People talk 8/29/03
Cruise finds being 'Samurai' a tough task
TOKYO -- The way of the samurai isn't easy -- just ask Tom Cruise.
Cruise said his role in "The Last Samurai" was a difficult departure from the characters he's portrayed in the past.
In the film, directed by Edward Zwick, Cruise plays an American hired in the late 1800s to help Japanese warriors in Western war tactics.
"I trained for eight months prior to shooting the film," the 41-year-old actor told a news conference packed by some 700 reporters and cameramen Thursday. "I put on 20 pounds for the character but also for the muscle to carry the swords and wear the armor."
Co-star Ken Watanabe, who has played numerous samurai roles for Japanese audiences, said Cruise was a quick learner.
"I feel like we have been through a battle together," he said.
"The Last Samurai" will be released in the United States on Dec. 5.
Venice youngsters get special 'Spy Kids' show
VENICE, Italy -- Salma Hayek and Robert Rodriguez were on hand for a special free screening of "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" for hundreds of children at this year's Venice Film Festival.
Members of the film industry who flock to the annual festival don't always endear themselves to the locals who live on the Lido island off central Venice. So this year, festival organizers and Miramax Films put together a special treat for the youngsters.
"We hope that this will be the start of a new tradition in Venice and at other major festivals," Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein said in a statement.
About 1,700 tickets were handed out for Thursday's screening. The movie isn't scheduled for release in Italy until early next year.
This is the third in the "Spy Kids" series, directed by Rodriguez and starring Hayek and Antonio Banderas.
Celebrities get more than awards at VMAs
NEW YORK -- For celebrities, Christmas doesn't just come in December -- it comes at many awards shows.
Backstage at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, the gifts available at the celebrity "retreat" lounge included custom-fitted Fendi eyewear, Tommy Hilfiger jackets, iRiver portable MP3 players, roundtrip helicopter rides by Blue Star Jets to the Hamptons and Motorola cell phones.
Beyonce Knowles, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Missy Elliott and others participating in Thursday night's show at Radio City Music Hall were invited to peruse the gifts.
Knowles was particularly impressed by a Tahiti trip at Pearl Resorts.
"If I have time, I'll go," the 21-year-old singer said.
Karen Wood, president of Backstage Creations, said Carmen Electra and boyfriend Dave Navarro, and the groups Good Charlotte and Coldplay visited the celebrity lounge Wednesday.
"Carmen liked the Reed Evins shoes," she said. "Good Charlotte was all stoked about the Motorola phones."
Do celebrities ever take more free gifts than they've been offered?
Since they're able to take home an estimated $20,000 in gifts, not that often, Wood says, although she allows that "sometimes, people will say, 'I'd like some more sunglasses."'
Wolverine takes up song-and-dance routine
NEW YORK -- Picturing Wolverine from the "X-Men" movies as a Broadway song-and-dance man may seem like a stretch. But before he played a comic book hero, Hugh Jackman was known for his musical theater work.
In his native Australia, Jackman performed in "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sunset Boulevard" as well as "Oklahoma!" in London.
Starting in October, he'll get the chance to show off those talents again in "The Boy From Oz," the Broadway musical in which he stars as Peter Allen, the flamboyant showman best known for pop songs including "(When My Baby Smiles at Me) I Go to Rio." Allen died of AIDS in 1992.
"Peter's whole essence was very joyous," Jackman, 34, told Vogue magazine for its September issue. "He was fearless, outrageous, and childlike, and he definitely lived life to the full."
To prepare for the physically demanding role, Jackman has put himself through "quite a strict regimen."
"I've been sort of training, doing some yoga, and trying to stretch and get into shape," he said. "I've completely gone off sugar and coffee -- and I love coffee -- because I figured there's so much adrenaline you use in the show."
-- From wire reports