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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Hancock's half-hour
Top British actress Sheila Hancock is to join the cast of EastEnders - for one episode.

Hancock, who is married to Inspector Morse star John Thaw, will play the mother of Steve Owen, played by Martin Kemp.

A spokeswoman for the show confirmed the news, saying: "Sheila will play Barbara Owen, but it is just a one-off appearance."

The 66-year-old star of stage and screen, who won a Broadway award for her appearance in Entertaining Mr Sloane, will be seen in Albert Square in July.

The spokeswoman added: "Everyone here is delighted - we are all great admirers of her work."


S Club 7's Bank Holiday dash

Teen stars S Club 7 are to perform a three-date tour in one day as part of the BBC Music Live event.

The group, whose hits include Bring It All Back, are to be ferried around by helicopter to ensure they arrive on time for two TV appearances and a live show on May 29.

The busy Bank Holiday Monday schedule kicks off with an appearance on BBC One's Live And Kicking, where they will perform new single Reach.

Then the seven-piece act hop on a flight to Sheffield Arena for a special edition of Top Of The Pops, before heading back to Television Centre for a BBC Music Live show, which Jon Lee and Rachel Stevens from the band will co-present. BBC Music Live is being held over five days and will feature more than 5,000 events across the UK.


Funnyman Elton "to pen Phantom film"

Comedian Ben Elton is to write the big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical, Phantom of the Opera, Hollywood's tarde newpspaer Variety reports.

It says Hollywood star Antonio Banderas will play the lead in the Warner Bros movie, said to cost 26m, and Shekhar Kapur, of Elizabeth fame, will direct.

Elton, who made his name in the 1980s with TV hits such as The Young Ones, has already worked with Lloyd Webber on a soccer play, The Beautiful Game.


Grant joins film and media giant

British actor Hugh Grant has been appointed to the board of a large film and media company based in Germany.

The 39-year-old star of Four Weddings and Funeral is taking a supervisory role at nationalmedia AG.

A spokesman for the company said Grant will have some genuine "control" over whether films receive investment.

The company's current projects include an adaptation of Robert Harris thriller Enigma, starring Kate Winslet.


Sopranos star lands Mexican role

Actor James Gandolfini has been confirmed to star alongside Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt in action comedy The Mexican.

Gandolfini, best known as mobster Tony Soprano in TV series The Sopranos, will play a gay mafioso character who has an affair with a postman.

The Mexican is being directed by Gore Verbinski - whose credits include Lee Evans' comedy Mouse Hunt - and will be released next year.


Fox counting on cure for Parkinson's

Hollywood actor Michael J Fox believes a cure will be found for the chronic muscle disease that he suffers from.

The 38-year-old, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's seven years ago, told US magazine TV Guide: "I'm completely confident that in my 50s a cure will be found."

He added that although he felt weaker, the disease had had some benefits.

"It has given me kind of a serenity and clarity that I wouldn't have had otherwise," Fox said.


Plans afoot for Hannibal prequel

Producer Dino De Laurentis is planning a prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs, according to reports from the US.

De Laurentis, currently involved in the sequel, Hannibal, is reportedly eager to remake the 1986 film Manhunter.

Based on Thomas Harris' book Red Dragon, the film starred Brian Cox in the role of killer Hannibal Lecter.

Anthony Hopkins, who played Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, has revived the role in Hannibal.


BBC goes Looney for Toons books

The BBC is to publish a series of books based on classic cartoon characters such as Scooby Doo andTom And Jerry.

More than 150 stories featuring Looney Tunes characters will be published, following BBC Worldwide's agreement with the Warner Brothers studio.

The Flintstones and Yogi Bear are among other characters featured.

The first volume, a colouring and activity book starring Fred Flintsone, will be published in July to coincide with the new Flintstones movie.

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See also:

06 May 00 | Entertainment
'Exhausted' Reid quits EastEnders
07 Mar 00 | South Asia
Lloyd Webber's Bollywood dream
30 Mar 00 | Entertainment
BBC launches live music fest
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