GIG Okay, we know. Beyoncé Knowles’ decision to star opposite ”Shaft”’s Mekhi Phifer in an MTV remake of ”Carmen” won’t be a huge stretch for Destiny’s Child’s alpha babe. But it marks an excellent beginning for the lead singer’s entrée into the wonderful world of pop star cross branding. (The R&B band’s reps have long talked about plans to get the threesome involved in acting, modeling, and everything else a fiscally savvy girl group might do to get us to repeatedly say their name, say their name.) Da Brat will narrate the rap inflected musical ”Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” which is set to debut in the second quarter of 2001. Robert Townsend will direct. Hopefully, he won’t draw from the ”Tommy” archives.
EXIT Jason Newsted, Metallica’s bassist of 14 years, is leaving the band. The group and Newsted issued a joint statement Wednesday announcing the departure. ”Due to private and personal reasons,” Newsted wrote in the statement, ”and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love, I must step away from the band.” Though Metallica has yet to discuss a replacement for Newsted, they assured fans that the band plans to continue. ”We part ways with Jason with more love, more mutual respect, and more understanding of each other than at any other point in the past,” Lars Ulrich said in the statement. ”James, Kirk, and I look forward to embracing the next chapter of Metallica with both a huge amount of appreciation for the last 14 years with Jason and the excitement of rising to the challenges that lay ahead to make Metallica shine brighter than ever.”
BUSY-NESS Even showbiz titans Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg are not exempt from the race to crank out a few flicks before the possible actor and writer strikes this summer. Cruise only gets two weeks off after wrapping his Cameron Crowe film ”Vanilla Sky” in March. Then he’ll segue into the Spielberg directed ”Minority Report.” Meanwhile, the filmmaker will have to hurry through his edit of ”A.I.” (slated for release this summer) in order to begin work on the drama. Stanley Kubrick wouldn’t have rushed anything.
CHARTS The Beatles are apparently back where they belong. Their compilation ”1” remained in the top position on the charts for the seventh straight week, selling another 260,000 copies. This pushes the Fab Four’s U.S. sales over 6 million so far. Meanwhile, Shaggy’s ”Hot Shot” held on to the No. 2 spot (191,000 albums sold), while the familiar chart topper collection ”Now That’s What I Call Music! Volume 5” remained at No. 3 (128,000). Creed’s ”Human Clay” jumped two spots this week to No. 4 while Limp Bizkit’s ”Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” rounded out the top five.
SWEEPS We’ve been so caught up in the ”Survivor” versus ”Friends” story that we almost forgot about our old buddy, ratings behemoth ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” But Regis Philbin and co. have another gimmick up their sleeves that is sure to grab our attention. Plans are in the works for a rock & roll themed ”Millionaire” Feb. 11 through Feb. 14. Thus far, the Backstreet Boys, the Dixie Chicks’ Emily Robison, Sisqó, and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich are among those headlining the event. It might be a great place to shop for a new bassist.
BIZ Warner Bros. owned New Line Cinema made a high level staff shuffle that the trade papers have been speculating about for months. Production prez and CEO of eight years Michael De Luca left his post and the company’s music head Toby Emmerich was tapped to replace him. Rumors that De Luca would be sacked pending the success of New Line’s Kevin Costner flick ”Thirteen Days” have been rife in the industry. The midsize studio is still reeling from the losses of last fall’s unexpected Adam Sandler bomb ”Little Nicky”. Meanwhile, the company has invested some $270 million in the upcoming ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. We’re glad we didn’t sign that check.
WEB NEWS In a sign of our shifting times, AOL Time Warner announced that Bertelsmann exec Kevin Conroy will take a newly created position as head of the company’s Internet music operations. BMG, of course, was the first music company to hitch its star to the legally challenged but immensely popular song swapping service Napster.