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Spielberg Hopes New Film Will Jump-Start Middle East Peace; "Da Vinci Code" Movie Already Stirring Controversy; Reaction Mixed to Silver Screen Smoking; Movie Madness Has Movie Goers Running for Exits

Aired December 23, 2005 - 19:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST: I`m Brooke Anderson. A special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, starts right now.


HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, passion...

NICOLAS CAGE, ACTOR: This is not an exploitive movie.

HAMMER: ... emotion...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can live (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as real as it is to me.

HAMMER: ... real controversy at the movies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Controversy puts people in seats.

HAMMER: Tonight, can a movie help end decades of war, death and hate? A Steven Spielberg controversy. His new movie "Munich," is it one-sided? Will it kick-start the Middle East peace process? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks can "Munich" make a difference?

Plus decoding "The Da Vinci Code."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is so powerful that men have died to protect it.

HAMMER: The Ron Howard-Tom Hanks film is months away, but the religious battle lines are being drawn today. What`s fact? What`s fiction and is "The Da Vinci Code" offensive? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates why the sparks are already flying.

And movie theater madness. High prices, screaming kids and that guy yapping on the phone. People are fed up with going to the movies. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT hits the streets and finds out what`s got you fired up about seeing films.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy," starts now.


ANDERSON: Hi there, I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

Tonight a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy." We`re talking an in-depth look at the battles that are being waged on and off the big screen all over the country, personal stories presented in a very public way, including allegations of attacks on religion, smoking in films, and reliving the tragic events of September 11.

We begin tonight with Steven Spielberg. Can his new movie "Munich" help bring peace to the Middle East? Well, that`s his startling suggestion. We`ve got the details of his shrouded in secrecy film all about a serious of horrific events that took place more than 30 years ago.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas in Hollywood with that story.

Hi, Sibila.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, A.J., well, Spielberg`s new movie focuses on the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. But the film is about much more than that. The director is tackling the daunting subject of unrest in the Middle East. And through this work, he says she`s trying to make a difference.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m speaking to you live just outside the Olympic village in Munich, West Germany. At this moment, eight or nine athletes of the Israeli team are being held prisoner.

VARGAS (voice-over): Spielberg is taking on terror in his most recent film, "Munich," which takes us back over 30 years to tell for the first time ever on film the story of the 1972 murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes by a Palestinian terror group, and the Israeli government`s war of revenge that followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 11 Palestinian names. Each had a hand in planning Munich. You`re going to kill them. One by one.

VARGAS: Just like that secret mission, a veil of secrecy has surrounded the movie. "TIME" magazine got the first look, and "TIME`s" Richard Schickel got the only interview with Spielberg about the ambitious project. Can it make a difference?

RICHARD SCHICKEL, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Steven said to me he doesn`t feel that any film or book or any work of art can actually address the stalemate there. I mean, the only thing that`s going to solve that stalemate, again, Steven says, is just talking, talking, talking, talking, until he says you`re blue in the gills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he picks up the phone, we hit the remote.


VARGAS: Munich stars Eric Bana as a Mossad agent who tracks the Palestinian terrorists who assassinated the Israeli athletes. Spielberg said it`s not "Rambo" but a story about human beings and regret.

Spielberg said in the "TIME" article, quote, "You are assigned a mission, and you do it because you believe in the mission. But there is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating." And added that "it`s bound to try a man`s soul."

Aside from the movie, Spielberg has another plan to impact the Middle East. He told Schickel he admits it`s a small effort.

SCHICKEL: He wants to just give video cameras to about 125 Palestinian children and 125 Israeli children and just let them shoot their ordinary lives, as he says, what movies we go to, what we had for dinner last night, what my father is like, what my mother is like, and then they would exchange the videos. Because you know, at the level of childhood, there isn`t, or there should not be, any ideology. They`re just people who wish to live.


VARGAS: Now much rumor and speculation has surrounded "Munich." Many wondered if he gave a balanced account of the aftermath of the 1972 terrorist attack. Well, now, you can judge for yourself. "Munich" opens in theaters today.

A.J., back to you.

HAMMER: It is a powerful film that will spark a lot of conversation.

VARGAS: You bet.

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

ANDERSON: OK. So is "Munich" a must-see? Well, in tonight`s "SHOWBIZ Guide, People Magazine`s Picks and Pans," SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer asks "People" magazine film critic Leah Rozen if the film is worth spending your money on and why Spielberg has been so tight-lipped about the project.


DAVID HAFFENREFFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a movie that is set in the time of the abduction and murder of 11 Olympic Israeli athletes in 1972, the 1972 Munich Olympics, of course. Politics aside, and there`s been a whole lot of political attention given to this film, is it a good movie?

LEAH ROZEN, FILM CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Yes. It is a good movie. Spielberg really doesn`t make bad movies. So then the question is just how good a Spielberg film is. I think this is pretty darn good.

That said, it`s very complicated. It`s very thoughtful, because it`s really about a guy -- the hero is an Israeli agent who is assigned to essentially track down and kill the terrorists who took the Israeli athletes. He`s to go in Europe, find them and kill them, but sort of the more successful he is at it the more disenchanted he becomes.

HAFFENREFFER: This, as you said is a Spielberg film, and it`s been shrouded in secrecy. I think Spielberg has done about one interview in an effort to promote the film itself. When you watch the movie do you understand why all the secrecy?

ROZEN: Well, I think a lot of that has to do with just how hyped things can get in Hollywood. I think they didn`t want this film to turn into another "The Passion of the Christ," where before the movie even came out, people were taking sides based on having read the script or whatever. I think in this case, Spielberg wants the work to speak for itself.

HAFFENREFFER: And really quick, Steven Spielberg has said that he hopes to sort of jumpstart talks in the Middle East process. In what way does he think that it might be able to do this?

ROZEN: Well, it`s certainly a film that, in the end, comes out. You know, it is futile to seek vengeance forever on both sides. So it would be very nice and we could give him a Nobel Prize if it ended up leading to Middle East peace, but you know, the track record isn`t real good on that.

HAFFENREFFER: One can hope it will at least open a dialogue. Leah Rozen from "People" magazine. Thank you.

ROZEN: You`re welcome.


ANDERSON: And for more "Picks and Pans," you can pick up a copy of "People" magazine. It is on newsstands now.

HAMMER: Coming up, "The Da Vinci Code," a fictional story, but the fact is, it`s causing an awful lot of religious controversy. Find out what it is, coming up next.

ANDERSON: Plus, Hollywood and smoking, the myths, the truth. When stars light up on the big screen, do kids take the bait? Tonight we set the record straight: the ifs, the ands and the butts.

HAMMER: And loud people, high ticket prices. It`s movie theater madness, why you are film furious. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes to the streets to hear your pet peeves about going to the movies.

Our special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy," continues.

ANDERSON: But first, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly Great American Pop Culture Quiz." What is the all-purpose cure in 2002`s "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? Lysol, Windex, Pledge or Shout Wipes? Think about it. We will be right back with your answer.


ANDERSON: So again, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly Great American Pop Culture Quiz." And this is a fun one. What is the all-purpose cure in 2002`s "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? Lysol, Windex, Pledge or Shout Wipes? In the movie, Nia Vardalos` parents think it`s Windex that cures everything, including psoriasis, poison ivy, baldness and warts. The answer is B.

HAMMER: Welcome back to this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy." I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

Tonight a religious controversy at the movies. Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are hard at work on the film adaptation of the super-selling book "The Da Vinci Code." Now, the movie isn`t coming out until May, but there is a battle brewing today with some calling it an attack on Catholicism.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas joins us once again from Hollywood with the details -- Sibila.

VARGAS: That`s right, A.J.

The movie version of Dan Brown`s bestseller is still in production, but "The Da Vinci Code" is sparking a firestorm of criticism among some religious groups right now.


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. A 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: Of course, 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 A.J., the Da Vinci Code rolls into theaters May 19, 2006.

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

ANDERSON: Hollywood`s under fire tonight for another controversial issue. Some think the silver screen glamorizes cigarette smoking and potentially influencing kids to pick up the habit, too.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is setting the record straight. Our David Haffenreffer is in the New York newsroom with that story.

Hi, David.


The death earlier this year of news anchor Peter Jennings heightened America`s awareness of the harsh realities of smoking. Now attention is turning from the small screen to the big screen where some of Hollywood`s hottest stars habitually light up the screen, cigarette in hand.


HAFFENREFFER (voice-over): You see it all the time, celebrities taking a puff on the silver screen.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: Do you smoke, Richard?


HAFFENREFFER: And in a renewed debate about whether Hollywood glamorizes cigarettes, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT wanted to find out what smoking on the big screen conveys to movie-goers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it sends the wrong message to particularly young people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sends a message that it`s socially acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess it does glamorize it in some way.

HAFFENREFFER: There`s a notion that the beautiful rich hero type characters, like the ones we see in old movies, glamorized smoking.

HUMPHREY BOGART, ACTOR: I get the point.

HAFFENREFFER: But Bogey, is that really true?

(on camera) A recent study says no. In fact, they found just the opposite.

Looking at over 400 movies from the past 15 years, they found the people who light up on the big screen are usually the bad guys, and they`re poor, a far cry from the era of James Dean.

JAMES DEAN, ACTOR: Certainly is.

HAFFENREFFER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT looked at a study published in the medical journal "CHEST" -- yes, "CHEST" -- that shows, of all the top 10 box office grossers since 1990, more than 35 percent of the characters that smoked were the antagonists. Twenty-five percent of them were men, and almost half were in a lower socioeconomic class.

The findings weren`t all that glamorous. As a matter of fact, they pretty much mimic real life smoking habits.

DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: We don`t roll like that no more.

HAFFENREFFER: And it`s not only the so-called glamour of smoking but how much it influences children to smoke.

Curtis Mekemson, who wrote "Hollywood Speaks Out on Tobacco," told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT there`s a direct link between celebrities lighting up on the big screen and teens following suit.

CURTIS MEKEMSON, AUTHOR, "HOLLYWOOD SPEAKS OUT ON TOBACCO": It sends a very powerful message to young people that smoking is a highly desirable activity.

HAFFENREFFER: The American Lung Association reports that a startling 5,000 teens under 18 try a cigarette for the first time every single day. And more than 2,000 keep smoking.

Are the movies really that influential in getting teens to smoke? Here at SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, we decided to find out for ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it could have an influence on younger people, because you notice a lot of younger people smoking again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think so. I think if they`re going to smoke, they`re going to smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people are much more likely to start smoking if they`re exposed to it on the street, with their family.

HAFFENREFFER: Reviews are mixed, at best, but some critics want Hollywood to change and impose stricter ratings on films with smoking scenes. That means certain films could one day be off limits to teens.



HAFFENREFFER: An added bit of information, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control named tobacco in the movies a major factor leading to teen smoking in the last two years -- Brooke.

ANDERSON: Eye-opening information, thank you, David. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer in New York.

Well, it`s a day that`s still full of nightmarish memories for most Americans. Now 9/11 is being made into a movie. Coming up, behind the scenes of Oliver Stone`s film.

HAMMER: Plus, we`ve got the straight story on acting gay. Coming up, why so many actors are gravitating towards gay movie roles. But will it hurt or help their careers?

ANDERSON: Also, another box office controversy, at the box office itself. What`s got you so miffed about going to the movies? It`s movie theater madness.

You`re watching a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy." Stay with us.


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

Well, we`ve certainly all been there: you`re in the theater enjoying a good flick and suddenly a cell phone rings and somebody actually answers it, this after you`ve sat through 20 minutes of commercials and paid a small fortune just to buy a ticket in the first place. This movie theater madness has got film goers fuming everywhere, and it`s hurting Hollywood in the wallet.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer is back once again in New York with more on that -- David.

HAFFENREFFER: A.J., you know, going to the 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.

HAFFENREFFER: ... too many movie ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most annoying thing are the ads.

MICHELLE PFEIFFER, ACTRESS: He made love to me. I had to leave.

HAFFENREFFER: ... all of the noise.

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

HAFFENREFFER: ... and generally obnoxious behavior 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: Hey, Bert. 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 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 during the movie. I hate that (expletive deleted). I`m sorry.

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, you go tell the people, and sometimes they don`t -- 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: Road rage. Moviegoers appear to be voting with their wallets, too. Hollywood receipts have sagged for most of 2005, running about seven percent behind 2004`s revenues -- A.J.

HAMMER: David, I am certain you put your phone on vibrate or power it down before you sit down to enjoy the film.

HAFFENREFFER: I leave it at home, A.J.

HAMMER: OK. You`re never one of those jerks in the theater.


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

So if you`re going to the movies, you`re probably noticing so many more movie stars are playing gay characters. What about the impact that it`s having on their careers? We`ll talk about that coming up.

ANDERSON: Plus, he plays a terrorist on the big screen so often his young daughter thinks that he really may be a terrorist. Tonight, is Hollywood typecasting Arabs as villains?

HAMMER: And Oliver Stone`s 9/11 movie with Nicolas Cage. The cameras are rolling, but is it to soon to dramatize on film what could be the most dramatic event on U.S. history?

This special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy," is back after this.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It`s 31 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood, and you are watching a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy," an in-depth look at controversy at the movies.

HAMMER: And whether or not some people think it`s controversial, certainly a lot of gay characters are showing up in theaters. Just this fall, we`ve seen Val Kilmer show up in "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang," Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Truman Capote, "Brokeback Mountain," Heath Ledger, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for that.


HAMMER: Is it good for their careers? Not good for their careers? We`ll go in depth on that topic in just a few minutes, Brooke.

ANDERSON: It seems to be impacting them in one way or another, absolutely, A.J.

And also, moving now to films about terrorism. They`re also going to feature the bad guys, of course, but, A.J., have you ever thought about the actors who are cast in these terrorist roles, these bad guy roles?

HAMMER: It does seem kind of stereotypical sometimes.

ANDERSON: You know, some Arab-American actors aren`t happy about being stereotyped, as they feel, in this way too often. They feel they`re being typecast. Coming up, we will speak with one Hollywood actor who`s trying to make a change in this industry. It`s actually very, very interesting. That`s in just a few minutes.

But first, "Reel Controversy" is already swirling around a film that`s still in the works. Oliver Stone and Nicolas Cage have teamed up to shoot one of the first movies about September 11th. They say they`re approaching it with reverence and respect, but is America ready?


ANDERSON (voice-over): It`s an important moment. Actors Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena meeting the last two survivors of the World Trade Center attacks.

They`ll be playing these heroic officers in director Oliver Stone`s untitled movie. It just began shooting, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is giving you this behind-the-scenes look.

It`s one of Hollywood`s first films about the September 11th attacks. The story is about these two police officers, Sergeant John McLaughlin and Officer William Jimeno. They were rescued from the trade center rubble after being trapped for a terrifying 22 hours.

(on-screen): I`m here at Ground Zero. There`s no doubt this is sacred ground. That`s why some families of the victims of September 11th are making extra sure that Stone treats the story with proper respect.

CHARLES WOLF, LOST WIFE IN 9/11 ATTACKS: I`m concerned about revisionist history. And I am very sure that they`re not going to do that.

ANDERSON: Charles Wolf lost his wife on September 11th, and he tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT he`s been working with producers at Paramount to make sure the movie portrays the day`s events accurately.

WOLF: It turns out that they`re going to be extremely sensitive about this. It`s an actual depiction. It`s not going -- you`re not going to see planes hitting the buildings. You`re not going to see the buildings falling. You`re not going to see bodies fall.

ANDERSON: Some raised concerns about how Stone might interpret the attacks in the film, like reporter John Schiumo of New York 1. He covered the entire story of the two officers as it was happening.

JOHN SCHIUMO, NEW YORK 1 NEWS: These stories tend to be so dramatic that the film versions and the play versions and the TV versions tend to rub some of the 9/11 victim`s family members the wrong way. Why dramatize an already dramatic event?

ANDERSON: Oliver Stone`s re-dramatization of another national tragedy was steeped in controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stepped down to the curb and yelled, "Hey, Mr. President."

ANDERSON: In "JFK," Stone included conspiracy theories, which families of 9/11 victims want to make sure doesn`t happen in this movie. But the movie`s producers say they will take great care to depict the day`s events as it happened, without injecting politics.

Nicolas Cage told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT he understands people`s concerns.

NICOLAS CAGE, STARS IN 9/11 MOVIE: This is not an exploitive movie. This is not in any way an action film. This is a story about a handful of cops who went into the World Trade Center. It`s a true story based on fact. These are real, living people.

ANDERSON: So is making a movie about September 11th ultimately a good idea? We decided to ask people for ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like anything that we -- when we capitalize on someone`s tragedy, then you`re walking a thin line, and especially to make money from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess my strongest feeling is that if it was done and it helped the victims from this somehow, I think it would be a great thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s too soon. I actually think they should give a little time before they start making movies about what happened here. But I still think about it.

ANDERSON: Four years have passed since 9/11 and this is still a hot- button issue. But producers promise a movie that is based more on truth and less on drama.

WOLF: Listen, I`m not a gushy type of a person, but I will say this, that I believe that the representation that they`re doing -- and I tell you this, that Oliver Stone himself is very, very keen on getting this right.


ANDERSON: Something important to note. Stone is shooting much of the film onset in Los Angeles, not in New York. And he plans to release the film in August of 2006, a month before the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

HAMMER: Well, in the wake of the September 11th attacks, the Pentagon looked west for Hollywood`s help. The war on terror made its way to Tinseltown so the government could actually tap into the creative minds of Hollywood directors to help thwart future attacks.

Action-thriller director Michael Bay was one of seven directors asked to brainstorm possible terrorist scenarios, and for good reason. Bay`s flick, "Armageddon," depicts the destruction of parts of New York City. And films including "True Lies," "The Siege," and "The Rock" have all had a terrorist thread running through them. They told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT some sites are obvious targets.


MICHAEL BAY, DIRECTOR: There are so many easy targets. I mean, being a film director that does action movies, I can come up with so many scenarios. I mean, it`s kind of weird. During the September 11th attacks, they said -- I`ve heard several who said it looked like a Michael Bay movie, in "Armageddon," where I actually had the World Trade Towers hit by asteroids.

And it was shocking to cue the image up that night of the attacks and see literally right where the planes hit there was an asteroid that went through both of them. But it`s not a hard concept to figure out if you figure it out. You know what I mean? You think, "New York, what`s big? What`s the icon?" I mean, that`s them.


HAMMER: Bay is slated to direct a live action movie based on the television cartoon "Transformers."

ANDERSON: Coming up on this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the typecast terrorist? An Arab actor`s struggle to play someone other than the bad guy in Hollywood.

And Golden Globe glory. The straight and narrow path to critical acclaim has taken a detour, and the first stop is the Golden Globe Awards. A look at who`s up for big wins and the one thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.

HAMMER: Plus, a showbiz special report. Why so many movie stars are playing gay characters and the impact it`s having on their careers. That`s just ahead on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

It`s time for a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT birthday shoutout. This is where we give fans the chance to wish their favorite stars a happy birthday. Tonight, a birthday shoutout to "All My Children`s" Susan Lucci, "La Lucc," who is celebrating her 58th birthday today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Eileen Talum (ph). I live in Rockland County, New York. And I just want to wish Susan Lucci a very happy birthday. She`s one of the most dynamite actresses I`ve come across, plus the fact that she`s gorgeous. I hope she has a wonderful day. Enjoy everything about it, and have a happy holiday.



HAMMER: Welcome back to this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy." We`re taking an in-depth look at the controversy at the movies. I`m A.J. Hammer.

Well, with terror films come the bad guys and the actors cast to play them, of course. Some Arab-American actors are fed up having to play terrorists du jour. They say that they`re betraying themselves and their people for the sake of achieving their dream.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas joins us once again from Hollywood with one such story -- Sibila?

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, A.J. As you know, in Hollywood action films these days, the bad guys are usually terrorists and, more likely, they are Arab. And that`s not an image that sits too well with many Arab-Americans. I sat down with one Hollywood tough guy who`s trying to change all that.


VARGAS: Sayed Badreya loves his adopted country...

SAYED BADREYA, ACTOR: America. I love America.

VARGAS: ... his children...

BADREYA: I`m lucky. Very lucky.

VARGAS: ... and the Duke.

BADREYA: I watch John Wayne when I grow up.

VARGAS: The Egyptian-born actor is a big fan of the USA, but on screen he couldn`t be more anti-American. Because of his Arabic looks, Hollywood most often casts him in the role of the terrorist. That`s him in "The Insider" and "True Lies." He`s a Muslim hijacker in "Executive Decision." He`s played terrorists so often it made an impression on his young daughter.

BADREYA: The teacher ask my daughter what your father do for a living. And, you know, he asked all of the kids. And someone said, "My father is a doctor," "My father is an engineer." And he came to Jolie (ph), and she said, "My father hijacks airplane," because all of the movie I am in I am having a gun and I`m hijacking an airplane.

VARGAS: During the Cold War, Hollywood cast Russians as villains, as in "Rocky IV." It was Nazis during World War II. Think of "Casablanca." With terrorism constantly in the news, Hollywood`s villains of the moment are Arabs.

But well before terrorism became a national concern, Hollywood depicted Arabs negatively. Consider "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "The Sheik" from the silent era.

JACK SHAHEEN, AUTHOR, "REEL BAD ARABS": The Arab-Muslim stereotype is as solid as a prehistoric rock. It has not bent. It has been there decades before 9/11, and it persists today.

BADREYA: You know, he torture people. His name is the torturer...

VARGAS: Badreya prepares for his latest audition. The role: an Arab who plots to kill the president.

(on-screen): And here again, you`re playing a terrorist.

BADREYA: My conscience is saying, "Hey, big guy, you`re doing the wrong thing." (INAUDIBLE) Nobody would hire me.

VARGAS (voice-over): Badreya says he doesn`t mind playing terrorists, but he`d like to improve the image of Arabs by playing some good guys, too.

He`s developing a feature film called "American East," which he says will offer a more balanced view of Arab-Americans. It will star Badreya`s friend, Tony Shalhoub, who is of Lebanese descent.

TONY SHALHOUB, EMMY-WINNING ACTOR, "MONK": All of those constant negative, you know, images, negative portrayals are not helping. You know, we`re trying to offset that.

VARGAS: Shalhoub and Badreya have started a program to fund movies by Arab-American filmmakers. Badreya recently starred in a student film by an Iraqi-American director playing the kind of three-dimensional Arab character rarely seen in Hollywood films.

BADREYA: Tell me why I`m here, why I came here.

So here, I don`t have to say "I kill you" or "From the name of God." I got real emotion. I cry, a big Arabic man, you know? This is good.

VARGAS: He worked on that film for free, but to feed his family and to bankroll movies that would improve the image of Arab-Americans, Badreya needs a paying job. That may mean playing another Arab terrorist in a Hollywood movie, something he knows would harm the image of people like him.

(on-screen): Do you ever feel like you`re sort of, you know, selling your soul to the devil?

BADREYA: All of the time. All of the time. But you know something? To make my movie, I can deal with the devil. To tell my story, I can deal with the devil. I can lie (INAUDIBLE) as he does it to me. That`s life. That`s America.


VARGAS: Even though Sayed has taken on two more terrorist roles since our interview, he`s still hopeful in looking for those good guy roles. He also told me that his "American East" project got financed and preproduction was set to have begun this past September.

A.J., hopefully, he`ll make a difference. Back to you.

HAMMER: It would be nice to see. Thanks very much, Sibila Vargas in Hollywood.

ANDERSON: Well, it`s going to be a big year at the Golden Globe awards and for more reasons than one. At the nominations last week, several movies with homosexual and transsexual themes and characters garnered big nods. Leading the pack with seven, "Brokeback Mountain," a love story between two gay cowboys. Heath Ledger was tapped for his portrayal of a family man concealing his homosexual affair.

Ledger faces competition from Philip Seymour Hoffman who played gay author Truman Capote in the biopic "Capote." And Felicity Huffman earned a nomination for her work in "Transamerica," playing a man preparing for sex- change surgery. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will hit the red carpet at the 63rd Annual Golden Globes, live at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. And that is on January 16th.

HAMMER: So it really seems that the big-time actors who have taken the risk to play gay characters in the movies are already seeing the critical payoffs. Many could actually find themselves in Oscar-winners circle. But is there a price that comes with going for the gold? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer joining us once again in New York with more on that -- David?

HAFFENREFFER: A.J., not to long ago, many actors shied away from playing gay roles because they were worried about either getting typecast or facing a backlash. Those days are long gone, though. In fact, if you look at movies out today, it appears that playing gay characters is not only widely accepted, it may be a good way for an actor to win great reviews or more.


HAFFENREFFER (voice-over): A lot of people are interested in the business of "Brokeback Mountain." The movie, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, is generating Oscar buzz and a lot of attention for its explicit portrayal of two cowboys and their secret gay love affair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t go up there to fish.

HAFFENREFFER: Jake Gyllenhaal tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, while filming "Brokeback Mountain," he wasn`t thinking about how people would react.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: If you knew how people were going to respond to a film while you were making it, then I don`t think you`d be able to make it.

HAFFENREFFER: "Brokeback Mountain" is the most high-profile of a parade of films this fall that star big-name actors playing gay or transgender characters.

DAMON ROMINE, GLAAD: This really is a historic time for film and for gay, lesbian and bisexual, transgender representation in film, as well.

FELICITY HUFFMAN, ACTRESS: After my operation, not even a gynecologist will be able to detect anything out of the ordinary about my body. I will be a woman.

HAFFENREFFER: "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman is winning raves for "Transamerica," in which she plays a man about to have a sex- change operation to become a woman.

HUFFMAN: I am proud to represent the transgendered community in the small way that I have.

HAFFENREFFER: Huffman sat down with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT to talk about her unique transformation into a very unique character.

HUFFMAN: I mean, she just represents one individual in a broad spectrum of people, like any group. So I`m proud. And I hope that the transgendered community approves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn`t bear the thought of losing you so soon.

HAFFENREFFER: Meanwhile, Philip Seymour Hoffman is considered a near shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for "Capote," in which he plays gay author Truman Capote. And then there`s Irish actor Killian Murphy, who plays a cross-dresser in "Breakfast on Pluto."

With all of these movies and all of these memorable characters, some are saying acting gay is the new way for an actor to stretch his way to an Oscar.

CARYN JAMES, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": A lot of them are Oscar-bait roles, because they`re acting with a capital A, acting in a very overt way, so that you can see the stretch, especially if you have actors who are known as straight actors. For instance Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams just had a child together. He can play a gay character in "Brokeback Mountain," and it`s that much clearer that he`s stretching to play somebody unlike himself.

HAFFENREFFER: What`s behind this glut of gay-oriented prestige roles? Let`s go from 2005 twenty years back to 1985.

WILLIAM HURT, ACTOR: If you`ve got the keys to that door, I will gladly follow.

HAFFENREFFER: William Hurt plays a gay prisoner in "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" and wins an Oscar. Nine years later, Tom Hanks wins an Oscar for playing a gay lawyer in "Philadelphia." But it`s not just the Oscar hardware that attracts actors and audiences to these roles.

GYLLENHAAL: I fell in love with the story. I thought it was a beautiful love story, whether or not it was about two guys or it was about a guy and a girl. To me, the idea behind it was what was most powerful. That was the thing that was more powerful to me than the idea of them being in a gay relationship.


HAFFENREFFER: And there are more high-profile movies with high- profile gay characters out there. They include the movie versions of the Broadway hits, "Rent" and "The Producers" -- A.J.?

HAMMER: Thanks very much, David. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s David Haffenreffer in New York.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is coming right back. You are watching a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy," an in-depth look at controversy at the movies.

ANDERSON: But first, it is time for the "Entertainment Weekly" must- list. Here are five things E.W. says you just have to check out this week.

First, make sure to get yourself a copy of this past summer`s very cool movie, "March of the Penguins." Next, "EW" says to take a shot at the new game, "Can You Beat Ken?" Now you can test your knowledge against "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings.

Then, pick up a copy of the book, "Sitcom Style: Inside America`s Favorite TV Homes." It examines the living rooms and kitchens on our favorite family TV shows.

Next, "EW" recommends Frank Sinatra`s classic movie, "The Man with the Golden Arm," now on DVD. And finally, make sure to watch T.R. Knight on "Grey`s Anatomy." His character, George O`Malley, is like a puppy in scrubs.

For more on the must-list, pick up your copy of "Entertainment Weekly" magazine on newsstands now.



JESSICA ALBA, ACTRESS: Hi, I`m Jessica Alba. And I am wearing Monique Lhuillier, because it`s comfortable, and cute, and `80s.



ANDERSON: It is time now to see what`s playing on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT on Monday. So for that, we take a look at the "Showbiz Marquee." You know what to do, Marquee Guy.

MARQUEE GUY: Monday, it`s the best of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Unlucky in love? Not to worry, if you`ve got a plan b in place. The back-up spouse, made popular by "My Best Friend`s Wedding" and the "Friends" gang. Hanging onto that special number two. That`s Monday on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Also Monday, the man behind the two-fingered salute, John Melendez. From his stint on Stern as Stuttering John to the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, we spend a whole day with John, and no more marvels in this guy`s mouth. That`s Monday on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

This is the Marquee Guy. Happy holidays! And you get the best of me every night on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HAMMER: I was going to make some comment about too much eggnog, but I`m going to restrain myself and just wish you a very happy holiday weekend. That is it for this special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Reel Controversy." I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: Thanks for watching. I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. Keep it here. Stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.


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