Roddenberry ashes going into space
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife and the actor who played Scotty will get a final resting place in the “Final Frontier” under plans announced Thursday to launch a space archive.
The project is being developed by the Houston company Celestis, which for years has offered a service that takes partial remains into space and then brings them back.
Celestis announced the new project a day before a launch from Spaceport America takes its 1,000th capsule into space. Ashes from the Roddenberrys have been on previous flights.
But this time they will stay in space. Plans call for the archive to be launched with a large experimental solar sail planned by NASA next year. The public can pay to have digital files, photos and DNA samples included. Also on the mission will be hair from science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.
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NEW YORK — Robert Downey Jr. has signed up for two more “Avengers” films.
Marvel announced Thursday that the actor will reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark for “The Avengers 2” and “The Avengers 3.” Downey Jr. has played the character in a trilogy of “Iron Man” movies, as well as the first superhero ensemble “Avengers” film, which made $2.7 billion worldwide.
Joss Whedon is to return as director of the next “Avengers” film. He is writing the screenplay now. Production is to begin in March, with a theatrical release in May 2015.
Downey, 48, had previously suggested “Iron Man 3” might be his last spin in a stand-alone “Iron Man” film. Marvel’s announcement made no mention of an “Iron Man 4” release.
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LONDON — Rolling Stones fans know you can’t always get what you want. But they may get what they need, with agreement reportedly near between the band and the BBC over televising part of the Stones’ Glastonbury Festival show.
Festival organizer Michael Eavis says the BBC will air about an hour of the Stones’ set as part of its extensive TV coverage of the event.
The BBC and the band both said negotiations were continuing, with the BBC today calling the talks “extremely constructive.”
The Stones are scheduled to headline Glastonbury’s biggest stage on June 29, the festival’s most prestigious slot.
Some 135,000 music fans are due at the June 26-30 festival in southwest England. The lineup includes Arctic Monkeys, Elvis Costello, Kenny Rogers and Mumford & Sons.
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LONDON — British comedian Russell Brand says he has canceled Middle Eastern dates on his forthcoming tour after promoters said they couldn’t guarantee his safety.
Brand had planned to take his “Messiah Complex” tour to Abu Dhabi and Lebanon.
Brand has said the tour focuses on icons including Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X and Jesus, and examines “the importance of heroes in this age of atheistic disposability.”
But Brand told BBC radio Thursday that the Mideast venues “contacted us to say we can no longer guarantee your safety.”
Brand said he thought organizers were wary of the sensitive topic and the poster, which “does depict me looking a little bit Christ-like” and wearing corporate and religious insignia.
The tour started Wednesday in Chicago and ends in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Dec. 9.
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LOS ANGELES — Seems Warner Bros. has taken movie marketing to a whole new level — even higher than a bird or a plane.
The studio enlisted Christian-focused firm Grace Hill Media to promote “Man of Steel” to faith-based groups by inviting them to early screenings and creating trailers that highlight the film’s religious themes.
They also enlisted Craig Detweiler, a Pepperdine University professor and author of “Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century,” to create a Superman-centric sermon outline for pastors titled “Jesus: The Original Superhero.”
“Let’s consider how Superman’s humble origins, his high calling and his transforming sacrifice point us towards Jesus, the original superhero,” the notes read.
The tale of Superman has long been associated with religious allegories. “Man of Steel,” which stars British actor Henry Cavill in the titular role, doesn’t shy away from that theme, including portraying the character as 33 years old, having him seek counsel at a church in a time of crisis and forming a cross-like pose while floating in space.
“I just felt like you could be cute with it and pretend like it doesn’t exist, but what that does is hold back the mythology of Superman,” said “Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder in an interview to promote the film earlier this month.
Snyder added, “Comic books are our mythology now. We don’t really have gods that we believe in that live up on a mountain. We barely believe in the gods that we have, and I just feel like Superman allows us to explain the modern world.”
Hollywood studios frequently market movies to specific religious and cultural groups.
Warner Bros. previously marketed films like “The Blind Side,” “The Notebook,” “The Book of Eli” and the “Harry Potter” series — but not “Green Lantern” — to faith-based groups.
“Man of Steel” earned $116.6 million in its opening weekend at the box office, giving it the biggest all-time opening in June, as well as the second largest opening of the year behind “Iron Man 3.”
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LONDON — “Miss Saigon,” the musical that brought a real helicopter onto the West End stage, is descending on London again.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh says a new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s musical will open at the Prince Edward Theatre in May, 25 years after the original production.
A Vietnam War love story inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” ran for a decade in London. On Broadway, it ran for 4,063 performances until 2000.
Mackintosh said Thursday that he had been working for a decade on a “re-imagined” new production, which “has taken a more gritty and realistic approach to the design than the operatic original but still delivers the power and epic sweep of Boublil and Schonberg’s great score.”
Tickets go on sale in September.
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LONDON — British visual artist and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson has been signed to direct the movie version of erotic best-seller “Fifty Shades of Grey,” producers have announced.
Taylor-Johnson, whose only previous feature was the 2009 John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy,” promised she would “honor the power” of the book, which has sold millions of copies and spawned countless imitators.
The announcement was made Wednesday by Universal Pictures and Focus Features. Producer Michael De Luca said Taylor-Johnson’s “unique ability to gracefully showcase complex relationships dealing with love, emotion and sexual chemistry make her the ideal director” for the story of the S&M-tinged romance between a young student and an enigmatic billionaire.
“Fifty Shades” author E.L. James tweeted that she was “delighted and thrilled” by the choice.
The 46-year-old director, previously known as Sam Taylor-Wood, is one of Britain’s best-known visual artists. Her works include a video portrait of David Beckham sleeping that hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery. She also made “Crying Men,” a compilation of Hollywood actors in tears.
In 2012 she married “Kick-Ass” star Aaron Johnson, whom she met when he played the young Lennon in “Nowhere Boy.” Both adopted the surname Taylor-Johnson.