Newsmakers

Lord of the Oscars?

Peter Jackson might want to clear off his mantel. The director of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which has already grossed more than $1.8 billion worldwide, is finishing part three, "The Return of the King," and even without seeing a frame, Hollywood insiders consider it the front runner for a best-picture statuette--and Jackson for best director--come Oscar time. No surprise: the first two films were both nominated. What's remarkable is that in an industry known for vicious battles for Academy Awards, many people who plan to compete against Jackson's film secretly want him to win. "I'm such a fan of his," says a studio head with a film sure to be up against "LOTR." "I've been waiting for the Academy to reward him for his nine-hour movie."

Or it may be even longer. There's rampant speculation about the length of the film--still two months from completion--with reports circulating that "King" will clock in at more than three hours. If it does, that's not likely to matter much to fans, critics or even the studio. The first two installments squeaked in just under the 180-minute mark, and it's hard to imagine they could have made any more money. (The highest-grossing film so far, "Titanic," ran a butt-numbing 3 hours 14 minutes.) And while New Line head Robert Shaye shares final cut with Jackson, he has yet to meddle with the director's creative decisions. "We do not talk about length," says studio COO Mark Ordesky. "We talk about the film." So, apparently, does everybody else in Hollywood. They always did like a happy ending.

--Sean Smith

Donald Trump

On NBC's upcoming reality show "The Apprentice," contestants go to work for Donald Trump, who fires them one by one till he gets a winner. (Honest. This is not The Onion.) Mr. New York gets real with NEWSWEEK's resident Aussie, Nicki Gostin.

Why do this? Do you need the publicity?

[Laughs]. No, I don't need the publicity, that's for sure. I have a commitment to only do a certain amount [of shows]. I'm going to try and keep it down to a minimum, but they really wanted me.

Do looks count for the contestants?

Well, looks always count with me, but I'm not going to be the sole proprietor of what happens. If it was up to me you'd probably end up with 16 supermodels.

Will they have to pick up your dry cleaning?

No, but they will be doing things that are very unbelievable.

Like?

Well, I can't tell you. But I'll give you an example. We may rent 16 stores in a really rough neighborhood and give a store to each one of the contestants and say, "Good luck, folks," and see who can make the most money at the end of the week.

How much of your success can be attributed to your having the perfect tycoon's last name?

It is an interesting last name, isn't it? I do have a good last name. I think the name is really an asset. It really is a perfect name. The trump card, the winning card.

I've heard that you're germphobic. How many times a day do you wash your hands?

As often as possible.

Do you avoid shaking hands?

It's always a preference not to shake people's hands, but a lot of times I don't have that option. And it's been proven right. Studies show that you catch all kinds of weird things by shaking people's hands. I think it's a barbaric custom. I like the Japanese theory of bowing much better.

Your girlfriend Melania is Slovenian. Do you dig chicks with foreign accents?

No, I dig people with great personalities.

[Decides to leave it there.]