The Fix

Sean Penn calls for more political films, Phil Spector arrested for scuffle with chauffeur, and Britney says she doesn't feel sexy. Plus: Radar magazine lives?

By Salon Staff

Published May 17, 2004 9:50AM (EDT)

Afternoon Briefing:
Penn at Cannes: At the Cannes Film Fest today, Sean Penn said that there aren't enough films being made that deal with politics. Penn is starring in a film being shown out of competition at Cannes called "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," in which he plays a furniture salesman who planned to kill Nixon in 1974 by ramming a hijacked airplane into the White House. It's based on a true story. Said Penn, "It's the story of somebody who feels that there's a hand at their throat and that bit by bit they act to remove that hand. Often when people's hearts are oppressed and silenced they will act in extreme and violent and horrible ways." (Reuters via Yahoo!)

In trouble again: The same Phil Spector who faces murder charges was arrested again this weekend after an altercation with his chauffeur. Spector and the driver were arguing over their business relationship and it got to the point where each of them tried to put the other under citizen's arrest. Both were treated for bruises and released, but Spector has to appear in court in June. He's out on bail after being charged with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson at his home. (XFM)

Leibovitz does Becks: Soccer idol David Beckham will be the first British sports star to make the cover of Vanity Fair. It will be this July's issue, with the shoot done by Annie Leibovitz, who is known for putting celebs in memorable settings. (IMDB)

Britney's lament: Britney Spears told a German magazine, "I don't consider myself sexy at all." She also said her life isn't glamourous and she isn't having much luck with men at the moment. (Ananova)

Radar still on the radar: Radar magazine may have a new angel, according to Gawker and AdAge. Word is that a French investment group is talking about giving founder Maer Roshan up to $15 million to keep the magazine alive. (Gawker)

-- Karen Croft

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Turn On:
"Colonial House" (PBS; check local listings) is based on the same premise as "Frontier House" and "1900 House" -- equipping modern-day folk with the technology of bygone eras -- but this time the participants attempt to live life circa 1628. The WB's elaborate "American Idol"-style hoax, "Superstar USA" (9 p.m. ET; WB), debuts; watch as the talented singers are sent home, and the William Hung-ites are sent through the pop-contest rigmarole, complete with Tone-Loc as a judge.

-- Scott Lamb

Morning Briefing:
Palme d'Or or booby prize? John Kerry's eldest daughter, Alexandra, premiered her short film "The Last Full Measure" -- about the relationship between a 9-year-old and her Vietman vet father -- at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. Unfortunately, no one told the young filmmaker to wear a bra under the sheer black gown she wore for her moment in the all-too-bright spotlight. (U.K. Sun via Drudge) From the looks of it, Alexandra was not wearing that logo-emblazoned thong that Air America has begun peddling alongside its T-shirts and hats. (Cafi Press via Drudge)

Moore news from Cannes: Michael Moore says that certain high-ups in the Republican Party strong-armed Mel Gibson, who had originally bankrolled Moore's new Bush-bashing film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," into dropping the controversial movie. "Don't expect any more invitations to the White House if you fund this movie," Moore says the Republican honcho told Gibson. (Variety)

Just why is Moore's film such a big deal? The New York Times notes that, though little of the information in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is actually new, "writ large on the big screen with Mr. Moore's narration and set to music, the connections could still prove revelatory to those who have not paid close attention to reports about Saudi Arabia's connections to Mr. Bush and his associates" and that some audience members at a screening of the film last week "exclaimed loudly when Mr. Moore's narration spelled them out." Meanwhile, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said the film's contentions are "so outrageously false, it's not even worth comment." (N.Y. Times)

Voting scandal: TV industry magazine Broadcasting & Cable contends that the voting on "American Idol" is fatally flawed and patently unfair: "While overzealous fans have accused Fox of tampering with results, one fact is indisputable: Technology is thwarting democracy on 'American Idol.' Power-dialers can skew the vote. Text-messagers have an unfair advantage. And potential hackers have a powerful new incentive to alter the vote tallies: betting on the outcome through Internet gambling sites. Despite fans' repeated accusations of inaccurate results, Fox is sticking with a voting system vulnerable to serious manipulation and tampering." (Broadcasting & Cable)

Mohr revelations: Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jay Mohr has written a book, "Gasping for Airtime" in which he airs backstage antics at the show. For instance? Roseanne Barr burped a lot during a writers' meeting and, um, Steven Tyler carried a pocket mirror that he liked to look at himself in a lot. Shocking. (Rush and Molloy)

"Cut to the palm"? In the wake of the State Department deputy press secretary's spot decision to push a camera away from Colin Powell while the secretary of state was in the middle of a "Meet the Press" interview with Tim Russert and allow it to focus on palm trees, waving in the breeze (Powell insisted that the camera be refocused back onto him and answered Russert's questions about missing WMD), Sen. John McCain was moved to respond to a question from Russert about the possibility that he might run for vice president on John Kerry's ticket thusly: "I'd like to have the camera move over to a palm tree." (N.Y. Daily News)

The Passion of the South Park set: Comedy Central plans to release a three-episode "South Park" DVD on the same day as the release of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" -- as an alternative of sorts. On the Comedy Central release: "The Passion of the Jew," "Red Hot Catholic Love" and "Christian Hard Rock." (Page Six)

Also competing for airtime: Bruce Springsteen is said to be considering giving a big free concert on Sept. 2, the day President Bush is set to address the Republican National Convention. According to an unnamed source, Springsteen would like to offer "counterprogramming to the message the Republicans will be broadcasting." (Rush and Molloy)

Buh-bye, "Whoopi": Whoopi Goldberg's NBC sitcom, "Whoopi," has been canceled amid low ratings and critical complaints that it wasn't funny. (N.Y. Daily News)

-- Amy Reiter

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