- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

Hear them roar

Charlize Theron criticized the death penalty after the international premiere Sunday of the film “Monster,” in which she portrays serial killer Aileen Wournos, who was executed by the state of Florida in 2002.

“I’m not for the death penalty, and working on this film didn’t really change anything for me,” the South African-born actress told reporters at the Berlin Film Festival, according to Reuters News Agency. “If anything, it made me more aware of how ineffective it is.”

At the same festival, Renee Zellweger said she believes there’s a simple reason films are featuring such strong female characters lately: It’s what audiences want.

“People making films are recognizing there is value in portraying female characters that way; audiences are interested, and there’s a market for those sorts of films,” she said.

Southern men

The Drive-by Truckers, they of the sprawling “Southern Rock Opera” album that turned Lynryrd Skynryd’s tragedy into allegory, are slated for another project of full-tilt boogie about the American South.

The nearly completed “Dirty South” record is going to be about “everything that went on in our hometowns politically and economically in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” DBT frontman Patterson Hood told Associated Press.

“The Ford plant by my house closed, and all sorts of jobs were being lost,” he said. Mr. Hood cited the Michael Moore documentary “Roger & Me,” about General Motors plant closings in Michigan, as an influence.

“I couldn’t get over how much that movie reminded me of home, except the accents were different.”

Ross tossed

Diana Ross phoned in from New York to a Tucson , Ariz., court yesterday and was convicted of driving under the influence. Her sentence: two days in the slammer and a year of unsupervised probation.

Tucson police arrested Miss Ross in December 2002 after a driver called to report a car traveling southbound in the northbound lanes just outside the city’s northeastern limits.

Breathalyzer test results showed the 59-year-old diva had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent.

In the vernacular, we’d say, “She blew a two-oh” — superhigh by most states’ standards. Arizona’s limit is 0.08.

Jones in control

Norah Jones, whose “Feels Like Home” sophomore album hits stores today, ordered her record label, Blue Note Records, to ditch a dance remix of her international smash single “Don’t Know Why” because it was too commercial, Teenmusic.com reported.

Said Miss Jones, “The reason people liked it in the first place was that it wasn’t commercial. … I didn’t sign to a classic jazz label to be pushed down everybody’s throat.”

Miss Jones recently explained to Associated Press what’s behind such moves: “I’ve always been really opinionated, but I’ve become superopinionated lately.

“I try to do it in a nice way, but like, with my own career, it’s my own thing. I talk to my manager, and I say, ‘We need to do this; this is not cool.’ The poor label; they hate me. I have to approve everything that goes out.”

Missing’ luxury

Spending long hours in the saddle during the filming of Ron Howard’s “The Missing,” Cate Blanchett didn’t feel at home on the range.”I’m quite urban,” the Australian told reporters over the weekend at the Berlin International Film Festival, where the movie is competing for the main Golden Bear prize. “I don’t like to be too far away from an espresso machine.”

Curtains on ‘Taboo’

Three months and $10 million later, Rosie O’Donnell’s pet play “Taboo” shuttered on Broadway because of continually weak ticket sales.

A teary Miss O’Donnell stood outside the Plymouth Theater Sunday after the show’s swan-song performance.

She held a digital camera to her face and snapped a few photos in front of the marquee before walking with partner Kelli Carpenter to a private party down the street.

“Taboo,” funded entirely by Miss O’Donnell, told the story of gender-bending pop singer Boy George. It played 16 previews and 100 performances before closing, losing her entire investment.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from wire and Web reports.

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