Stars still helping N.Y.

Callers to New York's City Hall and other locales throughout the Big Apple might just get Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Williams or former Mayor Ed Koch on the telephone.

In a continued effort to attract tourists after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, New York City recruited a handful of celebrities to record public service announcements that a number of hotels, ticket sellers and city offices will play for callers while they wait on hold.

Other celebrities featured in the announcements include designer Nicole Miller, Kathie Lee Gifford, Valerie Harper and Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior from "The Sopranos."

New 'Harry' director named

Los Angeles � Alfonso Cuaron, director of this year's Spanish-language hit "Y Tu Mama Tambien," has been picked to direct "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," the third movie in the film franchise.

Cuaron will take over from Chris Columbus, who directed "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and is finishing "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," due in theaters this November.

Columbus will be a producer on the third film based on the book series created by British author J.K. Rowling.

Born in Mexico, Cuaron made his directing debut in 1991 with "Love in the Time of Hysteria," following with "A Little Princess" in 1995 and "Great Expectations" in 1998.

Stewart begins new chapter

Martha Stewart isn't letting a little thing like legal woes slow her down. The domestic diva, 61, will launch "Martha's Favorite Books," a weekly author segment on her syndicated daytime show, "Martha Stewart Living," reports People magazine.

Stewart is entering a crowded field. Both the "Today" show and "Live with Regis and Kelly" announced book-club segments after Oprah Winfrey decided to discontinue her wildly popular "Oprah's Book Club" last spring.

In another development, Stewart's regular weekly cooking feature on CBS' "Early Show" has been suspended indefinitely following an interview June 25 when Stewart was asked questions about selling her ImClone stock while she was chopping cabbage for a salad.

Stone plans return to film

Sharon Stone, who suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage eight months ago, is preparing to make her big screen return, reports Variety.

The "Basic Instinct" star, 44, is in negotiations to play the female lead in a Walt Disney thriller called "Cold Creek Manor," also starring Dennis Quaid. The movie (which she would begin filming in early August) will be her first major studio movie since 1998's Sphere.

"Cold Creek Manor," to be directed by Mike Figgis ("Leaving Las Vegas"), tells the story of a family who moves to the country, only to have their dream of a peaceful life shattered when the previous owner returns from prison and wants his house back.


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