Craig Seymour
May 05, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

CASTING 19 year old Canadian actor Hayden Christensen is said to be the new front-runner in the race to play Anakin Skywalker in ”Star Wars: Episode II,” according to Variety. The trade reports that ”the buzz swirling around Hollywood” is that George Lucas is close to naming Christensen, who’s currently starring in the Fox Family Channel drama ”Higher Ground,” as the next Anakin…. Gary Oldman will join Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore in ”Hannibal,” which begins shooting in Florence, Italy on Monday. Oldman will play a revenge seeking victim of Lecter’s…. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jessica Lange is in final talks to play Christina Ricci‘s mom in ”Prozac Nation” based on writer Elizabeth Wurtzel’s ’97 memoir…. Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox have been added to the cast of the comedy ”Kingdom Come” also starring Whoopi Goldberg and LL Cool J…. Rap rocker Kid Rock is set to make his big screen debut in the David Spade vehicle ”The Adventures of Joe Dirt.” There’s just nothing like an animated stint on ”The Simpsons” to launch an acting career.

RELEASED Rapper DMX was released from jail late Wednesday based on an appeal filed by his lawyers that his 15 day sentence for driving without a license and marijuana possession was ”excessive.”

RECOVERING ”Friends” star Matthew Perry may be released from the hospital today after being treated for stomach pains and the flu. Wonder if a million dollar per episode paycheck from NBC would make him feel any better?

MOVIE NEWS The trailer for ”How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — starring Jim Carrey — premieres online May 10. The trailer won’t be shown in theaters until Memorial Day weekend, and the film is set to open Nov. 17…. Fox has pushed up the release date of Mel Gibson‘s much anticipated ”The Patriot” from Friday, June 30, to Wednesday, June 28.

REEL DEALS Miramax‘s cochairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein have renewed their contracts with Disney for another seven years. In a statement, Bob Weinstein said: ”Our new deal with Disney will… allow us to make more movies and bigger-budgeted movies.” Not to mention more bucks for Oscar campaigns.

MUSIC NEWS After being dropped from Mercury/Island/Def Jam earlier this year, Joan Osborne has signed a new record deal with Interscope. Her next album, ”Righteous Love,” is already completed and set for release in September…. VH1 will produce a TV movie based on the lives of sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart…. Blaze magazine, a rap publication aimed at 14-24 year olds, is being closed by it’s publisher, Bob Miller, who also publishes Spin and Vibe. Will the hip-hop casualties never cease?

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