- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

Papal screening

He may never have seen Oscar-winner Jon Voight as a male prostitute in “Midnight Cowboy,” but Pope Benedict XVI will be among the first to see him portray the immediate past head of the Roman Catholic Church.

CBS television says the pontiff will attend a world-premiere screening of the network’s upcoming big-budget miniseries charting the life of the late Pope John Paul II with Mr. Voight in the title role, Reuters news agency reports.

The special screening of “Pope John Paul II” is scheduled for Nov. 17 at the Vatican in the Paolo VI Hall, site of the pope’s weekly general audience. CBS plans to broadcast the two-part miniseries Dec. 4 and 7.

Mr. Voight, a 1960 graduate of the Catholic University of America, will attend the papal premiere along with two Vatican figures portrayed in the show — John Paul’s longtime private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, and press office director Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls.

Pope Benedict also appears in a brief depiction from the time when he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

According to Reuters, the four-hour, fact-based drama chronicles the story of the former Karol Wojtyla from his youth in Poland through his more than 26-year-long papacy. The script was written under the guidance of the Vatican, which also granted producers access to exclusive footage in and around St. Peter’s Square for the program. Parts of the drama were shot in Poland.

Mr. Voight, 66, who earned his first Oscar nomination for his 1969 role as a hustler in “Midnight Cowboy,” plays John Paul during his years as pope. He won an Academy Award for playing a disabled Vietnam War veteran in “Coming Home” (1978).

Actor Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride,” “Saw”) will play the title character in his adult years prior to his being elected pontiff.

The miniseries also co-stars Ben Gazzara as the Vatican secretary of state, Christopher Lee as a Polish cardinal and James Cromwell as an archbishop who ran an underground seminary during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

The CBS production is the second TV dramatization of John Paul’s life to air this year. “Karol: The Man Who Became Pope,” a film about his early years, was seen on cable’s Hallmark channel in August.

Pope John Paul II died in April.

NBC, NASCAR part ways

NBC won’t extend its contract with NASCAR beyond the 2006 season, an unnamed source involved in the negotiations told Associated Press last week.

ABC and ESPN are expected to replace NBC as one of NASCAR’s television partners, according to a television executive who declined to be identified because the deal wasn’t complete.

According to published reports, NBC splits half of NASCAR’s 36-race schedule with Fox as part of a six-year, $2.8 billion deal that began in 2001. The contract expires at the end of next season, and NBC informed NASCAR last week that it didn’t want to extend the relationship because the value the network put on the package was far less than the asking price.

Alana Russo, a spokesperson for NBC Sports, said the network had no comment.

Fox Sports is negotiating to retain its rights to the first half of the season, and ABC/ESPN also are in contract talks. TNT, which airs a portion of races during NBC’s share of the schedule, also wants to remain involved.

NBC’s weekly NASCAR telecasts will continue through Nov. 20, when the champion driver will be awarded the NASCAR Nextel Cup, MediaWeek.com reports.

Expanding ‘Shield’

Laura Harring is joining FX’s “The Shield” in a recurring role for the police drama’s upcoming fifth season, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

Miss Harring, a former Miss USA (1985) will play attorney Becca Doyle opposite series star Michael Chiklis.

The news follows another recent addition to the show. Actor-director Forest Whitaker recently signed on as a series regular, playing Jon Kavanaugh, a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.

The fifth season of “Shield” begins in January.

Virgin’ comes home

Steve Carrell’s “40 Year-Old Virgin,” last summer’s surprise box-office hit, will arrive on DVD just in time for the holiday season.

The wildly raucous comedy, which follows a middle-aged man’s quest to shed his innocence through the misguided but well-meaning attempts of his co-workers, will feature 17 minutes of unseen footage, a 1970s sex education film and — believe it or not — a documentary on chest hair waxing.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.



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