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One of the Kardashian sisters reportedly hasn’t spoken to Caitlyn Jenner in nearly two years

Caitlyn Jenner claims she hasn’t spoken to her stepdaughter Khloé Kardashian in nearly two years.

>> Read more trending news

The former Olympian opened up to Andy Cohen on his “Radio Andy” show on SiriusXM.

“She doesn’t want to talk to me,” Jenner said. “She hasn’t talked to me in, like, two years.”

She continued, “That’s sad. I was very, very close to Khloé. I mean, I had 23 years of raising her. I met Khloé. when she was 5 years old.”

Cohen then asked if Jenner was hurt by Kardashian’s actions and she replied, “Of course it hurts. Cause she was on ‘Howard Stern’ and called me a liar. And that kind of pissed me off too, cause I never lied to her, you know, if I didn’t tell her everything. First of all, she never asked.”

>> RELATED: Nick Cannon dished on his ex-wife Mariah Carey’s most “diva” moment, and it is totally over the top

Caitlyn Jenner has been feeling some backlash surrounding the release of her new memoir, “The Secrets of My Life” and said she stands by her work, even though her ex-wife Kris Jenner told her she “never wanted to talk to [Jenner] again.”

“My book is honest, and it’s my story, and I’m sorry she feels that way,” Caitlyn Jenner said. “And I just don’t want her to alienate me from my children.”

As for what she thinks will happen next, Caitlyn Jenner said she’s unsure what the future holds.

“I don’t know, we’ll see how that goes off in the future,” she said.

(H/T US Weekly)

Actress Joely Fisher to write 'incredible, candid' memoir

Joely Fisher, the actress and half-sister of Carrie Fisher, has her own show business stories.

William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, told The Associated Press on Thursday that it had acquired her memoir, "Growing Up Fisher," and would release it Nov. 14. The publisher is promising "incredible, candid stories" about everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ellen DeGeneres, on whose sitcom "Ellen" she played Paige Clark. Her other credits include the TV shows "'Til Death" and "Wild Card."

Fisher, 49, also will write of having Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens as her parents and how the death of Carrie Fisher, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, inspired her to write. In a statement Thursday, she described her life as an "uproarious journey" and herself as "desperately flawed but funny."

Bill Paxton remembered at premiere of final film ‘The Circle’ 

The director of the new tech drama “The Circle,” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, remembered actor Bill Paxton at the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news

Paxton, who played Watson’s father, had a small role in the movie, his last before his death at 61 after heart surgery in February. 

Director James Ponsoldt called the late actor “endlessly generous,” Variety reported.

“Bill was amazing,” Ponsoldt said.

“He was one of my favorite actors for the longest time, going back to when I was a kid.” 

>> Related: Actor Bill Paxton of ‘Aliens,’ ‘Titanic’ fame dead at 61

Ponsoldt said he had been looking forward to making more films with Paxton, who had also directed several movies during his career.

“I was excited to make more films with him. I was excited for him to make more films as an actor and a director.”

“The Circle” opens in theaters on Friday.

Review: Clunky 'Sleight' showcases new lead Jacob Latimore

Key to this is 20-year-old Jacob Latimore, who shines in his first starring role. He plays Bo, a science whiz who performs street magic around Los Angeles. When his mom unexpectedly dies, Bo skips out on the college scholarship he earned to stay home and look after his little sister. The street-magic hustle doesn't bring in enough money, so he sells drugs on the side.

Dule Hill, deliciously playing against type, is Angelo, the local drug kingpin who brings Bo into his fold. Angelo is a classic sociopath: charming, icy and exacting. He metes out justice with bullets and a cleaver.

Bo doesn't like the drug work, but because he only sells cocaine and party pills to club kids in Hollywood, he justifies to himself that it's harmless. His challenge is to juggle his magic dreams and drug-slinging reality while protecting his sister, and Latimore embodies the tenderness, fear and determination such a balancing act requires.

Meanwhile, Bo is devoted to improving his magic skills, which are secretly aided by an electromagnet he's built into his arm.

You read that right: Bo is like a self-made Iron Man, with an electro-charged arm that can move metal objects without touching them.

"Anyone can learn a trick," Bo says. "But doing something no one else is willing to do makes you a magician."

This is how he explains a fierce-looking wound on his arm to his impossibly idealized girlfriend, Holly (Seychelle Gabriel). Holly is the kind of fictionalized female construct that can only exist in the male imagination: She's smitten at first glance, ripe for rescuing and willing to give her hard-earned life savings to a cute magician she just met.

She and the other female characters, including Sasheer Zamata as Bo's caring neighbor, Carmen Esposito as a seen-it-all club manager and Storm Reid as Bo's beloved little sister, aren't developed beyond their relationship to Bo.

"Sleight" is Bo's story, which is why Latimore's casting is crucial. His performance is so compelling that it smooths over the shortcomings in the script, direction and budget. And Hill is a hoot as a man completely off the hinges, even if he almost veers into caricature.

Though the film suffers from pacing issues that make it feel longer than its 90-minute running time, and the drug-dealing subplot is heavy-handed and stereotypical, it's a promising start for first-time director J.D. Dillard, who co-wrote the screenplay with producer Alex Theurer. Dillard is equally unafraid of gore and emotion, and the use of magic here feels fresh.

"Sleight" succeeds with its creation of a modern quasi-superhero in Bo and the launching of an electric new leading man in Latimore.

"Sleight," a BH Tilt release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "language throughout, drug content and some violence." Running time: 90 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.


MPAA definition for R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at .

Weinstein Co. and MPAA settle ratings dispute

The Weinstein Co.'s transgender drama "3 Generations" has been reclassified with a PG-13 rating after the distributor made slight tweaks to the movie.

The Weinstein Co. said Thursday that it made "some edits to the film as a compromise" after the Motion Picture Association of America gave "3 Generations" an R-rating. Harvey Weinstein criticized that decision. The Weinstein Co. co-chairman has frequently battled with the MPAA over ratings, often with the benefit of generating inexpensive publicity.

"3 Generations" stars Elle Fanning as a teenager who is transitioning. Susan Sarandon plays the youth's lesbian grandmother, and Naomi Watts co-stars as the mother.

The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, which participated in the making of the film, applauded the ratings change. It called the movie "a film that all families should be able to see."

Roman Polanski's latest movie added to Cannes Film Festival

Roman Polanski's latest film is heading to the Cannes Film Festival.

The French festival announced a few additions to its lineup on Thursday. Polanksi's "Based on a True Story" will play out of competition. The French-language thriller, which Sony Pictures Classics has already acquired for North American distribution, stars Emmanuelle Seigner as a Parisian author who meets a mysterious woman, played by Eva Green, at a book signing.

The film is Polanski's first feature since 2013's "Venus in Fur." A Los Angeles judge recently rejected Polanski's bid to end his long-running underage sex abuse case without the fugitive director appearing in court or being sentenced to more prison time.

Polanski had been set to preside over France's Cesar Awards in February, but withdrew after the protests of feminist groups.

Festival organizers also announced the addition of "The Square" by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund ("Force Majeure") to the Cannes competition.

In VR land rush, creators unlock an 'empathy engine'

On a plain, overcast day in Poland, Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter walks toward the Nazi concentration camp Majdanek.

He stands in the railway car that delivered him and his family to the camp. He walks to the gas chamber and the showers. Some rooms he can't bear to go in. He shares his recollections and tries to remember what he can of his family. All he can really visualize of his sister is the fleeting image of her golden braid of her hair.

Walking with Gutter in Majdanek is an undeniably powerful way to make the Holocaust tangible, and to see it through a survivor's eyes. Now, being Gutter's companion as he revisits his painful past is an experience anyone can have just by putting on a headset.

The virtual reality piece "The Last Goodbye," made from 3-D video and thousands of photographs at Majdanek, is being billed as the first Holocaust survivor testimony in room-scale VR. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the medium's growing ambitions have been on display over the past week.

What "The Last Goodbye" and other works show is that virtual reality, while still very much in its early days, has a potent ability to foster empathy. In transporting you to an intimate space with someone, it gives that old expression, "walk in my shoes," a new, high-tech, physical dimension.

That's literally the concept behind Katheryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail's "The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger's Shoes," an 8-minute, 360-degree visit with the Garamba National Park rangers. They defend the Democratic Republic of the Congo park from waves of poachers.

Ismail, whose earlier, award-winning VR experience, "The Displaced," followed three child refugees, says of virtual reality: "It enables empathy because it enables a kind of presence in someone else's space. And breaking through apathy."

"For me, it's exactly that. It's empathy," says Bigelow. "Here are these individuals who put their lives on the line in order to thwart the problem. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price. In order to be able to help, you have to be very well informed."

Big names filmmakers and actors are increasingly experimenting in VR, a fast-growing new media landscape that the investment bank Citi last fall forecast will be a trillion-dollar industry by the year 2035. Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") and Justin Lin ("Fast & Furious") have tried their hand in it, and in May, "Birdman" director Alejandro Inarritu will premiere a virtual reality project at the Cannes Film Festival. He has called it an effort to "allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants' feet, under their skin, and into their hearts."

Jennifer Brea turned to VR for an accompanying experience to her Sundance entry film, "Unrest," about her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome. In the VR experience, the viewer feels what it's like to be bedridden in her room. Brea calls virtual reality "an engine of empathy."

A sense of growth was palpable at Tribeca, which increased the size of its VR arcade this year. Loren Hammonds, a film and experiential programmer at Tribeca, sees a rapidly progressing medium where artists are continually reexamining their notions of how to orient the viewer.

"The rules are being broken," says Hammonds. "There are constantly these sets of rules that keep being presented to creators: you can't move the camera or you can't cut. And the minute someone breaks it and it works, well, no more rule."

Creators, many eyeing the neighboring booths in the Tribeca arcade, acknowledge there's a competitive atmosphere in VR that can feel like a land rush. Technology is one race, and all agree virtual reality is going to get exponentially smoother and crisper. "The Last Goodbye" has been "future-proofed," meaning that more detailed photography and video has been set aside for when the tech catches up, says Patrick Milling Smith, chief executive of VR production company Here Be Dragons.

But storytelling is a race of its own in VR, a medium many call a combination of cinema and gaming. Should the viewer have agency to move and shape their experience? If so, to what degree? How do you guide them?

For inspiration, Baobab Studios co-founder Eric Darnell, an animation veteran who co-directed the "Madagascar" films, has studied how magicians manipulate the eyes of their audiences. Baobab's first VR work, "Invasion!" supplied the viewer a partner — a little white bunny — for an alien arrival.

"Now everyone is doing that," says Maureen Fan, chief executive of Baobab. "But a lot of people debated us on that. We felt that as a user, why are you there if you're a fly (on the wall) verses if you're a bunny? If you have a role to play, how much more do you feel for that character and feel immersed in that world?"

At Tribeca, Baobab premiered the first chapter of an ambitious 10-part series, "Rainbow Crow," in which John Legend voices a mythical, sonorous bird forever changed by a cosmic adventure. "It's about love. It's about inclusion. It's about community," says Legend.

The creators of the choose-your-own-adventure, live-action "Broken Night" wanted to take go further. In it, Emily Mortimer plays a woman with a hazy memory recounting a violent encounter with an intruder in her home. At various points in the story, viewers are given a choice to follow different paths in the story, which they select by looking to one side of the action or the other.

"The problem with live-action VR today is it's not interactive," says co-director Tal Zubalsky. "Kind of the whole promise of VR is to get you to a different place. But if you get there only as an observer and not as a participant, then you're not really there."


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

James Earl Jones to get Tony Award for lifetime achievement

Two-time Tony Award winner James Earl Jones will soon get a third — for lifetime achievement.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee said Thursday that Jones will receive the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre on June 11 at the Tony Awards.

Jones, the voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa from Disney's "The Lion King," has won Tonys for "The Great White Hope" and "Fences." His Broadway credits also include "On Golden Pond," ''Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," ''Driving Miss Daisy," ''The Best Man" and "The Gin Game."

Chipotle to debut first dessert

Chipotle plans to add a dessert item to its menu this year.

The Denver-based Mexican grill announced Tuesday it will begin testing a fried dough dessert next month, Business Insider reported

>> Read more trending news

Chipotle’s buñuelos, a traditional Mexican dessert, are fried tortillas sprinkled with honey, cinnamon and sugar. They’re to be served with caramel-apple dipping sauce.

“It’s simple to make and requires us to add just a few additional ingredients,” Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said, according to Yahoo. “They’re delicious and complement our menu nicely.”

It’s unclear which locations nationwide will offer the dessert first. 

Although Chipotle announced last year that it would be adding a dessert item to the menu, the buñuelo comes as a surprise, as many speculated the restaurant chain would debut churros as its first dessert.Chipotle is known for being slow to change its menu. According to Business Insider, the addition of buñuelos will be the company’s third major change in 20 years.

The most recent addition was chorizo, which Chipotle began offering in October. 

The company also announced that sales at restaurants that have been open at least a year rose 17.8 percent in the first quarter, and revenue increased 28.1 percent to $1.07 billion. Chipotle’s stock rose, and Ells said the increases indicates a “strong start” to the year.

>> Related: Here's why Chipotle doesn't sell queso

'Sad Mary' is back: Blige breaks down, toughens up on album

Let's state the obvious here: Mary J. Blige has a way with hurt. Songs like "Not Gon' Cry" and "No More Drama" might even prove that Blige is at her best when she's at her worst.

Her latest set, "Strength of a Woman," supports that almost-fact.

Sure, "happy Mary" can make a hit. (Please see: 2001's "Family Affair" in this dancery.) But "scorned Mary" can make you feel both her pain and your own — every cut, every bruise, every pang of fragile hope.

On "Strength of a Woman," Blige harnesses that power. Perhaps thanks in no small part to real-life drama with her estranged husband Martin "Kendu" Isaacs, from whom she filed for divorce last year. Lead single "Thick of It" — one of four heart-wrenching standouts co-written by Jazmine Sullivan — movingly captures Blige torn between staying and walking away.

But in no uncertain terms is Blige as ready to go as on the quietly scathing "Set Me Free," also co-written by Sullivan. "How you fix your mouth to say I owe you/When you had another (chick) and taking trips.../With my money." Blige sings, later adding, "There's a special place in hell for you/You gon' pay for what you did to me."

The words are a little startling, but it brings a certain pleasure to hear Blige flexing her emotional muscle against the hurt. She's down, but she's not out, as she declares on the Kanye West-assisted "Love Yourself," then again on the triumphant "Survivor." The up-tempo "Find the Love" is also a winner, breaking through like a rainbow after the storm.

Missy Elliott might be Blige's best guest, popping up on "Glow Up," which also features DJ Khaled and Quavo from the rap trio Migos. Contributors also include producers DJ Camper, KAYTRANADA, BADBADNOTGOOD and Teddy Riley, among others.

The hazy "Indestructible" is beautiful, with Blige seeming to advise — not just the audience — but herself: "I know your heart is aching/But you can't let him break it baby/You gotta love like you've never been hurt/To find a love that you deserve."

Maybe that's why fans cling to "sad Mary"; if, despite her troubles, she soldiers on, then maybe everyone else can, too.


Follow Melanie J. Sims at

Tom Hanks going on 'NFL moratorium' over Raiders move

Tom Hanks says he's going on an "NFL moratorium" for two years after his hometown Oakland Raiders leave for Las Vegas, but he didn't explain what that entails.

The NFL approved the Raiders' plan to move last month. A $1.9 billion stadium is slated to be built for the team with the help of $750 million in public money.

"You cannot take the Silver and Black, put them in an air-conditioned dome in the desert, make them play on artificial turf within a stone's throw of the fountains of Caesar's Palace, and call them the Raiders," Hanks said Monday at a charity event.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports ( ) Hanks told author Dave Eggers that the NFL is a billion-dollar industry and NFL owners are billionaires. Yet, he says, when the owners want to build a stadium, "they expect the city taxpayers to buy the building."

Hanks sees one positive in the Raiders' exit: the possibility of a new baseball stadium for his Oakland Athletics.

R. Kelly sued for alleged affair with deputy’s wife

Singer R. Kelly is facing legal trouble after he was accused of being involved with a man’s wife.

>> Read more trending news

According to WAPT News, Kenny Bryant, a deputy in the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department in Mississippi, filed a lawsuit in circuit court against Kelly on April 21.

Bryant claims that his wife, Asia Childress, admitted to having a relationship with Kelly before the two were married in July 2012, Fox News reported. Childress told Bryant that her relationship with Kelly ended before their wedding.

But Childress and Kelly rekindled their relationship that fall after Childress attended one of Kelly’s concerts, according to the lawsuit. Bryant said he was unaware that the two were frequently communicating.

Childress and Kelly communicated via text message, phone calls and in-person visits, the lawsuit says.

“Each time R. Kelly would have a concert in a nearby state, Childress would disappear to reunite wit her love,” the suit says. “Time after time, R. Kelly cuckolded Bryant, with blatant disregard for Bryant’s and Childress’ vows.”

Childress also convinced Bryant to move from Mississippi to Georgia, claiming that the move would benefit her career.

“The ulterior motive ... was to foster her relationship with R. Kelly,” the lawsuit says. 

Bryant quit his job and moved to Atlanta, where he was “unable to find profitable employment,” according to the lawsuit. 

“As a result of her adulterous relationship with R. Kelly, Childress endeavored to live a lifestyle that surpassed her economic abilities and convinced Bryant to aid her in living beyond her means,” documents say.

Bryant claims that he suffered “grievous mental and emotional distress” and “financial ruin” as a result of the nearly five-year long relationship that his wife had with the 50-year-old musician.

Childress filed for divorce from Bryant, an action that the lawsuit says is “due to R. Kelly’s actions.”

Read the full lawsuit here.

'Wonder Woman' director finds herself in rare summer role

Director Patty Jenkins first expressed interest in making a "Wonder Woman" movie over 10 years ago. She'd just made "Monster," which won Charlize Theron an Oscar, and was doing the rounds at various studios talking about what she'd like to do next. Richard Donner's "Superman" was a film that changed her life, and it occurred to her that there still hadn't been a "Wonder Woman" movie.

"Wonder Woman," Jenkins remembers saying. "Let me make 'Wonder Woman.'"

It happened, though not without a few detours along the way, including a pregnancy, Jenkins almost directing the sequel to "Thor," and another director initially getting the "Wonder Woman" job.

Now Jenkins' "Wonder Woman" is barreling toward its big release on June 2. And unfairly or not, there's a lot at stake. Not only is it the first-ever big screen movie about one of the most popular superheroes of all time, it's also the first female-led superhero movie in over a decade, following the financial disasters of "Catwoman" and "Elektra." On top of all that, it's a rare big budget blockbuster from a director who happens to be a woman. No pressure, right?

The story of "Wonder Woman" is a dozen stories tied into one film. It's the story one director who loved "Superman" getting to realize her lifelong dream of directing a classical superhero origin story. It's the story of an industry taking another long-delayed gamble on a female-led film in a historically male-dominated genre. And it's the continuing story of female directors fighting for a place at the blockbuster table.

This summer there are a number of female-directed films coming out, but most are independent, few are wide-releases and all are one-offs. Among them are Stella Meghie's teen drama "Everything, Everything" (May 19); Lucia Aniello's bachelorette comedy "Rough Night" (June 16); Sofia Coppola's Civil war pic "The Beguiled" (June 23); and Kathryn Bigelow's 1967 riots drama "Detroit" (Aug. 4). Jenkins has the sole tent-pole, an industry term for a big budget movie intended to support a studio's lower-earning films.

In fact, Jenkins is one of the few women who have ever been granted a budget of over $100 million. Bigelow got one for "K-19: The Widowmaker," and Ava DuVernay has one for "A Wrinkle in Time." It's not unreasonable to assume that "Mulan's" Niki Caro and "Captain Marvel" co-director Anna Boden will get that too. But it's a void that's especially notable during the summer, when there are a seemingly endless string of male-directed films with $200 million-plus budgets in theaters each week.

It's not that women don't direct summer blockbusters. In the past ten years of top studio summer releases there's been Elizabeth Banks' "Pitch Perfect 2," Phyllida Lloyd's "Mamma Mia" and Anne Fletcher's "The Proposal," all of which grossed from $287.5 million to $609.8 million on budgets under $52 million. They're just often not afforded blockbuster budgets.

"When the money is there, there are fewer women," said Melissa Silverstein, publisher and founder of the website Women and Hollywood.

Writer, director and actress Zoe Lister-Jones whose indie "Band Aid" also comes out June 2, said she doesn't see the same amount of risk being taken on women as men to handle tent-pole and franchise films.

"That should be the focus of where we look at gender inequity in this industry for female directors," she told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Experience is a Catch-22 for women. Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy got into hot water last year when she said that while finding a female director for a "Star Wars" film is a priority, they want to make sure that they're set up for success. "You can't come into them with essentially no experience," Kennedy told Hollywood trade Variety.

Jenkins is "as stunned as anybody" that there have been so few — especially because she and many of her female peers regularly handle comparable budgets working in television.

"A pilot that you shoot in 9 days for $10 million ends up being a very big parallel to this. It's the same dollar per day," Jenkins said. "So many men have crossed over ... it's the same job, just on a larger scale."

"Wonder Woman," Jenkins said, is even on the higher end of superhero pic budgets — not, as many have reported, in the $100 million to $120 million range.

Jenkins is well aware of the pressure to succeed, not only for her movie and reputation, but for all female directors. It's part of the reason she walked away from directing "Thor: The Dark World" and why she was especially cautious to take on "Wonder Woman." She needed to be sure that she and the studio, Warner Bros., were on the same page as to what movie they were making.

That clarity of vision is what "Catwoman" producer Denise Di Novi said they lacked in 2004. The Halle Berry starrer was a critical and commercial flop, making only $82.1 million worldwide against a $100 million budget.

"One of the reasons that movie failed was we were trying to have a female superhero movie be like a male superhero movie. It was too soon," Di Novi said. "We weren't able to really give it the integrity of being one of the first female superhero movies. We were trying to make it like all the other movies. And it shouldn't have been."

But that's when the buying power of teenage boys dictated everything. Because of hits like "The Hunger Games," and the diversity (and success) of content being produced by Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, Jenkins thinks things are changing.

Even though "Wonder Woman" is only her second feature, Jenkins' work has always been steady. Hollywood has never stopped trying to get her to make films.

There are already talks about a "Wonder Woman" sequel, but nothing she can discuss publicly yet. Dwayne Johnson has her on his shortlist to direct the Disney pic "Jungle Cruise," too, although he's not sure she knows that yet.

"Patty has that really cool edge ... I felt like she could be a really cool choice for a movie like 'Jungle Cruise'," Johnson said. "Plus, you know what? I'm just a big fan."


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter:

Kardashian West: Gunpoint heist 'meant to happen to me'

Kim Kardashian West says that being held at gunpoint during a Paris jewelry heist last year "was meant to happen."

Kardashian West tells Ellen DeGeneres on Thursday's episode of the comedian's chat show that she's "such a different person" after the October robbery. She says she was "definitely materialistic" before being robbed, but now she says she doesn't care about things like jewelry.

Kardashian West also told DeGeneres that Caitlyn Jenner is not being honest about her marriage to Kardashian's mother, Kris Jenner. She says Caitlyn Jenner's comments in her newly released memoir and in interviews promoting it are "hurtful." She adds that Caitlyn Jenner took "a really long time to be honest with herself," so she doesn't expect her to be honest now.

Kardashian West says she wishes Jenner success, but not at her family's expense.

Johnny Depp, dressed as Jack Sparrow, surprises Disneyland visitors

It really was a pirate’s life for Johnny Depp at Disneyland Wednesday night.

>> Read more trending news 

Depp had a major surprise for riders on the Disneyland version of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He blended in with the audio-animatronics on the ride, dressed in full Captain Jack Sparrow garb.

He appeared in one of the village scenes, getting as close as the water would let him to the boats full of riders.

The videos were quickly loaded onto social media.

This isn’t the first time Depp has donned his pirate hat in public. In 2015, he took time while filming in Australia to visit a children’s hospital. 

Last year, he also appeared in Disneyland as one of his other famous characters. Depp interacted with park guests via video link as the Mad Hatter as a promotion for “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

Ellen DeGeneres recalls pain, liberation of coming-out show

Ellen DeGeneres can measure her career and personal success by several impressive yardsticks, including a popular daytime talk show and eight-year marriage to Portia de Rossi.

But two decades ago, as star of the ABC sitcom "Ellen," she put herself and her career on the line when she came out as gay and her character followed suit in "The Puppy Episode" that aired April 30, 1997.

The title itself is a clue to how difficult it was to get it made. When the show's writers raised the unprecedented prime-time broadcast story line with Michael Eisner, then-CEO of ABC's parent Walt Disney Co., he suggested the character instead get a puppy, DeGeneres recalled.

As she prepared to mark the culture-changing event Friday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," she looked back at what she faced in creating the episode and what came after.

The Associated Press: How difficult was it to decide to come out both personally and in character, and do it simultaneously?

DeGeneres: I was doing just fine. The show was a success, my career was a success and there was no real reason for me to do it other than I did some work on myself, some deep soul-searching, and realized I was really carrying around a lot of shame. ... No matter how many times I tried to rationalize that I didn't need anyone to know, I knew that it was a secret. And I knew that there was a possibility that people would hate me for the simple fact that no matter how much they loved my comedy or my show, but they might hate me if they knew I was gay.

It became more important to me than my career. I suddenly said, "Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society's eyes?" ... And then I thought, the character on the show is clearly struggling. There's no relationship. It was pretty clear it would be an easy transition for her to realize she was gay, which was why her relationships with men weren't working out.

AP: How were the studio and network to work with during the script development and production?

DeGeneres: They really didn't give us the OK (at first). We were trying to convince them to do it, and there were closed-door meetings. And the scripts were written on red paper so you couldn't see the black ink. They were shredded at the end of every single day and locked in a safe. It was crazy. It was like we were spies or something.

AP: "Ellen" cast member Joely Fisher recalled that you held back from saying the line "I'm gay" in pre-taping rehearsals. Why?

DeGeneres: Because the first time we were blocking it and rehearsing it (the scene), I started to say it and I would tear up. And I realized how charged that sentence was because, you know, when you're gay, the only time you say "I'm gay" is when you're revealing it to someone, when you're telling your parents or when you're telling someone close to you. Because most people never have to say, "I'm straight." .... So Laura (guest star Laura Dern) kept saying, "Just don't say it," because she saw how hard it was for me.

AP: How were you affected by the criticism that you, the show and your co-stars received?

DeGeneres: I knew I was risking hurting my career. ... But to know that Laura Dern was punished for it just because she played my love interest in that show is crazy. I mean, she's a brilliant actress, she's heterosexual and yet she was punished. And Oprah (Winfrey) got hate mail just for being a part of it. Obviously, that's why a lot of people don't come out, because there's a very loud and clear message ... that a lot of people don't understand it (being gay), and because they don't understand it they fear, and because they fear it they hate it. But I had no idea the amount of hate. I had no idea that there would be death threats or a bomb scare. It was a really scary time.

AP: You have a hit talk show and merchandise lines. Is that affirmation or not of where you and society are now?

DeGeneres: You can look around and see that there's still a lot of work to be done. There are always going to be people who just are stuck in their heads on what gay means. ... Nobody really understood how dark it got for me. I was really, really in a deep depression. I had never been so down in my life. I was depressed. I was broke. I felt attacked. It was everything that you just fear in life, like nobody loving you. For me to crawl out of that and to accomplish what I've accomplished with the show and with my brand and with my production company, and to succeed after all that .... (It) makes me realize that no matter how dark something gets, and no matter how bad something gets, that there's always a possibility of good coming from it. You have to just hold on and know that something good will come from it and there's always a lesson in everything.




Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at and on Twitter at

'Yep, I'm Gay': Happy 20th out anniversary, Ellen DeGeneres

With a headline of "Yep, I'm Gay" on the cover of Time magazine and the same declaration on her sitcom, Ellen DeGeneres made history 20 years ago as the first prime-time lead on network TV to come out, capturing the hearts of supporters gay and straight amid a swirl of hate mail, death threats and, ultimately, dark times on and off the screen.

The code-named "The Puppy Episode" of "Ellen" that aired April 30, 1997, was more than just a hit. It was one of those huge cultural "where were you" moments for anybody remotely interested in TV, or the advancement of LGBTQ people working in TV, or who were itching to come out of their closets at home at a still-perilous time.

Variety summed it up this way: "Climaxing a season of swelling anticipation, Ellen Morgan (the bookstore-managing alter ego of Ellen DeGeneres) finally acknowledges her lesbianism tonight in an 'Ellen' hour that represents television's most-hyped coming out since Little Ricky came out of Lucy 44 years ago."

The hype was real, fed by DeGeneres' personal desire to end her secret-keeping at age 38 and to bring her TV character along for the ride. The off-screen act came first in Time by slightly more than two weeks, but "Puppy" was months in the making under lock and key, something that failed to matter when the script leaked and the world then waited.

Why risk it all? Because DeGeneres, one of America's sweethearts then and now, was done with the lying and the hiding.

"It became more important to me than my career," she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I suddenly said, 'Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society's eyes?'"

The hate was also real. There was pulpit-pounding from conservatives, including full-page newspaper ads (the late Rev. Jerry Falwell called her "Ellen DeGenerate"). There was nasty mail all around, including some for guest star Oprah Winfrey suggesting that she "go back to Africa." After "Puppy" wrapped, cast, crew and live audience were hustled out of the Burbank, California, studio because of a bomb threat.

Winfrey, who played Ellen's therapist, told the AP she had no clue that "I would get the worst hate mail of my career." She praised DeGeneres for having the courage to produce a "seminal moment for anybody who was hiding behind anything."

The episode was watched by an estimated 44 million viewers. It won an Emmy for writing, a Peabody as a landmark in broadcasting and numerous other accolades. The attention coincided with a new and very public relationship for DeGeneres with her girlfriend at the time, Anne Heche, herself new to the out life.

The following season, DeGeneres' fifth, was the last. It was a failure in terms of ratings. The network took to slapping "adult content" warnings on the show, something DeGeneres knew nothing about ahead of time. The season was bashed by some as unfunny and "too gay," as was the out-and-proud DeGeneres herself as she lived life big with Heche offscreen. Sponsors fled and the show was canceled.

DeGeneres went into a "hole," a deep depression, where she stayed without work for more than three years. Laura Dern, among the guest stars on "Puppy" and happy to be included, didn't work for a year after she played the out love interest to whom Ellen Morgan finally came out. (Both Dern and Winfrey join DeGeneres on Friday on "The Ellen Show" to mark the anniversary).

Ellen Garcia in San Pedro, California, is a gay, 47-year-old office administrator for a mental health nonprofit. She was 27 and out to just close friends and co-workers when she watched.

"How you feel about yourself, and how you feel about how society views you, plays a huge factor and that's why this show was so significant, because it brought all those things out," she said. "It made me feel normal."

So what made it the right time for DeGeneres? Well, nothing, she said.

"There was every indication that I should not do it. My publicist at the time said, 'Don't do it.' The studio, the network, everyone said (it)," she recalled. "I said, 'You know, look, you may lose a show but you have thousands of other shows revolving through this door that come to you and you'll have another show. This is my career. If I'm willing to lose my career for this, you have to let me do this.'"

The doing wasn't easy. The first draft of "Puppy" was rejected by the show's Disney point person. It took forever for script approval, with "Puppy" finally hitting air as the fourth season's third-to-last show, a full hour as opposed to the usual half-hour. DeGeneres had thrown a bash at her California house for cast members and writers months earlier, at the top of the fourth, declaring then that she wanted to come out, but nobody was sure how it would all play out.

"I remember these walks from our offices to the Disney offices to see the big guys," recalled Dava Savel, one of the executive producers and writers. "We walked with her and it was kind of like the Bataan Death March. We were like, 'Ohhh, here we go.' I remember Ellen crying on the way back when Disney finally gave her the OK."

History was made. Friends gathered around TVs. The gay rights advocacy group GLAAD organized watch parties after an ABC affiliate in Alabama declined to air "Puppy."

DeGeneres herself made a spectacular comeback, eventually, now the host of her own daytime talk show and America's sweetheart at age 59. (President Barack Obama awarded her the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, last year.) Numerous gay leads followed on TV, yet advocates hope for still more diversity and accuracy in story and character development.

None of that mattered the night of April 30, 1997.

Eric Marcus, creator and host of the podcast "Making Gay History" and author of a 2002 collection of oral history of the same name, put it this way: "For everyday people, Ellen made gay OK."


Associated Press television writers Lynn Elber in Los Angeles and Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.

Ivanka Trump microphone quip draws criticism for Fox host

Fox News host Jesse Watters says he enjoys Ivanka Trump's voice and wasn't making a joke "about anything else" when he mentioned that he liked the way she held a microphone.

Watters made the comment while hosting "The Five" on Fox News Channel on Tuesday. He criticized people booing her as she defended her father's attitude toward women while holding a microphone on stage at an event in Germany. Then he added: "I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone."

The moment sparked online criticism from MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz .

Watters explained on Twitter , "On air I was referring to Ivanka's voice and how it resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. This was in no way a joke about anything else."

Theme parks: Comcast's under-the-radar growth driver

One of Comcast's fastest-growing businesses hasn't been selling cable or internet subscriptions — or making movies and TV shows, or selling TV ads. It's been theme parks.

Since 2011, when Comcast first took over NBCUniversal's film and TV studios, cable and broadcast networks, TV stations and theme parks, the parks have been one of its biggest revenue drivers. It was, of course, a smaller business to begin with, leaving more room for growth, but that isn't the whole explanation.

Cable subscriptions dropped for a decade before growth resumed last year (although cable revenue still inexorably ticked higher). TV advertising faces a threat from digital giants Facebook and Google, who can target ads precisely to users. Films are an up-and-down business.

And the company is bullish on the parks. "We're expecting a big year," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at an investor conference in February. It continues to spend on them. NBCUniversal's capital expenditures will rise 10 percent this year to about $1.6 billion, largely because of parks investment.


The Universal parks in Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California, were "probably the last thing on our list" in acquiring NBCUniversal, the entertainment conglomerate's head, Steve Burke, recounted at a September 2011 investor conference.

Disney was then the reigning king of theme parks. But the Florida Universal park had opened a Harry Potter attraction in 2010, before Comcast took control, and it was a smashing success. Since then Comcast has spent billions of dollars refurbishing and expanding its park empire, moving into Asia and adding rides and attractions to its California and Florida destinations.

That included a second Harry Potter area in Florida and a Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened last April in California. This latest witches-and-wizards attraction "shattered attendance records," the company said in January. Harry Potter is also in the Osaka, Japan, park, of which Comcast bought a stake in 2015.

Parks revenue has grown roughly 150 percent from 2011 to 2016, and it contributed more profit than the film unit and broadcast TV — NBC and Telemundo — last year.

In the first quarter, parks revenue grew 9 percent to $1.12 billion, and a key profit measure rose 6 percent to $397 million. Harry Potter attendance kept rising in Orlando, and visitors to the parks overall spent more.


Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, is doing quite well stateside. It added video and internet customers in the January-March quarter and will launch a wireless service for its customers soon. It stands to benefit from a deregulatory attitude in Washington, including the likely upending of net neutrality rules detested by broadband providers. Comcast's net income rose 20 percent to $2.57 billion, or 53 cents per share, in the most recent quarter; revenue grew 9 percent to $20.46 billion.

To reach international markets, however, Comcast relies on NBCUniversal. Universal's big-budget movies do well overseas — the eighth "The Fast and the Furious" movie is expected to cross $1 billion in global box office this week; film revenue soared 43 percent to $1.98 billion during the January-March period.

The theme parks also provide Comcast with international customers. Comcast is spending $2.3 billion to take full control of Universal Studios in Japan. There's also a Universal attraction in Singapore that Comcast doesn't own, and it has a Beijing theme park that's long been in the works with Chinese state-owned companies. "We've used this to be a global platform for us," Roberts has said.


You can't talk about theme parks, of course, without mentioning Disney, which is busily upgrading its parks to compete for consumers' dollars.

In Asia, there are already Disney-brand parks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. And Disney also has iconic destinations in California and Florida.

Attractions based on Marvel Comics superheroes and the James Cameron blockbuster film "Avatar" are opening in May in California and Florida parks, respectively. And Star Wars attractions at the California and Florida parks are pegged for 2019.

Auction of Soviet art triggers probe; art market on guard

The sale of nine Soviet-era masterpieces that fetched $3 million at a London auction in 2014 is causing uproar in Moscow's art community, where it was largely perceived as a theft of the family jewels.

The sale of the paintings, one of which now has a place of pride in a Moscow oligarch's private museum, has triggered a criminal investigation.

There also has been a push to re-nationalize the collection that once belonged to a Soviet artists' trade union. The dispute has also made it much more difficult to move Russian art across the border for sales or exhibitions.

In recent months, several Ministry of Culture officials were fired, rules were tightened on the sale of Russian art abroad, and the Russian man who sold the artworks in London is under pressure to return a huge Soviet-era art collection to the government.

The Soviet Union had no private property, with everything from factories and mansions to bakeries and schools owned by the state. After the regime collapsed in 1991, most of the property ended up in private hands in the chaotic and often crime-ridden privatization drive.

Art was no exception.

"For decades, Soviet art was worth nothing," says Milena Orlova, editor-in-chief of The Art Newspaper Russia, explaining that works by top Soviet artists like Alexander Deineka and Georgy Nissky could be bought for close to nothing in the 1990s. "Collections were sold off for a dime. They were sold off like junk."

While bigger Russian institutions such as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and major museums retained their state ownership, smaller collections ended up with obscure private organizations.

Twenty-five years later, the government seems to be using the 2014 auction as a pretext to demand the return of some of what it considers to be the family jewels.

The Soviet Artists' Union was a powerful lobbying group that owned a rich collection donated by member artists. But as the Soviet Union broke apart, the collection of more than 46,000 items was transferred to a nonprofit group of artists, the International Confederation of Artists' Unions, or ICAU.

The Art Newspaper Russia, the country's top art publication, has written about the government's impending plans to reclaim the ownership of the ICAU's massive collection. The Culture Ministry wouldn't comment on these reports, but told The Associated Press — in an about-face from an earlier stance — that it now had "reasonable doubts" that the artists' group ever had the legal right to sell the masterpieces at Sotheby's.

Yet a pre-auction exhibition of the ICAU's works in London was held with the Culture Ministry's support and the ministry a year later sponsored an exhibit of some of these works in Italy.

Alexei Ananyev, a Russian billionaire who bought Georgy Nissky's "Under the Snowy Fields" for 1.8 million pounds ($2.2 million), the most expensive item of the ICAU's collection, is baffled why anyone would question the legality of the sale.

"We think we bought it legally," he told the AP. "This painting has an immaculate provenance. It was acquired in 1964 and has since been the property of the Confederation, which is an NGO (nongovernmental organization) and can dispose of it as it sees fit."

Ananyev is proud of his purchase and feels it's "part of the mission" of the Institute of Russian Realist Art, a private Moscow museum he opened in 2011, "to buy top works and bring them back to Russia."

The auction, which was widely covered in the media, attracted the ire of many in the Russian art community who thought selling these masterpieces abroad was akin to disposing of family heirlooms.

"The art community took it very painfully when those works were taken out of the country and put up for sale, because it was like someone took it from the Tretyakov Gallery and sold it," says Alexander Popov, director of a top Moscow art valuation firm, referring to one Russia's top state-owned galleries.

Sotheby's told the AP in emailed comments that it is "cooperating fully" with Russian authorities "investigating some aspects of the activities of the ICAU." The auction house said that its Russia sales don't appear to have been affected by the scandal, pointing to a 50-percent increase in Russian art sales in November 2016 compared with a year earlier.

The investigation launched last year discovered that "Under the Snowy Fields," one of the two Nissky works that Ananyev bought at that auction, was valued at just 800,000 rubles (under $14,000) by a ministry of culture expert, which was necessary for clearing customs. That means the government was paid a measly export duty on it. On top of that, the ICAU's head was granted a permit in his name to take the paintings out of the country as if he personally owned the collection.

Five ministry officials who handled the documents for the ICAU's works have been fired and another reprimanded, the culture ministry told the AP. The scandal also triggered a purge of art valuers who hold state licenses to issue travel permits, with 125 names stricken off the nationwide list.

ICAU chief Masut Fatkulin didn't respond to numerous calls seeking comment on the topic, although the ICAU in a statement to the AP confirmed reports of a police raid of their offices in January.

In an interview with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper last year, Fatkulin defended the sale but admitted the group did not have a full inventory of the works they inherited from the Soviet Artists' Union. He vowed to make a proper inventory in the future.

On the ground, the Russian investigation has made it difficult for art collectors and galleries to move art across the Russian border.

"(After) that story with Nissky happened, several people got detained with undervalued declarations," says Popov. "Now everyone is afraid of taking responsibility for an export."

Russian officials' attitudes seem to have shifted from turning a blind eye to shady art deals that dodge taxes to scrutinizing every shipment. People in the art community recall a flurry of recent examples of clients facing hurdles at the border or exhibitions of Russian art abroad derailed because of troubles with the authorities.

"Oligarchs are leaving this market," says Popov. "They realize that if they buy a thing here, it practically becomes real estate. You can't move it out."

A well-connected member of the art community told the AP the scandal around the Sotheby's sale is part of a long-standing dispute between the ICAU and the Tretyakov Gallery, which share a mammoth gallery on the Moscow River. The person, who asked to speak anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, said investigators turned their spotlight on Fatkulin because the Tretyakov started talking to officials about wanting to expand their space.

The Tretyakov Gallery declined to comment on these reports.

In January, the Art Newspaper reported the Russian government was drafting plans to reclaim the ICAU's Soviet art collection. The Culture Ministry, however, told the AP it was not aware of such plans.

Ananyev, the art collector, fears efforts to renationalize the ICAU's collection means "these works could end up locked in museum depositories for years and will not be available for the general public."

He said experts should seek a wider solution.

"Maybe it would make sense to think about replenishing the collections" of private museums that have the resources and expertise to preserve art treasures, Ananyev suggested.


Kate de Pury contributed to this report.

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