People talk 5/15

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Actor ready to don Vader costume

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- As Anakin Skywalker in the new "Star Wars" movie, Hayden Christensen takes baby steps toward the dark side of the Force. But Christensen doesn't yet know if he'll get to don Darth Vader's black costume in the next film.

"Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" offers glimmers of the evil that Anakin embraces as he eventually transforms into the villainous Vader from the original trilogy.

Christensen said "Star Wars" creator George Lucas has not told how far the transformation will go in "Episode III." The actor has managed to try on Vader's helmet, just for fun, he said in an interview last week at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch.

"Last time I was here, I went up to the archives and got shown around, and there was the dark helm," said Christensen, 21. "I asked if I could put it on and get a picture, which is pretty funny, because I'm wearing this gray track suit and had this enormous helmet on which is just completely disproportionate."

Christensen has tried to pry more details about the next film out of Lucas, who begins shooting "Episode III" next summer for release in 2005.

Blues lyricist at loss for words

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- Johnnie Johnson created memorable lyrics in collaboration with Chuck Berry, but words left the blues pianist after he received an honorary college degree.

"You are now looking at a man who is at a loss for words. I cannot find the words to express the way that I feel right now," Johnson said Saturday at Fairmont State College's commencement.

"This is more than I could ever explain," said Johnson, who was given an honorary doctorate in music.

Born July 8, 1924, in Fairmont, Johnson was the son of a coal miner. He taught himself how to play the piano, absorbing the sounds of big-band jazz, swing and country-western that he heard on the radio.

He later formed a band called the Johnnie Johnson Trio, which Berry joined in 1952. In 1955, Johnson let Berry take over the band but continued to write and perform with him. Together they created "Roll Over Beethoven," "Sweet Little Sixteen" and other tunes.

Berry wrote "Johnny B. Goode" as a tribute to Johnson, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Devoted fans cheer Madonna in London

LONDON -- Devoted fans of Madonna waited in the rain outside Wyndham's Theatre to cheer on the 43-year-old performer in her first London stage performance.

Tickets for "Up For Grabs" had sold out with 10 days of going on sale, and many people lined up in hopes of getting returned tickets.

Monday's first preview performance was Madonna's first appearance in a play since 1988, when she appeared in David Mamet's "Speed-The-Plow" on Broadway.

Madonna left the theater by the front entrance shortly after Monday's performance and was driven away. There were screams from the crowd as she scrambled to climb in, and the road outside was blocked by photographers and camera crews.

Security was tight and the press was not allowed in the theater, as the show is in preview performances.

Ford honored for work with environment

BOSTON -- Harrison Ford has crusaded as Indiana Jones on the big screen. In real life, environmental advocates are calling the actor "the Indiana Jones of the environment."

Ford accepted an award from Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment on Monday for his work with the board of Conservation International, in helping to save plants and animals around the world.

A tuxedo-clad Ford was presented with a marble dove mounted on a stone base at the ceremony, held at the New England Aquarium.

Ford, 59, is also the narrator of the aquarium's IMAX film, "Lost World: Life in the Balance."


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