E!Online reports that Season 3 finalist and Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson has received one of the harder to get invites in Tinseltown. Along with Steve Carell, Daniel Craig and Jennifer Aniston, Hudson is among the scant 115 industry types who have been tapped to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which only extends such invitations once a year.
In fact, the Academy instituted new rules four years ago intended to slow down its growing list of members eligible to vote every year on who gets to take home the little golden man, the most prestigious trophy in Hollywood. Only 150 new members are allowed every year, with actual invites going out to far fewer candidates.
The Academy currently has just under 6,000 members, with the annual influx countered by retirements and deaths.
Invites are extended to actors, yes, but also to directors, writers, cinematographers, sound and visual effects artists, producers, animators, editors, costume designers, makeup artists and P.R. gurus, among others.
Joining the aforementioned A-listers this year are a directory of performers and visionaries whose big-screen presence has ranged from stadium-style multiplex to art house, studio showboat to indie charmer.
Actors asked to join the ranks include Hudson's DreamGirls costar Eddie Murphy, independent film faves Aaron Eckhart and Ryan Gosling, Bad News Bear turned Little Children Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley, stage and screen star Christopher Plummer and international stars Adriana Barraza (Babel) and Chiwetel Ejiorfor (Dirty Pretty Things). Aside from Haley, Murphy, Gosling and Barraza were all nominated for Academy Awards last year.
Another recent Oscar nominee topped the list of invited filmmakers: United 93's Paul Greengrass. Training Day's Antoine Fuqua, Disturbia's D.J. Caruso and Friday Night Lights' Peter Berg are also among the six directors being asked to join up, while jack-of-all-trades (Alias and Lost creator, Mission: Impossible III scribe and director) J.J. Abrams has been classified as a writer.
Joining Abrams in the writers category are some of the past year's most bandied-about names—Little Miss Sunshine Best Original Screenplay winner Michael Arndt; William Monahan, Best Adapted Screenplay victor for The Departed; Oscar-nominated The Queen screenwriter Peter Morgan; Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose The Lives of Others won Best Foreign Language Film; and Guillermo Arriaga, who penned Babel.
"The numbers are stabilizing nicely," said Academy executive director Bruce Davis, "but at the same time some interesting changes are occurring. Like the recent list of Oscar nominees, our last few membership invitation lists have been increasingly international."
Just out of those mentioned here, there are three Brits (Morgan, Greengrass, Ejiorfor), two Mexicans (Barraza, Arriaga), a German (von Donnersmarck) and a Canadian (Plummer).
The 80th Annual Academy Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008.
SPARKS ON SUPER BOWL RADAR
According to The Arizona Republic, rumors are swirling that Jordin Sparks will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., Sparks' hometown.
Jordin's management team would not confirm the rumor, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy did not rule out the possibility. He said a final decision would not be made until late fall and no discussions with the 17-year-old's representation have taken place.
However, many insiders say the chances look good. For one, Fox, which owns rights to Idol, will broadcast the Feb. 3 game.
"You could almost rule it out if it was CBS or some other network, but I'd say there is a good chance," said Ellman Cos. and Westgate City Center spokesman Jeff Hecht. Hecht worked with a Fox legal team when Jordin performed at Westgate for Idol's homecoming episode.
McCarthy said the game's broadcasting network often suggests performers and usually has input during the artist selection process. The ultimate decision lies with the NFL, he said.
"It would be absolutely perfect seeing that Phillippi [Sparks, Jordin's dad] played football [for the NFL's New York Giants team] and because the game will be held at the new stadium," Sparks family friend Stephanie Rigby said. "I almost can't think of why she wouldn't."
In Super Bowls past, it has not been uncommon to see local flavor on the game's entertainment menu. At Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Houston-native Beyonce Knowles sang the national anthem. Detroit-raised Aretha Franklin sang when Super Bowl XL was played in the Motor City in 2006.
IDOL: THE MUSICAL
Playbill reports that "Idol: The Musical," which is based on the idol worship of former "American Idol" contestant Clay Aiken is headed Off-Broadway.
The musical, which was recently seen in Syracuse, N.Y., is scheduled to begin previews at Off-Broadway's 45th Street Theatre on July 5. Todd Ellis is producing the Manhattan engagement of Idol, which will be directed by Bill Boland.
The musical features a book by Boland and music by Jon Balcourt. Both men collaborated on the lyrics.
"Idol: The Musical," according to press notes, is described as "a satirical musical comedy that focuses on the outrageous and delusional fan base of the hit television show. The musical takes place in Steubenville, Ohio, where a group of dork-like students are preparing for their high school graduation after which they are determined to drag themselves out of the dregs of the middle-of-nowhere.
"There are eight of them; all belonging to the same cult-like club that meets daily in a barn that doubles as a shrine to Clay Aiken. They are actively ridiculed by the rest of Steubenville; a humiliating situation that doesn't deter their quest for all things Clay. They are victims of A.D.D., Ritalin, their misguided obsessions and their innocent longing for their elusive '15 minutes.' One of them pumps gas. One of them is home-schooled. One of them is a genius. And one of them is a basketball phenom who would rather be a Chippendales dancer. The other four have equally bizarre back-stories too complicated to tell here; but suffice it to know that the real bad-guy of the piece is a total harpy named Adrienne. She gives new meaning to the word villain.
"The story heats up when the mid-American leg of the 'Idol Tour,' starring Clay Aiken, is announced to be playing Chicago, Memphis, Louisville, Scranton, Charleston, Greensboro, Roanoke and Steubenville. Steubenville! False idols are a tricky bunch. Especially those that have lost national singing contests. Go ask Clay. I think he'll know."
Ticket information has yet to be announced.
IDOL SPONSORSHIP A HOT PROPERTY
According to Variety, as "American Idol" enters its seventh season on Fox, co-producer and licensor FremantleMedia boasts upward of 40 licensees and a string of off-air sponsors.
FremantleMedia's season six off-air sponsorship roster included multimillion-dollar promotional campaigns with All Detergent, Edy's/Dreyer's Ice Cream, McDonald's, Nestle, Pringles and Samsung.
This summer, off-air sponsor Oscar Mayer will kick off a national "Sing the Jingle, Be a Star" promotion searching for the next voice to croon its famous commercial tune.
This summer will also witness a landmark extension for the "Idol" brand with the launch of its first performing-arts camp for kids, Idol Camp, aimed for children ages 12 to 15.
Meanwhile, Fremantle continues to eye global merchandising expansion.
"While 2007 saw USAopoly and Konami join the 'Idol' roster, going forward we plan to explore more merchandising extensions in the interactive and role-play categories," Luner says. "Of course, we're also launching a licensing program based around the recently announced 'Idol' spinoff, 'American Band,' which will follow a similar format to 'Idol,' both in terms of programming and product."
"We have created a unique licensing business that allows us to extend 'American Idol' and all of our brands across a broad range of platforms and localize our efforts," Gers says.
Kat McPhee's McPhans want Fox and the producers of "American Idol" to know how mcpeeved they are that the Season 5 runner-up was not invited to perform anytime during Season 6, even though invitations were extended to -- and accepted by -- Taylor Hicks (the winner), Elliott Yamin (third place), Chris Daughtry (fourth place) and Kellie Pickler (sixth place).
The KatharineMcPheeForum.com says "In a move that just doesn’t make sense, Katharine McPhee was denied an invite to American Idol’s season finale, even though she called the execs herself to let them know she wanted to attend.
"Her fans are very disappointed by the snub, and in response, have launched Project Kit Kat in an effort to show their support for Katharine. The project even has the approval of Katharine’s mom, Peisha McPhee. All the Idol execs who dissed Katharine are going to get Kit Kat bars, along with a note expressing the fans’ disappointment with the show."
Says one of her fans: "This is a fun and non-confrontational way to get our point across to the decision makers at Idol. The Kit Kat Project [is] to let Idol know how much Kat was missed this season."
What "McPhans" want in the least, is to see an effort by Idol execs to invite Katharine on the show next season.
They've even created a video launch on YouTube to explain what to do. Watch video:
In tribute to Kat and her fans, here are a bunch of videos we've found of some of her recent performances (quality varies):
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Over It" at Endfest, Sacramento:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Love Story" at Endfest, Sacramento:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Dangerous" at Endfest, Sacramento:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Open Toes" at Endfest, Sacramento:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Mary Jane" at Endfest, Sacramento:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Mary Jane" at StarFest 2007:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Open Toes" at StarFest 2007:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Love Story" 6/10/07:
Watch video of Katharine McPhee singing "Over It" at StarFest94:
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