Thursday, February 13, 2003

Sean Penn sued for extortion

Los Angeles -- Producer Steve Bing is suing Sean Penn for $15 million, accusing the actor of trying to extort $10 million from him in a dispute over whether Penn would star in a proposed movie titled "Why Men Shouldn't Marry."

According to the lawsuit, Penn appeared to have lost interest in the project but still tried through various means to force Bing to pay.

If the money wasn't paid, the lawsuit indicates, Penn would publicly embarrass Bing by saying a political disagreement between the two had kept him from making the movie.

Here's to you, Mr. Simon

Los Angeles -- Paul Simon said he was celebrating his new chance at an Oscar after a paperwork mistake likely kept his song "Mrs. Robinson" out of the competition 35 years ago.

The singer-songwriter received his first Academy Award nomination Tuesday for "Father and Daughter," from the animated "The Wild Thornberrys Movie."

He said many people erroneously believed he was nominated for "Mrs. Robinson," which he and former collaborator Art Garfunkel sang in 1967's "The Graduate."

"We forgot to fill in the forms," Simon acknowledged with a laugh. "You know, it was the '60s. We just weren't paying attention. We went along our way and never filled it in. That's what happened."

"Talk to the Animals" from "Doctor Dolittle" claimed the movie song honor at that year's Oscars.

Oscar skews white this year

Los Angeles -- Don't expect another landmark year of Oscar wins for black actors.

While last year's lead performer victories by Halle Berry and Denzel Washington were hailed by Hollywood as a breakthrough for minorities, the lone black performer to get a nomination Tuesday was Queen Latifah for her supporting role in "Chicago."

Mexican-born Salma Hayek received an Academy Award nomination for "Frida," but otherwise all the nominees are white.

Seagal testifies against mob

New York -- The age-old question "why are Steven Seagal movies so bad?" may finally have an answer. It's because they were made by the mob.

The 50-year-old action star testified Tuesday in Brooklyn that a crew of alleged mobsters demanded that he make movies with them -- or else.

As he left a 2000 meeting with the men, Seagal claimed one told him, "If you would have said the wrong thing, they would have killed you."

Seagal testified as a government witness at the racketeering trial of Peter Gotti, brother of the late crime boss John Gotti, and other reputed gangsters.

Authorities say Seagal, who's known for his martial-arts moves in films such as "Under Siege" and "Exit Wounds," was a victim of a bid by the Gambino crime family to infiltrate the film industry for profit. They say Seagal was extorted after a falling-out with his former business partner, Julius Nasso, an alleged Gambino associate.