Sean Penn will direct Jack Nicholson again |


Sean Penn will direct Jack Nicholson again

Plus, Meg Ryan, ''Charlie's Angels'' and ''Hannibal'' trouble, ''Ally McBeal,'' Duran Duran, Jimmy Page, and more

CONVOLUTION For Sean Penn’s next directorial effort, the 1950s police thriller ”The Pledge,” he’ll reunite with his ”Crossing Guard” star Jack Nicholson. To make time for this movie, Penn had to drop out of the marriage drama ”This Man, This Woman,” and because of his departure, Meg Ryan backed out as well. Hollywoodologists are still trying to trace this domino effect back to Tom Selleck dropping out of ”Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

UN-CASTING We spoke too soon when we said that all three ”Charlie’s Angels” spots were finally filled: Variety reports that Thandie Newton has pulled out because of scheduling problems, and that Columbia is now once again on a casting search to complete the trio. (However, a Sony exec denied that Newton was leaving.) If this continues long enough, little Kristy from the Independent Film Channel ads will be a contender for the role.

BATON-PASSING In other movies-long-in-development news, David Mamet is off ”Hannibal” duty. Universal has decided that the screen adaptation he turned in needs some work, but since he is too busy preparing to direct his comedy ”State of Maine,” the studio has passed on rewrite duties to Steve Zaillian (”A Civil Action”), according to the New York Daily News. Universal maintains that it’s not a slight against Mamet, it’s only a scheduling problem. ”In retrospect, I don’t know why we didn’t take [his upcoming project] more into account,” said Universal cochairman Stacey Snider. ”Perhaps we didn’t do enough research.”

ROCKIN’ LAWSUITS Duran Duran has won their libel suit against the British tabloid the Sun, which in 1998 wrote that the band had to pay people to act like fans while filming a TV movie. Simon Le Bon et al argued that the false article impeded their ability to work on their new album…. Led Zep still rules, dude! Dudley Burnside, a Windsor, England, neighbor of Jimmy Page, sued the guitarist, claiming he had refused to cut down the trees that were blocking the light from Burnside’s yard. A judge dismissed the case and ordered Burnside to reimburse Page’s legal fees of more than $40,000 – the shady neighbor may now have to sell his house in order to pay. Burnside, a former military pilot in WWII and the Korean War, told the Independent, ”I served in bomber command, whose 55,000 casualties are a reminder to the postwar generation, of which Mr. Page belongs, of the cost of the liberties they now enjoy. I would have hoped he would have thought of that for a moment before he refused our legitimate request to remove his trees.” That guilt trip hasn’t worked: When the Independent rang Page’s doorbell, an unidentified voice on the intercom told the paper, ”The Burnsides lost the case, and there is obviously good reason for that.” Sorry, Dudley: The sum remains the same.

KISSY-KISSY Ellen, what hast thou wrought? Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu will share a smooch on the Nov. 1 episode of ”Ally McBeal.” According to the New York Post, Ally and Ling will try to mend the fences in their contentious relationship, which inevitably leads to a make-out session. Ahhh, TV – as reflective of real life as ever.

CASTING Claire Forlani (”Meet Joe Black”) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (”Velvet Goldmine”) hopefully won’t suck when they play vampire lovers who team to protect a small village in ”Johnny Domino.”

DOUBLE-RUN Chris Matthews will be blowing twice as hard when his show starts being run on MSNBC and CNBC starting on Nov. 8. His political shoutfest will first air on MSNBC at 7 p.m. then an hour later on CNBC. However, if Wall Street extends its trading hours, then CNBC might extend its market coverage into prime time, bumping Matthews off its schedule.

FEELING FINE Dale Evans, 86, who was hospitalized Oct. 11 after a mild heart attack, has been released from Loma Linda University Medical Center after receiving a pacemaker.

OBITUARY Boogie-woogie singer Ella Mae Morse, who provided Capitol Records with its first hit – ”Cow Cow Boogie” – in 1942, died of respiratory failure at the age of 75. Morse received 10 gold records in her career before she stopped recording back in 1957.