Thai protesters will hang Leonardo DiCaprio in effigy |


Thai protesters will hang Leonardo DiCaprio in effigy

Plus, ''American Beauty,'' The Spice Girls, Michael Caine, George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan, and more

Leonardo DiCaprio

LIFE'S A 'BEACH' DiCaprio and the makers of his latest film are on the hot seat in Thailand (20th Century Fox)

ANGRY MOB You have to take the good with the bad when you’re a matinee idol: They’ll be cheering Leonardo DiCaprio’s name at the Bangkok premiere of ”The Beach” on Tuesday (good), but they’ll also be lynching him in effigy (bad). Planning the protest are environmental activists who have long claimed that the Fox production ruined the Maya Bay beach while filming there last year, and in addition to the swinging Leo, the group will reportedly brandish photos of the damage they claim occurred. ”We are not trying to stop the public watching the movie,” Phuket Environmental Protection group rep Sirinee Yommana told the Agence France-Presse. ”But we are asking them to wait and watch it on video.” (Yommana did not specify whether watching a director’s-commentary DVD version would either hurt or help the cause.) Fox, which is also facing a $2.6 million lawsuit brought by local administrators, says that the beach was not harmed, and that the ”Beach” crew cleaned up any mess it made.

AWARDS, AWARDS, AWARDS ”American Beauty” and ”Election” won best screenplay honors at the Writers Guild of America Awards (“Beauty” for original, “Election” for adapted) Sunday night. On the TV side, ”The Sopranos” and ”Frasier” got the honors for drama and comedy…. TV Guide readers managed to tear themselves away from debating the Cheers and Jeers section long enough to vote for their favorite shows, and the winners for best comedy and drama series in the TV Guide Awards were ”Everybody Loves Raymond” and ”ER.” Acting trophies went to ”JAG”’s David James Elliott, ”Providence”’s Melina Kanakaredes, ”The West Wing”’s Martin Sheen, ”Dharma and Greg”’s Jenna Elfman, ”Frasier”’s David Hyde Pierce,” and ”Judging Amy”’s Amy Brenneman. And for the second year in a row, the ”Best Crossword Puzzle Clue” award went to ”I —- Lucy”…. Whitney Houston and The Artist Formerly Known as Prince both received ”artist of the decade” trophies at the Soul Train Awards on Saturday night. For the new decade (one which has not started so smoothly for Houston), TLC got two awards, while Ginuwine, Mary J. Blige, and DMX got one each.

BATTLING IT OUT Will there never be peace between the Spice Girls? At the Brit Awards (England’s Grammys) this weekend, the four remaining Spicers tried to make nice when accepting their Outstanding Contribution to British Music award, with Mel G saying ”We’ve all got to say a big, big thank you to Geri [Halliwell] because without her we wouldn’t be able to do this.” That’s all well and good, but later in the show Halliwell performed a bawdy musical routine featuring four chubby women pushing shopping carts around male dancers, which was believed to be a shot at her former band mates, apparently calling them man-hungry. As symbolism goes, it ain’t exactly Kafka’s ”Metamorphosis,” but how does Franz look in a radio mic? Advantage Halliwell!

CASTING Michael Caine will costar with Sandra Bullock in ”Miss Congeniality” as the contestant trainer for a beauty pageant. So THAT’S what an Oscar nomination gets you…. George Clooney has been doing some heavy-duty recruiting for the live broadcast of ”Fail Safe” that he’s producing for CBS. In addition to himself, the cast will include Harvey Keitel, Richard Dreyfuss, Noah Wyle, Don Cheadle, James Cromwell, and Brian Dennehy. Stephen Frears (”The Grifters”) will direct…. Pierce Brosnan will write and produce ”Blood and Champagne,” the story of true-life war photographer Robert Capa, famed for his pictures taken during the Spanish Civil War and WWII. And to show that Brosnan can really stretch beyond Bond, his camera in the movie will NOT also be armed with a heat-seeking missile and grappling hook…. Let the bells toll and the huzzahs ring out: John Stamos is coming back to television! He’s heading up the NBC pilot of the drama ”Fortunate Son,” playing a politician’s son who works as a private detective. First case: Find Dave Coulier!… Bill Paxton will play a stuntman who stumbles onto a drug trade related murder during his honeymoon in ”Mexicali.” Roger Avary, Quentin Tarantino’s co-author of ”Pulp Fiction,” will direct…. Jeffrey Tambor is developing a new sitcom for Touchstone TV about an old Wall Street type trying to adapt to the Internet world. Let’s hope TV veteran Tambor’s got another ”Larry Sanders Show,” and not another ”Mr. Sunshine”…. David E. Kelley is mining his old shows for the cast of his new project, Fox’s ”The Faculty”: So far he’s hired ”Picket Fences”’s Fyvush Finkel and ”The Practice”’s Anthony Heald to play teachers. Something says the fashion budget for this high school set drama won’t be as high as at ”Popular.”

DUMPED A second NBC affiliate has dropped ”God, the Devil and Bob” before it’s even aired. Pocatello, Idaho’s KPVI-TV has followed the lead of Salt Lake City’s KSL in refusing to air the animated sitcom (debuting this Thursday at 8:30); although it had no comment on the reasons behind its decision, it’s likely for religious reasons, what with God being presented as a Jerry Garcia look-alike. Variety says that NBC expects a few other stations in religious areas to back out too, but the network is considering playing up the controversy, possibly to attract that valuable heretic demographic that the beer and luxury car advertisers go crazy for.

THE WINNER Thanks largely to ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” ABC has been declared the winner of February Sweeps. ABC averaged about 16 million viewers, while NBC and CBS were nearly equal in second with 13.4 million and 13.3 million, respectively, and the struggling Fox was in fourth with 10.1 million. And who could forget about the WB and UPN? Well, apparently many viewers: UPN averaged 4.2 million viewers while the WB mustered 3.8 mil.