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Controversial Movies Sympathetic to Terrorists; What Drives NASCAR Fandom?; Search Called Off for Show Dog; Samuel L. Jackson Weighs in on Oscar Noms

Aired February 17, 2006 - 19:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, HOST: I`m a A.J. Hammer. TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.

HAMMER (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT terrorists in movies. Several movies out now, some of them up for Oscars, raising an uproar. The shocker: they show terrorists in a sympathetic light. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks is it OK to show the softer side of terrorists in the movies?

The power of NASCAR. We`re off to Daytona, to find out what it is about this kind of racing, that runs circles around the competition. Tonight, the driving force behind one of the most popular sports in America.

Desperate husband. Eva Longoria`s TV husband from "Desperate Housewives" is here with secrets from the set.

What, she`s charming.

HAMMER: Tonight, Ricardo Antonio Chavira, live in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

JAMIE-LYNN SIGLER, ACTRESS: Hi. I`m Jamie-Lynn Sigler. And if it happened today, it`s on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


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

Friday night has finally arrived, and tonight we are all over a story that is a raging controversy. It could be summed up in this way. Terrorists are people, too.

"Paradise Now" is the name of a movie that`s nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign film category. It`s got a lot of folks all riled up because it puts a human and sympathetic face on Palestinian suicide bombers.

But here`s the deal. It`s not the only movie out there right now that does this, showing terrorists in a sympathetic way. Let`s get right to the rage with CNN`s correspondent, Mary Snow, who`s covering this for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT".


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A.J., movie making has always been about telling a good story. But tonight there`s controversy over a film that humanizes a violent subject and, even more controversial, tries to humanize a terrorist. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you that that film is just one of four that does just that.

(voice-over) Terrorists in the movies, but it`s not your typical scenario. These terrorists are unleashing their own holy war, with plenty of blood and violence, but in each of these movies, something`s different. The point of view of the terrorists is explored. And in some, they`re portrayed as heroes of their cause.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is on top of the controversy this has sparked. "Munich," the Oscar-nominated film directed by Steven Spielberg, is one of the films. Based on the 1972 murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes by Palestinian terrorists, the movie delves deeper past the tragedy and explores the terrorists` motives behind the massacre. That has many questioning if lending a sympathetic ear to a terrorist is right.

JEANNE WOLF, MOVIES.COM: Our young people are dying at the hands of terrorists. Innocent people are dying at the hands of terrorists. So it does seem controversial. It does seem confusing to portray terrorists in sympathetic or even a human light. But we do need to understand these people and where they`re coming from.

SNOW: And that is just what the filmmakers of the 2005 independent film "The War Within" try to achieve. The movie tells the story of a Pakistani-American family who is surprised to learn its house guest is a terrorist. The filmmakers hope to convey the anger behind suicide bombings.

But are American audiences ready to embrace this sympathetic portrayal of terrorists?

WOLF: I don`t think American audiences want to embrace a sympathetic portrayal, but I do think they want to be provoked. I do think they`re thinking about these subjects and not in a simple way. And I do think they understand that those are human beings who have bombs strapped to their waists.

SNOW: But just because these films are being made and even nominated for big awards doesn`t mean they`re necessarily being embraced. Nominated for a best foreign film Oscar, "Paradise Now" is already being protested by one member of the Motion Picture Academy. The Israeli-born president of Triumph Picture, Yoran Ben Ami, says he won`t cast his Oscar ballot this year to protest the entry of the film.

In "Paradise Now", Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad sets out to humanize suicide bombers. And while still a tension-filled subject, it explores the motives is behind terrorism.

WOLF: I`ve seen "Paradise Now" and certainly -- certainly, you can`t watch "Paradise Now" and say what wonderful people. But you have to watch "Paradise Now" and say maybe we misunderstand the depth of their emotion, the depth of their motivation, why we`re having such a hard time in that region of the world.

SNOW: And stirring up even more controversy because it depicts U.S. troops in Iraq committing multiple atrocities, the Turkish film "Valley of the Wolves." Audiences in Turkey have reportedly cheered the killing of American soldiers in the film.

The movie makers say it`s meant to be controversial, but is there a line between controversy and a good story?

WOLF: Artists have always tried to sort out problems that can`t be easily solved with a good guy, bad guy mentality. These things are very complex. And I think that`s what movies try to do. And that`s why audiences are drawn to them so that it creates that kind of discussion.

SNOW (on camera): "Munich" is up for five Oscars, including best director for Steven Spielberg and best picture.

And "Paradise Now" is the leading contender for a foreign film Oscar. It`s already won a Golden Globe.

As for "Valley of the Wolves" it doesn`t have an American distributor just yet. Among that film`s controversial claims: American troops are harvesting organs of civilians killed in Iraq. It may be too much more American movie audiences.

A.J., back to you.


HAMMER: Mary, thanks very much. CNN`s Mary Snow for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. A bit later in the show, we`re going to meet a member of the academy who is protesting the nomination of "Paradise Now" because it shows terrorists in a sympathetic light.

This is a subject that will get a lot of people talking. We`d like to know what you think about all of this. Our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. We`re asking terrorists in movies, is it OK to portray them sympathetically? You can hop online to vote at TONIGHT. You can also e-mail us at We`ll be reading some of your thoughts later on in the show.

Well, Oscar-nominated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman says he never would have been as successful as he is if he didn`t get sober 16 years ago. The 38-year-old Hoffman is nominated for his role in "Capote." And in an interview with "60 Minutes," he talks about going into rehab at an early age and says he`s glad fame didn`t come until he got his act together.


PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: I got sober. I was 22 years old. Yes.

STEVE KROFT, CORRESPONDENT, CBS`S "60 MINUTES": So this was drugs or alcohol or both?

HOFFMAN: Yes, all that stuff, yes. Everything I could get my hands on, yes. Yes. I liked it all. Yes.

KROFT: And why did you decide to stop?

HOFFMAN: You get panicked. You get panicked. It was -- I was 22, and I got panicked for my life. It really was. It was just that.

And I always think, God, you know, I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden they`re beautiful and famous and rich. I`m like, my God, I`d be dead. You know what I mean? Nineteen, beautiful, famous and rich, I`d be dead. I think back at that time if I had the money, that kind of money and stuff. So yes.


HAMMER: Truly one of the finest performers out there. You can see the full interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman this Sunday on "60 Minutes."

Well, tonight the power of NASCAR. This weekend millions of fans are going to turn out for the Daytona 500 in Florida. Seventy-five cameras poised and ready to capture and broadcast the high-speed cars to tens of millions of people.

Ratings for NASCAR have more than doubled over the last 10 years, along with NASCAR`s fiercely loyal fan base. So what is it about the sport that draws the love and loyalty of so many people? Well, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT decided to find out.


HAMMER (voice-over): It`s the super bowl of stock car racing: NASCAR`s Daytona 500. NASCAR has become one of the most popular televised sports out there, second only to football. And last year, a record 12 million viewers tuned in to watch Jeff Gordon win the Daytona 500.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks, what is it about NASCAR that revs America`s engine?

KURT BADENHAUSEN, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: The formula that NASCAR has mastered, which is similar to what the NFL has done, is every NASCAR race is an event. You`ve got 35, 36 races a year, takes place on the weekend. And leading up to it is a huge event.

The second thing that NASCAR has going for it is their fans are incredibly loyal to the people that sponsor.

HAMMER: NASCAR`s traditionally blue collar audience has been slowly changing. Fans are evolving from the stereotypical beer guzzling good old boys to wine sipping yuppie types. And NASCAR`s image is going from hick to hip.

BADENHAUSEN: They`ve got races now in 19 states. You know, 40 percent of NASCAR`s fan base is women. You know, they`re trying to appeal to minorities. They`re really doing a lot to get away from the redneck image. And a lot of that has to do with marketing initiatives.

HAMMER: Marketing initiatives including putting races in places like Connecticut and the West, and evolving in who they choose to sponsor.

BADENHAUSEN: Ten years ago the top sponsors were Winston, Skoal, Camel, STP. I mean, now you`ve got an incredibly diverse sponsor roster. You have companies like AOL, Gillette, Home Depot. They all want to get involved.

HAMMER: They want in because NASCAR`s fan base is so big and so loyal, they`ll pay tens of millions of dollars to get a spot on some lucky car`s hood.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can report Hollywood`s even picked up on the sponsorship craze, and they plan on having a little fun with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not on fire, Ricky Bobby.

WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: Help me. Help me, Jewish guy. Help me, Tom Cruise.

HAMMER: Funny man Will Ferrell stars in a new speedway comedy, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." The film mocks NASCAR`s machismo commercialism with fake sponsors like Julio`s Thongs for Men.

But NASCAR isn`t all fun and games. There`s a serious side to speed racing, the accidents. Perhaps the most famous racer of them all, Dale Earnhardt, died in 2001 in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500. But despite the tragedy, the danger is one of NASCAR`s greatest lures.

BADENHAUSEN: The dangerous part of NASCAR in the same sense that gambling is part of the NFL. I mean, you can`t escape those facts.

HAMMER: And regardless of who we are or where you come from, the thing that most attracts fans year after year is this. The speed, spectacle, the thrill that only NASCAR can provide.


HAMMER: And NASCAR has not only updated its image, it`s embracing technology. They have announced that they are selling exclusive behind the scenes coverage of their cup series races all season long on iTunes.

Well, a show dog makes it through Westminster but escapes from the airport. We`re going to have an update on the search for the dog gone, coming up next.

Plus SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has your first look at one of the most highly anticipated movies on the horizon, "The Da Vinci Code." We`re going to show you the trailer just ahead in the "SHOWBIZ Showcase."

Also coming up...


SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: You know, my favorite film of the year didn`t get nominated. So...


HAMMER: As a member of the Academy, Samuel L. Jackson has his Oscar favorites this year. He tells us about the one movie that was in his DVD player that you`d never expect. That`s coming up in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. We are TV`s only live entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer. Welcome to the weekend.

Well, you may have heard about the show dog who escaped from her cage at JFK Airport here in New York after the Westminster Dog Show. It`s official that the official search has been called off, but the whippet -- yes, that`s the breed -- the whippet is still out there somewhere, and her owners have not given up hope.

Here comes CNN`s Jeanne Moos for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among the whippets at Westminster, she was a runner-up. Now she`s a runaway.

JILL WALTON, CO-OWNER: I just want my dog back.

MOOS: Her name is C`est La Vie, that`s life, but her co-owners call her...


MOOS: Vivi somehow got out of her cage at JFK as she was being transported to a Delta plane for the flight home to California. Airport workers chased her in a vehicle. What was she doing?

WALTON: Twenty-five.

LEPIANE: Miles an hour.

MOOS: Whippets are known for their speed. Vivi apparently panicked and, though one worker got within a few feet of her, she escaped through a fence, headed into the marshland surrounding the airport. By foot and by chopper, they searched.

Co-owner Jill Walton confessed to fibbing out of desperation about the show dog`s worth.

WALTON: I said it was worth $150,000, because I need that helicopter in the air.

MOOS (on camera): It`s not really worth it.


MOOS: I heard $175,000. It`s going up by the minute.

(voice-over) The real number is around $20,000.

Vivi`s co-owners are worried she`ll get run over, worried she`ll drown in the marsh. They`ve posted the whippet`s picture in neighborhoods next to the nearly 5,000-acre airport.

MOOS (on camera): Have you seen this dog?

Gentlemen, have you seen this dog?

He`s wearing a brown sweater coat.

(voice-over) Hard to miss a whippet in a sweater, but her co-owners fear the sweater could weigh her down in the marsh waters.

(on camera) You call her, "Here, doggie." It won`t bite or anything, if you see it.

(voice-over) Vivi is described as an extra friendly dog.

LEPIANE: She thought Westminster was put on for her enjoyment. You know, and she loves the crowd.

MOOS: Vivi is a dog who`s obsessed with squirrels, who can tell left from right, who likes to sleep under the covers.

(on camera) She sleeps in your bed.

WALTON: In my bed between me and my fiance. She`s part of my family.

MOOS (voice-over): Driving around we saw a stray or two.

(on camera) Here boy.

(voice-over) But folks here are probably more familiar with "Whip It" the song.

Than with whippet the breed.

(on camera) Hey, guys, have you seen Vivi? Vivi. They haven`t seen her.

(voice-over) If only this show dog would show up, you can bet her owners wouldn`t whip it.


HAMMER: It`s good to see Jeanne Moos out there doing her part for humanity. That was CNN`s Jeanne Moos for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Vivi, please come home.

Well, today Samuel Jackson back on the big screen in a new thriller called "Freedom Land." Tonight in a "SHOWBIZ Sitdown," we waxed nostalgic about his performance in "Pulp Fiction," a chick flick that he was forced to see and how his new movie deals with the theme of race relations.

So I asked him what he thinks has to be done here in the United -- United States to help ease racial tensions.


JACKSON: Race relations in the world need to be attended to. People -- people actually tend to think that it`s a common American phenomenon, but earlier this year, we saw that, you know, the French have sort of that same problem, too.

HAMMER: Sure, sure.


HAMMER: Here in the states, what do you think we need to do to try to move things along and help things out and get them where they need to be?

JACKSON: You know, it`s really so difficult to say we need to do this and that. As we can see in this particular film, there are a lot of assumptions made. And people jump to a lot of conclusions because of where someone is or where they live or what they think the perceived notion of the kind of people that they are.

We need to stop, you know, having those preconceived notions and give everybody an opportunity to prove that, you know, they are worthy of our respect and treat people with, you know, human dignity.

HAMMER: You think we can get there?

JACKSON: I think there`s an opportunity, yes. As generations come along and they spend more and more time together, and the interaction between the races becomes, you know, more and more part of our everyday lives, you know, things change.

HAMMER: "Crash," of course, one of the big nominees at the Oscars this year and also a movie where race relations is central to the theme. Here we are in the thick of the Oscar season. It`s now 11 years since your nomination for your supporting role in "Pulp Fiction."

JACKSON: Has it been that long?

HAMMER: Yes. Eleven years, man.


HAMMER: So are you -- are you at all an award season junkie? I mean, do you pay close attention to who`s nominated? And are you going to be there or watching on awards night?

JACKSON: I kind of know, because I`m in the business. And because I`m part of the Academy, I get all the films and I watch them, even the ones that, you know, I probably normally might not have gone to see, just to see what all the buzz is about.

HAMMER: Give me an example of one such movie, something that you might not have spent your money at the theater, if you, Sam Jackson, even has to spend money at the theater to see movies.

JACKSON: "In Her Shoes."

HAMMER: OK. Your impressions?

JACKSON: Well, you know. I mean, it`s not the kind of movie that I would have gone out of my way to go and see. It`s not like, "Oh, my God, I`ve got to see that movie." But you know, it`s in my house and it`s part of the Academy season, so I watched it and thought, "Oh, OK."

HAMMER: Any of your friends...

JACKSON: It`s a chick flick but it`s OK.

HAMMER: Any of your friends nominated this season?

JACKSON: Well, Terrence Howard. Yes, I know Terrence. I know, you know, Phillip, not as well, but I know Terrence quite well. I know Terrence since he was a kid.

HAMMER: And give me your impressions or tell me what he`s going through. Have you been in touch with him since all the accolades he`s received for "Hustle & Flow"?

JACKSON: Have I seen Terrence that much? I haven`t seen him that much. I ran into him earlier, when it was just starting to happen. I told him a lot of things were going to change in terms of who he was and what his career was - his career art was going to be now. And you know, that turns out to be true. You can kind of see how those things happen.

And I`ve since -- since worked with his director, Craig, in Memphis and done a film with him. So we`ll see what happens.

HAMMER: Other than Terrence, anyone you`re pulling for? Any film in particular you`d love to see walk away with some gold?

JACKSON: You know, my favorite film of the year didn`t get nominated. So...

HAMMER: Which film was that?

JACKSON: "Coach Carter."

HAMMER: Oh, of course. Hold on one second. Let me write a letter to somebody. Hey, I know one guy on the academy, Sam Jackson, maybe I can put you guys in touch and you can straighten things out.

JACKSON: Yes, right.


HAMMER: And on his "Freedom Land" co-star Julianne Moore, Jackson says they`re kind of like mirror images of each other. He said when they weren`t in character, they were deep in conversation. About what you might ask?

Well, a couple of their favorite things that happen to be on TV: sports and "American Idol." They`re both huge "AI" fans.

"Freedom Land" will be in theaters on Friday. We`re going to be getting a review of Samuel L. Jackson`s new movie, "Freedom Land," as well as a new adventure film based on a true story coming up next in the "SHOWBIZ Guide."

Plus, "Desperate Housewives`" desperate husbands. We`re going to get the secrets from the set from Eva Longoria`s TV husband, Richard Antonio Chavira, live in the interview you`ll se only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

And meet the woman who says she is the real life Carmella Soprano? Is it just mob mentality, or does she have a point? We`re going to hear the evidence and what HBO has to say about it, still ahead.


HAMMER: Time now for the "SHOWBIZ Guide," where 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," we have some new movies to talk about that are opening today. We have two films inspired by real stories: "Freedom Land," starring Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, and from Disney "Eight Below," which stars Paul Walker.

Here to guide us through each one, "People" magazine film critic, Leah Rozen.

It`s a pleasure to see you. Happy weekend.


HAMMER: Tell me about "Eight Below." It`s a movie with dogs. Seems like a good idea to me.

ROZEN: Well, it`s a pretty good idea. It`s not only one movie, it`s actually almost like two movies for the price of one.

HAMMER: Really?

ROZEN: Because in the first movie, and they`re both pretty good, as these things go. The first movie you have the humans out there. They`re in Antarctica. It`s very cold. And the sled guide, played by Paul Walker, is taking a scientist out, and then there`s sort of an accident and a big storm. Can they get back to base on time?

Then the second movie starts, which is the humans all depart because they need medical treatment. They accidentally leave the dogs behind. You have those eight dogs on their own. And the movie sort of turns into "The Incredible Journey," except they don`t talk and there`s not a cat involved.

But it`s an adventure film. And you go oh, yes, adventure films. They don`t make these too often. I kind of like adventure films.

HAMMER: A good adventure film?

ROZEN: It`s a good -- you can take the kids to this one, except there`s one very scary scene with a leopard seal that -- sort of a carnivorous leopard seal.

HAMMER: I don`t even want to hear about it. That would keep me from going.

ROZEN: Little kids, I wouldn`t take them to it.

HAMMER: Let`s move on to what is decidedly an adult movie I`m certain, "Freedom Land." Great cast. You have Samuel L. Jackson. You have Julianne Moore. Edie Falco from "The Sopranos" taking a turn in an unrecognizable role in this movie.

ROZEN: Yes. This is one of those movies, though, that wastes a really good cast, I`m sorry to say. I mean, you went all going, "Oh, boy, sort of a crime thriller." But it`s just a film that`s neither here nor there.

And essentially has one of those ripped from the headline kind of premises. A woman announces -- Julianne Moore announces her car has been carjacked. Her 4-year-old child is in the back seat, she says. Samuel Jackson is the cop investigating. He thinks there`s something fishy.

The movie just sort of, when it should be flying it`s just thudding on the ground. You kind of go, I think in many ways, it was sort of misdirected. You know, Julianne Moore is a good actress, and you wouldn`t know it watching this.

HAMMER: That`s a shame, because it is such a great cast.

Well, thanks as always, Leah Rozen, for filling us in.

And for more "Picks and Pans," you can grab your copy of "People" magazine. It`s on newsstands now.

Well, in just over two weeks, the Academy Awards are going to be handed out for the 78th time, but something`s going to happen at this year`s ceremony for the first time ever. We`re going to tell you how Oscar history will be made coming up next.

Plus, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has your first look at the highly anticipated film "The Da Vinci Code." That`s ahead in our "SHOWBIZ Showcase." Everybody wants to know what it`s about.

And an uproar over movies that show the softer side of terrorists. There are several in theaters as we speak. Coming up, is it OK to portray terrorists sympathetically in the movies?

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT for a Friday night. Thirty- one minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

Still to come in the next 30 minutes, we`ve got a special treat for you, a movie that is assuredly the most highly anticipated film of the year. We`re talking about "The Da Vinci Code." Ron Howard is directing. Tom Hanks is the star. Anybody I`ve spoken to connected with the film who has seen bits and pieces of the film says it is truly amazing. We`ll have your first look at the trailer, coming up in just a moment.

And then we`re going to sit down with a guy who easily has one of the most enviable jobs on television. He gets to play Eva Longoria`s husband on one of the most popular television shows in the world. We`re talking about our good friend, Ricardo Antonio Chavira. He will be here live in just a few moments in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

First, into tonight`s "Hot Headlines."

James Bond has a new bond girl. It`s French actress Eva Green. She`s going to co-star (INAUDIBLE) opposite Daniel Craig in the upcoming Bond film, "Casino Royale." That film is scheduled to hit theaters in November. Green appeared in "Kingdom of Heaven" and in other French films.

Keith Urban has made good on a five-year-old handshake deal. This is a pretty cool story. The singer and recent Grammy-winner headed to a specialty car company in North Carolina today. The reason? He bought a Chevy there in 2001 with his first album royalty check.

Well, the dealer gave him two grand off the car if he agreed to come back and make an appearance at the dealership some day. He did that today. Pretty cool of him to hold that up.

And today we learned that this year`s Oscar show will feature a rap performance for the very first time. Three 6 Mafia, a Memphis rap group, will sing "It`s Hard Out There for a Pimp." That song is nominated for best original song from "Hustle and Flow." Terrence Howard is nominated for best actor from that film.

Well, tonight there is an Oscar controversy, and it`s all about a movie about Palestinian suicide bombers. The film, "Paradise Now," is up for best foreign language film. It`s the story of two young Palestinian men who are called upon to carry out a pair of suicide bombings in Israel and shows the two would-be bombers in a sympathetic light.

Joining me live from Hollywood for a "Showbiz Newsmaker" interview, Yoram Ben-Ami, a producer for Triumph Pictures.

Yoram, thank you for joining me tonight. I appreciate it.


HAMMER: So you`re eligible to vote in this category, but apparently you`re so angry that you decided you`re not going to be voting in this best foreign film category. What`s got you so riled up?

BEN-AMI: Mr. Hammer, I used to live in Israel and I still visit Israel. I know that Sarqi family (ph) in Israel, they have lost two kids and a sister. And you want me to go now and talk to them after the movie`s going to be nominated and maybe, God forbid, win this award?

And to say, "Oh, this was a movie, and this is real life," is that what you`re expecting from me?

I`m very proud to tell you also I was in the Israeli army and the military. And we were always educated and told not to kill innocent people. There is no justification, no way to justify terrorism.

You want to go and see this movie -- I`m sure that you haven`t seen it, or maybe you did -- and you will see that they are not dealing with their problems. Where are the billions of dollars of monies that were given to them by the United States, by Europe? Where is it?

Do you know that terrorists are getting $25,000, their families, after they complete the mission?

HAMMER: Yoram...

BEN-AMI: Why don`t they give them the $25,000 before so they can go to school and not become terrorists?

HAMMER: Yoram, have you seen the film yourself?

BEN-AMI: Sure, and I walked -- at the end of it, I walked out. I couldn`t take it any more. It reminded me of some beautiful Nazis movies that everything was great, and Jews were sitting on trains and thinking that they`re going to just a work camp, and you know where that ended.

HAMMER: Well, let me...

BEN-AMI: Yes, go ahead.

HAMMER: Let me just ask you a question based on -- you know, you`re a member of the academy. You`ve decided to protest by not voting. Isn`t the idea as a member of the academy to vote for films based on their creative merits, not necessarily on whatever message the film may be sending out?

BEN-AMI: What is so creative here? This is an infomercial for terrorism. And I`m not -- I don`t have any problem with the academy. It`s my right. You know, I love the academy, and I think that we are doing a great job. But in this instance, in this case, I think that it`s my choice not to vote for it.


BEN-AMI: I don`t see it as the other people are seeing it. I think that it`s a very dangerous movie.

HAMMER: Obviously, the people who made this movie don`t feel the same way. We did invite the director of "Paradise Now," Hany Abu-Assad, to join us here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. He wasn`t available.

I do want to read you a quote from the film`s Web site that comes from Assad. He says, quote, "I understand that it will be upsetting to some that I have given a human face to the suicide bombers. I am also very critical of the suicide bombers, as well. The film is simply meant to open a discussion. It does not condone the taking of lives. No one can claim a moral stance."

And here you and I are having a conversation about it. So is that not a good thing?

BEN-AMI: We`re having a conversation about it, and I`m glad that he told you that he doesn`t promote terrorism the way he sees it. After all, he was educated in Israel. He`s, by the way, an Israeli Arab.

Look how they live. They live like us. They are good people. And look at what the leaders of the Palestinians are doing to their own people, and kids, and everybody. They`re sending them with bombs. They don`t have -- that`s not human. What, are you kidding me?

HAMMER: So you say that -- you know, you mentioned that this appears to you as an infomercial to these ends. So are you at all actually concerned that the film itself may inspire somebody who is seeking direction in their life to possibly go down this path and, you know, maybe this is their way out, and actually become a suicide bomber? You think that could come of this?

BEN-AMI: Absolutely. They will watch it on the Internet or whatever, in the film houses. They portray these people as heroes. Why don`t they give them the billions of dollars and educate them? They have it. It`s in Switzerland. They can look for it. It`s there. Don`t teach them to become terrorists.

We don`t kill innocent people, not in the movies and not in real life.

HAMMER: Well, going back to the notion that you`re not voting for the film because you disagree with its message, you know, "Brokeback Mountain" out there this year, "Transamerica" out there this year. Isn`t it sort of like saying that, if somebody is opposed to homosexuality, if a member of the academy is opposed to homosexuality, they should protest those films by not voting for those films?

BEN-AMI: I would vote, you know, for this category. I don`t have any problem with that. Nobody got killed because of homosexual relationships.

HAMMER: I`m not asking you personally. I`m saying, isn`t it analogous to say that? Isn`t it pretty much the same thing?

BEN-AMI: I don`t know. If you go to see the movie that we`re talking about and you see that it promotes, although they`re making it like it`s sophisticated and whatever. It`s pure infomercial to educate people to go and do that, and I`m against that. So I don`t know about other movies.

HAMMER: All right, Yoram, well, I do appreciate you taking a stance and coming on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT to talk with us about it.

BEN-AMI: Thank you, Mr. Hammer. Thank you very much.

HAMMER: Yoram Ben-Ami, thanks for joining us live from Hollywood.

BEN-AMI: Thank you.

HAMMER: Now, all of this leads us to our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." A lot of e-mails coming in on the topic. We would love for you to vote. Terrorists in movies: Is it OK to portray them sympathetically?

If you still want to vote, you can by going online to You can write to us at E- mails at 55 past the hour.

Well coming up, we have the shocking story of a mob widow who says the hit HBO show, "The Sopranos," is based on her life, and now she wants someone to show her the money. Plus, a brand new high-energy trailer for "The Da Vinci Code" starring Tom Hanks, directed by Ron Howard, your first look in tonight`s "Showbiz Showcase."

And secrets from the set of "Desperate Housewives" from Carlos himself. Ricardo Antonio Chavira live in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


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

Tonight, the stunning story of a woman who says "The Sopranos" is based on her life. She`s says that the hit HBO show about a New Jersey mob family stole its ideas from her family, details about her late husband, her kids, even a bunch of ducks. Well, now she wants somebody to pay up or else.

Here`s CNN`s John Zarrella for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


LYNDA MILITO, FORMER MOBSTER`S WIFE: Every day of my life, this is hitting me in the head.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lynda Milito has a problem.

MILITO: When I see "The Sopranos," I get sick.

ZARRELLA: The petite 59-year-old is the widow of New York mobster Louie Milito, who mob experts say was a killer, the real deal, a bona fide tough guy. Milito himself was said to have taken two bullets to the head in 1988. His body was never found.

MILITO: He was hit here and hit here.

ZARRELLA: Lynda Milito is convinced HBO`s "Sopranos" is based on her family. There are too many similarities, she says, to be coincidence, right down to the ducks in Tony Soprano`s pool.

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: Listen, if you don`t like that ramp, I`ll build you another one. Maybe it`s the wood.

MILITO: How did Tony have ducks? I mean, no made member in the world has ducks. Well, Louie did, OK? Louie did.

ZARRELLA: In response to Milito`s accusations, HBO, which like CNN is owned by Time Warner, issued this statement. Quote, "`The Sopranos` is wholly the creation of David Chase and his team of writers. Any claims to the contrary are simply ridiculous," end quote.

Lynda Milito insists it`s true. And because dead men don`t talk, it`s just her word against theirs. This mobster`s widow who once helped Louie Milito turn back odometers...

MILITO: I did the paperwork.

ZARRELLA (on-screen): You did the paperwork?

MILITO: I did the forgery.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): ... says even Carmella is a dead ringer, so to speak.

MILITO: If you look at her, you`ll swear you`re talking to me.

ZARRELLA: And Lynda Milito argues the children are carbon copies.

MILITO: They`re identical. The children age bracket is the same age. They went to private schools. Well, my children went to private schools.

ZARRELLA: Wearing widow`s black, Milito has gone public to demand HBO and others make her an offer she can`t refuse.

MILITO: What do I want from them? Fair compensation. I don`t know in which way; I don`t know how.

ZARRELLA: Robert Castelli was with the New York State organized crime task force. He said "The Sopranos" could be the Militos or just about any mob family.

ROBERT CASTELLI, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: You could take any of these stories that you see in "The Sopranos," replace the names, replace the faces, replace the cities, and it would play out over and over again every day, every year. That`s the nature of wise guys.

ZARRELLA: Milito acknowledges differences between HBO`s Tony and her Louie. Tony Soprano never claimed he killed Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa. Milito says her husband told her he did just that and buried the remains in a column on New York`s Verrazzano Bridge.

MILITO: He said, well, he`s in that stanchion over there. He said, "I killed him."

ZARRELLA: And unlike Tony, Louie, she says, was no cheat.

MILITO: First of all, I`m a lot of woman. I mean, how could he cheat on me? (INAUDIBLE)


ZARRELLA: Milito says she didn`t act sooner because she was busy with her first book. Now the mafia wife says she`s ready.

MILITO: I love a challenge. I married Louie.

ZARRELLA: Next month, "The Sopranos" begins its sixth season. Milito says she won`t be watching.


HAMMER: That was CNN`s John Zarrella for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Lynda Milito also says she gave 20 hours of research interviews to the writers of the 1998 TV movie, "Witness to the Mob." Now, Milito thinks that those writers passed the details of her life onto the "Sopranos" staff. Hmm.

Well, in tonight`s "Showbiz Showcase," "The Da Vinci Code." There`s a brand-new trailer out for the Ron Howard film starring Tom Hanks. It`s based on Dan Brown`s controversial novel about a murder and a secret that could threaten 2,000 years of religious teachings.

Here`s your first look.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Symbols are a language that can help us understand our past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor Langdon, the chief of police would like your assistance.

HANKS: Dear god.

ANNOUNCER: A murder that hides a message.

HANKS: He did this himself in his own blood?


ANNOUNCER: A code only he can break.


HANKS: Demons, omens, codes, monks. Da Vinci.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Professor Langdon, you are in grave danger.

HANKS: What is going on?

IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR: You are in the middle of a war, one that`s been going on forever, to protect a secret so powerful that, if revealed, it would devastate mankind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you`re saying all this is real?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real enough to kill for.

ANNOUNCER: From Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard comes the most anticipated thriller of our time.

MCKELLEN: Witness the biggest cover-up in human history.

ANNOUNCER: Tom Hanks. "The Da Vinci Code."


HAMMER: "The Da Vinci Code" is scheduled to hit theaters on May 16th.

Well, "Desperate Housewives" is coming to Latin America. That`s right. There are companies in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile which will produce their own versions of the hit ABC show. The cast and the crew are going to be local, as well. And, of course, the show`s title will be in Spanish.

So I`ve been asked by my producers to try this. "Amas de Casa Desesperadas."

"Desperate Housewives" is already a big hit in Australia and Asia. That was just terrible.

RICARDO ANTONIO CHAVIRA, ACTOR: "Amas de Casa Desesperadas."

HAMMER: All right. We`ll get into that. This is a "Showbiz Sitdown" coming at you with one of the stars from "Desperate Housewives," this gentleman who is joining us live, Ricardo Antonio Chavira. Now, I`ve been doing that OK.

Of course, he plays Carlos Solis, Eva Longoria`s husband, on the show.

What is the title and how badly did I butcher it?

CHAVIRA: No, not at all.

HAMMER: In Spanish?

CHAVIRA: "Amas de Casa Desesperadas." See, now you`ve got me...

HAMMER: Oh, see, right?

CHAVIRA: Because I`m nervous.

HAMMER: I`m sorry. I`m sorry.

CHAVIRA: "Amas de Casa Desesperadas." That`s what it is. So, translation, "Desperate Housewives," basically.

HAMMER: I don`t speak Spanish.



HAMMER: I try. I`m up for any kind of a challenge. Did you have any idea that -- I mean, the show is already worldwide, but it`s you guys dubbed into other languages. Did you know that they were doing Latin versions?

CHAVIRA: I knew that they were doing that, yes, and I knew about the South America contingent and all that. What shocked me was when I saw the dubbing for China.


And I think they even had like a guy with, like, a very kind of baritone-type voice doing it in Chinese, which I was like, "Oh, well, that was nice."

HAMMER: Kind of like watching the old kung fu movies.



HAMMER: But now it`s going to be entirely new actors and actresses playing your parts.

CHAVIRA: Yes, yes. I was just like -- I was a little -- I was like, "OK, I guess, but all right, whatever."

HAMMER: Man, you`ve got a great gig.

CHAVIRA: I`m doing OK, I have to say.

HAMMER: And, you know, you were working along the way. You were a good hard-working actor. And then, in relatively no time, suddenly you are known around the country and around the world, massive fame and success. What was the biggest way your life changed when the show blew up, which happened immediately?

CHAVIRA: I would say, actually, it`s pretty recent. The biggest way my life has changed is that -- well, at the very beginning, you know, I was able to buy a house for myself and for my son and my family.

HAMMER: Was that your biggest indulgence at the time?

CHAVIRA: At the time. But now I`m buying another one, because I need a little bit more privacy.

HAMMER: Excellent.

CHAVIRA: It`s interesting the way the public reacts to this show.

HAMMER: Has it come to that with you? Because we see the attention that all of the ladies get. And I imagine you can`t even walk down the street. But are people hanging outside your house? I mean, do you have to get in a gated community now?

CHAVIRA: That`s basically what I`m doing, yes. And I mean, it`s not so much for me. I really don`t care. But it`s more for the protection of my son, because I want to make sure that he has a private life and he has the ability to grow up like a normal little boy and not being known as this person`s son.


CHAVIRA: You know?

HAMMER: As best as you can do that. He`s three years old now, right?

CHAVIRA: Yes, three. Tomas Antonio is his name. And a beautiful little boy, yes.

HAMMER: And I have to imagine that`s the second best job in the world.

CHAVIRA: That`s the first best job in the world.

HAMMER: Or the first best job.

CHAVIRA: That`s the first best job in the world.

HAMMER: But I do imagine, when you`re walking down the street, and people probably call out to Carlos all the time. And...

CHAVIRA: That happens quite often.

HAMMER: Fans are notorious for confusing the actors with the characters. Are people high-fiving you because you`re having these hot, steamy sex scenes with Eva Longoria?

CHAVIRA: Yes, there`s a lot of that. But, I mean, it`s kind of weird. Sometimes, especially like guys, and if I`m in a bar situation, and there`s been alcohol and stuff, people get rather brazen with the questioning and a bit crass, you know...

HAMMER: What has somebody asked you?

CHAVIRA: Like wanting to know, like, about specific body parts and things like that. And I`m just like...

HAMMER: Eva`s body parts?

CHAVIRA: Oh, I`m not going to say whose. It could even be mine at times, you know?

HAMMER: Well, you never know.

CHAVIRA: But it`s just it`s really weird, like, just the amount of attention that we get as a result of the show.

HAMMER: Does it freak you out a little bit?

CHAVIRA: A little bit, yes. And so what happens is I usually don`t do a lot of, like, appearances and stuff. I don`t go to a lot of parties or do a lot of going out within, like, the Hollywood circle or celebrity- type circles and things like that.

HAMMER: Yes, because we don`t see your face an awful lot with all the paparazzi shots.

CHAVIRA: No, no. So then, when I do go and do something, like I came up here to do some press for the show and stuff. And last night, I had the good fortune of being able to check out a friend`s play, Patrick Wilson, who`s a good friend of mine, actor.

HAMMER: Little more low-key.

CHAVIRA: Yes. And he`s opened "Barefoot in the Park" at the Cort Theater. And I went to that, and it was just like unreal the attention that I got. And I was like -- I guess it`s a little bit definitely the show, but also the fact that I don`t get out that often.

HAMMER: Well, unfortunately, I`m out of time. But I appreciate you coming on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. And you`ll have to give me a secret during the break that I`m going to be able to pass along, because I did...


CHAVIRA: Definitely. Definitely.

HAMMER: Work on that, Ricardo Antonio Chavira. We appreciate you being here with us. And, of course, "Desperate Housewives," as everyone knows, is on Sunday nights on ABC.

Still time for you to sound off in our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day," if you haven`t voted yet. Terrorists in movies: Is it OK to portray them sympathetically? You can vote at You can write to us at We`ll share some of your thoughts later in the show.



We`ve been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Terrorists in movies: Is it OK to portray them sympathetically?

Well, the vote so far has 36 percent of you saying yes, 64 percent of you saying, no, it is not OK.

Gotten a bunch of e-mails on the topic. We heard from Ricky in Mississippi who says, "Whether it be real or in the movies, terrorists should be portrayed as one of the lowest forms of humanity."

We heard from Ronald in Texas. He adds, "Terrorists are merciless killers with no feelings. They should preferably not be shown at all."

But Christina from Iowa writes something completely different. "It is imperative that terrorists are portrayed sympathetically. They love, they cry, they believe. Yet, they have been brainwashed."

Keep voting at

What is happening on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT on Monday? I don`t know. That`s why we got the Marquee Guy. Take it away, M.G.

MARQUEE GUY: Thanks, A.J. Monday, "Trading Places." Can switching spouses actually save a marriage? We`ll meet two husbands, we`ll meet two wives that swapped with success. How wife swap kept them together, Monday on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Also Monday, they`re outrageous, they`re contagious, they`re in your e-mail inbox. Those Internet funny clips you just love to share with your friends. Forward them on. We`ve got some of the funniest ones, so spread the word and tune into SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Monday.

This is the Marquee Guy coming to your inbox soon as an attachment.

HAMMER: All right then.

Quickly, a secret from the set of "Desperate Housewives. Ricardo Antonio Chavira told me that Mr. and Mrs. Solis will actually be looking to have a kid in a way you might not expect.

That`s it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. The latest from CNN Headline News is next.


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