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"Da Vinci Code" Movie Already Controversial; Movie Theater Experience Turns Viewers Away; Behind the Scenes at Cirque du Soleil; Secrets Revealed to Stars` Body Transformations

Aired September 5, 2005 - 19:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer.
KARYN BRYANT, CO-HOST: And I`m Karyn Bryant. TV`s only one-hour nightly entertainment news show starts now.


BRYANT (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, decoding "The Da Vinci Code." The Ron Howard/Tom Hanks film is still months away, but the religious battle lines are being drawn today. What`s fact, what`s fiction and is "The Da Vinci Code" offensive?

HAMMER: Also, smoke on the screen. Tonight, marijuana use on TV. We`re seeing the crop crop up more than ever. And it`s got some really fired up. Is Hollywood pressing its pot luck?

BRYANT: And ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, it`s a circus like no other. Come inside under the big top as we take you inside the mysterious and enchanting Cirque du Soleil. It`s a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report.


HAMMER: Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer.

BRYANT: And I`m Karyn Bryant. Welcome to a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Well, Hollywood quickly took notice of Dan Brown`s wildly popular book, "The Da Vinci Code," almost guaranteeing it would be made into a movie. And in fact, it is being made into a movie, with director Ron Howard and Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks.

HAMMER: And even though the book has proved successful beyond expectations, the religious controversy over the film continues to grow, with some even calling it an attack on Catholicism.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas is in Hollywood with the details -- Sibila.


Dan Brown had a best seller on his hands but was not immune to criticism from some religious groups. Now, it seems the movie version of "The Da Vinci Code" is facing criticism from those groups, as well.


VARGAS (voice-over): It seemed almost preordained: 29 million copies in print, 44 languages, topping worldwide best-seller lists for two years and counting. A stack of every existing copy of "The Da Vinci Code," its publisher claims, would reach 220 miles into the sky. A novel anointed for success.

Cryptic code cracking, breathless chases through some of Europe`s most sacred sites. Woven throughout, dusty secret societies like the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar, and hallowed religious rites.

(on camera) What it says about the church has some calling it an attack on Christianity. Critics say it questions the cornerstone of the Christian faith, the divinity of Jesus Christ, casts Mary Magdalene as his lover, if not wife, with whom he has a child, which suggests that the child then becomes a part of the bloodline of the kings of France and that the Catholic Church`s Opus Dei sect has conducted a centuries long cover-up that has included assassinations.

(voice-over) Mystery tinged in history, or so it appears.

ANDREW SOANE, OPUS DEI: Although it`s a novel, and one doesn`t want to overreact, it does have a pseudo academic disguise, and therefore, things which are presented as facts are unusually damaging.

VARGAS: But author Dan Brown does claim the grounding of his novel is fact. The simple statement in the prologue reads, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

The dark intrigue, biblical undertones, Hollywood couldn`t resist. Powerhouse producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard secured the rights and signed Tom Hanks to star. With Howard at the helm, the movie had instant hit written all over it.

An added bonus, the recently discovered religious audience after Mel Gibson`s "The Passion of the Christ" last year blind-sided box office watchers.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN, PRESIDENT, EXHIBITOR RELATIONS: If you alienate that audience, you do so at your peril, because if they don`t come out to see your movie, that could hurt you at the box office.

VARGAS: With the prospect that devout Christians might be offended, a shroud of secrecy came down over the making of "The Da Vinci Code."

STEVEN KOTLER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "VARIETY": Usually at the upper level of Hollywood, there are scripts floating around. There are -- people know things. People don`t know anything about "The Da Vinci Code."

VARGAS: Here`s what we do know. London`s Westminster Abbey wanted nothing to do with the movie. The 940-year-old cathedral rejected a request to shoot there, stating, "The Da Vinci Code is theologically unsound."

Since filming began this summer in Great Britain, no outsiders have been allowed near the sets. These pictures are among the few that exist of the shoot. Scripts are under tight control, and individuals associated with the film have signed confidentiality agreements.

KOTLER: This is a very controversial book. I don`t think everybody`s exactly figured out how they want to handle that controversy.

VARGAS: For that, movie makers hired a marketer with expertise in Christian sensibilities. The producers and Sony Pictures turned down CNN`s request for interviews.

The book is already a lightening rod, but it`s how Christian beliefs will be portrayed in the movie that has intensified Catholic concerns.

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: A movie can have a more convulsive effect on the audience than a book can. But I`m not going to stand in the sidelines on this. I wrote a letter to Ron Howard. Very clear what my concern was: if you have a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie which simply says that this is a work of fiction, fine, I`m walking away.

VARGAS: Author Amy Welborn, whose book, "Decoding Da Vinci," refutes "The Da Vinci Code," gave advice to the Sony Studios marketing team.

AMY WELBORN, AUTHOR, "DECODING DA VINCI": The major concern was, you know, what can they do not to make everybody really mad and not inspire a boycott of this film or the studio or anything like that. And it`s really a very delicate situation. They don`t want to alienate the core audience.

VARGAS: That core audience is made up of people who loved the book, many of whom accept its premise as fact. The cottage industry has grown around them, of conspiracy theorists, myth busters, even "Da Vinci Code" based tours, with the faithful following its clues to places like Chateau de Villette in France, home of the book`s villainous art historian.

In the novel, a nun is bludgeoned to death at Paris` Church of Saint- Sulpice. That put local priests on the defensive. They even put up a sign clarifying that a brass strip running across the floor is not a pagan astronomical device. That, too, is in the book.

MICHEL ROUGE, HISTORIAN, ST. SULPICE: Most of the things in the book are not true, especially much of what is said about this church.

VARGAS: It`s not just one church. The novel challenges some of the fundamental tenets of Catholicism. Small wonder the movie is becoming so controversial.

KOTLER: Controversy puts people in seats. Keeping things secret is a phenomenal marketing tool. It stirs up interest. And how much do you have to market a thriller made by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard that 25 million people have already read and love?


VARGAS: And "The Da Vinci Code" is scheduled to roll out in theaters in September of 2006. Karyn, I think it`s going to be interesting to see what happens at the box office.

BRYANT: Indeed it will be. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. Thank you.

HAMMER: All right. We`ve all been there. You`re in a movie theater. You`re enjoying a good flick. Suddenly somebody`s cell phone rings and its owner answers it. This, of course, after you sat through 20 minutes of commercials, paid a small fortune to get there in the first place and you have that little piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Well, movie theater madness is annoying moviegoers, and it`s hurting Hollywood. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer here now with more on that.

DAVID HAFFENREFFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That`s why you stay home and watch the DVD, right?

Going to movies used to be considered a glamorous night out. But with rising ticket prices, ad-filled previews and a room filled with less than considerate moviegoers, it`s turned into movie theater madness, leaving many running for the exits.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty annoying just being...

HAFFENREFFER: Movie goers are fed up with going to the movies. In between rising ticket prices...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The price of the movie theaters is actually getting ridiculous. Too many movie ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most annoying thing are the ads.

HAFFENREFFER: All of the noise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They be talking a lot. Or a phone be ringing.

HAFFENREFFER: And generally obnoxious behavior that you`d expect to see from Homer Simpson on a good day.

DAN CASTELLANETA, VOICE OF HOMER SIMPSON: If you don`t mind, we`re trying to watch the movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help me get my head out of this toilet.

KELSEY GRAMMER, VOICE OF SIDESHOW BOB: Oh, really. Now, that`s too much.

HAFFENREFFER: It`s all making all real-life movie goers go crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I feel like if I was bigger, I would just turn around and pummel them.

HAFFENREFFER: And some of them aren`t going at all anymore. A recent "USA Today"/CNN/Gallup poll found that 48 percent of adults are going to the movies less often now than they did five years ago.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT took to the streets and gave P.O.`d movie goers a chance to get on their cinema soap boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People start having their phones on, and it starts ringing through the movie. I hate that (expletive deleted).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes people are yelling and screaming in the middle of the movie and you can`t see it. You go tell the ushers, and sometimes they don`t even cooperate with you sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find that most of them, they`re only worth seeing on video. And they`re out like, you know, two weeks after they`re in the movies anyway.

HAFFENREFFER: Actually, movies tend to be out on DVD about four months after they leave the theaters. That`s still two months earlier than it was 10 years ago.

And with spiffy home theater systems that rival anything you`ll find at the multiplex, it seems movie goers have a choice to either watch movies from the jerk-free privacy of their own homes or to let the movie madness drive them mad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s kind of like that whole road rage thing. I think there`s people that have movie rage.


HAFFENREFFER: That`s one way to put it.

Movie goers appear to be voting with their wallets. Hollywood receipts have sagged from most of 2005, running about seven percent behind last year`s revenues.

HAMMER: Thanks very much. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer.

Well, some of the hottest shows on television have many smoking mad over smoking, but it`s not cigarettes that`s got them all lit up. The battle over marijuana on TV coming up.

BRYANT: Plus, how do the stars gain and lose so much weight so fast? How do they transform their bodies? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT reveals the secrets.

HAMMER: And in the air, on the ground and everywhere in between. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes you inside the magical world of Cirque du Soleil. It`s a special report.


HAMMER: Welcome back to this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer.

It`s time now for a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report. "People in the News," Cirque du Soleil. No clowning around here. This circus unlike any you`ve ever seen, combining music, theater, dance and acrobatics.

With a look into the enchanting world of Cirque du Soleil, here`s CNN`s Heidi Collins for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With every sunrise, the city of Montreal walks up to the sights and sounds of street performers.

Here, the circus of the 21st Century raised its tent and the set the entertainment world on fire. Welcome to the Circus of the Sun, Cirque du Soleil. For 20 years, Cirque has been chasing the sun, performing worldwide 52 weeks a year.

It`s mega-budget canopies come alive with music, theater, dance. And "how do they do that" acrobatics. The pioneer of so-called contemporary circus, Cirque du Soleil soars beyond the old-fashioned big top.

For more than century the No. 1 circus, Barnum and Bailey, wasn`t complete without tons of four-legged creatures. But the only beasts in Cirque du Soleil are feather-draped and wig-enhanced.

The long three-ring circus has shrunk to a more intimate one-ring. And the lord of this ring is Guy Laliberte.

(on camera) And this is you on the right?

GUY LALIBERTE, FOUNDER/CEO, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: Correct, on the accordion. And that`s me spitting fire.

COLLINS: That`s what?

LALIBERTE: Me spitting fire.

COLLINS (voice-over): Laliberte, the fire-breather, was always a dreamer. After high school, he hitchhiked around Europe, spending time in Paris and London, where he met jugglers and stilt walkers.

LALIBERTE: The first time I was in London, in 1978, I was, what, 18 or something like that. I arrive with my little accordion. The first place that I end up was Hyde Park in the corner. And basically I stayed there, and I slept on the bench for the first night in my life on there.

COLLINS: Back in Quebec, in 1982, Laliberte and several friends put together a small street festival. After two years of performing, the so- called High Heels Club gave birth to something brand new. Its name: Cirque du Soleil.

It was a motley troop of 73 musicians, clowns and acrobats. To make money, the Canadians pulled down their tent and followed the summer sun to a festival in Los Angeles. They had just enough money to get to L.A. But if the show flopped, it was literally the end of the road.

LALIBERTE: It was live or die in L.A. And we bet everything on one night, the opening night of the Los Angeles festival. And by the end of the show, standing ovations. The day after, tickets were selling like crazy.

COLLINS: Laliberte, the great risk taker, was realizing his dream.

Playing to audiences in California, Cirque netted $1.5 million in profit by the end of the year. By 1990, the signature blue and yellow tents began cropping up in Europe; two years later in Asia.

Laliberte`s dreams, now worth more than $1 billion, are housed at Cirque du Soleil`s international headquarters in Montreal.

Most Cirque enterprises begin this way, with creative brainstorming. The average age of employees, a young 34. They`re looking for the perfect union between business and art.

LUC PLAMONDON, VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCTION: We cannot just choose a material because it`s beautiful. It has to fit with the body.

COLLINS: Luc Plamondon leads more than 300 full-time workers in Cirque`s costume workshop. Every costume is custom made.

Tens of thousands of exotic outfits leave Montreal every year. All wigs and hats are created using plaster molds of the actual heads of Cirque artists, many of whom hail from the farthest corners of the earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It symbolizes, as we walk along here, the multicultural life that we have at Cirque du Soleil.

COLLINS: These artists have come and gone from Cirque. Two floors down in Studio E, new artists are hoping to take their place. Adam Menzy (ph) is from Canada and Lee Greeley (ph) from England, world class athletes. But their careers were winding down.

What can a high-flying trampolinist do next? Run away and join the circus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not just a circus. It`s completely different.

COLLINS: For them, an opportunity of a lifetime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get paid to do what we love. You almost jump out of bed in the morning because you`re so excited about going to work.

COLLINS: Cirque gets more than 100 auditions tapes and resumes every week. But each year, only 50 hopefuls get the call to come to Montreal and train.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Once more, don`t dwell too much on the relationships.

COLLINS: Lee and Adam are like most of Cirque`s trainees, well- trained athletes with little or no artistic skill. Here they hone their talents and undergo extensive training in the art of theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes you move in a way you`ve never known before. And also, the confidence you get to just go out on the stage and just do something for people you`ve never even known before.

COLLINS: Lee and Adam have not been promised a job with Cirque. They and the dozens of others in this summer`s try-outs are promised nothing except a possible place on Cirque`s list of approved artists.

And if there are no jobs this time around, Lee and Adam both say they`ll try again to make a leap into that very exclusive, very elite pool of Cirque du Soleil artists.


HAMMER: So where does Cirque du Soleil find these unique performers? We`re going to take you on a worldwide talent search with more of our special report, coming up.

BRYANT: Also tonight, fattening up, slimming down. We tell you how celebrities get their bodies ready for roles. Body transformation secrets spilled, still to come.

HAMMER: And call it the eye candy store. We`re going to show you a place where beauty is in the eye of many beholders. Do you have what it takes to make the cut? Find out a little later.


BRYANT: It is no surprise that stars in Hollywood are known for going to extremes to keep their bodies in shape. But the lengths that some go to specifically for the roles they take can be equally extreme.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson is in Hollywood with more on body transformations -- Brooke.


Well, we`ve seen it time and time again: Hollywood stars overhauling their bodies for the movies they make. Tonight, we`re revealing how the stars fatten up, slim down and do what it takes to get into shape for the silver screen.


ANDERSON (voice-over): It`s one of the more fascinating parts of showbiz: how a woman like Charlize Theron can go from this to this. But it`s a growing trend in Hollywood that`s getting a lot of attention. It`s body transformation.

SCOTT BOWLES, "USA TODAY": I think what you`re seeing recently is that actors and particularly actresses who change the way they look, and usually it`s by weight gain or weight loss. Around at Oscar time, you look at Charlize Theron with "Monster," or Hilary Swank with "Million Dollar Baby." They are being taken more seriously by the awards committees because they look more like the characters that they`re playing.

ANDERSON: And those transformations are extreme. Charlize Theron gained 25 pounds for "Monster." Christian Bale lost 63 pounds for "The Machinist." And then, incredibly, gained much of it back in two months. And Tom Hanks gained and lost 50 pounds during the movie "Castaway."

It begs the question: how do they do it?

VALERIE WATERS, JENNIFER GARNER`S PERSONAL TRAINER: Discipline, strong but excited and motivated, and the motivation has got to come from inside. And typically, the celebrities` motivation is the fact that they`re going to be on the big screen.

ANDERSON: Zellweger said she worked closely with a nutritionist when she packed on an extra 20 pounds for "Bridget Jones." And it wasn`t all pasta and doughnuts on her menu. Her secret ingredient to weight gain: flax seed oil, mixed in with high calorie shakes and salad dressings.

And for Christian Bale, who put himself through perhaps the most dramatic body transformation, losing 20 bounds less than his nutritionist would have liked by simply not eating. He looked emaciated, eating only an apple and a latte each day to survive.


ANDERSON: But for his hottie, pumped-up role in "Batman Begins," he packed it all back on by healthier means, a strict diet of chicken, tuna and veggies. Plus daily three hour running and weight sessions.

It doesn`t sound like much fun.

WATERS: I believe that the biggest misconception that America has is that they think that the celebrities have it easier. And this is not true. And I can tell you they still have to not eat the cookie. They still have to not have the bread at the restaurant. They still have to get up and do their workout, and often that means training at 4 or 5 in the morning, which is not the most fun.

ANDERSON: Valerie Waters told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT she help helped Jennifer Garner get her butt-kicking bod for her roles in "Alias" and "Elektra" the old-fashioned way, working hard.

WATERS: Five meals a day, no starchy carbs, no sugar, no processed food, and working out five days a week, maybe even six days a week, but for an hour.

ANDERSON: It was the same for Hilary Swank, who packed on 20 pounds of lean, mean boxing muscle for her role in "Million Dollar Baby."

HILARY SWANK, ACTRESS: I trained about four to four and a half hours a day, six days a week for three months.

ANDERSON: And she was eating too, a lot. More than 4,000 calories a day of carefully calculated proteins and essential fat.

Jessica Biehl, who vamped up for her role in "Blade," got those bulging muscles through a mixture of weight training and cardio and a strict diet of three small meals a day and absolutely no sugar.

BOWLES: They`ll essentially put themselves through hell for that role, if they think it`s going to get them more money or acclaim. It generally adds to the success of their career.


ANDERSON: And Karyn, Hilary Swank had only three months to train before filming began. Director Clint Eastwood said the success of the film would depend on how hard she was willing to train for the role, which apparently was very hard, being that the movie won Oscars for best picture, director, actress and supporting actor for Morgan Freeman. The movie, to date, has brought $215 million worldwide. I guess those four-hour workouts really paid off.

Karyn, back to you.

BRYANT: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson, reporting in Hollywood.

Well, smoking on the screen. Your favorite stars are smoking up on TV. So what kind of real-life message is the marijuana use sending? That`s next.

HAMMER: And what`s it like to put on a Cirque du Soleil show? What goes on behind the scenes? It`s our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report, continuing in moments.


THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT continues in one minute. Hi, everybody. I`m Thomas Roberts, with your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."

Residents of Louisiana`s Jefferson Parish are getting a chance to go home to inspect the damage and retrieve personal items. They`re being told to bring everything with them that they`d need, food, water and gasoline, because there is nothing available in the parish once they get there. And the residents will have to leave before the 6:00 p.m. curfew.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it could take up to 80 days to dump all the water out of New Orleans. Stagnant water could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so the military is thinking about using cargo planes to spray parts of the city to help keep the bugs in check.

President Bush wants John Roberts to succeed William Rehnquist as chief justice of the United States. Confirmation hearings for Roberts to replace Sandra Day O`Connor were originally scheduled for tomorrow, but now that he`s been tapped to replace Rehnquist, the hearings have been pushed back.

That is the news for now. We appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us. I`m Thomas Roberts. We take you Back for more of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

BRYANT: Welcome back to this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It`s 31 minutes past the hour. I`m Karyn Bryant.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer. You`re watching TV`s only one-hour nightly entertainment news show.

BRYANT: Well, TV has a chronic case of reefer madness. In many of your TV shows, characters are lighting up like never before. And I`m not talking about tobacco.

HAMMER: For more on this, let`s go to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas, who joins us once again from Hollywood -- Sibila?

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A.J., on several TV shows on the air, characters smoke marijuana just about as casually as some people drink a beer. But now there hasn`t been much of an outcry, but where there`s pot smoke, there could be a fiery backlash right around the corner.


VARGAS (voice-over): A hot young Hollywood actor and his boys smoke a lot of pot on the HBO comedy, "Entourage."

A young private called "Smoke" lives up to his name on the F/X Iraqi war drama "Over There."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You stay away from my customer base. You don`t deal to kids.

VARGAS: And on the upcoming Showtime series, "Weeds," a suburban mom, played by Mary Louise-Parker, sells pot to make ends meet.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think television producers and writers want to depict reality. And the truth is that a number of shows are depicting what`s going on in a number of people`s homes.

VARGAS: Marijuana use is growing like weeds all over TV. "USA Today" examined the phenomenon. It`s not just limited to cable. Characters on the long-running FOX sitcom "That `70s Show" spent a lot of time joking about toking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t believe that is what you idiots have been doing in my basement all these years!

OGUNNAIKE: Historically, it`s really been sort of this taboo thing. When someone did light a cigarette, you`d have the big public service announcement portion of the show that would come out and say, "Oh, that`s bad. You shouldn`t smoke weed."

But now people are sort of like, yes, there`s a bong, there`s a beer, there`s some girls. It`s a party. No big deal.

VARGAS: The depiction of casual marijuana use on TV has anti-drug groups smoking mad.

OGUNNAIKE: There might be some people that wave their hands in the air and say, "Look, this is not cool. I don`t like the fact that my kid is just watching an half an hour sitcom and all of a sudden a guy pulls out a bong."

VARGAS: But the outcry may be muted. Pot is the most popular illegal drug in the country. Just under a third of the U.S. population age 12 and over have used it. That`s 65 million Americans. And many of them may not mind seeing pot on TV.


VARGAS: Marijuana use on TV has drawn Washington`s attention. In a recent "USA Today" article, the White House Office of National Drug Control policy calls the trend, quote, "irresponsible." Back to you, A.J.

HAMMER: Thanks very much, Sibila. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas in Hollywood -- Karyn?

BRYANT: Now, part two of our special report, "People in the News," Cirque du Soleil. To keep big crowds coming to the big top, they cast artists you can only call unique.

Once again, here`s CNN`s Heidi Collins for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now, ladies and gentlemen, Alegria!

COLLINS (voice-over): Alegria, one of Cirque du Soleil`s five touring productions, has been on the road for 10 years. For that entire time, no one in the audience has fully understood exactly what was being said.

This Cirque performer is singing in Cirquish, a gibberish language. Like the ever-present face masks, a nonsensical lyric allows a universal performance, one that cuts across culture and language.

Bottom line, ticket sales can be as good in Tokyo and in Amsterdam, Madrid, or here in Atlanta, where Alegria`s three-week run was a sellout.

JEFF PLUTH, TOUR MANAGER: We start out -- and this is just a completely barren parking lot.

COLLINS: Jeff Pluth is tour manager.

PLUTH: In Cirque terms, it means I`m the mayor of this little village down here.

COLLINS (on-screen): How many people and how long does it take to set this thing up?

PLUTH: This takes nine days to set up, three days to take down. It takes a staff of about 140 people. There are over 10 structures on site.

COLLINS (voice-over): The mobile village is anchored by the grand chapiteau (ph), the big top. Valued at $1 million, it seats 2,500 people within its imposing dome design.

Nearby are wardrobe, tour offices, laundry facilities, a school, everything needed on the road, even a gourmet kitchen and dining area, created by popping open four 48-foot trucks.

Gaston Ellie (ph) has been traveling with Alegria for five years. He is one of the 150 artists performing worldwide for Cirque du Soleil. A trapeze artist from Argentina, he has only known a circus life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My father was a trapeze artist. My grandfather was a trapeze artist. So I think it be in the blood, pretty much.

COLLINS (on-screen): Tell me about the day that you auditioned or tried out for Cirque du Soleil. I mean, how does that work? How did it go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that was back in `97. It was working in (INAUDIBLE) and Cirque was looking for more people. And I said to my family, "I want to try."

COLLINS (voice-over): Cirque`s casting department will search high and low for talents like Gaston.

CARMEN RUEST, TALENT SCOUT: So I`ll show you here the miracle chamber.

COLLINS: Carmen Ruest, a stilt dancer with the original High Heels Club, helps direct Cirque`s 36 talent scouts.

RUEST: We`re looking for people who have great presence, something to give.

COLLINS: They attend sporting events or festivals to discover new artists with flair.

RUEST: This gentlemen sent us a video in `99.

COLLINS: They once flew all the way to South America for a clown.

After Gaston was chosen, the hard part was just beginning. The high- flying artists must practice for hours every day.

He says he`s never afraid, but the nerves are still there.

ELLIE: Every show, I get butterflies in my stomach. You know, just the last two tricks are the hardest one to do. So I we do a flip, and we have to catch the trapeze, but it had to be very precise, because otherwise the trapeze is going to go away and you`re going to fall.

COLLINS: Another star of Alegria, a young Mongolian contortionist named Ochkee. At the age of 19, she`s a veteran. Ochkee`s been on the road with Alegria for 10 years.

OCHKEE, PERFORMER: When I was 9 years old, I joined the Cirque du Soleil. I was with my guardian, Mongolian guardian. I didn`t have my parents. It was hard for my parents, you know? And I really didn`t want it to go, so I always -- you know, and they just tell me, like, it`s your choice, you know?

COLLINS: Ochkee, flexible at birth, began training at 5 and was soon a professional with the Mongolian circus. A Cirque talent scout saw here and hired her on the spot. Growing up on the road, Ochkee learned three languages and found a home.

OCHKEE: It`s like family. It`s really like family here.

COLLINS (on-screen): What about boyfriends? Can you date? I mean, what do you do?

OCHKEE: I have a boyfriend now. He`s in the show, too. I`ve never had, you know, boyfriend before, because I`m all the time traveling. But I`m really happy, you know, because I have somebody with me now, you know?

COLLINS (voice-over): And what makes her the happiest, shocking the audiences with her flexibility.

OCHKEE: You can hear in the stage when I`m doing performing. You can hear actually somebody screaming there, you know, just screaming, like, "Whoa, it must hurt!" You know, I`m not like that, you know?

COLLINS (on-screen): Do you kind of giggle inside when you hear that?

OCHKEE: No, I`m used to it now.

COLLINS (voice-over): When the lights come up, all the training and days on the road pay off for Ochkee, Gaston, and Alegria`s 53 other artists and the accolades of their fans.

While the performers enjoy sunshine somewhere on break, the breakdown crew faces three days of long work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People think that show business is completely glamorous. And it`s rainy and wet.

COLLINS: Fifty-two big rigs stand up to haul everything to the next site. And so the village is on the move once more, crisscrossing the globe, a circus in search of the sun.


BRYANT: Coming up, Cirque du Soleil gets a little risque. We`ll show you what happens -- we`ll show you, rather, that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, even in circuses. Our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report continues.

HAMMER: And then, another pretty face and another and another. It`s an exclusive club, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT gets you on the guest list, coming up in just a bit.


HAMMER: And now the conclusion of our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report, "People in the News," Cirque du Soleil.

So what happened when the sultry circus decided to set up shop in skin city? Here again, CNN`s Heidi Collins for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


COLLINS (voice-over): Las Vegas. In a town for its extravagance, Cirque du Soleil`s three multimillion-dollar productions, O, Mystere, and Zumanity, indulge audiences with pure imagination and fantasy.

The Las Vegas-based shows are also some of the hottest-selling tickets on the strip, playing to more than 9,000 people every night. By next year, the three Vegas shows will account for almost 50 percent of Cirque`s estimated revenues of more than $500 million.

Tapping into Las Vegas` burlesque roots, Cirque du Soleil reveals its naughty side in the troupe`s latest show, Zumanity. Titillating audiences with a mix of cabaret, striptease, and erotica.

LYN HEWARD, PRESIDENT AND COO, CREATIVE CONTENT: We need to reinvent our shows. We don`t like to repeat ourselves. Our challenge is actually not to repeat ourselves, to create a new hybrid.

COLLINS: Cirque du Soleil continues to push its creative edge with four permanent shows, three based in Las Vegas, one in Orlando, and another in production.

DANIELLE, PERFORMER: It`s nice to have a place to come home to.

COLLINS: For the artists of Cirque du Soleil, joining a resident show in Las Vegas offers a circus life off the road.

(on-screen): How does it feel to wake up in the same bed every morning?

DANIELLE: Oh, I love it. I love what I call the normal life, getting up in the morning, making breakfast, driving to work in a car that I own.

COLLINS (voice-over): At just 17, gymnast Danielle Roadenkirschen (ph), joined Cirque du Soleil`s traveling show, Alegria.

DANIELLE: I`m very close with my family. And I still am. But I was ready to kind of venture out on my own and do my own thing, and kind of figure out who I was. My biggest dream was to go to the Olympics. And when that didn`t really come through, I didn`t know what I was going to do.

COLLINS: An audition with Cirque du Soleil in Montreal would change that.

DANIELLE: When I got the letter in the mail saying they wanted me to join the cast of Alegria, it was no doubt in my mind. I didn`t even have to think about it. As soon as I opened it, I was like, "Oh, my God. I`m joining Cirque. That`s it."

COLLINS: Now 28 and an acrobat in the Las Vegas show, Mystere, Danielle is considered a veteran performer. Cirque pays its performers a yearly salary, ranging from $30,000 for an apprentice to more than $100,000 for an established artist.

After 10 years, Danielle wonders, what`s next?

DANIELLE: When I`m on stage and I think about these moments, about what I will do next, it`s those -- like the finale of the show, when you stand there, and the people are clapping, like, I`m not ready to leave this yet.

COLLINS: For the artists of Cirque du Soleil, the mantra is, "You must evolve."

DANIELLE: It`s only after a few years where you realize that the locomotive is going on that direction and you`ve got to keep up with it. You`ve got to hop on to it. You`ve got to change. You`ve got to adapt.

COLLINS: Danielle`s adapted to the prospect of life offstage by taking a day job.

DANIELLE: I`m very lucky to do two jobs with Cirque du Soleil, both as an acrobat, stage performer at night, and, during the day, I do cultural affairs and work with artists in the community. And it`s taught me that there are other things out there besides just entertaining, and performing, and acrobatics.

COLLINS: And as Cirque du Soleil has matured, as well, the brand has become part of our culture, even parodied in an commercial.

Social satire and more. Just this year, the first unauthorized biography based on Cirque du Soleil was published.

JEAN BEAUNOYER, JOURNALIST: The circus has changed a lot.

COLLINS: Montreal journalist Jean Beaunoyer`s book, "Backstage at the Cirque du Soleil," explores the evolution of the Montreal circus. Throughout the book, there is much praise for Laliberte, now the sole owner of the billion-dollar circus. But Beaunoyer claims his rise was challenged by corporate in-fighting.

BEAUNOYER: At the very beginning, it was a family enterprise. But Guy Laliberte one day said to those people, "It`s not a family enterprise any more. Now we are a business enterprise." And I think that there was a price to pay for that.

GUY LALIBERTE, FOUNDER AND CEO: At the beginning, it was tough. It was a lot of inside battling, you know, there was different people, want to bring the company in different direction with different philosophy or spirit.

COLLINS: Twenty years later, there are still challenges.

Cirque was accused of discrimination, after firing an HIV-positive gymnast. The company will later pay $600,000 to settle the case.

In 2004, Cirque du Soleil continues to explore the idea of entertainment and merchandising, even expanding the brand into a future line of hotels. But Guy Laliberte is playing his biggest hand in Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil unveils its newest show at the MGM Grand next year. And with a mega-budget of $150 million, it will be the largest entertainment venture the city has ever seen.

As Cirque du Soleil celebrates 20 years under the sun, the little troupe that could from Montreal has transformed into a global entertainment company. But the one-time street performer turned circus entrepreneur refuses to forget where he came from.

LALIBERTE: I want to keep the notion of fun. It`s a serious business, but I think it`s important to keep that notion of where we come from.

COLLINS: But more than anything, Laliberte is committed to passing on a legacy of passion and creativity.

LALIBERTE: I believe it`s a beautiful jewel here in Montreal and Quebec. It`s not about money. It`s about, you know, making sure the passion will still be there tomorrow.


HAMMER: That was CNN`s Heidi Collins reporting for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

You can grab a copy of "People" magazine on newsstands now.

BRYANT: Well, if you happen to be holding a computer mouse, there`s a place where you can decide who`s hot and who`s not, but you can only get in if you`re one of the pretty people. Will one of our own make the cut? Find out, next.


HAMMER: Finally, it`s a dating and networking web site that you can only join if the members say you`re beautiful enough.

BRYANT: CNN`s Jeanne Moos decided to give it the old college try. Did she make it? Well, let`s find out.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All you beautiful people, you probably think this web site is about you. Maybe both eyes, if you think you belong on an Internet dating service called

(on-screen): Look at that. How am I supposed to compete with that?

(voice-over): Only beautiful people are allowed on, chosen by the beautiful people who are already members. Some so perfect...


... their washboard abs inspire laughter. Only one in 10 get in. We wondered, what does it take to join the beautiful people?

(on-screen): What we need is a guinea pig. Not him, me.

(voice-over): In a fit of journalistic excess, I volunteered. First off, the make-up room, where they sprayed every pour...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And maybe some false eyelashes?

MOOS (on-screen): No, we`re not going that far.

(voice-over): A beautiful photo...


(voice-over): ... is a must, if you want to be among the beautiful people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. I like that little head tilt.

MOOS: specializes in taking pictures that look good on Internet sites. Photo-finished, it was time to fill in the application with a little help from my colleagues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to lie on this one, too.

MOOS (on-screen): We are?


MOOS: Select body type. Uh-oh. "Slim, average, toned, athletic, muscular, cuddly, or ample?"

(voice-over): Next, we had to write a profile.

(on-screen): "Outgoing, but reclusive."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that`s not going to work.

MOOS (on-screen): We opted for over-the-top. "Basically, I`m here because I`m hot." Take my temperature.


MOOS (voice-over): We then had to choose from dozens of photos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s too sensitive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m too sexy for my whatever...

MOOS: Into cyberspace I went, stacked up against cleavage and chiseled bodies, and exposed, exposed, exposed flesh. Guys vote on female applicants. Women vote on men.

GREG HODGE, WWW.BEAUTIFULPEOPLE.NET: Is it elitist? Yes, it is, because our members want it to be. Is it lookist? Yes, it is, because our members want it to be. Is it PC? No, it`s not, but it`s honest.

MOOS: And did I mention you have to pick a user name? Mine was "FeastYourEyes." For three days they feasted. You can check your rating in progress on a bar graph.

Remember, take my temperature? Temperature`s plummeting. Though nine out of ten are rejects, that didn`t soften the sting of the final e-mail. "The members of Beautiful People did not find your profile attractive enough," but a producer up in Showbiz got in.

AMY SCHULMAN, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: I actually think it`s kind of rude. It`s mean. It`s mean. And I do feel bad.

MOOS: Beautiful people have feelings, too.

(on-screen): How old are you?


MOOS (voice-over): She`s gotten e-mails from two guys and even a woman who called her absolutely stunning and offered to exchange numbers. So what`s our rejected guinea pig to do? Maybe start my own web site, "Dark-haired beauty with chestnut highlights, soft brown eyes, loves heavy petting."


BRYANT: That was CNN`s Jeanne Moos for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. And of course, we think you`re beautiful, Jeanne.

HAMMER: Yes, we do. That is SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer.

BRYANT: And I`m Karyn Bryant. Stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.


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