The Fix

Oprah propels "Anna Karenina" onto bestseller list, Faith Hill discusses losing her inhibitions, and some see Hillary Clinton in Meryl Streep's "Manchurian Candidate" senator.

Published June 14, 2004 9:37AM (EDT)

Afternoon Briefing:
Oprah says it's OK: All Oprah has to do is tell her fans not to be afraid of something and it hits the bestseller list -- even if it is a hefty 19th century novel by Tolstoy about adulterous passion. Since last week, when Oprah told her followers to read "Anna Karenina," the classic has hit the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Lucky Penguin, which brought out a new translation of the book six years ago after other publishers passed on the opportunity. (BBC)

Branson as Bond: Virgin supermogul Richard Branson donned a dinner jacket and bow tie, jumped into his Gibbs Aquada -- a car that turns into a speedboat -- and sped from Dover to Calais in a record-breaking one hour and 40 minutes today. Branson's past daredevil efforts include failed attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon and a successful transatlantic speedboat record in 1986. (AFP)

Did she have a cigarette afterward? Faith Hill had to do a sex scene on her first read-through during rehearsals for the remake of "The Stepford Wives." and it came as a surprise when she sat at the round table with all the other actors. She remembers she thought, "Oh wow, I remember now I have to read this three-paragraph-long orgasm! It was good. After that I was good to go. I was ready." (IMDB)

Is Meryl too Hillary? Insiders are gossiping about Meryl Streep's portrayal of a (not in the original) senator in the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" being an awful lot like Sen. Hillary Clinton -- in clothing, hair and mannerisms. Word is that director Jonathan Demme is getting pressured by Paramount to reduce the similarities in the final cut so that anti-Hillary factions won't be so happy (the character in the film is a villainess). (A Fly on the Wall)

Letterman tries again: Paris Hilton was supposed to appear on the "Late Show" back in November but she declined due to embarrassment over the sex video that was circulating at the time. Tonight she'll finally chat with Dave to promote "The Simple Life 2: Road Trip," which premieres June 16. (CNN)

-- Karen Croft

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Turn On:
Mark Burnett's newest reality show -- or "unscripted drama," if you prefer -- is "The Casino" (9 p.m. ET; FOX), another entry into the growing genre of business reality shows; it premieres Monday night. "Annie Proulx: Way Out West" (9 p.m. ET; Ovation) follows the novelist through the year and a half of writing and researching her book "That Old Ace in the Hole."

-- Scott Lamb

Morning Briefing:
A man jumps out of an airplane: Make that two men ... or actually more. Former President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 80th birthday as he had celebrated his 75th -- by parachuting out of a plane. But his 13,000-foot skydive over Texas on Sunday was made in the arms of a member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, rather than solo, after it was determined that weather conditions were too risky for Bush to make the jump alone. "We were concerned the president possibly could get lost in a cloud and we don't want him to do that," Lt. Col. David Standridge, commander of the Golden Knights, told the press. Also diving, Fox News anchor Brit Hume, 60, who was invited by Bush to take the leap prior to conducting an interview with him. Hume told Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz that he decided that "the level of peril in this was not overwhelming." Not so Mikhail Gorbachev, whom Bush also invited to jump. "Afraid," Gorbachev, who watched from the ground, explained. "Maybe on his 90th birthday." (Associated Press)

What Michael knew and when he knew it: Michael Moore says he had footage documenting U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqis "months before the story broke on '60 Minutes,' and I really struggled with what to do with it." He says he didn't know whether to make the tape public so that the abuse might be halted or to save it for his film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." "I wanted to come out with it sooner, but I thought I'd be accused of just putting this out for publicity for my movie. That prevented me from making maybe the right decision." (San Francisco Chronicle) So good is Moore at hiding his light under a bushel, in fact, that the New York premiere of his film has had to be moved to a bigger venue, the Ziegfield Theater, which can accommodate such anticipated attendees as Tom Brokaw, Richard Gere, Yoko Ono, Stephen Sondheim, Lou Reed, Vernon Jordan, Gretchen Mol and Carson Daly. (Rush and Molloy)

Common cause: Advisors for Hillary and Bill Clinton and representatives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation have united in the fight against Nielsen Media Research's new high-tech ratings-gathering system. The company insists that the new system is far more accurate than its old set-top boxes and handwritten logs, but News Corp, whose station ratings suffer under the new system, and Democratic operatives and community groups representing minorities say the system undercounts black and Hispanic viewers. (N.Y. Times)

Alarming scene: New Line Cinema executives are apparently somewhat disturbed by a scene in its upcoming film "Birth" in which Nicole Kidman's character bathes naked with a 10-year-old boy whom she believes to be her late husband reincarnated. And now there are new rumors of a passionate kissing scene between the two actors. "It's entirely possible there's a bathing scene in the film, but I don't think there's any passionate kissing. That doesn't happen," New Line spokeswoman Marion Koltai commented, further explaining, "It's a dream sequence, like in 'Rosemary's Baby.'" (Rush and Molloy)

How they kept it a secret: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony apparently kept the lid on their marriage by getting a "confidential license" at a Southern California county clerk's office. They pulled up to the office in a limo two days before they wed, called inside and had a sheriff's deputy come in to witness each of them sign the license. So very un-Bennifer of them. (Rush and Molloy)

Attention: Elvis: Word broke last week that former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell was planning to publish a book about Richard Pryor. So, it turns out, is Richard Pryor. "If he can get half a million dollars for writing all about me, when the mother[bleeper] has never even met me, imagine how much I'm gonna get for writing all about me, when I am me!" said the comedian, who adds that Mitchell was supposed to write the liner notes for his boxed set but begged off at the last minute, claiming he was too busy. Adds Pryor, "I don't know [bleep] about Mitchell, but if he's writing a book about me, I figured I'd write one about him. After I finish the one I'm writing about myself." (Page Six)

"I'm Rick James, bitch!": Dave Chappelle is in early talks to play Rick James in a movie adaptation of James' upcoming autobiography, "Memoirs of a Super Freak," the rights to which Lorenzo Di Bonaventura is negotiating to obtain. (Hollywood Reporter via Page Six)

Happy ending ... or beginning: After five years of trying and many miscarriages, Courteney Cox and David Arquette have produced an offspring, a girl. The baby was born on Sunday, one week early. Her name and size have not been announced. (People via N.Y. Daily News)

My book tour, by Bill Clinton: The former POTUS is poised to launch a humongous publicity tour to peddle his tome "My Life." Knopf will kick off the book's publication on June 22 by throwing a party for 1,000 people at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and he's scheduled to be interviewed by Dan Rather for a full hour on CBS's "60 Minutes" the Sunday before the book comes out. On the day the book is released, Clinton will be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, and the next day he'll appear on NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." What's more, in the days leading up to publication, Clinton will read a passage from the book each day on America Online. (N.Y. Times)

When sources attack: The northern Virginia woman who claims Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne paid her for quotes and promised her $100,000 -- charges Dunne denies, though he admits to having written a few checks out of pity -- was taped leaving the following rambling message on Dunne's voice mail prior to going public with her allegations. "As God is my witness, I'm gonna go public. ... Now the only thing that's gonna keep me from going public is I want what was promised to me," Martha Jane Shelton, who has served time in jail for passing bad checks, said on April 24, according to a transcript of the call. "If you want to keep it out of the media, you know, just deliver on your promise. ... If not, I'll see you in the news." Dunne has said, "On my word of honor, I never paid her for information and I never asked her to lie." (Howard Kurtz)

-- Amy Reiter

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