June 8th, 2010
10:58 PM ET

James Avery is alive and well, thank you very much

At CNN, we are increasingly called upon to see if there's any truth to the celebrity death rumors that often swirl around cyberspace. Just this past Sunday one of them crossed my desk. James Avery, who played "Uncle Phil" on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," had died, according to a rumor on Twitter.

I fired off an email to his publicist, Cynthia Snyder, and within a couple of hours she confirmed that Avery was "indeed alive and well – just had a lovely wedding anniversary get away and chuckled at the hoax. He just completed a project with Alfonso Ribeiro [another "Fresh Prince" alum] directing."

But when I caught up with Avery at the premiere of the remake of "The Karate Kid," he definitely wasn't "chuckling."


January 27th, 2010
06:20 PM ET

Mel Gibson's Viking adventure

Bravehearted Scots? Check. Mayan warriors? Been there, done that. What else have you got for us, Mel Gibson? Turns out the answer is... Vikings.

I caught up with him last night at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood for the premiere of his new crime drama, "Edge of Darkness," and he confirmed he's working on a new Viking saga. And no, it won't be centered on Brett Favre and whether or not he's going to retire.

"It's going to be good. I'm writing it with Bill Monahan ("The Departed") and he's a good writer," he says. "And I get some pretty good ideas sometimes," he adds with a smile, "It's going to be Viking with a capital 'V.' I've never seen a good Viking movie, have you?"

Off the top of my head, I couldn't think of one. So is this thing going to be like "Braveheart" with boats?

"No, it will be pretty good, it's different. I cracked [the story]. I'll give you that in about, you might see that in 18 months, two years. It's a long gestation period."

Leonardo DiCaprio is reportedly set to play the lead. Let the pillaging begin!

January 25th, 2010
10:16 PM ET

John Travolta's mercy flight to Haiti

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So many stars have done their part for Haiti by raising awareness and funds, but one A-lister is actually taking the controls of a plane and flying into the heart of the disaster area himself - John Travolta.

One of Travolta's reps just confirmed to CNN that the star is personally flying one of his jets to Haiti to help out with relief efforts there.

In addition to relief supplies, Travolta is bringing along his wife Kelly Preston, several doctors and Church of Scientology ministers.

December 1st, 2009
03:48 PM ET

Teeing off on Tiger

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"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors." So said John F. Kennedy. Has there been, in recent times, an American public figure more universally honored and admired than Tiger Woods?

I think like Michael Jordan before him, he is revered because he's seemingly perfect. And Americans want to be perfect. "If I have the perfect job, the perfect spouse, fame and acclaim, six-pack abs or an incredible bust – then I'll be happy." So along come Tiger and Michael as examples that yes, by God, perfection is possible. If we can't have it for ourselves, then at least we can have it vicariously through them. We so badly want it to be true.

Well, if the tabloid rumors are to be believed, Tiger has been knocked off that God-like pedestal we put him on. There are whispers of infidelity, and of course the celebrated car accident.

There will be those who are let down and disappointed, but I suspect more than a few will say, "Oh what a relief. He's human like the rest of us. He's having marital troubles like a lot of us. His foibles make him more interesting, more relatable."

Others will wonder why he might have cheated on his hot Scandinavian wife and the mother of his children. Is the male libido that relentless and unquenchable? Does being a famous man amp up that "perpetuate the species" sex drive woven into our male DNA to the nth degree? Perhaps the answer is yes.

November 2nd, 2009
02:43 AM ET

Mariah Carey: from diva to dowdy

The last time pop star Mariah Carey had a key role on the big screen was in the notoriously awful “Glitter” in 2001. But her performance in the upcoming drama, “Precious” has drawn a much different reaction from the critics: praise. Director Lee Daniels removed every bit of “glitter” from her physical appearance for the film and transformed her into a dowdy, unglamorous, non-make-up-wearing welfare caseworker - the very antithesis of a diva.

Why would she agree to all this? I put that very question to her at the film’s red carpet premiere Sunday night at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

“I just loved the book 'Push' that 'Precious' is based on and read it a few years back,” she says, “And I was just like, if this gets made into a movie - and I know Lee Daniels can do it right - if I can just be a part of it, they can put bags under my eyes and as many mustaches on me as they want, and hideous hairdos, and it is what it is, but it comes from inside and they stripped all the layers and [helped me] become the character.”

One of my colleagues in the press asks, "Was this performance a career milestone?"

“I had one film [Glitter] that had me under the stone! (laughs) I didn't realize that you really have to be selective with the people that you work with and you have to have that support system and you have to work with people who you think are geniuses and Lee Daniels is a genius in my book.”

“Precious” opens in limited release this Friday, November 6th.

October 29th, 2009
12:39 AM ET

Five rising Asian-American stars to watch

"I think that most people who know me know that I'm pretty reasonable, chill... and a not so angry a guy." That sounds funny coming from a guy who calls his blog angryasianman.com. "I adopted the name Angry Asian Man for the website because it's very provocative, and it's very in your face," he says.

And although he writes with anger when Hollywood stereotypes Asian-Americans, he also writes with joy about the up-and-coming entertainers from that community who could breakthrough to big time success someday. We asked him to pick five who may do just that.

If they do, remember, you heard it here first!

1. Far East Movement "I can't stop listening to the single, "Girls On The Dance Floor" by FarEast Movement, otherwise known as FM. It's just the greatest, coolest dance track and everytime it's on, I just turn it up. So, FarEast Movement are definitely guys to watch in hip hop."

2. David Choi "A guy I really like is a guy named David Choi on YouTube who is just creating really fun, creative, quirky songs. It's funny because he started off as a songwriter and he hasn't really done much live performing and now that his music is sort of taking off and he's gotten fans through YouTube, he's become much more of like a legit musician, playing, and actual shows and stuff like that."

3. Brenda Song "For the Disney generation, there's certainly Brenda Song, who started on the show "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody." I think in a place like Disney, which has such a huge impact on popular culture, especially among the younger generation that's just coming up, someone like Brenda Song, who is just being a really cute, funny, and engaging actress in TV shows and movies is going to really show that Asian Americans have a a place in mainstream media and kids are going to be able to see "Oh, look, there's a really appealing, normal Asian-American person on TV."

4. Aaron Yoo "I really like an actor named Aaron Yoo. He was in 'Friday the 13th,' 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' and a bunch of other stuff. He's just like a regular dude, who's in these, smaller roles up 'til now, but I think audiences really like him. He was in the movie 'Disturbia', which opened a couple years ago at number one at the box office. But I remember the week after that movie came out, I got all these hits on my website from people searching for Aaron Yoo, and people wanting to know who this guy was and what he was all about and searching for photos of him. I think he's definitely a guy to watch in Hollywood."

5. Wong Fu Productions [The trio of 20-something film-makers creates short movies that have developed a sizable cult following on YouTube.] "The really cool thing about their story is they are just friends who started making videos for fun, and then it caught on. I think a lot of people see themselves reflected in the Wong Fu guys. You know, it's like, 'Hey! these guys are just having fun and doing their thing" and so, I think it really relates to that young, energetic, hip sensibility where they're having fun and they're showing everybody what they're doing."

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