Goodbye, Hollywood. Hello, Peace Corps!

Angelina Jolie is to blame, really. Because of something she said to me in India four years ago, I have quit my 13-year career as an entertainment journalist, have given away almost everything I own, and at 43, have joined the Peace Corps.

Talk Transcript: Sean Smith on Angelina Jolie

Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to dress actors in Pakistani police uniforms, hand them AK-47s and stand them in the dirt courtyard of a Muslim school in India while children were in class. Still, that gaffe would have been fast forgotten if the film being shot on campus, "A Mighty Heart," weren't about the murder of Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl by Muslim extremists—and weren't starring Angelina Jolie. When parents showed up that Nov. 16 afternoon to pick up their kids, the gates...

Talk Transcript: Sean Smith on Angelina Jolie

"A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, is based on the best-selling book by Mariane Pearl about the murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, by Al Qaeda members in Karachi, Pakistan, in early 2002. The movie details Mariane's struggle—with the help of Journal editors, Pakistan counterterrorism experts, FBI agents and others—to unravel the terrorist network and find Danny. Much in Mariane's life has changed since then, including the birth of their son, Adam, who...

Homer Simpson's Big-Screen Odyssey

To make it on the big screen, you have to give people something spectacular. Something extraordinary. Something like Bart Simpson—full frontal. It happens early in "The Simpsons Movie," when the animated 10-year-old takes a dare from his goofball father, Homer, to skateboard naked through the streets of Springfield. Hidden by plants and picket fences, he whizzes along, past kids, down hills, through traffic lights, until, in one shocking moment, little Bart flashes his little part to the...

Homer Simpson's Big-Screen Odyssey

To make it on the big screen, you have to give people something spectacular. Something extraordinary. Something like Bart Simpson—full frontal. It happens early in "The Simpsons Movie," when the animated 10-year-old takes a dare from his goofball father, Homer, to skateboard naked through the streets of Springfield. Hidden by plants and picket fences, he whizzes along, past kids, down hills, through traffic lights, until, in one shocking moment, little Bart flashes his little part to the...

Will Smith: Hollywood's most powerful actor?

A few decades ago, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which states, in essence, that evolution doesn't happen at a slow, steady rate. It happens fast, in bursts, after long periods of stasis. Maybe he should be required reading in Hollywood.For almost as long as there have been power lists, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise—"The Toms"—have jockeyed for first position, occasionally letting Mel Gibson sneak up on the rail, just to keep things interesting....

Will Smith: Hollywood's most powerful actor?

A few decades ago, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which states, in essence, that evolution doesn't happen at a slow, steady rate. It happens fast, in bursts, after long periods of stasis. Maybe he should be required reading in Hollywood.For almost as long as there have been power lists, Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise—"The Toms"—have jockeyed for first position, occasionally letting Mel Gibson sneak up on the rail, just to keep things interesting....

Now, Watch Very Carefully

Even obsessive "Harry Potter" fans don't seem to have noticed that Hogwarts has had a makeover from the first two films. "As you approach, the Great Hall and the tower housing Professor Dumbledore's office are off to the left, and there's a viaduct connecting them to a series of buildings on the right," says Oscar-winning art director Stuart Craig, who has designed all five "Potter" movies, including this summer's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." "If you look to the right of that...

Hollywood Royalty

Security was tight. For the first time, NEWSWEEK'S annual roundtable was held in public, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. We made sure to keep a few of the celebrities' names secret, and arranged for all of them to arrive via an inconspicuous side entrance to the theater. So imagine our surprise when Brad Pitt--the most paparazzi-hounded star on the planet--was dropped off on Hollywood Boulevard and strode blithely through the theater's front doors, disguised only by a pair of sunglasses....

James Cameron Back in Action

It has been 10 years since "Titanic" grossed $1.8 billion worldwide and earned a record 11 Oscars. Writer-Director James Cameron hasn't made a feature film since. Last week, he announced that he will begin shooting "Avatar," a $195 million action-adventure film set on a distant planet, shot in digital 3-D, using a camera he developed. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith.NEWSWEEK: Why has it taken so long for you to direct another feature film?James Cameron: Well, there's not a quick answer....

Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett

The most-anticipated new reality show of next year was conceived in Steven Spielberg's backyard. In early 2006, the Oscar-winning director was at his Los Angeles home chatting with Mark Burnett, the creator of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice." The topic was not television, but a movie they'd like to make together. The movie remains a secret, but "in the course of talking about the film, I mentioned that I was interested in sweeping the world to find new actors and directors," Spielberg recalls,...

Movies: Who's That Guy With Harry Potter?

Mention the name of the new "Harry Potter" director and the near-universal response is, "Who?" After creating a $3.5 billion franchise with a string of high-profile filmmakers--Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón and Mike Newell--Warner Bros. hired David Yates to take the reins for "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which will be released next summer. Yates is unknown here, but he's been building an impressive résumé in his native Britain. His movie "Sex Traffic," about women forced...

Rocky's Final Round

Boy, did I get a beating," says Sylvester Stallone, sitting in the living room of his Italian-style villa high above Beverly Hills. A year ago the 60-year-old actor was in the ring being pummeled by a 37-year-old professional boxer for the climactic scene of "Rocky Balboa," the sixth and final installment of the franchise that launched Stallone's career. That kind of hammering can't be healthy. "The second knockdown in that scene was real. It doesn't hurt so much as it stuns you. You're lying...

Living the Dream

When Oprah Winfrey phoned the hotel room, Jennifer Hudson refused to take the call. "Tell her I'm not talking," Hudson told her makeup artist, who had answered the phone. Relaying this story a week later, Hudson laughs. "I was resting my voice, and I thought it was my manager playing around!" she says. "It took about 30 seconds before I realized, 'Oh, my God, this is Oprah for real!' " Winfrey had just seen Hudson's debut in "Dreamgirls," the film adaptation of the Tony- winning Broadway...

Living the Dream

When Oprah Winfrey phoned the hotel room, Jennifer Hudson refused to take the call. "Tell her I'm not talking," Hudson told her makeup artist, who had answered the phone. Relaying this story a week later, Hudson laughs. "I was resting my voice, and I thought it was my manager playing around!" she says. "It took about 30 seconds before I realized, 'Oh, my God, this is Oprah for real!' " Winfrey had just seen Hudson's debut in "Dreamgirls," the film adaptation of the Tony- winning Broadway...

Holy Hollywood

\"The Nativity Story,\" a new movie that tells the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ, won\'t be in theaters until December, but Anne Graham Lotz has already seen it. Lotz, who is Billy Graham\'s daughter, was one of the dozens of pastors, religious scholars and historians who were consulted on the script. Still, she says, she was nervous when the studio, New Line, brought the film to North Carolina to screen it for her. \"I\'d never really had any communication with Hollywood before this,...

Stars: Revealing the Whole Harry Potter

Before you see Harry Potter on screen next summer, you'll be able to see him naked onstage in London. Daniel Radcliffe, 17-year-old star of the "Potter" franchise, will make his West End debut next year in the Tony-winning drama "Equus." The role--a troubled young man with a religious-erotic obsession with horses--requires Radcliffe to be nude for one scene. What was he thinking? "Part of me wants to shake up people's perception of me, just shove me in a blender," Radcliffe told NEWSWEEK in an...

Being Bening

Annette Bening is a picture of poise and reserve. She's warm, yes, but not one to use an interview as therapy. She'll chat forever about the brilliance of Maggie Smith or Frances McDormand, ask about the state of the media or discuss a novel, but questions about, say, why she's drawn to certain characters elicit polite deflections. So it's a shock when Ryan Murphy, the director of "Running With Scissors," announces, "Annette is really dishy, which nobody knows. She's hilarious. When I met with...

Exclusive: Harry Potter and the Wavering Costar

Harry Potter" might lose one of its stars. The fifth film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," is currently filming at Leavesden Studios north of London. Negotiations to lock in Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) for the final two films are in the preliminary stages, and while the boys are likely to commit, Watson, 16, is unsure. "I don't know yet," she told NEWSWEEK near the set of 12 Grimmauld Place, secret...

Ask Tip Sheet

When a Hollywood star is said to make $20 million a picture, how much does he actually get to keep?--Pam Lackey, Albuquerque, N.M.Of an actor's $20 million salary, 10 percent goes to his agent. His business manager and lawyer each get 5 percent. About $7 million goes to taxes, unless the money is diverted into tax shelters. So, in general, from a $20 million salary, the star takes home only about $9 million. Some actors have a career manager--separate from the business manager--who lops off...

Newsmakers

Mel Gibson had a miserable week. Arrested early on July 28 for driving drunk--he was doing more than 85mph in a 45mph zone in Malibu, Calif., with an open bottle of tequila in the car--the star ranted to police, "F---ing Jews . . . Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." The Web site TMZ.com broke the news, and it created a media maelstrom. Gibson had been accused of--and had denied--anti-Semitism in his 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ," and his father, Hutton, has been widely...

The Mice That Roared

They weren't exactly Hollywood's idea of a power couple: Disney CEO Robert Iger, once derided as a "suit," and stu-dio chief Richard Cook, who got his start as a monorail operator at Disneyland. But last week Iger and Cook dropped a bomb bigger than any of the explosions you'll see in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Just weeks after the record-smashing release of the sequel--soon to be the highest-grossing film in Disney history--Cook fired studio president Nina Jacobson and...

Career Intervention: M. Night Shyamalan

The Crisis:notSince that article four years ago, Shyamalan's movies--namely "The Village" and "Lady in the Water"--have certainly become more artificial and less engrossing. The success of "The Sixth Sense" gave him total creative autonomy, and he has isolated himself in Pennsylvania, where all his movies are made. "When someone is given total artistic freedom," says one blockbuster producer, "the result is usually bad."The Cure: No one doubts his talent, or believes he has done irreparable...

A Flying Leap

two years ago Bryan Singer walked away from the "X-Men" franchise he had created to direct "Superman Returns." Good call. Early reviews, including NEWSWEEK's, have been raves. As the film begins, Superman (Brandon Routh) has returned from a five-year search for Krypton to discover that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has a 5-year-old son, a devoted boyfriend (James Marsden) and a Pulitzer Prize for writing the column "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), meanwhile, is...

A Pirate's Life

He wasn't looking for superstardom, so superstardom came looking for him. Johnny Depp on family, 'Pirates of the Caribbean 2'--and how he got a chest of gold without selling his soul.

The Girl Can't Help It

Celeb-baiting comedian Kathy Griffin, whose show 'My Life on the D-List' returns this month, has a foul mouth and a bad attitude. And it's made her a star.

Mission: Impossible III: Who's Smiling Now?

Hollywood celebrated the lackluster opening of "Mission: Impossible III" by dancing on Tom Cruise's grave. "There's a certain part of this town that loves to watch somebody self-destruct," said one film-industry exec, who, like others in the business, makes it a policy not to criticize anyone publicly. "People were rooting against that movie. They were rooting against Tom." Rooting against him so much that they may have overhyped his demise. Cruise has been the closest thing to a sure thing in...

'DA VINCI': Tom, Hollywood Hates Da Hair

Nothing is going to stop the movie of "The Da Vinci Code" from being an unqualified success--except maybe Tom Hanks's terrible hairdo. Sounds silly, right? But Hollywood, like high school, is a silly place, and folks never pass up a chance to play their favorite parlor game: trying to put a dent in a rival movie's prospects by quietly trashing it. For "Da Vinci," they've zeroed in on the flowing mane of hair that Hanks, 49, chose for his role in Ron Howard's screen adaptation. "In Hollywood,...

A Dash of Fresh 'Pepper'

Actors can be fans, too, and they're not above lifting a memento--a prop, a costume--from the set once filming is over. When she finished her third "X-Men" movie, Rebecca Romijn walked off with an unusual keepsake: a bottle of blue paint. Technically, it's called Mystique blue, because it's the color of her scaly character, Mystique. Even stranger, Romijn still uses the stuff. You can see it in her new WB comedy, "Pepper Dennis," in which she plays a hard-charging, ridiculously glam TV...

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