WINDFALL The only question about the filmmakers behind ”The Blair Witch Project” is whether they’re rich… or filthy stinking rich. Artisan, which paid $1.1 million for the movie (which has grossed $80 million so far), is claiming that the five producers and directors will share some $20 million. But Variety reports that sources say the quintet could get much more: as much as half of the total grosses, and ”Witch” is projected to pull in a total of $150 million. This generous deal was reportedly made when Artisan assumed the $70,000 film would scare up only around $10 million.
CRACKING DOWN All the attacks on the MPAA aren’t making it any less conservative. The association has rejected a TV ad for ”Teaching Mrs. Tingle,” according to Variety, because of a scene where the evil teacher’s dog is seen drinking out of a wine bottle, and two teens say they’d be drinking too if they were Tingle’s kids. Apparently the MPAA feels that this comic moment sanctions teen drinking, which is a big no-no… as opposed to kidnapping teachers, which is apparently every young American’s right.
OBITUARIES William Shatner’s wife, Nerine, died of an apparent drowning in their Los Angeles pool Monday night. William Shatner came home at 10:15 to find his 40-year-old wife at the bottom of the pool, dialed 911, and dove in to try to revive her, but it was too late. Paramedics arrived and unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate Mrs. Shatner; no foul play is suspected. The couple had been married since November of 1997. Nerine was Shatner’s third wife…. Victor Mature, a matinee idol through the 1940s and 50s, died of cancer last Wednesday at the age of 86. He starred in such classics as ”My Darling Clementine” and ”Kiss of Death,” but was best remembered for his work in biblical epics like ”Samson and Delilah” and ”The Robe.”
CASTING Cameron Diaz, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates, and Holly Hunter will play four women whose lives intersect in ”Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her,” a project developed at the Sundance Lab…. Bridget Fonda may join the indie ”Delivering Milo,” the allegedly heartwarming tale of a young soul in heaven who doesn’t want to be put in a newborn, and who is taught by an angel why life is so durned dandy…. Sean Penn, Alfred Molina (”Boogie Nights”), and Diane Lane (”A Walk on the Moon”) will star in ”Survivors,” a drama about a gangster (Molina) who hires a comedy writer (Penn) to make him funnier, only to have his joke adviser fall in love with his wife. Mark Rydell (”On Golden Pond,” ”The Rose”) will direct…. Paul Reiser has joined Michael Douglas and Liv Tyler in the black comedy ”One Night at McCool’s.”
REEL DEALS Francis Ford Coppola’s recent gig to help save struggling MGM studio looks like it will happen one film at a time: He has taken over the editing of the James Spader/Angela Bassett sci-fi film ”Supernova,” which wrapped way back in July 1998 and has already gone through two directors, Geoffrey Wright (“Romper Stomper”) and Walter Hill (”48 HRS.”). Hill left the movie angrily after he finished principal photography, but Variety reports that he may put his name back on the movie if he likes Coppola’s cut…. Whitney Houston has optioned the teen novel ”The Princess Diaries” to turn into a Disney movie. ”Diaries” follows the royalty training of an obstreperous 16-year-old who discovers she’s actually the princess of a small European country. Houston won’t necessarily star, but she’ll sure be able to provide some needed tips on acting like a princess.
CANCELING David Bowie has backed out of a New Year’s Eve 2000 concert in Gisborne, New Zealand, claiming that the promoters didn’t have the necessary financing to pull it off. Bowie was to be the headlining act of the proposed 12-hour festival, the selling point of which was that its location near the international dateline would make it the first place to see the new year. Now it looks like someone else will get the first gander at 2000: ”Realistically, we need a miracle,” promoter Bruce Bell told Reuters. ”We are almost resigned to the fact that we will not be able to stage the concert.”
REWARDED ”Everybody Loves Raymond” was given the best-quality sitcom award by the Viewers for Quality Television, as well as earning acting honors for Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, and Doris Roberts. Meanwhile ”The Practice” was named best-quality drama for the second year in a row, with Camryn Manheim and Steve Harris also emerging as winners. But the networks themselves received a high-quality snub, as the VQT declined to give any of them the annual Network Commitment to Quality Award. ”No network rose to the level of excellence or commitment to quality required,” the organization said. Hopefully the networks will be able to shake this off and get back to the hard work of broadcasting the highest-quality breast jokes possible.
DEPARTING Oasis guitarist Paul ”Bonehead” Arthurs has left the group. In a very polite statement, Arthurs said ”I’ve had a fantastic eight years in one of the best bands ever to come out of Britain, and now feel I have come to a stage where I’d like to concentrate on other things in my life, outside of the demands of being in a successful rock and roll band.” Oasis’ fourth album is scheduled to come out in January, but no word has been released about a possible replacement for Arthurs.
ALONE AND ON THE ROAD Blues Traveler frontman John Popper has bounced back from his recent angioplasty and is about to hit the road to support his upcoming solo album ”Zygote” (in stores Sep. 7). His tour of smaller clubs begins on Sep. 1 in Dewey Beach, Del.