- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

Gere kiss sparks flap

Angry crowds in several Indian cities yesterday burned effigies of Richard Gere after he swept a popular Bollywood actress into his arms and kissed her several times during an AIDS-awareness event, Associated Press reports.

Photographs of the 57-year-old actor embracing Shilpa Shetty and kissing her on the cheek at an HIV/AIDS awareness event in New Delhi were splashed across front pages yesterday in India a country where sex and public displays of affection are largely taboo.

Mr. Gere and Miss Shetty appeared at a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday to highlight the HIV/AIDS epidemic among India’s truck drivers. In front of a cheering crowd, Mr. Gere kissed the giggling Miss Shetty on the hand, then kissed her on both cheeks before bending her in a full embrace to kiss her cheek again.

The spokesman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party condemned the kiss. “Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition,” said Prakash Javadekar, according to Press Trust of India.

Ed the ‘Hulk’

Edward Norton, a two-time Oscar nominee and Columbia, Md., native, will star as the Incredible Hulk in the latest attempt to bring the adventures of the comic-book hero to the big screen, Agence France-Presse reports.

Mr. Norton will play scientist Bruce Banner, who transforms into the superhuman green giant. Production will begin later this year.

The movie will mark a change of direction for Mr. Norton, a Yale University graduate who recently starred in the independent films “The Painted Veil” and “The Illusionist.”

Yesterday’s announcement comes four years after the 2003 movie “Hulk,” starring Eric Bana and directed by Oscar-winning Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee. Although that film opened well in the United States, it failed to match the success of other cinematic adaptations of Marvel comic-book heroes such as “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and the more recent “Ghost Rider.”

Big-budget bust

The Los Angeles Times recently got a look at the detailed budget for “Sahara,” the Matthew McConaughey adventure the newspaper says is one of the biggest financial flops in movie history on track to lose between $78 million and more than $100 million, the Akron Beacon Journal notes.

How did that happen, especially when the movie took in $122 million at the box office? Exorbitant costs, the Times says.

One 46-second sequence cost more than $2 million and was never even used in the movie. A seven-minute water chase cost $1.6 million just for the use of five boats and took three weeks to film.

Mr. McConaughey was paid $8 million, and co-star

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