Steve Granitz
Josh Wolk
February 24, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

CHARGED Sean ”Puffy” Combs didn’t get a Grammy last night, but he did get a shiny new indictment. Hours before the awards show, according to Reuters, a Manhattan grand jury charged Combs and his bodyguard, Anthony ”Wolf” Jones, with allegedly offering Combs’ driver Wardel Fenderson $50,000 to claim that the gun found in the car when cops stopped them fleeing from the scene of the Dec. 27 club stabbing (for which Combs has already been indicted) was his. Combs even allegedly gave Fenderson Jennifer Lopez’s diamond ring as collateral. (So diamonds ARE forever… or until you need them to bribe someone, whichever comes first.) Combs was outraged by the charge, saying he was not guilty and that ”from the outset I have firmly believed that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has unfairly targeted me for baseless charges.” He also claimed that the DA timed the charge to embarrass him at the Grammys.

CASTING Richard Gere is considering joining ”Julia Pastrana,” the true story of a deformed circus performer who falls in love with her ”manager.” Hard to see how a pitch of ”It’s ‘A Star Is Born’ meets ‘Freaks”’ would ever get a green light, but there you go…. Renée Zellweger will play everyone’s favorite neurotic bachelorette in the film version of ”Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Oprah gives the casting two ”You go girl!”s up…. Kate Winslet has signed for ”Enigma,” the true story of British codebreakers cracking German codes…. Just because Sylvester Stallone ended his $60 million deal with Universal this week doesn’t mean he’s retiring. He announced two projects today: First, there’s ”Morton Orwell,” where he’ll play a debonair bank robber. And second, there’s ”Champs” (which Stallone also wrote), a thriller set in the fast-paced world of auto racing. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Tom Cruise’s ”Days of Thunder,” it’s that audiences love to see cars go around and around in circles. Wait a minute. No they don’t…. ”Party of Five”’s Scott Bairstow will serve his country (or at least act like he’s doing so) in Steven Spielberg’s Marines series ”Semper Fi,” set for NBC next season.

REEL DEALS Robert Redford will direct ”A Beautiful Mind,” a biopic of John Forbes Nash Jr., a math genius who overcame schizophrenia to win a Nobel Prize. Tom Cruise is considering taking the lead, a surprisingly realistic pick since Nash was actually a very good looking man. And there’s nothing the ladies like more than watching a strapping hunk doing quadratic equations…. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson (”Jack Frost”) is the latest filmmaker to sign on to bring the blind superhero Daredevil to the screen, after Chris Columbus and Carlo Carlei have backed out.

EVERYTHING FALLS APART After one week of casting bliss, Harrison Ford has dropped out of Steven Soderbergh’s drug-trade epic ”Traffic,” opting instead to do an unnamed action film. This makes the film’s status a lot shakier, since Fox Searchlight tells Variety that the film’s other touted lead, Catherine Zeta-Jones, still isn’t officially signed, so everything is in flux. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner has dropped out of Disney’s megabudget ”Pearl Harbor,” and the Hollywood Reporter says he could step in for Ford.

OBITUARY Israeli chanteuse Ofra Haza died on Wednesday at 42 in a Tel Aviv hospital after suffering massive organ failure. Haza was not only a star in Israel (voted singer of the year annually from 1980 to 1984), but her songs also landed on the German and British charts. She also sang the theme to last year’s animated ”Prince of Egypt.”

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