CNN Transcript - Showbiz Today: 'Reindeer Games' Enjoys Strong Weekend Debut; Asian-American Pop Star Coco Lee Looks to Take U.S. By Storm; Is American TV Colorblind? - February 28, 2000
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Showbiz Today

'Reindeer Games' Enjoys Strong Weekend Debut; Asian-American Pop Star Coco Lee Looks to Take U.S. By Storm; Is American TV Colorblind?

Aired February 28, 2000 - 4:30 p.m. ET


JIM MORET, CO-HOST: Hi, everybody. I'm Jim Moret in Hollywood.

LAURIN SYDNEY, CO-HOST: And I'm Laurin Sydney in New York.

Bruce Willis is getting a lot of mileage out of "Nine Yards." His mob comedy is number one again, after earning another $9.6 million this weekend.

MORET: "The Whole Nine Yards" has now made $28.5 million overall. "Snow Day," meanwhile, plowed in to second place this weekend. The wintry comedy earned another $8.5 million worth of the green stuff.

The golden guy has been kind to some other box office contenders. "American Beauty" made another $4.7 million this weekend, boosted by its best picture Oscar nomination. And "The Cider House Rules" tacked on $4.1 million to its tally. The drama benefited from a wider release following seven Oscar nominations.

The snippiest people in Hollywood like "Being John Malkovich." American Cinema Editors awarded the film an Eddie this weekend, signifying the best edited comedy of the year. In the drama department, meanwhile, "The Matrix" was the winner. The Keanu Reeves movie will compete in that same category at the Oscars.

SYDNEY: It is only February, but for Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The stars play in "Reindeer Games," which jingled box-office bells to the tune of $8 million in its weekend debut.

Michael Okwu talked with the stars who got wrapped up in the Christmas casino caper.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When we walk out of here, what's the first thing you're going to do?

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Go out and get myself a mug of hot chocolate. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And a piece of pecan pie, am I right?

AFFLECK: That's right.


MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no Rudolph in "Reindeer Games," just Ben Affleck, who plays an ex-con who wins his cellmate's pen pal, an array of plot twists and a tangled mass of gun-toting Santas.

AFFLECK: I don't think I'll ever sit on Santa's lap again.

OKWU (on camera): I hope you don't. You're kind of a grown boy, you know what I mean? And maybe sitting on Santa's lap is not the best thing for you.

(voice-over): Affleck says the best thing for his state of mind was to star in a lighthearted action piece. In this case, he's a reluctant recruit for a robbery.


AFFLECK: You're sending me to an Indian casino dressed like a cowboy?


AFFLECK: I've been, like, taking everything so seriously and myself so seriously and getting wound up and all this stuff, and I thought, you know what, I want to just go out, and have fun and do the kind of movie that I'd like -- that I'd really want to go see on a Saturday night.

OKWU: Though the complicated plot made Charlize Theron think twice before accepting a part.

CHARLIZE THERON, ACTRESS: I said no the first time, and then John Frankenheimer came on board, and I, in my heart, knew that there was just no way to pass on working with John. I just had to, but you know, I made him beg a little more.

OKWU (on camera): And you told him to wear nothing but a candy cane?

THERON: Yes I did, didn't I?

OKWU (voice-over): Actually, that's the classic line she uses on Affleck.


THERON: When I get back in that room, you better be wearing nothing but a candy cane.

(END VIDEO CLIP) OKWU (on camera): I just needed to work that into the conversation. Now it's out of my system.

THERON: You so wish you had that line to say in a movie.

OKWU (voice-over): John Frankenheimer spent four months shooting with cast and crew 300 miles north of Vancouver. The long-time filmmaker, who recently signed a four picture deal with Miramax, says it's still a challenge to direct.

JOHN FRANKENHEIMER, DIRECTOR: It's starting all over again. And especially with this script, it was so hard because there was so much subtext in every scene. Thank God this was not my first movie. This was hard.

OKWU: Part drama, part comedy, "Reindeer Games" is a contact sport.

THERON: If you don't like violence, don't go see this movie, because it is violent in a certain storytelling way. It's not the kind of violence that has no explanation behind it.

OKWU: Michael Okwu, CNN Entertainment News, New York.


MORET: "Reindeer Games" was shot mainly in British Columbia. The Canadian province was well represented at this weekend's location expo in Hollywood, trying to lure more production north.

As Dennis Michael reports, everyone wants a piece of Hollywood's pie.


DENNIS MICHAEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no business like show business. At the Annual Location Expo in Los Angeles, the idea is to drum up some business for the home town, the home state, the home country, outside the film capital.

WARD EMLING, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FILM COMMISSIONERS INTL.: It's big business, you know, it's business for a community, and for a state, and a country, and a province and everything. What we've come to do is be a part of that business, and part of that industry. And we're, essentially, all industrial developers.

DINO LALLI, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA FILM COMMISSION: Last year alone, Oklahoma had approximately $25 to $28 million, and a lot of that was commercials. I think there was $9 million in commercials shot.

MICHAEL: Greenland to Iceland to New Zealand to Australia, they all come to L.A. to make that pitch.

EMLING: This is where it should be, and this is where it needs to be. This is where a lot of the people who make decisions about filming on location, and about filming anywhere, this is where they are, and this is a marketing opportunity for a lot of our members, and in some cases, their only marketing opportunity.

MICHAEL: Some location commissioners are finding the welcome a little cold this year, though. The production community in Hollywood is organizing to battle a trend toward runaway production, much of it to Canada, where government tax structure benefits foreign production companies working there. The Canadian film reps are taking the situation in stride.

MARK FLETT, PRESIDENT, BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIONAL FILM COMMISSIONS: Well, I'm sure there will be some backlash, and I know that they have plans to do for a few things. But we're sympathetic with them, but we're in business up here, and you know, business is going well, so we're just going to wait and see what happens with them.

MICHAEL: Producer Marty Schwartz is on the side of the local Hollywood workforce, but also has to face economic realities.

MARTY ELI SCHWARTZ, PRODUCER, CAP PICTURES: It's a matter of economics, and when the networks would like to give us more money to do productions here, and the government would like to free up some money to subsidize filmmaking so that things don't go out of the country, it'll make it a lot more easy to shoot here.

MICHAEL: Each area looking to go Hollywood is different, but no matter how you dress it, the message is the same, from the Masai of Kenya...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenya is famous for many different things: first, the weather -- 80's, 70's, every day.

MICHAEL: ... to the clean rooms of Silicon Valley...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The weather is great. San Jose is a moderate climate.

MICHAEL: ... to the kingdom of Memphis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The climate is great there.

MICHAEL: They may pass on the freeways and the brush fires, but it seems almost every place on Earth wants to be a little like Hollywood.

Dennis Michael, CNN Entertainment News, Hollywood.


ANNOUNCER: Black TV writers and producers strive to lessen the racial divide by exposing viewers to black culture, and meet Coco Lee, the first Asian-American to become a teen pop sensation.


MORET: As Black History Month concludes, New York finds itself unsettled in the aftermath of a racially-charged trial. Hollywood, meanwhile, is facing its own racial divide in prime-time TV.

Sherri Sylvester reports on a discouraging report and encouraging signs from some Hollywood sets.


SHERRI SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new survey by the Screen Actors Guild confirms what many minorities have known for a long time: that African-American lead players are largely missing from prime time, and tend to be segregated in sitcoms and on smaller networks. Forty-four percent of all black characters appear on the WB and UPN.


BRANDY NORWOOD, ACTRESS: Oh my God! Like -- the Maya Angelou, I'm Moesha Mitchell. I am so honored to meet you.


SYLVESTER: Behind-the-scenes artists often share the same plight as their acting colleagues.

YOLANDA BRADDY, COSTUME DESIGNER: You can only work just on African-American shows, because those are the people that are going to really look out for you.

SYLVESTER: Yolanda Braddy is the costume designer for "Moesha" and its spin-off, "The Parkers." She is using her opportunity to celebrate African-American art and culture.


SHERYL LEE RALPH, ACTRESS: Your center is the center of the universe.


BRADDY: I like to use a lot of designers who are African- American, who don't always have the opportunity to be represented in stores or have commercials.

A really nice new African-American line I like working with -- this new, young guy -- is Akademic (ph), and they have really nice denim. Everyone can wear mud cloth and Kintes and textures and colors, and it's almost like another style of the millennium.

This here would be considered, like, an African print, but it's a business tie, you know. It's like a Kinte. This piece here was used in Africa as to how many riches you have. And the longer they are, that's how much money you have.

SYLVESTER: The set also showcases local artisans.

SILVIA CARDENAS, WRITER/PRODUCER: This is Moesha's dorm, and so we -- this is from a local African-American artist. These little dolls are beautiful. There's also one over there made of Kinte cloth -- very beautiful -- also, a little lion. So, we just have them around the set. It's not like it's sticking out. It's just part of who this character is.

SYLVESTER: Next stop, "The Hughleys," where set decorators took their cues from D.L. Hughleys' home.

BRANDY ALEXANDER, PRODUCTION DESIGNER: And I photographed things that defined a African-American family living in a suburb.

SYLVESTER: While the diversity studies are discouraging, the folks at "Moesha" see first-hand the benefits of a multiracial crew.

CARDENAS: These people created the No. one show for this network, and it's doing very well. And it wasn't on -- based on a favor that people were doing us. We were just doing our job.

SYLVESTER: Sherri Sylvester, CNN, Los Angeles.


SYDNEY: There's no business like show business for "Annie Get Your Gun" star, Bernadette Peters, who turned 52 today. Former Broadway turned Vegas attraction, Tommy Tune, is 61. And "Love Boat" captain Gavin McLaeod is 69.



5. "Pitch Black," $7.1 million (est.)

4. "Hanging Up," $7.5 million (est.)

3. "Reindeer Games," $8,128,358 (est.)

2. "Snow Day," $8.3 million (est.)

1. "The Whole Nine Yards," $9.6 million (est.)


SYLVESTER: Imagine what would happen if you were deserted on a dark, far away planet with bloodthirsty mutants. Well, in the film, "Pitch Black," which, as you just saw, placed fifth at the weekend's box-office, that is precisely what happens.

Bill Tush reports that it's getting darker than usual at the cineplex.



VIN DIESEL, ACTOR: You're not afraid of the dark, are you? (END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL TUSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not the "Boogyman" that has these astronauts worried in the new, science- fiction horror film "Pitch Black."

DAVID TWOHY, DIRECTOR: The premise of this film is that you crash land on a foreign planet, on an alien planet, and you think the worst thing is that, I don't have any water, I don't have any means of communication, and I've got a killer loose on the planet with us. And then you realize, oh no, that's not the worst thing at all.


DIESEL: All you people are so scared of me, but it ain't me you gotta worry about now.


TUSH: Actor Vin Diesel is "Riddick," an imprisoned killer who can see in the dark, a skill that turns this bad guy into a valuable commodity when an eclipse causes the lights to go out and the monsters to fly in.

DIESEL: This monster's definitely creepy because of it's agility. It's probably more like a shark than anything else because -- in the sense that, the darkness is like an ocean.

COLE HAUSER, ACTOR: The monster? It's crazy. I mean, the thing is a combination of, like, a rat and like a -- a little bit of "Aliens" in there -- you know, the monster in "Aliens."

TUSH: They were designed by Patrick Tatopoulus, the same artist who created the most recent "Godzilla." For the actors, working with computer-generated monsters meant a chance to use their imagination.

RADHA MITCHELL, ACTOR: Working with the green screen is fun because, you know, the monster is in your mind and there's a whole lot of horrible things going in my head. So, I just use that.


TUSH: "Pitch Black" was filmed in Cooper Pedy, Australia, the same place where "Mad Max" was shot 20 years ago. For Australia native, Radha Mitchell and the rest of the cast, the mining town held many real and hidden dangers.

KEITH DAVID, ACTOR: They would tell you, don't to walk backwards because you could step in a hole and fall 65 feet under.

TWOHY: This Cooper Peady area is one of the few places on earth where you can see 360 degrees of desolation: no trees, no life, nothing.

TUSH: And in the case of "Pitch Black, " what you can't see can definitely hurt you.

Bill Tush, CNN Entertainment News, New York.


MORET: Now that we've shed some light on "Pitch Black," let's bring in our movie expert, Marty Grove to illuminate us further on the box office.

How about "The Whole Nine Yards"? That's scoring rather well, isn't it?

MARTIN GROVE, CNN MOVIE ANALYST: Big success, Jim, for Warner Brothers and for Franchise Pictures. It's is first film, Eulisema (ph) House Company, they are often running No. 1 two weeks in a row. This weekend, they had, like, the whole 9.6 million yards of box office business.

MORET: So, that's a hit?

GROVE: Absolutely. This picture will do over 50 million for sure.

MORET: And how about "Snow Day"? Another certified hit at this point...

GROVE: Oh, this is a great success story. Paramount and Nickelodeon: the picture cost about 15 million to make. They've already grossed 43. They will wind up with at least 63. This are becoming the kind of numbers you like.

The accumulation of business for "Snow Day" keeps going on. And "Spring Break" is coming when schools will be closed starting around mid-March. Rolling across the country, "Spring Break," that will only help because the kids will be available to see it.

MORET: The producer of "Reindeer Games" is not hearing such good news today.

GROVE: Well, they had a big surprise this weekend. They went into the weekend thinking, because of the Hollywood trapping studies, that they would be No. 1, maybe $10 or $12 million. They came out No. 3 with about 8 million. This is one reindeer, Jim, that has not only a red nose, but a red face.

MORET: You talk about tracking studies, what is that, for our audience?

GROVE: Hollywood likes to know ahead what's going to happen, even though we can't know ahead. So they go out and they poll moviegoers. And they say: What are you going to see? What's your first-choice film? And people tell them: I'm going to see "Reindeer Games." The only trouble is, sometimes people don't do what they say they're going to do.

MORET: And these were previews as well.

GROVE: Absolutely, they have previews. But they go out there and they just try to sample the population. Shopping malls -- I mean, if you walk around certain shopping malls in Hollywood, sooner or later, you will get asked what you're going to do at the movies, you'll be asked if you want to come see a movie.

MORET: Did a lot of people want to see "Wonder Boys"? Apparently not.

GROVE: Apparently not. In fact it was not a wonderful opening. They did not even make the top five. Now the tracking said, by the way, that they wouldn't. So, tracking was right in that case. Came in No. 7 with about $5.8 million. I think that people want to see Michael Douglas being glamorous and this movie made him look, kind of, old and grizzly.

MORET: OK, well, you're looking fine. We'll see you at the movies.

We'll see you right after this. Don't go away.

SYDNEY: Tomorrow, Madonna and gay pal Rupert Everett have a baby in their new film "The Next Best Thing." And hey, hey, it's the new Monkees, as TV producers try to find the next Davey Jones.



EARLE MARSH, AUTHOR: We have longest running shows by number of seasons, a fall schedule grid so that you can see what started the season every year back to 1946, when there were only two networks. We have top-rated shows by season, Emmy award winners, a whole plethora of information.

PETER J. LEVINSON, AUTHOR: Harry was at first a hero of mine. I got to know him. I found it was a kind of a troubled existence. He was a man who really had everything, he had good looks, more important, he had enormous talent. He was very popular, but unfortunately he had great addictions to both gambling and alcohol, which eventually did him in.

BARBARA DE ANGELIS, AUTHOR: The whole premise of the book is that we spend so much of our time in life trying to control what happens to us on the outside and we really can't really control what happens to us, but we can control what happens to us inside of us. So this is really a book, I think, that reflects the trend that you've seen in the world from self improvement in the '80s and '90s to self discovery.


SYDNEY: There is Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore, and now there is Coco Lee. Already a household name in Asia, Coco is ready to take her mix of urban music and Asian pop stateside. Mark Scheerer spoke to Coco on a recent trip to New York.


MARK SCHEERER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her R&B sounds infused with Western pop have taken Asia by storm. With over 6 million albums sold there, 23-year-old Coco Lee is ready to take her success and run to the U.S.

(on camera): Coco, you are trying to do something that, as near as I can tell, no other Asian-American artist or Asian artist have done: really cross over big in the English-speaking world, right? Is that a daunting challenge for you?

COCO LEE, SINGER: It will be the biggest challenge of my life, because I've been doing so well in Asia. But I feel that it's coming back home. This is my home. This is the place that I grew up in, and I just wanted to come back home to do my thing and let, you know, my friends know, let my people know, you know, that Coco can sing.

SCHEERER (voice-over): And sing she can. "Before I Fall In Love" appeared on the "Runaway Bride" soundtrack. As for her personal resume, we'll let her tell you.

LEE: Born in Hong Kong, raised in San Francisco, and after high school graduation, I went to Hong Kong for a vacation and entered into a singing contest, and that's how everything started.

SCHEERER: Actually, she entered the singing contest hoping to win money to pay her mother, who's car she banged up. This accidental first-place finish led to a record deal. Coco has released 12 albums since her 1994 debut, in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. Her worldwide debut, "Just No Other Way," features the single, "Do You Want My Love."

(on camera): In Hong Kong now, has it changed in terms of entertainers and entertainment?

LEE: Honestly, there is not much change. The only problem we do have is with pirated CDs. That is the biggest problem. So I do advise people, please, do get the original.

SCHEERER (voice-over): When she's not making music, Coco finds herself cheering on her favorite basketball team, the Lakers, or working on her own game.

(on camera): And you're working on the crossover between the legs dribble, too, right, getting that down?

LEE: With a skirt, of course.


LEE: Do that!

SCHEERER (voice-over): Mark Scheerer, CNN Entertainment News, New York.


SYDNEY: And with a voice like that, it will not be long before American fans go cuckoo for Coco.

MORET: I'm glad you said that, not me.

Tomorrow on SHOWBIZ, we'll examine how Americans are going crazy for greed-oriented entertainment.

SYDNEY: That's right. Michael Douglas said it in the film "Wall Street": greed is good. It now seems like the entertainment industry is following that mantra.

MORET: In Hollywood, I'm Jim Moret.

SYDNEY: And in New York, I'm Laurin Sydney.

Here's more music with Coco Lee.



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