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SHOWBIZ TONIGHT

Questions Raised about How Cheney Shooting was Reported; Oscar Nominees Feted at Luncheon; Virginia Madsen Dishes on New Film with Harrison Ford

Aired February 13, 2006 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST: And I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the shot heard round the world. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his hunting companion. The media goes nuts, and the water cooler talk bubbles over. Tonight, what happened, the story and the spin.

Oscar fever begins. It`s the start of the Oscar frenzy as the biggest stars in Hollywood gather for the annual Oscar nominees` luncheon. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is there.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I`m bringing Dick Cheney as my date. That`s overtly political. It`s so nice; he called me up to invite me to go hunting.

HAMMER: Tonight, your ticket to the most exclusive luncheon in town.

Virginia Madsen. Her new role, her new life. It`s been a year since she was nominated for "Sideways." She tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT how it changed everything.

VIRGINIA MADSEN, ACTRESS: I stopped for gas, and it took me a half an hour to leave, because all these people are like, "Oh, my God!"

HAMMER: Tonight, Virginia Madsen in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

MADSEN: Hi, I`m Virginia Madsen. And if it happened today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

Brooke, certainly a big day in Hollywood. All of the Oscar nominees got together all in one room and around one pool.

ANDERSON: That`s right, A.J. They sure did. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT had your front row seat right there, and we got one on one interviews with the biggest stars, of course, in Hollywood. And we will have that in just a minute.

HAMMER: But first, everybody, of course, talking about Vice President Cheney and how he accidentally shot his friend while hunting. This is an unbelievable story. It`s making front page headlines coast to coast. It`s the top story online, if you`re out there surfing. It`s churning the 24- hour news wheels here and around the world.

But the shocking part of the story, which is really getting the biggest buzz here, is how we all found out about the story behind the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER (voice-over): From radio to television to the blogs, everyone is talking about Vice President Cheney`s hunting accident. But more than just a buzz story, there`s a big controversy over how the news was disseminated to the national press.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The vice president of the United States accidentally shoots a man. And he feels that it`s appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper and not be -- the White House press corps at large would notify the public in a national way.

HAMMER: The questions came fast and furious today as reporters attempted to piece together the events of Vice President Dick Cheney`s hunting trip gone awry.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Somebody was injured and needed medical care. And the vice president`s team was making sure he was getting taken care of.

HAMMER: It all happened late Saturday afternoon when Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot this man, Harry Whittington, a Texas attorney.

The two were on a quail hunting trip with a third unidentified hunter, here at the Armstrong Ranch in Texas. Whittington apparently didn`t signal Cheney that he was in the line of fire.

But the real controversy comes not from the shooting but how the national media learned of the shooting, not from the press staff but from this woman, Katharine Armstrong, one of the owners of the ranch where the shooting occurred.

KATHARINE ARMSTRONG, OWNER, ARMSTRONG RANCH: The vice president and the other hunter believed that Mr. Whittington was probably about 200 yards away at that time, still back there looking for the bird, and when in fact he was about 30 yards and a little behind the line.

HAMMER: Turns out, Dick Cheney asked Armstrong to break the news to the press, not his own press staff. So on Sunday morning she called Corpus Christi`s local paper and told them all about it.

KATHRYN GARCIA, REPORTER, "CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER TIMES": She was explaining to me what happened, giving me details, and she kept saying the vice president did this, the vide president did that.

HAMMER: Garcia was the reporter at the "Corpus Christi Caller Times" that got Armstrong`s call. She told "Good Morning America" it was a call she wasn`t expecting.

GARCIA: I mean, it`s a Sunday morning. It`s supposed to be incredibly slow at the "Corpus Christi Caller Times." And what ended up happening, afterwards, I said, "Are you talking about Vice President Cheney?" And she laughed a little bit and said yes, absolutely. And I thought, "Oh, my God. You`re going to have to repeat that story one more time."

HAMMER: And it was press secretary Scott McClellan who had to repeat his story a few times today, under fire, so to speak, from national reporters, who found it hard to believe a private citizen would be cleared to break this news and not someone from Cheney`s staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has been -- has shot someone?

MCCLELLAN: That`s one way to provide information to the public. The vice president`s office worked with her. I should say the vice president. The vice president spoke with her directly and agreed that she should -- agreed that she should make it public and that they would provide additional information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should it be up to a private citizen?

MCCLELLAN: It came out -- it came out Sunday morning.

HAMMER: But the controversy doesn`t end there. Turns out it wasn`t just the national press that was in the dark about the accident. So was the press secretary himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saturday night, you didn`t know, the White House did not know that Vice President Cheney...

MCCLELLAN: No, there were details coming in throughout that night and into the morning. I mean, there`s additional information coming in at 3 in the morning, 4 in the morning and even after that. So...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But again, Saturday night you did not know the vice president was involved? You thought something from his -- someone from his hunting party?

MCCLELLAN: No, I personally was informed by the situation room that there had been a hunting accident and that it was a member of the vice president`s hunting party. But I didn`t have additional information on that at this point.

HAMMER: McClellan says he learned the exact details of the shooting on Sunday morning around 6 a.m., nearly 12 hours after the actual incident.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: Well, Cheney`s hunting buddy, Harry Whittington, was shot in the face, the neck and the upper torso but apparently is doing very well at a local hospital.

Coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the small town reporter who broke the worldwide story is going to join us live in a "SHOWBIZ Newsmaker" interview.

Well, all the buzz around Cheney`s hunting accident actually made its way to Hollywood at the annual Oscars nominee luncheon, where three-time nominee, George Clooney, had a thought or two about Mr. Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: I`m bringing Dick Cheney as my date. If that`s overtly political. It`s so nice. He called me up and invited me to go hunting. And I was like, "Well, why don`t you come as my date." And then, so...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Yes, Brooke, from what I understand, Dick Cheney actually has a response to Clooney`s invitation to be his date. We`re just not going to find out for about 12 hours.

ANDERSON: We probably won`t. That George Clooney, such a jokester. And I was backstage in the press room at the luncheon, A.J. And of his nominations, George Clooney said he doesn`t realistically think he`s going to win at all with a 21 percent chance. He said he wouldn`t bet on those odds in Vegas.

HAMMER: Well, it`s his first time out. And I know he`s very excited about it.

ANDERSON: That`s right. He certainly is.

All right. Tonight, everyone who is anyone, including George Clooney, was in Beverly Hills today for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Oscar luncheon.

Of course, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT was right there. Sibila Vargas joins us now live from the Beverly Hilton hotel, where we spoke to some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Hi, Sibila.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We sure did, Brooke. And the Oscars aren`t -- isn`t until March 5, but boy were there winners here today. All the nominees were presented with nominee certificates by the academy. This place was wall to wall celebrities, and each of them glowing by the big news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VARGAS (voice-over): SHOWBIZ TONIGHT was right there, along with Joaquin Phoenix, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, Jake Gyllenhaal, William Hurt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, even Spielberg at the hottest event in town, the Oscar luncheon.

The traditional pre-Academy Awards gathering held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences brought more than 100 nominees from 24 categories together, all in the same room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, you all.

VARGAS: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT had your front room seat in the luncheon press room and the contenders were still excited about the big announcement.

Here`s "Transamerica`s" Felicity Huffman, a first time nominee.

FELICITY HUFFMAN, ACTRESS: I have to turn to my husband several times a day and do that annoying thing. "Hey, I forgot to tell you."

And he says, "What?"

"I`m going to the Academy Awards."

VARGAS: And no surprise George Clooney, nominated three times for two films, says he`s come a long way since his role on "The Facts of Life."

CLOONEY: Who would have thought after doing "The Facts of Life" that things would have worked out quite this way? You know, I didn`t think -- if you can survive a mullet you can survive anything.

VARGAS: "Pride and Prejudice`s" Keira Knightley, who is currently filming a movie in the Bahamas, says she gets on-set ribbing for her Oscar nom.

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, ACTRESS: Every single time I do a take, they go, "Was that an Oscar nominated take, then?"

VARGAS: "North Country`s" Charlize Theron, who won Oscar gold for her role in "Monster," is still shocked.

CHARLIZE THERON, ACTRESS: It`s crazy. It really is. It`s insane. Because you know, it`s insane the first time around. Never in a million years would I ever have believed, if somebody said in a two year period you`re going to get nominated twice.

VARGAS: The boys of "Crash," Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard, say it`s a dream come true.

TERRENCE HOWARD, ACTOR: The Oscar is the dream. You know, the Oscar is the fantasy that you`re afraid to believe in. But in the secrecy of your dark room, you dream and wait for it. Sitting in that room now will probably be the scariest day of my life.

MATT DILLON, ACTOR: Something like this does present you with more opportunities. And I`m looking forward to that. I hope I made sense. I haven`t had any coffee yet this morning.

VARGAS: We`re sure there was caffeine for Matt at the luncheon, as the A-list stars were honored by the Academy.

And after the luncheon, they joined me poolside for some revealing conversation.

(on camera) Was there ever a moment that you thought, "Well, you know what? I don`t know if I can pull this off"?

HUFFMAN: Every day I felt like I don`t know if I can pull this off. I`m serious. I woke up in -- in fear and anxiety, which I know is the enemy of art, along with being in general. Every day, I was frightened every day.

VARGAS: Are you surprised at how controversial the film was?

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR: I`m surprised in a way that it has become so mainstream and people have really fallen for it in such a deep way. But, then again, I fell for it when I read it.

VARGAS: I heard your Mom is placing bets on this?

KNIGHTLEY: Yes, she has put a ten pound bet on me at 33 to 1, which was the best odds that we could find. And my friends refused to put a bet on me, because they said there`s no way I was going to win.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VARGAS: And the Oscar luncheon is a long-standing tradition that has taken place 25 years. Of course, the Oscars are March 5, and I know you`re going to be there, Brooke, and so am I.

ANDERSON: We will be there and we will enjoy it. All right. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas. Thank you so much.

And we have more of Sibila`s interviews with Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley a little later on in the show.

HAMMER: Brooke, I need you to clear something up for me. We saw Felicity Huffman there sitting with Sibila, very appreciative of her honor. I know you were there at the Oscar luncheon today. I heard a rumor that Felicity actually showed up early and was kind of helping out?

ANDERSON: She was the first one there, A.J. She arrived so early, she was joking to us that she helped set up the tables for the luncheon. So she was genuinely, genuinely excited.

And she also told us that this past weekend, her entire family, including her six sisters, flew to L.A. to surprise her with a celebratory dinner. So she said it doesn`t get much better than that. Pretty fantastic.

HAMMER: Good for her. All right, Brooke.

Well, the Britney Spears car seat controversy will not go away. Tonight, some tough criticism from an unlikely place. We`re going to tell you of the government actually getting into the act. That`s coming up.

ANDERSON: Plus, why Conan O`Brien thinks he should get a political appointment in Finland. We`ll have all the steamy details of Conan`s field trip, coming up.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADSEN: It took me a half hour to leave. Because all these people were like, "Oh, my God."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: A new role for Virginia Madsen a year after her Oscar nomination changed everything. Virginia Madsen is coming up in the interview you`ll se only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m Brooke Anderson.

The 20th Winter Olympic games are now underway in Torino, Italy. And numbers out today show that ratings are down 57 percent from the 2002 winter games. So we want to know if you`re watching this year`s events. It`s our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. The Olympics on TV: are you watching? Vote at CNN.com/ShowbizTonight and send us e-mail at ShowbizTonight@CNN.com. We`re going to read some of your thoughts later on in the show.

HAMMER: Well, tonight in "SHOWBIZ Sitdown," Virginia Madsen. In the new movie "Firewall," Madsen stars opposite Harrison Ford as his tough as nails wife. When Madsen stopped by the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT studios, we talked about how her life has changed in the past year, following her Oscar nomination for the film "Sideways." And she also admitted she`s a self- proclaimed news junky.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: First of all, it is lovely to have you here.

MADSEN: Thank you. It`s lovely to be here.

HAMMER: And here you are on the set of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

MADSEN: I know, it`s really cool to see it in real life. You know, a lot of times when you -- the shows look kind of, like, smaller. And but your set looks -- really does look good.

HAMMER: This is a pretty flashy set.

MADSEN: Yes, I mean, it looks -- you know, it`s like some high quality stuff here.

HAMMER: Well, we aim to please, Virginia. And here at the CNN headquarters in New York City. And I know you`re somewhat of a news junky.

MADSEN: You know what? I am -- admittedly so. Not only a news junky but a TV addict, and it`s really shameful. And I`m trying to admit it publicly so that maybe someone will reach out and help me.

But when I was coming in, I was like, you know, there`s you. I was like, "Oh, my God." And then I`m down in the lobby. I`m like, there`s Anderson Cooper. And I just -- it was -- it`s just strange to see them in real life. I`m more star struck than, you know, working with some actors.

HAMMER: Well, now you know how people feel when they run into you, and you walk by. Because I`m sure, particularly over the last couple of years you`re getting a lot of there`s you (ph).

MADSEN: Things have changed. Things have changed. And I`m -- I`m amazed. Because it`s not -- you don`t -- it`s your public anonymity that you lose. I mean, like in grocery stores. And -- and you know, driving down the road. Or, you know, it`s very different. Because -- and not so much here in New York, but like, if I -- if I go to other cities, you know?

Like, I was on my way to work, and it was -- the Robert Altman film I had that I did. And there was no trailers and no drivers, you know. So I drive myself to work. I stopped for gas. And it took me half hour to leave, because all these people were, "Oh, my God!"

HAMMER: Here we go. Now flash forward to 2006. We`re now pretty much at the one year anniversary of you being in the thick of all of the madness of award season last year with the big nomination for "Sideways." Are you doing a lot of reflecting now, because you`re not as crazed right now.

MADSEN: Yes.

HAMMER: You`re certainly working quite a bit. But last year it was just a nutty time, wasn`t it?

MADSEN: Well, it was. I didn`t ever feel like it was a whirlwind. I didn`t feel like it was too crazy. Because I felt like this is once in a lifetime. You know, it will never be like this year, like "Sideways." If I`m blessed and I get another nomination sometime in my life. But I treated it like it was a once in a lifetime. And I was going to drink in every moment.

HAMMER: And I believe, if memory serves me, it was right around the Oscar madness, right around the time of the big academy lunch that they have, where you found out you got a part in a movie called "Firewall" opposite Harrison Ford. Am I correct?

MADSEN: Yes. And I thought that someone was pulling my leg and it was a not very funny joke. Because I really wanted "Firewall," and I had wanted that movie for months. And I assumed it had just gone to another actress. And -- because you couldn`t possibly have a nomination in the morning and Harrison Ford in the evening. It just -- that couldn`t be. It just couldn`t. That`s going too far, you know what I mean? And -- and it was true.

HAMMER: You`re playing the wife of Harrison`s character, who is this security expert, this computer security expert for the bank. And you and your kids get kidnapped. That role can go a couple of ways. You could be the screaming freaked out woman.

MADSEN: Yes.

HAMMER: Or you could be the really cool, kind of edgy mom, protecting the kids, like you were.

MADSEN: Yes, I wanted to be the strong mom. And I played her -- if she was sort of feeble damsel in distress, I honestly would have said no to the film, because at that point, it was so early on. And I thought I can afford to wait for something that I really want. And so I -- when I read it, I thought, OK, this is exactly what I wanted, because I played her like, you know, like a lion guarding her cubs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re in the garage.

MADSEN: Hide!

HAMMER: You`ve spoken quite publicly about a time in your life, as much as you`ve worked through your life, but you took a little time off when your son was born in the early `90s, where money was a little tight.

MADSEN: Money was tight for the last 10 years, really, you know? And actors, you know, I think that, as well as going to acting school, we should go to money school to, like, learn how to manage money.

And because, you get a big chunk comes in when you have a job. But then you might not work for six months. And I didn`t ever know how to manage it properly. And then, you know, now that I`ve been, you know, fortunate, and there`s so much abundance in my life, in many ways, but I`m going to keep a lot of money in the bank.

HAMMER: Smart thinking. Virginia Madsen, pleasure to have you here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

MADSEN: Oh, yes. Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: Virginia Madsen just wrapped up work on that new Robert Altman film she mentioned. It`s called "A Prairie Home Companion." And she is now shooting "The Number 23," opposite her all-time favorite actor, Jim Carrey.

And Brooke, she was truly giddy about being here at the CNN New York headquarters that after we were done with our little chat, we took her on a tour of the building, showed her the newsroom, introduced her to Anderson Cooper. She would have stayed here all day long, maybe even answered the phones if she didn`t have a plane to catch.

ANDERSON: You know what? I believe it. And her son is even a news junky, her young son. When they were here in the L.A. bureau, I introduced them to Larry King, and they were ecstatic. They even got his autograph.

HAMMER: Must have been thrilled.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. All right. That was great, A.J.

Moving now to it`s curious Jack Johnson. The singer is back with a new album of songs from the "Curious George" movie. Will they pique your interest? Find out next in "Picks and Pans."

Also coming up...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GYLLENHAAL: I think it`s a true honor to be part of a movie that has the message this movie has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: We are poolside with the big stars at the Oscar nominees` luncheon. Coming up, Jake Gyllenhaal, in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Plus, the shot heard round the world. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his hunting companion, and the media frenzy begins. Coming up, the reporter who broke the story joins us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: Time for the "SHOWBIZ Guide." Throughout the week, we help you decide where to spend your dollars on movies, music, DVDs and more.

Tonight in "People`s Picks and Pans," it`s what`s new in music. Talking about "Sing-alongs with Jack Johnson," a twist on hip-hop from Sergio Mendes, and the comforting sounds of singer/songwriter Beth Orton. Joining me live in New York to talk us through each one, "People magazine" writer Anne Marie Cruz.

Let`s talk about one of my favorites, the Hawaiian folksy Jack Johnson. This is called "Sing-alongs and Lullabies from the Movie Curious George." It`s actually from the film. We`re going to take a listen to the song "Upside-Down."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: I just love his voice. I love his sound. You can`t go wrong. It`s an album for adults, I imagine, not for kids.

ANNE MARIE CRUZ, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Right. Didn`t be thrown off by the fact that it`s a children`s soundtrack, because not only does he collaborate with favorites like G. Love and Ben Harper. There`s "Schoolhouse Rock" tones in there, for the nostalgia types like me.

And also, you know, even though my 2-year-old nephew is going to love this soundtrack, it`s something that we can listen to and not want to stab ourselves in the ears after like -- because you know, kiddy music usually has that smarm.

HAMMER: Sure.

CRUZ: And this doesn`t have that.

HAMMER: OK. Jack is such a great sound, and I encourage anybody to check him out.

Let`s move on to Sergio Mendes. By the way, that album is in stores tomorrow. Sergio, known for his Brazilian sound. The new album is called "Timeless." Let`s take a listen to a song featuring John Legend, called "Please Baby, Don`t."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: So many great collaborations on this album.

CRUZ: Yes. Justin Timberlake, Jill Scott. I mean, it`s an army of Grammy nominees and winners that have come to update Sergio`s sound. I think I`m just going to throw a party just so I can put this music on. It`s fantastic.

HAMMER: Excellent. Sounds like a good choice.

And Beth Orton. Ten years in the business since her debut CD. This one is called "Comfort of Strangers." It`s in stores now. What do you think?

CRUZ: You know what? It`s very different for her. There`s not that electronic sound that`s there. It`s very much stripped down and more along the lines of Fiona Apple. So if you liked "Extraordinary Machine," I would definitely recommend this.

But her fans from Lilith Fair might be a little weirded out, but I think it`s a great album

HAMMER: A different sound, but sounds good.

All right. Thanks very much, as always, Anne Marie Cruz.

And for your "Picks and Pans," all you have to do is grab a copy of "People" magazine. You`ll find it on newsstands now.

ANDERSON: The Britney Spears car seat controversy. Tonight, there`s some tough criticism from an unlikely place. We`ll tell you how the government is getting into the act, next.

HAMMER: And the shot heard from around the world. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his hunting companion. The media frenzy begins. Coming up, the reporter who broke the story joins us live.

ANDERSON: Plus why Conan O`Brien thinks he should get a political appointment in Finland. We have all the steamy details of Conan`s field trip coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

ANDERSON: I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. And you are watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

A.J., of course, the annual Oscar nominees luncheon was held today. And, of course, we were there with all the big nominees, including Jake Gyllenhaal. He`s nominated for best supporting actor. That`s for his role in "Brokeback Mountain." Our own Sibila Vargas sat down with him, and that interview is coming up in just a few minutes.

HAMMER: Looking forward to that, but I`m really looking forward to a person I`m going to get to speak to. I`m going to take you of Hollywood for a moment and put you in Corpus Christi, Texas, Brooke. Imagine you`re working at the level newspaper there. The phone rings. It`s a woman who owns a ranch. She says: I have to let you know that the vice president has actually shot his hunting buddy.

And you`re writing down the details and thinking, "Are you talking about the vice president of the United States?"

ANDERSON: "Did you just that?" Yes.

HAMMER: Yes. That`s pretty much how it went. We`re going to speak to that reporter coming up in just a moment.

ANDERSON: OK, can`t wait for that, A.J.

But first, here are tonight`s "Hot Headlines."

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is calling Britney Spears, quote, "irresponsible" for driving with her infant son on her lap. Last week, photos surfaced of Spears with her son, Sean Preston, on her lap, instead of in a car seat. Spears said she was trying to escape from aggressive paparazzi but later admitted her actions were a mistake.

The pop star also said today she will take part in New Orleans` Mardi Gras celebrations later this month. Spears is a Louisiana native.

Tonight, Robert Redford is admitting that his Sundance Film Festival is, quote, "close to being out of control." In a startling interview with "Newsweek," Redford says the festival is too intense for him, with people like Paris Hilton, who, quote, "doesn`t have anything to do with anything," going to parties. Redford launched Sundance in 1981.

And "Jaws" author Peter Benchley has died. Benchley wrote the 1974 thriller about a great white shark that terrorizes a beach town. Steven Spielberg turned the book into a blockbuster film a year later. Benchley had been battling pulmonary fibrosis. He died at his home in New Jersey; Peter Benchley was 65.

And those are tonight`s "Hot Headlines."

HAMMER: It is the shot that has been heard `round the world. Tonight, the Texas attorney accidentally shot by Vice President Dick Cheney while on a quail-hunting trip is still recovering. The story of the shooting, however, has traveled from Texas to Australia and back again five times ago.

It has thrust two unlikely candidates, a ranch owner and a Corpus Christi reporter into the public eye. Well, tonight in a "Showbiz Newsmaker" interview, the reporter who brought the story, Kathryn Garcia, joining me live from "Corpus Christi Caller-Times." She joins us from Corpus Christi, Texas.

I love this story, Kathryn. I love that you`ve become this unlikely star through it, like it or not.

I want you to take me through what happened on this day, because I imagine Sunday morning`s probably pretty slow there at the newspaper. You`re getting your coffee, doing your work. The phone rings. You think, "Maybe just another hunting accident story." What happened next?

KATHRYN GARCIA, REPORTER, "CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER-TIMES": It was definitely surprising when I received the phone call. It was something that was definitely unexpected. I received the phone call at about 11:00 a.m.

Katherine Armstrong relayed to me the story. We are very familiar with who Katherine Armstrong is, although I don`t know her personally. She has a very close relationship with our newspaper and a very close relationship with one of our fellow reporters, Jamie Powell.

She kept telling me the vice president was visiting the ranch this weekend. She continued to relay, never actually referring to Vice President Cheney by his name.

At the end, I just wanted to double-check, and I said, "Are we referring to Vice President Cheney? She verified that we were. I asked her to repeat the story.

It was definitely something that was very surprising. You don`t expect that on a quiet Sunday morning. You don`t expect it to become extremely chaotic very quickly.

HAMMER: Surprising and surreal, I imagine. And my guess is, even when you were asking was it the vice president, you didn`t necessarily think that she was going to say, "Oh, yes, I`m talking about Dick Cheney."

GARCIA: Well, I knew that Vice President Cheney was a frequent visitor to the Armstrong ranch, so I wasn`t necessarily surprised. But it wasn`t something that I was expecting to hear. And I needed at least one confirmation. I needed several confirmations, actually.

HAMMER: Sure.

GARCIA: When I hung up with her, I thought, "Oh, my god. What do I do next?" So I thought immediately -- yes?

HAMMER: I`m sorry, Kathryn. As I was saying before though, the unlikely surprise for you is that, you know, everybody is buzzing about not only the story today, but your name is coming up all day long. You`re sort of at the center of a lot of this media frenzy. How has the day been for you?

GARCIA: It`s been extremely hectic. I never expected -- I knew this was going to be a big story. I knew that it was going to be international news. I did not expect to be a part of that news, though.

I didn`t expect to be standing on this side of the camera talking to you, A.J. So that was extremely surprising.

I`ve been getting phone calls left and right from reporters at several newspapers, at radio programs in London, in Australia. I think those are the two of the most surprising ones. And then even SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I never expected to be on an entertainment program, but I`m glad to be here.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMMER: Well, here you are. And I want to throw up the picture of what your front page was on the "Corpus Christi Caller-Times." There it is. That was the front page today, thanks to your diligent reporting. So what`s your front page going to look like tomorrow?

GARCIA: Tomorrow, we are going to have even more coverage. We`re going to follow some of the side stories, as well, explaining exactly what is bird shot, explaining how this can happen, explaining a little bit more, especially about the Kennedy County Sheriff`s Office (ph) and what we`ve been able to glean from them, the information that we`ve been able to glean, so...

HAMMER: Well, Kathryn, I`m sure you`re also going to be following this story for some time to come. And I know you`ve been working hard all day talking to people like SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. We appreciate it very much, Kathryn Garcia from the "Corpus Christi Caller-Times."

GARCIA: Thanks.

ANDERSON: Well tonight, Conan O`Brien wants to become the Finnish inspector of saunas, specifically women`s saunas. You see, the "Late Night" host is over in Finland looking for some payback for helping to reelect Finland`s president, Tarja Halonen.

Conan had been running mock campaign ads during his show for Halonen because they looked remarkably alike. Since she got voted back into office, he`s meeting with Tarja tomorrow and joked he`ll ask her for the cabinet post of sauna inspector.

Here`s what Conan had to say when asked what his wife will think about him spending Valentine`s Day with another woman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT": My wife was bitter at first. She locked herself in the bathroom and cried.

(LAUGHTER)

But I explain to her that Tarja have something that my wife and I can never have, which is we look exactly like each other. So now she understands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: You`ll be able to see more of Conan`s trip to Finland on "Late Night" beginning February 28th. And, A.J., he has taken this resemblance and just run with it, hasn`t he?

HAMMER: He has. And my question to you is: Are you certain in your mind that he influenced this election?

ANDERSON: I`m sorry, can you say that again?

HAMMER: Are you certain that he influenced the election? Because Conan is pretty certain of it.

ANDERSON: He`s pretty certain. I don`t know, personally. What do you think?

HAMMER: Yes, I think it`s all him.

ANDERSON: You think he did? All right. It`s the hair. I think it`s the hair.

OK, moving now to our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." We have been asking you to vote online. The Olympics on TV: Are you watching? Keep voting at CNN.com/showbiztonight. And write us at showbiztonight@CNN.com. Your e-mails are coming up at 55 past the hour.

HAMMER: Oscar fever is heating up. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT right there for today`s Oscar nominee luncheon. We caught up with nominees like Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley this afternoon. The interviews you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT coming up next.

Plus, we`ll also have this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there`s a big danger with these sorts of marketing ploys, and that`s the idea that consumers may get tired of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Tonight, a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report. More and more, you`re seeing popular products show up on your favorite TV shows, but it`s no accident. Why some are peeved at product placement, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

Talk about a guest list. Today was the annual Oscar luncheon in Beverly Hills. Almost all of this year`s Academy Award-nominated actors and actresses were there. They were eating. They were celebrating together before things, of course, really heat up at the big show on March 5th.

Our own Sibila Vargas was right there in the middle of it all, as well. And Sibila joins me live from Hollywood.

I know you are feeling the Oscar fever.

VARGAS: I certainly was. You know, but it really is a relaxed event that happens here at this hotel. This was the 25th anniversary of this luncheon, which really is a place where the nominees can really relax and enjoy each other`s company before the competition really heats up next month.

Seventeen of the 20 actors showed up today. One of those actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, of course of "Brokeback Mountain," I sat down with him and asked him if he was surprised at how much this film about a gay cowboy romance has been embraced by audiences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, ACTOR, "BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN": We just live in a time where I guess the artists have had the an opportunity to kind of -- the grain is theirs to go against almost, you know? And this movie was one of those things. I`m surprised in a way that it has become so mainstream and people have really fallen for it in such a deep way, but then again I fell for it when I read it, you know? So, no.

(LAUGHTER)

VARGAS: Could it possibly be maybe a trail-blazer. You know, back in the day, I`m sure there was a lot of African-Americans that didn`t have their voice. How do you feel about possibly having that title that this film and you, your work, was a trail-blazer in that?

GYLLENHAAL: It`s an honor, you know? I think it`s a true honor to be a part of a movie that has a message that this movie has, to be acknowledged in the way that this movie has been acknowledged.

I think there`s a difference in that, in that -- someone wrote an article that I read recently -- I think it was in the "New York Review of Books" -- that said that the difference between these characters and other characters who have had opposition in the past is that there wasn`t as much of the issue of self-hatred, you know? I think that there`s a dealing with that, that issue, in this movie that`s very different from a lot of other stories told in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: And Jake Gyllenhaal, of course, getting the nod for best supporting actor for "Brokeback Mountain." This is his first nomination. And another first-timer, Keira Knightley, she`s 20 years old. She`s up for a best actress nomination for her role in "Pride and Prejudice." Again, she`s 20 years old, making her the youngest nominee this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, ACTRESS: Yes, there you go. That`s not bad, is it?

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: No.

KNIGHTLEY: ... an Oscar nomination by the time you`re 20. I think that`s all right.

VARGAS: I think that`s wonderful. Now, does that make you more nervous or, you know, a little bit takes the edge off because you got many other years ahead of you, you can get another nomination at some point?

KNIGHTLEY: Well, no, I don`t think age makes it -- kind of does anything. I think it just is -- it`s a nice thing, and it would always be a nice thing. And I`m very little expectation of actually winning, but that`s all right. I think the nomination is amazing, yes.

VARGAS: I heard your mom is placing bets on this?

KNIGHTLEY: Yes, she put a ten-pound bet on me, at 33 to 1, which were the best odds that we could find. And my friends have refused to put a bet on me, because they said that there`s no way I was going to win, so there`s no point. Which is also fair enough. So at least my mom did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: She certainly is lovely and amazing, but she is up against a stiff competition, Charlize Theron for "North Country" and Reese Witherspoon, who has gotten a SAG award and a Golden Globe aware for her work, of course, in "Walk the Line" as June Carter Cash. Fabulously acting.

The award show, of course, are March 5th. And, A.J., I know you and I and Brooke, we`re all going to be there.

HAMMER: And right now, you`re sitting comfortably poolside at the Beverly Hilton. I know they don`t shut the hotel down. I`m sure they have some tight security by the pool, but are there guests with their video cameras just gawking out of their windows? Because I know it overlooks the pool area.

VARGAS: Very interesting that you say that. I was having a conversation with Paul Haggis, who is the director of "Crash." And he looked up, and, sure enough, he spotted one of the -- not the tenants, but one of the people that were staying here, up there -- you can`t see it up there. But they just had their video cameras out. And, you know, so it`s good to stay at this time.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMMER: I mean, just imagine you`re staying at the hotel, there goes Jake Gyllenhaal, there goes Keira Knightley. Thanks, Sibila.

VARGAS: Right. And Heath Ledger, all of them.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMMER: Sibila Vargas live at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

ANDERSON: Not bad to be poolside at the Beverly Hilton.

OK, tonight a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special report, product placement in primetime. You`re seeing this advertising practice more and more, but now Hollywood writers and actors are getting fed up as they are forced to incorporate products into your favorite TV shows. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigated the startling trend, and you`ll be shocked to find out what we learned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAINN WILSON, ACTOR, "THE OFFICE": Deal something or pick the final gift.

JENNA FISCHER, ACTRESS, "THE OFFICE": I want the iPod.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Damn it.

ANDERSON (voice-over): An iPod made its way into the center of the story line on "The Office." The judges on "American Idol" regularly down Coke.

HAROLD PERRINEAU, ACTOR, "LOST": You`re wasting your time, man. You pick the lock on a Halliburton, I`ll put you on my back and fly us to L.A.

ANDERSON: And that Zero Halliburton security case just won`t open in this "Lost" episode until they find the key.

Product placement is making its way into primetime at record pace. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is on top of the trend as the lines between reality and advertising blur more than ever before.

One reason? Necessity is the mother of invention. The "New York Times`" Stuart Elliott told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Blame your TiVo.

STUART ELLIOTT, "NEW YORK TIMES": With the rise of devices like TiVo and other digital video recorders, it`s easier than ever to skip commercials. So the idea here of the ad agencies and the advertisers is to embed the message in the programming itself.

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, "THE APPRENTICE": You`re going to be working with a fast food restaurant, Burger King.

ANDERSON: Reality TV has provided huge opportunities for Madison Avenue. "The Apprentice" has devoted whole shows around a single brand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like that whopper with cheese?

ANDERSON: Product placement as a advertising tactic is nothing new. Probably the most famous example of product placement, Reese`s Pieces in 1982` "E.T."

MIKE MYERS, ACTOR: For me, the beast doesn`t include selling out.

ANDERSON: And in the movie, "Wayne`s World," they famously parodied the world of product placement.

DANA CARVEY, ACTOR: It`s like people only do things because they get paid.

ANDERSON: But since "Wayne`s World" hit theaters in 1992, product placement has dramatically increased. This study by PQ Media shows product placement spending in media has more than doubled from 1999 to 2004, driven primarily by growth in television spending.

And check out this Web site, Mediamatchmaker.com. They`re one of a number of companies that connects brands with producers for product placement deals.

And that`s all just a little too much for some in the industry to take. The Writers Guild of America-West has started this site, productinvasion.com, which features complaints from the trenches, like this one from a story producer on the "Real World-Road Rules Challenge" alleging, quote, "T-Mobile paid to get them to say, `I just got a message on my T-Mobile.` And if they didn`t say it right, you would ask them to say it again."

But T-Mobile told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT they are a sponsor of the show but they don`t agree with the accusation.

WJA-West President Patric Verrone told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT some advertisers pay millions per episode to have their products incorporated into plot lines, and that stifles creativity and compromises integrity.

PATRIC VERRONE, PRESIDENT, WRITERS GUILD-WEST: Performers, actors, writers, directors who are asked to build commercials into situation comedies, drama, reality shows, are finding themselves working as commercial writers, as ad men and women. The actors are finding themselves working as commercial spokespeople for products that they don`t necessarily endorse.

EVA LONGORIA, ACTRESS: I present to you the fabulous Buick LaCrosse.

ANDERSON: Case in point. A recent "Desperate Housewives" episode showed Eva Longoria`s character getting a job as a spokeswoman for Buick`s LaCrosse. Then Buick ads ran during the commercial breaks.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT talked to Buick. They say they do disclose any details of their financial agreements made with sponsors.

But Patric Verrone tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT there are rules that govern the industry and some are being broken.

VERRONE: The Federal Communication Commission passed regulations that effectively say that you have to disclose. Viewers want to be told when they`re being sold. And unfortunately, a lot of that disclosure is being outright ignored.

ANDERSON: The Writer`s Guild and Actor`s Guild have launched an awareness campaign calling for a code of conduct to govern product placement. But Stuart Elliott told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT that it may be viewers calling for an end to it all.

ELLIOTT: I think there`s a big danger with these sorts of marketing ploys. And that`s the idea that consumers may get tired of them, if they feel that the brand presence in the programming is too intrusive or too obnoxious.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And we called a lot of big-name advertisers for this piece and very few of them felt comfortable talking on record about product placement or how it fits into their ad strategies.

A.J., as we noted in the piece, a lot of actors and screenwriters call this stealth advertising. And it`s a tough one to call. You know, you can see why they believe it`s unfair, but then you can also see why the advertisers hands are tied in many cases.

HAMMER: Yes, I think you -- a lot of actors don`t want to unwittingly endorse a product. All right, Brooke, thanks very much.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: So as soon as we here at SHOWBIZ TONIGHT found out that the big story of the day was Dick Cheney`s hunting accident over the weekend, we knew that the late-night shows tonight are going to be having a field day with this story. So we got you this sneak preview from tonight`s "Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Now, but I tell you, although it is beautiful today here in California, the weather back east has just been atrocious, unbelievable. There was so much snow in Washington, D.C., Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fat guy thinking it was a polar bear.

(LAUGHTER)

Wow, that is...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: And just wait until tomorrow. We will have a full recap of what everybody`s going to be talking about tonight.

ANDERSON: We will have more of that. All right, A.J.

And we have been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." The Olympics on TV: Are you watching?

The vote so far: 44 percent of you say, yes, you are; 56 percent of you say no.

Some of the e-mails we`ve received. Craig from Kansas isn`t really watching. "Not really, because they keep switching back and forth to different events. It is really annoying."

But Rob from Georgia thinks the coverage is golden. "I absolutely love the Winter Olympics and watch every moment that I can. The Olympics are so inspiring."

Vote to CNN.com/showbiztonight.

HAMMER: It`s time now to see what`s playing on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT tomorrow. I believe the Marquee Guy is out having his bulb changed, so I`ll tell you what`s coming up tomorrow.

As we continue to dig out of the snow here in the Northeast, this is what we`re thinking about: sun and swimsuits. The "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue, and we are there as the cover model -- or shall I say cover models -- are announced. Hmm, it could be more than one.

Also tomorrow, just in time for Valentine`s Day, Andrea Bocelli joins us live with a new album of love songs, working with Christina Aguilera and Stevie Wonder. Tune in to see the tenor, Andrea Bocelli, joining us live tomorrow right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

And that is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

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

END

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