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Neil Young Writes Anti-Bush Songs; Controversy Over Lawyer`s Help in Film on Murder Suspect
Aired April 17, 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: One of the FBI`s most wanted thinks he can`t get a fair trial because of a new movie. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.
SIBILA VARGAS, CO-HOST: And a comic book about the tragic events of 9/11. I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.
HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, bashing Bush. Tonight, a stunning about face: one of rock`s biggest stars, who supported the president, now says impeach him. Why so many in Hollywood are using music to protest the war in Iraq. But SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s got to ask, are celebrities too tough on the president?
And the outrage over "The Da Vinci Code." Tonight, a controversial secret religious group finally breaks its silence over the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks film.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witness the biggest cover-up in human history.
HAMMER: What they are demanding, and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates. Does "The Da Vinci Code" really disrespect Jesus and the Catholic Church?
VARGAS: Hello, I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood.
HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer live in New York City.
Sibila, tonight country rock icon Neil Young has absolutely stunned fans by bashing President Bush and calling for -- and this is a very strong word he`s using here -- his impeachment.
VARGAS: That`s right. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is on top of this. The one to shock the entertainment world.
For the first time in decades we`re seeing music that`s taking a cue directly from the Vietnam War protest songs. Young is joining a growing list of musicians to speak out against the war in Iraq and the president. One song says it all. It`s called "Impeach the President."
VARGAS (voice-over): Neil Young brought us "Rocking in the Free World" during the first Bush administration in the `80s. Now during the second Bush administration, Neil Young is rocking the boat again. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you that Young has recorded an entire album of anti-war songs.
And with anti-war music coming from Neil Young, Pink, the Dixie Chicks, the old fashioned protest songs are coming back in a big way.
NATHAN BRACKETT, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: You`re undoubtedly seeing a return to the protest song.
VARGAS: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has learned that Neil Young`s new anti-war album shocked his company, Warner Brothers, which like this network, is owned by Time Warner.
Young`s new record includes a song called "Living with the War" and a song with a much more pointed title, "Impeach the President." "Rolling Stone`s" Nathan Brackett tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT the move is vintage Neil Young.
BRACKETT: People know that whatever he`s writing about, he means it. It`s not like anybody can accuse him of just jumping on some band wagon.
VARGAS: Funny thing is, Young used to be a supporter of Bush`s anti- terrorism policy. In 2001 he surprised some of his fans by publicly backing the Patriot Act, saying, quote, "To protect our freedoms, it seems like we`re going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time."
Of course, anyone who remembers Bob Dylan knows that war protest songs are nothing new.
But as Eminem`s recent song, "Mosh", shows songs today seem even angrier. Many of them are pointed directly at President Bush.
Though Pink may be dreaming about a female president in her song "Stupid Girls", she has harsh words for President Bush in her new song, "Dear Mr. President." Trust us; it`s not a love letter. Here`s a listen.
VARGAS: The Dixie Chicks definitely haven`t forgotten about their anti-Bush past. Their new song, "Not Ready to Make Nice", is a bitter non- apology to the backlash they started in 2003, when singer Natalie Main said she was ashamed President Bush is from her native Texas.
And while "Not Ready to Make Nice" is getting some radio air play, some country stations are banning the song.
MIKE O`BRIEN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, 95.7 FM SAN DIEGO: After three years our audience, anyway, I think was reaching a point of forgiveness and let`s move on. And then they release a song that clearly -- "Not Ready to Make Nice." There was no bones about it. You know, we`re not ready to make nice with the president. We`re not ready to make nice with the country audience.
Still as Toby Keith showed with his angrily patriotic tune "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue", the country music world pretty much remains favorable territory for the president.
Ronnie VAN ZANT, MUSICIAN: We`re just supporters of our president. We like George Bush. That`s all there is to it, you know.
VARGAS: The Van Zant Brothers recently told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT their support of President Bush stems from their support of the truth.
JOHNNY VAN ZANT: Us as Americans need to stand behind our president. We need to stick together behind our troops. We have men and women that are in harm`s way, and we need to stick behind these folks. And that`s -- and by sticking behind our troops, that means sticking behind our president of this United States of America.
VARGAS: Still, no one seems to feel musicians on either side are influencing many opinions. In fact, whether a musician has an antiwar or pro-war message, in this day and age, they`re likely singing to the choir.
BRACKETT: You are just not seeing one song kind of grab the public`s attention. It could be because the music market is a lot more fragmented than it used to be. The public is a lot more solidified in one camp or the other. People are more likely to kind of disregard an anti-war song if they are already pro-war, and vice versa.
VARGAS: But even though they may not be changing opinions, artists like Neil Young, and their opinions on the war, will definitely get our attention.
VARGAS: We mentioned that Neil Young`s record label was caught unawares of his new anti-Bush song. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has learned that the album will be played for his record execs tomorrow -- A.J.
HAMMER: Well, Neil Young, Sibila, isn`t the only star that`s speaking out. Lately a whole who`s who of entertainment have come out criticizing President Bush. Joining me live to discuss stars bashing Bush, from Norwalk, Virginia, Ben Ferguson, radio talk show host for WOAI in San Antonio, Texas. And live from Southfield (ph), Michigan, radio host Nancy Skinner. It`s good to have you both here.
BEN FERGUSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thanks having us.
NANCY SKINNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Hey, A.J.
HAMMER: So let`s get into this. Ben, hard to dispute. We have been witnessing, arguably, the strongest backlash against a president by celebrities in decades, with the stars throwing around words like "treason" and "impeach." Why is this happening?
FERGUSON: Because it`s a great P.R. move. I mean they`ve got brilliant people behind these artists. Neil Young knows that if he has a song "Impeach the President" and talks about those types of things in his - - through his lyrics, he knows that you and I are going to sit here tonight and talk about his new album.
The Dixie Chicks proved that you can sell albums by ripping on the president. You see all these other people like Pink, and we`re talking about them tonight.
For me, you know, it`s a shame that they`re going to use their music to rip on the war and the troops over there just to sell albums. I mean to me, that`s the ultimate meaning of selling out. And I think Neil Young`s done great job of it. But hey, he`s famous because he did this.
HAMMER: All right. Well, Ben, I hear you.
Nancy, can it simply be as simple as this is all a giant publicity stunt, because it`s very popular to go after the president? Is that even possible?
SKINNER: No, it`s not possible. And Ben says that they`re ripping on the troops. That`s the last thing they`re doing.
The Gallup poll just released today said 57 percent of Americans say we should not have sent troops there. So the celebrities aren`t way out ahead of the American public on this. There`s no secret.
You read the -- celebrities are like the rest of us. They pay taxes. They read these terrible headlines every single day. "New York Times" said sectarian violence, the civil war is killing far more people than the terrorists and the insurgency ever did at this point. They`re seeing these disturbing headlines. War -- six retired generals. Let me finish. Six generals are now -- let me finish. Six generals are now speaking out.
HAMMER: OK, so...
FERGUSON: Yes, but they`re not generals. They`re not in the Army. They`re not in the military. They don`t read the headlines like Nancy and I do. They`re artists. They`re in charge -- pop culture entertainment.
HAMMER: Ben, hold on a second. It is not fair for you to say they don`t read the headlines like you and Nancy do. I mean, we`re talking...
FERGUSON: Hold on. Do you really see Pink sitting on her plane reading "USA Today"? I highly doubt it.
HAMMER: Do you know what? I definitely see Pink reading "USA Today". And she`s a lot more intelligent than I think you`re giving her credit for.
But let`s look at who we`re talking about in addition to Pink. We`re talking about Neil Young, a guy who was a one-time Bush supporter. We`re talking about people like country music super stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who have been very vocal about their disapproval of Bush.
We`re not talking about members of the radical left here, Ben. So doesn`t this suggest that perhaps the tide is turning? These are hugely popular musicians.
FERGUSON: I don`t -- I don`t think they are looking at it as being a part of the left. I think they`re looking at it as a P.R. stunt. They know that if they come out against the president in their lyrics, that they`re going to get national headlines. They`re going to be on the front page of "USA Today". And they`re going to make more money to put in their pockets. That`s really what it boils down to.
SKINNER: Ben -- Ben, art, music, anti-war, you weren`t around for Vietnam War. You don`t understand. That is the life of what art and music is, is to talk about what`s happening on our political landscape.
And there`s nothing more crushing every day than to read last week 20 more young people killed in what is a civil war in Iraq. And when generals are speaking out, and celebrities are speaking out, and the average American public is saying enough is enough.
FERGUSON: That`s what happens during war.
SKINNER: That is what we need is that chorus of Americans. And yes, they read headlines too, probably more than the average person does.
FERGUSON: Nancy, I don`t have a problem with you speaking out against the war. I don`t have a problem with any of these celebrities speaking out against the war. When they start targeting the president, they`re missing the boat here. They`re not talking about the war. They`re going after an individual to get headlines and to sell records.
HAMMER: OK. Hold on a second. Ben -- Ben, I`m going to jump in here, because I personally have to reject the premise that this is all for publicity. We`re seeing all of these stars speaking out. It can`t all be for publicity. It can`t be so they get headlines so they can sell records or get people in to see their movies.
While this is happening, though, Ben, we`re seeing the president`s approval numbers continue to live in the toilet. So do you agree that there at least could be a correlation between this backlash and what`s going on here?
FERGUSON: You`re absolutely right: the president`s approval ratings are low, and they see an opportunity right now to jump on that band wagon. They see an opportunity right now where there`s a lot of Americans that are unsure about the war in Iraq.
HAMMER: So wait a second. So where are the Bush supporters right now?
FERGUSON: If I come out now -- if I come out right now with these lyrics, they`re going to be popular. Do you think they would come out with these songs if 50 percent of Americans were still on board with Iraq?
HAMMER: But Ben why aren`t -- excuse me, why aren`t we seeing -- why aren`t we seeing any pro-Bush rallies right now?
FERGUSON: Well, I think that it`s three years into the war, and most people like me are not going to spend a Saturday out there, you know, showing that we`re in favor of this war because we believe in the war.
The bottom line is they know the approval ratings right now are low for the president. And right now I guarantee you -- why`d it take three years to write these song ifs things are so bad like Nancy`s talking about? They`ve been bad for awhile. War is an ugly thing. The reason why they`re doing the songs now is because the approval ratings match what they figured was a good market for this.
SKINNER: Ben -- Ben, let me -- I just had to say...
HAMMER: Nancy, I apologize right now. I feel like I`ve short-changed here, and I really wanted to get you in. I`m unfortunately out of time. We`re going to come back to this, though. This is definitely a topic to be revisited.
Nancy Skinner. Ben Ferguson, thanks for joining us.
FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.
VARGAS: So what do you think? It`s our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day: bashing Bush. Are celebrities too tough on the president? Vote at CNN.com/ShowbizTonight and send us e-mail at ShowbizTonight@CNN.com. We`ll read some of your thoughts later in the show.
HAMMER: Coming up, new developments in the ongoing "Da Vinci Code" controversy. Why a secret religious group is speaking out for the very first time.
Plus, more movie controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think that the movie gets in the way of Mr. Hollywood getting a fair trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VARGAS: It`s a true crime drama called "Alpha Dog". Why a lawyer may be in hot water for helping the movie makers.
HAMMER: Also, primetime president. The "SHOWBIZ Sit-down" with the actor who portrays a dark side of the Oval Office. It`s the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fade up music under. He doesn`t really -- he`s not the president but he plays one on television. We`ll have a star from "24" here in a second. Dissolve.
HAMMER: Thanks, Charles. And welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. We`re TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer.
It`s time now for a story that made us say, "That`s ridiculous!" Get this, there`s a guy in Canada who is looking to trade a paper clip for a house. Seems like a crazy idea, right? Well, listen to how he did it.
Kyle MacLachlan (ph) started this trading up blog last summer with one simple red paper clip. Someone gave him a pen for that. And then he flipped that for a doorknob. I think you`re getting the idea how it works here.
Well his last deal swapped a recording contract for a year`s free rent in Phoenix. And Kyle now says he`s closing in on that free house, all for the price of a paper clip. Pretty entrepreneurial, but that`s ridiculous.
VARGAS: I absolutely agree. That is ridiculous.
A movie starring Sharon stone, Justin Timberlake and Bruce Willis called "Alpha Dog" is set to come out later this year. And even before it hits theaters, the back story is as intriguing as, well, the plot.
The film is based on the true story of a murder suspect. And there`s a legal fight being waged that could try to keep it out of theaters.
Here`s SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson.
SUSAN MARKOWITZ, VICTIM`S MOTHER: Forever destroyed.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grieving mother, a murdered teen and a suspect on the lam.
MARKOWITZ: I would rather die. But hopefully before I do, I get to see Jesse James Hollywood caught.
ANDERSON: The case of Jesse James Hollywood, a San Fernando Valley man who fled the country after he was accused of murder, had all the makings of a Hollywood movie. And now, it is one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s it? Tell me what it`s like.
ANDERSON: But the movie, "Alpha Dog", has become the subject of a legal battle itself even before it hits theaters. The reason: the prosecutor in Hollywood`s death penalty case was an unpaid consultant on the film.
Santa Barbara County assistant D.A. Rob Zonen turned over his whole case file to director Nick Cassavetes to help get the film made.
JAMES BLATT, HOLLYWOOD`S ATTORNEY: When you give out police reports, rap sheets, names and addresses of witnesses, psych and probation reports, those are misdemeanors. They are violations of law.
ANDERSON: Hollywood`s attorney, James Blatt has petitioned the California Supreme Court to get Zonen kicked off the case, arguing that by collaborating on the film, Zonen jeopardized Hollywood`s right to a fair trial.
BLATT: It`s not appropriate to make a motion picture where you present your concept of what the character is to the jury pool before we do the jury trial.
ANDERSON: Zonen insists he did nothing wrong. In a court declaration, he said he decided to help on the film, hoping it would lead to the capture of Jesse James Hollywood, who was still a fugitive when "Alpha Dog" started filming. Hollywood was later apprehended in Brazil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t just take a kid and have no one notice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what I told you. Didn`t I say that?
ANDERSON: Blatt says if his petition to remove Zonen fails, he still has another card up his sleeve. He could try to keep "Alpha Dog" out of theaters.
BLATT: We are seriously considering legal action to try to enjoin the distribution of the film.
ANDERSON: Director Cassavetes doubts that effort would succeed.
NICK CASSAVETES, DIRECTOR, "ALPHA DOG": I don`t think my movie gets in the way of Mr. Hollywood getting a fair trial.
ANDERSON: No date has been set for Hollywood`s murder trial. "Alpha Dog" is due for release some time later this year.
VARGAS: Indeed. That was SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson.
Presidents in primetime. Very popular this season in the television world: "The West Wing", "Commander in Chief". FOX`s hit show "24" is standing out, though. It`s making headlines because its president is a bad guy. Now that seems to be working. The show, starring Kiefer Sutherland as a counter-terrorism agent getting its best ratings ever. Gregory Itzin plays President Charles Logan. A good guy. He`s a good guy.
GREGORY ITZIN, ACTOR: I`m a great guy.
HAMMER: Joining me live in New York. Thanks for being here. I am so hooked on the show this season.
ITZIN: Very good.
HAMMER: And I`m into all the shows with presidents. You know, "The West Wing" really finishing up in an A-plus manner. Geena Davis, wonderful job on "Commander in Chief".
ITZIN: I think so, too.
HAMMER: It seems like we have more presidents on television in fictional presidential roles than we ever have had at the same time before. What do you think the fascination is, Gregory?
ITZIN: Well, he`s the most powerful man in the world. He or she is the most powerful person in the world. So I think that, you know, there`s a fascination with that -- with that position, their power, their effect on everyday lives.
And I think in the main, outside of my delicious character, they are people you look up to, you respect, you want to have lead the country. You want that father or, you know, that kind of figure. You want to be able to look up to that. And fortunately, FOX has decided to go another direction with that.
HAMMER: A completely different direction. President Logan not a good guy, which has particularly come to light in the last couple of weeks. He got this nerve gas into the hand of Russian terrorists.
ITZIN: Yes. You come to find out that his reasons were, for him, valid. But I`m not going to go into that, because that`s all stuff to come out yet on the show.
HAMMER: But it seems like here`s a guy who at least believes that the end justifies the means.
ITZIN: That`s right.
HAMMER: And you have said before that by playing the president it`s sort of given you a little insight into the fact that presidents can be megalomaniacs. What exactly does you mean?
ITZIN: You see, that word is bandied about. What I meant by that was in the course of playing this and having all these scenarios rise where he doesn`t tell people what`s going on and he hides thing, I`m come to realize how -- I`m an actor playing this on TV. But it`s a lonely, lonely, lonely job. And all -- the buck always stops there.
So in a lot of ways, especially I`m playing this prickly, petulant, angry guy. He`s -- he knows that he`s the only guy who understands what that position means. Who would know what the presidency is like except the president? Nobody.
HAMMER: Sure. And that will always be the case. So has it given you any particular insight into how people in such positions of powers can be pushed into making these unpopular and sometimes bad decisions?
ITZIN: Sure. I think that`s why some people like watching the show, too, because they get to see the president on the knife`s edge of decision making. And I think that FOX has -- the "24" guys have done a fine job of showing the dilemma. Even though it`s always sort of weighted so that the audience goes, "Come on; don`t do that."
Like when I let my wife go with the Russians and sort of OK`ed their death. The flip side of that -- it`s a terrible thing to say. The flip side of that was that if I didn`t do that the terrorists were going to unleash the gas on thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people. So that`s the dilemma. What do you do?
So I think there was a moment in the show also where Jeanne Smart said, "You have to tell the people the truth."
HAMMER: Jean Smart, who plays your wife.
ITZIN: Jean Smart, who plays my wife, Martha. And I took a look to the Mike Novak (ph) character played by Jude Shikalala (ph), and in my look said, you can`t tell the people the truth. Like Jack Nicholson said, they can`t handle the truth.
HAMMER: Well, that leads me to ask you, you know. This is a guy -- your character as the president has been sort of a bumbling guy making bad decisions.
ITZIN: Ostensibly, yes.
HAMMER: Are the writers and creators of the show trying to make a statement here with what they`re doing with what may actually be going on in the world?
ITZIN: I can`t tell you. You know, I guess any piece of art is going to comment on the world we live in. So I can`t answer that directly, because I`ve never had that conversation with them. Because I feel like we`re story tellers telling a story, and it`s a fable.
So it happens to be the president. We happen to be in very troubled times. This guy is dealing with terrorism. I mean that`s the whole point of this show. CTU and Jack Bauer is a counter-terrorist operative. So people are bound to draw parallels or whatever they want to do. But I, as the actor, just look at the moment to moment stuff.
HAMMER: Just doing the job.
ITZIN: I probably have my own -- definitely have my own thoughts about that. But at the moment I`m just -- I really am a story teller. So I will tell this fable until I can`t tell it no more.
HAMMER: Well, you`re doing a great job. It`s a riveting season. Gregory, thanks very much. "24" tonight on FOX.
VARGAS: It`s no laughing matter. So why is the 9/11 disaster being turned into a comic book? That`s coming up.
HAMMER: And the latest "Da Vinci Code" controversy. A secretive religious group comes out of the shadows to take a stand against the movie version of the blockbuster novel. We also have this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know I wish everybody would just kind of take a second just to notice the small little things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VARGAS: What about Barry? Watson, that is. The star of "What About Brian" tells us how battling cancer changed his life forever. You`ll see only this interview coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.
VARGAS: It was one of the stormiest marriages in Hollywood history. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio took most of their secrets to their graves, but a worn out love note has been discovered folded up in one of the Yankee Clipper`s old wallets.
Marilyn apologizes for a fight the couple had, begging him to quote, "Don`t, don`t, don`t be angry with your baby." The blond bombshell signs off as "Your wife for life, Mrs. J.P. DiMaggio."
They were married just nine months. The note being auctioned next month with his baseball memorabilia, the money going to the DiMaggio Children`s Hospital in Florida.
HAMMER: Still ahead, where will Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie`s baby be born? SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has the latest details.
VARGAS: And new developments in "The Da Vinci Code" controversy. Tonight, why one of the secret religious groups is breaking its silence and what it wants to change on the big screen. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates live.
HAMMER: Then 9/11 remembered. Tonight the tragic day relived in a comic book.
Plus, my reactions to "United 93". I just saw the movie this afternoon about the fourth hijacked plane today. Very emotional. Kind of feel like I`ve been kicked in the gut. I`ll have you my reaction, coming up in just a bit.
HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It`s 31 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York City.
VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.
Now, A.J., I know you went to go see "Flight 93" today, and I know it could not have been an easy thing for you. I can`t wait to hear what your take is on this show.
Also, I don`t know if you`ve heard, but there`s a comic book that`s coming out. It`s about the events surrounding 9/11. It`s pretty intriguing, I would say. And we`re going to hear what the publisher has to say about that.
HAMMER: Yes, it sounds like they`re doing a good thing there. And, yes, I`ll be talking about the movie in a few.
Also, Sibila, imagine being in your 20s, wrapping up a very successful run on a big, hit television series, and finding out you have cancer. Well, that`s what happened to actor Barry Watson. I`m going to speak with him. You`ll hear that story, plus all about Brian, his new character in "What About Brian," a brand-new TV show that just fired up last night.
HAMMER: But first tonight, we`ve got new developments in the ongoing "Da Vinci Code" controversy. Christian religious leaders have been very vocal over the past several months about the upcoming Tom Hanks-Ron Howard film that`s based on Dan Brown`s best-selling novel. They want audiences to know what`s fact and what`s fiction.
Well, now there`s another group, one that has been pretty secretive, breaking its silence about the film. CNN`s Brian Todd is live for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT in Washington, D.C. -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A.J., Opus Dei is a very mysterious Catholic group founded nearly 80 years ago. And in the "Da Vinci Code," it`s portrayed as a murderous sect that hat will do anything to hide the truth about Jesus. Now, this mysterious religious organization is getting involved in one of the biggest movie controversies ever and making its secret operations not-so-secret.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you`re saying all this is real?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real enough to kill for.
TODD (voice-over): Projected to be a box-office best-seller next month, the "Da Vinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, already has members of Opus Dei on edge. The small, conservative group within the Catholic Church, whose members adhere to a strict routine of prayer and sacrifice, wants Sony Pictures to issue a disclaimer at the start of the film.
BRIAN FINNERTY, SPOKESPERSON, OPUS DEI: Well, we want the disclaimer to make clear that the movie is not an accurate representation of history.
TODD: ... controversy that has hounded Opus Dei since the publication of Dan Brown`s hugely successful novel, a work that Brown has said is fair to the group. But Opus Dei leaders say it`s hardly fair to claim they have any monks at all, certainly not like one in the story.
FINNERTY: The fictional Opus Dei is an albino monk running around killing people in search of the Holy Grail. The real Opus Dei is ordinary people trying to come closer to God in their work and everyday lives.
TODD: Father James Martin, who writes for the "Jesuit America" magazine, agrees that Opus Dei is unfairly characterized in the book, but says the group has brought some of this on itself.
FATHER JAMES MARTIN, "AMERICA" MAGAZINE: There are some problems with it. They have some very heavy-handed recruiting techniques. They do have this penchant for secrecy.
TODD: Those long-standing criticisms denied by Opus Dei leaders, who want Sony to at least change the group`s name in the movie. Sony says it won`t reveal details of its film. Issuing a statement to CNN, reading in part, "We view the `Da Vinci Code` as a work of fiction. And at its heart, it`s a thriller, not a religious tract."
TODD: That may not be enough to satisfy Opus Dei leaders, who tell us they are not calling for a boycott of the "Da Vinci Code" and have no plans to sue if there`s no disclaimer, but they do say they`ll continue to make public appeals to what they call Sony`s sense of fairness -- A.J.?
HAMMER: All right, Brian, thanks so much. CNN`s Brian Todd for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT in Washington, D.C.
Well, let`s get more on the religious controversy surrounding the "Da Vinci Code" and Opus Dei. Joining me live here in New York -- you just saw him quoted -- Opus Dei spokesperson Brian Finnerty.
We appreciate you being here.
FINNERTY: Thanks, A.J. Good to be here.
HAMMER: So break it down for me. What exactly is Opus Dei`s problem with the "Da Vinci Code" film?
FINNERTY: The biggest problem with the "Da Vinci Code" is it completely misrepresents Christian history. The idea of the "Da Vinci Code" is that Christianity is a big lie that was invented by the fourth- century Roman emperor Constantine.
But in reality, that`s all nonsense. Anybody can tell you that the idea that Jesus is the son of God is not something that was invented in the fourth century, but it was something that Christians believed long before. So if you want to say that`s a matter of faith, that`s true, it is a matter of faith. But the idea that it was a lie invented in the fourth century, that`s really historical nonsense.
HAMMER: But, of course, the novel and the film, works of fiction, Brian.
FINNERTY: Yes, yes, that`s true. But the problem is the novel has been marketed as if it really is true. In fact, we`ve received plenty of hate mail directed against the Catholic Church, saying, "I don`t care what you guys say on your Web site. I think it`s all true."
And this is coming at a time of distrust for institutional religion, in time of distrust for the Catholic Church, and so really it just feeds into all of that.
HAMMER: Well, now, is that why you`re speaking out now? Because the novel`s been out for three years. The film is about to hit theaters. But you guys have remained silent on the issue.
FINNERTY: No, that`s not true. In fact, as soon as the novel came out, we came out with a response on our Web site. We`ve been quoted all over the place in all the different publications, the "Wall Street Journal," the "New York Times," Associated Press, "New York Times." The only thing which is new is the specific appeal for Sony to put a disclaimer in the film.
But the reality is that we`ve been out there in front since the very beginning, saying that the novel is unfair in the way it treats the Catholic Church. And we would hope that Sony would try to be fair towards the Catholic Church in the same way it would be fair towards any other religious or ethnic group.
HAMMER: So you do maintain you guys have been out there. I guess, perhaps you`re getting more coverage in the mainstream media and more on television now.
FINNERTY: Yes, that`s true. That`s true.
HAMMER: Because as we`ve said, your group has long been characterized as very secretive. You`re going to be live on "Good Morning America" tomorrow. Not so secretive anymore, Brian.
FINNERTY: Yes, that`s true, not so secretive. I think the big difference is not that we haven`t been trying to get the word out, but now it`s easier getting our phone calls returned. So that`s good news.
HAMMER: Well, here you are sitting with me, and we`re talking about it, which has to be good for you. Because the fact is, Brian -- and you know this as well as I do -- they`re not going to put a disclaimer. You`re not the only group calling for a disclaimer in this movie.
It is a work of fiction, and that is how they are representing it, whether or not you say they market it as a work of fact. What really is your fear here? What are you afraid people are going to do with this? They`re not going to take it to Sunday school and start teaching this as lore.
FINNERTY: Well, I think the fact is that we have received lots of e- mail on our Web site, OpusDei.org, from people who have seen the movie, people who have read the book and misinterpreted it. And the problem is that the book blends together some things that are factual and some things that are completely outlandish.
For example, the book will make reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and say, "This thing proves that Jesus is something other than he really was in the gospels." But in reality, for example, the Dead Sea Scrolls don`t say anything at all about Christ.
So it blends together things that are factual references with things that are completely fictional, and what we`re trying to do is just get the record out about what the truth really is.
HAMMER: OK. But, again, many movies throughout history, you know, use actual historical facts to sort of create their storyline or their plot. So why isn`t it just OK? That`s what I`m having a hard time understanding.
FINNERTY: I think the problem is, if Dan Brown from the very beginning had said that this is just simply a work of fiction, and that`s all it is, is fun, well, that would have been terrific. But what`s happened is the whole thing has been marketed from the very beginning as if somehow it is really -- as if it is really fact.
And the problem is, like, let`s say, for example, Sony did the movie "Merchant of Venice" some time ago. In that movie, it had the disclaimer making clear that it didn`t really stand behind, you know, the gross portrayals that they had in "Merchant of Venice." So if they can do some sort of disclaimer for "Merchant of Venice," why not do something for the Catholic Church?
HAMMER: So you`re looking for one in this case, OK. Well, best of luck with your continued pursuit with it, Brian.
FINNERTY: Thank you very much.
HAMMER: I appreciate you joining us from Opus Dei. And to read more about Opus Dei, you can pick up this week`s "Time" magazine with a revealing inside look at the controversial Catholic group.
VARGAS: Well, a whole new take on the 9/11 report. The September 11th tragedy turned into a long-form comic book. That`s next on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRY WATSON, STAR, "WHAT ABOUT BRIAN?": You do have Hodgkin`s disease, you have cancer, and my heart kind of stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAMMER: "7th Heaven" star Barry Watson opens up about his battle with cancer: how it changed him, and how he`s doing now. That`s coming up in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.
VARGAS: And a clue about the name that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie might give their baby. That`s coming up in "Hot Headlines." SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.
HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. We`re TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer.
Two artists have turned the 9/11 tragedy into a graphic novel, essentially, a long-form comic book. "The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation" is based on the 9/11 Commission`s findings. The publisher says it takes an important document that every American should read and it lays it out in a way that makes it easier for people to understand. This has to be a good thing.
The publisher also says that the book should go a long way in helping people, particularly young people, grasp what actually happened on September 11th. And that doesn`t politicize the events in any way. It just presents them in a fact-based timeline.
The graphic novel is expected to be in stores in September. Yes, I say it is a good thing.
VARGAS: Well, A.J., it seems like there is just no escaping the events of 9/11 these days. Universal Pictures is less than two weeks away from releasing its film, United 93. In fact, just hours ago, I know you screened it for the first time. And I can tell you that I am not envious of your position.
I know I have to see it at some point, but it had to be a hard thing. I know you were feeling some anxiety about having to go sit through this movie. How are you feeling now after having seen it? What`s your reaction overall?
HAMMER: Well, it`s interesting, going back to your saying you`re not looking forward to seeing it. Had I not been required to go for work, because I do need to see movies like this, and I`m going to be speaking with several people who were involved with the film, I would not have personally elected to go.
Overall, I do feel like I`ve been kicked in the gut. I felt like when I was there watching it I was being punished. And that`s not a statement about the film itself, more over the visceral reaction that I had and the experience I had sitting there and basically reliving September 11th.
It is a well-made film though, Sibila. They did a good, respectful job in this film.
VARGAS: They did. Did it bring back those same feelings, though, that you had on 9/11 and the days after?
HAMMER: Oh, yes. Yes. It really -- and I`m a New Yorker. I was here in New York, lived through it in a TV newsroom, the whole thing. And all of the things we live through afterwards here in New York: the smell, the dreams.
You know, we talked around our office among a few of us who were here for September 11th about the post-traumatic stress we all experienced, and I definitely felt that. I was moved to tears at times; I felt great anxiety; I wish I could have just turned away. So I definitely was reliving that day in a big way.
VARGAS: Wow. Well, Universal Pictures has already said that all of the victims` families of "Flight 93" have screened the film and that they support the film. They talk about it being a heroic portrayal of the events that took place on that flight.
After having seen the film, what do you think? Does the heroism come through?
HAMMER: Yes, I think, if there`s any payoff, Sibila, that`s it. I think that is really the ultimate message at the end of the film, that these people on this flight were, in fact, heroes.
VARGAS: Do you think that people will want to see the film, this reenactment on such an awful day in movie theaters, though?
HAMMER: I think that comes down to personal decision. I think, you know, as I mentioned, I wouldn`t have elected to see it. I wouldn`t have elected to pay $10 to go see it, just because of what I knew I might experience going to see it. So that will be every individual`s decision.
VARGAS: Well, A.J., I definitely appreciate your insight and your personal opinions on this. Thanks a lot.
VARGAS: Well, time now for tonight`s "Hot Headlines"!
It looks like Baby Brangelina will be born in Africa. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt reportedly plan to have their baby in Namibia, and the governor of the province where they`re staying says they might give the baby a Namibian name. Now, no word on when the baby is due exactly. The couple are staying in a heavily guarded luxury lodge.
Lionel Richie performed at an unusual venue over the weekend. Richie played in front of Muammar Gaddafi`s home in Libya to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. raid on that nation. Richie performed for more than a 1,000 senior Libyan officials and diplomats. Organizers said the concert was meant to bury the past and promote a message of goodwill.
Well, Jane Fonda says she wants to publicly protest the war in Iraq but that she thinks she has too much baggage. Fonda told "Good Morning America" that she wanted to do a tour like she did during the Vietnam War, but that her controversial history, including her trip to North Vietnam in 1972, keeps her from doing so.
And those are tonight`s "Hot Headlines."
Jane Fonda may be holding back, but other stars, including musicians Neil Young, the Dixie Chicks, and Pink are releasing songs protesting the Iraq War and President Bush. And that leads us to tonight`s SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Bashing Bush: Are celebrities too tough on the president?
Keep voting at CNN.com/showbiztonight. And write us at showbiztonight@CNN.com. Your e-mails are coming up a bit later.
HAMMER: Well, today actor Barry Watson is the picture of health. But just four years ago, the "7th Heaven" star was diagnosed with Hodgkin`s disease, a cancer that attacks the lymph nodes, at just 28 years old. Well, since then, Barry has won his fight against cancer, and now he`s taken the lead role in a new ABC show "What About Brian?"
I had the chance to sit down with Barry to talk about the new show and his new outlook on life.
HAMMER: A couple weeks after you were wrapping up your last season on "7th Heaven," you`re diagnosed with Hodgkin`s disease.
BARRY WATSON, STAR, "WHAT ABOUT BRIAN?": Yes, kind of not the way I really wanted to spend, like, my first little break away from the show.
HAMMER: And I imagine, when you were wrapping up the show, you were probably sick and didn`t realize it.
WATSON: Well, no. And looking back on it, you know, those last couple of months, I remember being so tired. And, you know, it`s a different kind of tired. We all get tired and whatever. But, yes, I was just tired all of the time. And, you know, a couple week after, you know, I noticed I had a hard lymph node on my neck. And, you know, I went to the doctor. And obviously, you know, the rest is history.
HAMMER: Take me back to that moment, though, of when you`re sitting with the doctor, because I`m sure it`s something that everybody has a fear of in the back of their mind. And he sits with you and tells you, "Barry, you got cancer."
WATSON: Yes, well, you know, the worst part of it was is usually they call you and they tell you to bring somebody with you, and they didn`t. So I was, like, by myself, you know, alone in this doctor`s office. And, you know, I didn`t know anything about Hodgkin`s disease, except that the hockey player Mario Lemieux had it.
And so he sits me down. And he said, well, there`s a couple of good things. And he goes through all of these different diseases that could have been possible. And he goes, but you do have Hodgkin`s disease. You have cancer.
And my heart kind of just stopped, and I did exactly what I just did right there. And, you know, I kind of, you know, felt sorry for myself for about a minute, and then I go, "Oh, my gosh. You know, my folks" -- first thing I thought of was, "My folks are going to just flip out. They`re going to freak out."
And then, you know, as uneducated as I was, I was -- probably within a day, I had every book possible and educated myself as much as possible, and, you know, knew I could get through it.
HAMMER: When you face a life-threatening disease, when anybody does, it very quickly can put things in perspective.
HAMMER: Now, you happen to work in a business where people`s priorities, shall we say, are, at times, pretty screwed up.
HAMMER: How did it change you and your outlook on life?
WATSON: Well, you know, I always thought I had a really good outlook on life, but it`s become like the littlest things. You know, like you walk around the city in New York, and you see people, and they`re so concerned with getting from, you know, point A to point -- you know, they go from A to Z, but they kind of forget about the letters in between.
And, you know, so I was even with my fiancee, Tracy, today, and we were walking around right by the park. And we were just kind of -- I was just kind of watching everybody. And I was like, "You know, I wish everybody would just kind of take a second just to notice the small, little things."
HAMMER: It`s real easy to get caught up in the minutiae that doesn`t allow you to really observe, hey, life is going on.
WATSON: Yes, and exactly. And, also, you know, waking up every morning and just breathing, just knowing that you`re breathing.
HAMMER: It`s so easy to take stuff for granted.
HAMMER: So you`re doing well now, in remission for several years.
WATSON: Yes, it will be four years. October 26th will be my four- year anniversary of my last treatment.
HAMMER: And the prognosis, according to the doctors?
WATSON: Clean bill of health. I just had a check-up earlier this month. CAT and PET scan, and I`m good.
HAMMER: Sounds good.
So flash-forward a couple of years. J.J. Abrams, arguably one of the most successful producers in the business right now, "Alias," "Lost," "Felicity." He`s in the middle of "Mission Impossible: 3," getting set to put that out. He`s casting a title role in a new show, a guy who is 34 years old. I have to imagine every guy around your age in Hollywood wants that part.
WATSON: Oh, I mean, everybody did. And when they first called me and I first got this script, I read it, and I was like, "This is great. I am so excited about this show." I mean, even if it doesn`t work out with me, I want to see it.
HAMMER: And the show`s called "What About Brian?" You are Brian. He`s a guy who`s 34 years old, who, among his friends, is really the only one who`s basically still single and not settling down, while everybody around him is settling down. That`s something that a lot of people, whether they`re currently in this situation or once in the situation, can relate to.
WATSON: Yes, I think so. I mean, when I read the first 10 pages of the pilot, right away, I mean, I knew who this character was, and I really related to him, because I think about five or six years ago, you know, I was that guy. You know, not willing to commit, and not really being able to figure out what my problem was.
And, you know, I also thought, you know, women as well are going to be able to relate to this. You know, I`m not going to speak for women, but I think that, you know, male and female viewers are really going to be able to relate to kind of what`s going on with Brian.
If they don`t relate to his character, with all the other characters on the show, they`re going to find somebody within the show that they can relate to.
HAMMER: Well, Barry also told me that he`s going to be returning to "7th Heaven" for the series finale, which is going to air on May 8th. His new show, "What About Brian?" which he obviously is very excited about, airs Monday nights on ABC.
SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is coming right back with your e-mails. They`re next.
HAMMER: Time for our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Birthday Shoutout." This is where we give the fans a chance to wish their favorite stars a happy birthday. Tonight, we`re sending one out to "Alias" star Jennifer Garner. She`s celebrating number 34 today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I`m Jennifer Maxim (ph) from St. Louis, and I just want to wish Jennifer Garner a happy birthday. I think you`re awesome, great actress, and you`re gorgeous. Happy birthday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VARGAS: Well, we`ve been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Bashing Bush: Are celebrities too tough on the president?
The vote so far: A big gap, 22 percent of you say yes; 78 percent of you say no.
Some of the e-mails we have received. Marty from North Carolina writes, "Bush deserves every jab he gets for his unjust war, no matter where the jab comes from."
Well, Susan from Indiana writes, "Celebrities are not any tougher on Bush than other American citizens are; they just get asked more often."
Well, keep voting at CNN.com/showbiztonight. We appreciate your opinions.
HAMMER: And we appreciate you watching. That is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.
VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. Have a great night. And stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.