it became, `Play that song again,' and `Hey, that song's not bad."

                          Dupre also made an appearance in a video by the rapper Mysterious, director Jonathan Ehlers told Los Angeles TV station KCAL on Tuesday. In the video, Dupre is cast as the girlfriend of Mysterious, at one point making a vulgar hand gesture while lip-synching lyrics that include an expletive.

                          "She was very professional," Ehlers said. "Again, she was really warm. She had a great vibe and she was really fun to be around."

                          He said they haven't talked in a year. When he heard the news, Ehlers said, "I was shocked. All I could think was, I wondered where she was and I hoped she was all right."

                          Major labels would be unlikely to sign Dupre, but in the past smaller labels have taken a stab at capitalizing on such notoriety. Koch Entertainment profited by releasing an album in 2004 by William Hung, the "American Idol" castoff who horrendously sang "She Bangs." (Koch declined to comment Thursday on interest in signing Dupre.)

                          Susan Ferris, general manager of Los Angeles-based indie label Long Live Crime Records, thinks Dupre is unlikely to win a recording contract.

                          "Would it get her foot in the door here? There would probably be a morbid curiosity," Ferris said, noting that Nicole Narain, the Playboy model who Colin Farrell sued in 2005 over a sex tape, submitted music to the label that she sampled but deemed "god-awful."

                          "It's the train-wreck syndrome," said Ferris. "Out of complete curiosity, sure, I would put (the tape) in. Would I then sign her if I didn't think she was great just because of the controversy? No, not at all."

                          Dupre has not responded to requests for an interview by The Associated Press, and her lawyer, Don D. Buchwald, has declined to comment. The New York Times, which first reported Dupre's identity, quoted her as saying: "I just don't want to be thought of as a monster."

                          Publishers also would be interested in her story for a book, said Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort Books.

                          Beaufort last year published O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer," but Kampmann said he would not pursue Dupre's story since "up until now, she had no story."

                          "There's just kind of this prurient fascination that neither the press nor the public can get their eyes off of," said Kampmann, who compared the situation to Amy Fisher's and Joey Buttafuoco's. In 2004, iUniverse published Fisher's book "If I Knew Then."

                          Following the scandals of former President Clinton, Gennifer Flowers published a memoir in 1995, and Monica Lewinsky made inroads into the entertainment industry, hosting a short-lived reality TV dating program called "Mr. Personality" in 2003.

                          There is one surefire avenue for Dupre to cash in, should she choose to: adult men's magazines. Penthouse and Hustler are already knocking on her door.

                          "We would love to have her in the magazine," said Diane Silberstein, president and publisher of Penthouse Magazine Group. "We would even consider offering her a cover. We think we could also be very helpful to her in her music career."

                          Hustler Publisher Larry Flynt sounded doubtful about his chances, though, suggesting that by the time Dupre starts talking, she may be too big a media phenomenon for a simple magazine spread.

                          "She is no doubt going to do a book. There will probably be a movie," he said. "I think she is going to have so many offers coming in that it will probably be wishful thinking just to get in the door."


                          Associated Press writer Clare Trapasso contributed to this report.


                          On the net:

                          Link to Mysterious video: http://www.therapideye/video/

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                            Jackson lawyer: Neverland auction off

                            By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press Writer
                            2 hours, 12 minutes ago

                            LOS OLIVOS, Calif. - Michael Jackson still has Neverland, having cut an 11th-hour deal Thursday to keep it off the auction block.

                            But the magic that once made the financially troubled entertainer's 2,500-acre paradise in the rolling hills of central California's wine country one of the most talked-about places on Earth seems to have vanished along with its reclusive owner.

                            Jackson hasn't been seen in this bucolic area of oak-studded hills since he was acquitted in June 2005 of molesting a 13-year-old visitor to his estate, and his absence leaves the future of Neverland, a sort of Hearst Castle for 12-year-olds, in doubt.

                            "We're all, of course, wondering what's going to happen. We've heard rumors but we don't know anything," said Kim Morrison, one of the administrators of a private school located just across the road from Neverland.

                            One of those rumors has soccer star David Beckham interested in the property.

                            "I wouldn't mind having a new neighbor. It would be nice to have Beckham there," laughed Morrison, although she quickly added that Jackson "was always a good neighbor."

                            The pop star's attorney, L. Londell McMillan, told The Associated Press his client has worked out a confidential agreement with Fortress Investment Group LLC allowing him to retain ownership of the estate.

                            Whether he'll keep it for long, however, remains to be seen. Jackson is said to be living in various places, including overseas, and his family has said that when dozens of sheriff's deputies raided the place in 2003 they destroyed the fond feelings he once had for Neverland.

                            Before Thursday's deal was announced, the property was scheduled to be auctioned March 19 because Jackson had gone into default. Financial Title Co. of San Francisco said he owed $24.5 million on the former cattle ranch he bought from real estate baron William Bone in 1988.

                            Jackson, then just 29, was at the height of his career when he purchased Neverland, naming it after the mythical land of Peter Pan — where boys never grow up. He had become a pop superstar before his 12th birthday, and he has said he created Neverland in an effort to obtain the childhood he never had.

                            Soon he had installed a merry-go-round, bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, a game arcade and a private train to rival that of Disneyland's. He brought in a zoo that included flamingos, giraffes, elephants, orangutans and reptiles and brought in a veterinarian and snake handler to care for them.

                            "It's like stepping into Oz," he once said. "Once you come in the gates, the outside world does not exist."

                            These days all is quiet at Neverland except for the squawking of a few of exotic birds that continue to roost in the trees. The other animals are gone and the only outward thing to distinguish Jackson's home from any other is the guard shack with its satellite dish just inside the locked front gate.

                            "Nobody is living here," says a friendly but otherwise reticent guard who has been ordered not to talk to anyone.

                            The shuttered amusement park sits out of sight, but recent aerial photos show it beginning to fall into disrepair.

                            It's a far cry from Jackson's heyday in the 1980s and '90s, when hundreds of children might be playing there.

                            "People would line up for a quarter mile or more just to get in the gate," recalled longtime resident Carol McCarley, out for a morning walk past the ranch.

                            Although he was rarely seen around town, many say Jackson always gave off the impression of a friendly neighbor.

                            When a rattlesnake would get into a classroom at The Family School, Morrison said, a call to Neverland would bring the snake handler over to dispose of it. If a child got hurt on the playground, the ranch doctor and Neverland's own fire department would arrive sooner than the local paramedics.

                            Jackson, meanwhile, would invite children by the thousands to enjoy the ranch.

                            Many were disadvantaged or seriously ill. Some were simply local school kids lucky enough to be granted a field trip to Neverland.

                            "My son knew Michael's nephews and would hang out at the ranch a lot. It was a wonderland for kids," said Skip Biolley, taking a break from putting a fresh coat of paint on J. Woeste's knickknack shop in the heart of downtown Los Olivos, an area that stretches all of two blocks in one direction and two in another.

                            "He had nothing but good experiences there," Biolley said of his son, adding the family remains friendly with one of the nephews.

                            Jackson's presence in Neverland and his financial empire began to unravel when one of his visitors accused the pop star of molesting him.

                            His trial, coupled with his often bizarre public behavior, turned him into a pariah in the eyes of many.

                            But not in this town of 1,000 residents 150 miles north of Los Angeles. Here, it is hard to find anyone who will say a bad word about Jackson. Some, like Fred Chamberlin, whose ranch abuts Jackson's, believe he was the victim of an overzealous prosecutor and are quick to note he was never convicted.

                            Now that he's gone, people are torn in trying to decide who their new neighbor should be.

                            Although Jackson's presence sometimes brought in gawkers who were a nuisance, Biolley noted that having a pop superstar does add a certain cachet.

                            "Maybe Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will buy it for their kids," he speculates.


                            Associated Press Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody contributed to this story.

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                              Crystal strikes out in new career

                              By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer

                              TAMPA, Fla. - Billy Crystal whacked himself in the helmet with his backswing, found his shoelaces and socks sabotaged and watched his team lose. Oh, and the New York Yankees rookie struck out in his one and only at-bat as a big leaguer. "It was the strangest, greatest moment of my life," he said Thursday.

                              A day before his 60th birthday, the comedian, actor and Oscar host enjoyed every moment of the day he'd hoped for his entire life.

                              Talking ball with Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson at the batting cage. Taking infield with Derek Jeter. Jogging in the outfield with Alex Rodriguez. Becoming a victim of clubhouse pranks. Getting a chance for the kind of hit he can't find in Hollywood or on Broadway.

                              "I felt like a baseball player," Crystal said. "I really hate to leave."

                              Wearing No. 60 and cheered on by fellow funnyman Robin Williams, the lifelong Yankees fan was no joke at the plate against Pittsburgh.

                              Players on both teams perched on the top step of the dugout when Crystal came up. They almost saw something special as he took Jeter's advice: "Swing early in the count."

                              Batting leadoff as the Yankees' designated hitter in the first inning, he took a late-but-solid cut at a fastball from Pirates lefty Paul Maholm. Crystal hit a chopper that got past first baseman Adam LaRoche, but came down 3 feet foul.

                              Crystal showed a patient, good eye and got ahead in the count 3-1. Maholm came back with a pair of cutters, and the right-handed Crystal swung over both 88 mph pitches.

                              "I was mad at myself for swinging at 'em," he said.

                              Especially the last one.

                              "It was ball four," said plate umpire Mark Carlson, who shook hands with Crystal before the at-bat.

                              Said Maholm: "I tried to lay it in there for him. I definitely didn't try to blow it by him."

                              "It was definitely a little nerve-racking," he said. "I'm glad I didn't have to watch it every day, him getting a hit off me."

                              The fans at Legends Field gave Crystal a standing ovation, and he raised his hand to acknowledge them. Rodriguez signaled Maholm, who tossed the ball toward the dugout for a souvenir.

                              Then it was time for a quick trip up to the suite level to talk to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

                              "I was worried he was going to trade me for Jerry Seinfeld," Crystal said.

                              Hank Steinbrenner was pleased.

                              "As long as the fans enjoy it, it's great. He has a real love for the Yankees. He's going to help us in the opening of the new stadium and all that," the general partner said.

                              Crystal's debut — and finale — followed the likes of Garth Brooks and Tom Selleck, other celebrities who played in exhibition games.

                              Johnny Damon took over at DH after the first inning — he was poised to pinch run had Crystal gotten on base. When the game ended, a 5-3 Pirates win, Crystal said his career as a major leaguer was over.

                              "I can always say I led off for the New York Yankees. That's an amazing feeling," he said. "I don't even know how to describe it. It was so intensely good."

                              Surely better than getting a World Series ring as part-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks when they beat his beloved Yankees in 2001.

                              Technically, Crystal still is under contract to the Yankees. He signed a standard minor league deal Wednesday that commissioner Bud Selig approved; as long as the Yankees officially release him before opening day, they don't owe him any money.

                              No chance of comeback, Crystal said.

                              "Not the way my hamstring feels," he said.

                              Crystal walked away with a lifetime of "mahvelous" memories.

                              Manager Joe Girardi gave him a signed lineup card, a clubhouse attendant presented a DVD of his at-bat and Crystal kept his pinstriped uniform. He also exited with his socks and shoelaces cut, the culprits being his teammates-for-a-day.

                              Crystal brought his own black maple bat and a glove that had his name stitched on the side. While the former high school infielder did not need his mitt in the game, his family and friends did: a foul popup by Rodriguez landed a few feet from Crystal's wife and Williams.

                              Asked whether he'd like a turn as a ballplayer, Williams shook his head.

                              "No. It'll be a telethon," he said.

                              Crystal got this opportunity after a chance meeting with Jeter in Costa Rica over the holidays. Crystal said he wasn't too happy about turning 60, and the Yankees captain wondered what would make him happy.

                              Just like that, Crystal was headed to the majors.

                              Crystal did his best to fit in. He kept his comedy routines to a minimum in the clubhouse, signed his share of autographs — including one for Maholm — and honored the ballplayers' code by compensating infielder Cody Ransom for taking the minor leaguer's No. 60.

                              "He upheld his end of the bargain," Ransom said.

                              Neither said what was exchanged, but there was a fancy wrapped Sony bag in Ransom's locker.

                              Crystal said he was more nervous than he could remember walking to the plate. Before the game, he tried to act calm. The way he chomped nonstop on his bubblegum gave him away.

                              "I'm really relaxed, I really am," Crystal said an hour before it started. "That's until I see the 6-foot-2, 230-pound guy who's going to throw who's never been to a Seder."

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                                Potter strategy sure to boost box office

                                By RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer
                                2 hours, 8 minutes ago

                                LAS VEGAS - With its plan to make two movies from the last installment of the popular "Harry Potter" book series, Warner Bros. is once again conjuring a lucrative box office formula, an analyst said Thursday.

                                The franchise is well-suited to the approach because the books are so popular and rich in content, media analyst Harold Vogel said.

                                "They want to milk it for as long as possible," he said. "Why not?"

                                The studio has collected huge revenue through the strategy, most notably with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which has grossed more than $3 billion worldwide.

                                The films were shot all at once, then released from 2001 to 2003 by subsidiary New Line Cinema.

                                Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc., also greenlighted the 2003 release of "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" after the sequels were shot at the same time. The "Matrix" franchise has hauled in $1.6 billion globally.

                                The studio giant announced the two-part rendition of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" would become films seven and eight of the series.

                                The first five films grossed $4.5 billion worldwide, already making it the largest movie franchise in history. The sixth, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," is set for release in November.

                                The release dates of the final two movies are expected in late 2010 and summer 2011.

                                Studio executives contended the decision to split the book into two film was for creative, not financial, reasons.

                                "Condensing a 750-page book to a 120- or 130-page screenplay is challenging enough," Alan Horn, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., said during a presentation at ShoWest, a conference where studios unveil upcoming movie lineups.

                                "But we wanted to do right by this final, final episode." he said.

                                Dedicated fans were already chatting furiously on "Harry Potter" fan Web sites about where the first film would end and the second begin: Would it come after the escape on the dragon or the destruction of the first Horcrux?

                                Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracking firm Media By Numbers, noted that even the least successful in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," made $645 million worldwide after opening last July.

                                "I think if they could, they would make installments nine, 10 and 11," he said.

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                                  Steve-O charged with cocaine possession

                                  1 hour, 10 minutes ago

                                  LOS ANGELES - Steve-O of "Jackass" fame has been charged with felony possession of cocaine, according to court documents posted on celebrity news site TMZ.

                                  The documents show that Steve-O, whose real name is Stephen Glover, was charged Monday. A message left for his manager, Ben Feigin, wasn't immediately returned late Thursday.

                                  The 33-year-old co-star of MTV's irreverent stunt show was arrested March 3 at his Hollywood home for investigation of vandalism and possession of a controlled substance.

                                  Glover allegedly had a small quantity of drugs on him, police said at the time.


                                  On the Net:



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