Regina is already a King, but what about president?
By MESFIN FEKADU
AP Entertainment Writer
Monday, February 18
NEW YORK (AP) — So, Regina King walked into a 99-cent store. And what’d she get? A prophecy on her life.
No joke. King was shopping around — “sometimes people will say, ‘You at the 99-cent store?’ I like a bargain too” — when a woman walked up to her with something of a prediction.
“She said, ‘You don’t know it but you’re going to run for president.’ And I was like, ‘President of a company?’ She was like, ‘No… of the United States,’” King recalled, adding that she thought the woman was a clairvoyant.
“She said, ‘Close your eyes. You are. I see it,’” King continued. “I was like, ‘Girl, I appreciate that but no— that’s not happening. I like my life too much. I like my family too much. I like my friends too much.”
The idea of King, 48, running for presidency isn’t too far-fetched. Rather, it’s not a stretch for people to jokingly ask her to: The seasoned actress is one of the most likable and genial celebrities in the industry, and one fans and peers are constantly rooting for. Remember Taraji P. Henson happily screaming at the top of her lungs when King won her first Emmy in 2015?
King has picked up two more Emmys since — earning acclaim and praise for her riveting roles in John Ridley’s anthology “American Crime” and Netflix’s “Seven Seconds,” where King stunned on-screen as the mother of a son killed by police.
Now King is hitting new heights with her first big screen role since 2010: Her portrayal of a devoted mother in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” already won her honors at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. She’s up for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards, pitting her against Oscar winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; Amy Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee; and first-time Marina de Tavira, who co-starred in “Roma.”
“(Regina) has been stalwart in this industry for so long. For a long time, she was doing the work to do the work and I think the industry sort of catches up to wonderful artists like Regina. She shows up and does the work, whether it be in front or behind the camera, and the industry is taking notice,” said Colman Domingo, who plays King’s husband in “Beale Street.” ”I think it’s not only an Oscar nomination for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ I think it’s also for her body of work.”
King called the nomination “extra-special” since it’s her first; the film also is also competing for best adapted screenplay and best original score at the Oscars on Feb. 24.
King has shined on-screen since she appeared on NBC’s “227” in 1985. Her credits include films like “Jerry Maguire,” ”Friday,” ”Ray,” ”Boyz n the Hood,” ”Enemy of the State” and “Miss Congeniality 2.”
But King traded movie roles for TV ones so she could easily raise her son — her regular date at awards show — in Los Angeles: “I wasn’t interested in homeschooling my son.”
“I had the conversation with my team,” she said, “and they felt like TV was going to be the best space for me to live in.”
She landed a starring role in TNT’s “Southland” in 2009, playing Detective Lydia Adams — a part originally not written for a black woman.
“Everyone at the agency had been put on notice, ‘Do not treat Regina King like a black actor. She is an actor,’” King said. “I hadn’t even quite seen it that way, but that’s what they felt. It kind of started with ‘Legally Blonde 2.’ That was the reach out, like, ‘You know what, why don’t you guys consider Regina King?’”
More TV roles came to her, including “The Big Bang Theory,” ”Shameless,” ”American Crime,” ”The Leftovers” and “Seven Seconds” — all while film stars turned to TV and found success, from Nicole Kidman to Matthew McConaughey to Viola Davis. Even Meryl Streep is heading to the so-called “small screen.”
“I think of myself as a trailblazer for film actors going to television,” King said.
But no matter the screen, King always comes through. She’s known for digging deep into her roles, giving a dramatic, stirring performance that leaves audiences wanting more.
“I’m doing my research. I’m talking to real life people who’ve had these horrific experiences,” King said.
One of the real people was Marion Gray-Hopkins, whose son was killed by police officers. King spoke extensively with Gray-Hopkins as she prepped for “Seven Seconds,” which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
While King is usually able to leave the drama on the set, she said it was hard to escape the madness of the TV series.
“I called my son so much (for) just like random things. He couldn’t watch all of ‘Seven Seconds.’ He saw the first episode, and he tried to watch the second. He was like, ‘I can’t.’ He said, ‘It feels like that’s me,’” King said. “And he was like, ‘Now I get why you were calling me with just like weird stuff, like, ‘Did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer? I’m like, yeah mom. I put the cleaning towels in the dryer. Did you feed the dog?’ I just wanted to hear his voice.”
King’s son, Ian Alexander Jr., will be by her side at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24 to cheer her on — just like so many others.
“I feel the love,” she said. “I can just be anywhere, from the grocery store to wherever. Sometimes, it’ll be the sweetest thing, I’ll get a woman that’s just like 70, 80-years-old say, ‘Just thank you. Thank you for just representing us.’”
“I’m just living my life and trying to remain a good person and give what I get and remain open so that what I get is good, so that’s what I can put back out. But you’re not thinking about how your walk always effects people that you don’t know,” she added.
But still, she’s not running for president.
“When you make the choice to be in the public’s eye, you are letting go of anonymity. You’re letting go of some things that you want to hold dear and protect. … For a president, that’s on level 9 million,” she said. “I am all here for sacrifices, but not that one.”
For full coverage of the Oscars, visit: https://apnews.com/AcademyAwards
Academy reverses plans, will air all awards live at Oscars
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Monday, February 18
NEW YORK (AP) — Bowing to a backlash that had threatened to engulf an already blunder-plagued Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday reversed its decision to present four awards during the commercial breaks of this year’s Oscar broadcast.
All 24 categories will be shown live, after all, at the 91st Academy Awards on February 24, the academy announced in a statement. On Monday, the academy had said that the winning speeches for cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action short would be aired in a shortened, taped segment during the broadcast.
“Nine days until the showtime, still tweaking the script” the Academy tweeted Friday.
The academy did not address whether the change meant extending the show’s length, which organizers have said would be reduced to three hours.
The academy’s move to strike awards from the live broadcast was fiercely contested by many of this year’s Oscar nominees, including “Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron and “BlacKkKlansman” filmmaker Spike Lee. The American Society of Cinematographers on Wednesday issued an open-letter to the academy, signed by Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt and others, calling the plans an insult to the cinematic arts.
“When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form,” the letter read.
The academy on Wednesday defended the decision and blamed “a chain of misinformation” on the backlash. Following record-low ratings to last year’s broadcast, the academy has made a swifter, three-hour telecast a priority. ABC, which airs the Oscars, is planning to premiere a sneak-peak of a new drama series after the Oscar telecast, which regularly ranks as the most-watched non-NFL broadcast of the year.
This is just the latest flip-flop by the academy in its attempts to tweak the Oscars.
The academy’s headaches began after it last summer trotted out the induction of a “popular film Oscar.” The plan sparked such outrage (Rob Lowe pronounced the film industry dead, “survived by sequels, tent-poles and vertical integration”) that the new award was scuttled within a month.
Kevin Hart was announced as this year’s Oscar host only to withdraw days later when many took issue with his old homophobic tweets and the comedian initially “chose to pass on the apology.” Hart finally apologized as he resigned, leaving the Oscars host-less for only the fifth time in its 91-year history.
And after first planning to limit the best song nominee performances, the academy confirmed that all songs will indeed be performed.
AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
‘Alita’ leads a slow Presidents Day box office weekend
By LINDSEY BAHR
AP Film Writer
Monday, February 18
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The sci-fi fantasy “Alita: Battle Angel” topped the charts and beat out a number of newcomers including the meta romantic comedy “Isn’t It Romantic” and the horror sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” in its first weekend in theaters, but it is a victory with a few caveats. It’s leading the slowest Presidents Day weekend at the box office in almost 20 years and has a ways to go to make up its costly budget.
20th Century Fox said Sunday that the James Cameron-produced film earned an estimated $27.8 million over the weekend against a reported $170 million budget, which includes cost-saving tax incentives and rebates. It’s made $36.5 million total since its debut Thursday.
Robert Rodriguez directed the future-set film starring Rosa Salazar as a cyborg with no memory of her past. Critics were mixed on the results, and it’s become just the latest pricey and ambitious non-Star Wars, non-Marvel or DC sci-fi film to do less-than-stellar business at the box office, the last being the Peter Jackson-produced “Mortal Engines.”
It is quite a tumble (56.4 percent) from last year’s record Presidents Day box office when “Black Panther” grossed $202 million over the three-day weekend and propelled the industry total to $286.6 million. The weekend has in recent years been host to the openings of high earners from “Deadpool” to “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This year, total weekend earnings amount to only $125 million.
The rest of the charts remained fairly lackluster as well. Last week’s champ, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” fell 38 percent in its second weekend earning $21.2 million, bringing its total to $62.7 million — which is less than the first film earned in its opening weekend.
Warner Bros. also had the No. 3 movie this weekend with its meta-romantic-comedy “Isn’t It Romantic,” starring Rebel Wilson as a woman who bonks her head and wakes up in a rom-com. It debuted to $14.2 million and has earned $20.5 million since its opening earlier in the week.
The other romantic comedy offering in theaters, “What Men Want,” with Taraji P. Henson, landed in fourth place in its second weekend with $10.9 million. And “Happy Death Day 2 U,” the horror sequel from Blumhouse and Universal, rounded out the top five with $9.8 million. The first film opened over twice as high, with over $26 million, but with a production budget under $10 million, it’s still bound for success.
The Dwayne Johnson wrestling film “Fighting With My Family” also opened in four theaters on Wednesday, earning $131,625 over the weekend.
Seven weeks into the new year and the box office is still struggling, down nearly 20 percent from where industry totals were last year.
“We’ve been down every week this year,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “This weekend is emblematic of what is going on at the box office.”
Dergarabedian said that slow weekends beget more slow weekends — with less foot traffic at the theaters, fewer people are seeing previews for what’s to come and the cycle just continues. But “Captain Marvel” may be coming to save the day on March 8.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.
1.”Alita: Battle Angel,” $27.8 million ($56.2 million international).
2.”The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” $21.2 million ($12.1 million international).
3.”Isn’t It Romantic,” $14.2 million.
4.”What Men Want,” $10.9 million ($2.2 million international).
5.”Happy Death Day 2U,” $9.8 million ($11.8 million international).
6.”Cold Pursuit,” $6 million ($1.5 million international).
7.”The Upside,” $5.6 million ($466,000 international).
8.”Glass,” $3.9 million ($3.6 million international).
9.”The Prodigy,” $3.2 million.
10.”Green Book,” $2.8 million ($9 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. “The Wandering Earth,” $96.9 million.
2. “Alita: Battle Angel,” $56.2 million.
3. “Crazy Alien,” $28.2 million.
4. “Pegasus,” $25.8 million.
5. “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” $12.1 million.
6. “Happy Death Day 2U,” $11.8 million.
7. “Boonie Bears: Blast Into the Past,” $10.4 million.
8. “Green Book,” $9 million.
9. “Extreme Job,” $8.6 million.
10. “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” $7 million.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr
Chicago police seek follow-up interview with Jussie Smollett
By SARA BURNETT and GREG MCCUNE
Monday, February 18
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police said Sunday they’re still seeking a follow-up interview with Jussie Smollett after receiving new information that “shifted” their investigation of a reported attack on the “Empire” actor.
The trajectory of the investigation “shifted” after detectives questioned two brothers about the attack and released them late Friday without charges, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Saturday. He said police also reached out to Smollett’s attorney to request another interview with him.
Guglielmi said Sunday the interview had not yet been conducted. He declined to comment on published reports that police believe Smollett staged the assault or that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case. The reports cited unnamed police sources.
“We’re not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we’ve gotten,” he said.
Smollett, who is black and gay, has said he was physically attacked last month by two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” He said they looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was returning home from an early morning stop at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
Pamela Sharp, a spokeswoman for Smollett, said Sunday that there were no updates “as of now.” Another spokeswoman, Anne Kavanagh, later said she couldn’t comment on whether Smollett had agreed to another interview.
Smollett’s lawyers said late Saturday that the actor felt “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault, adding that, “Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.” The statement from attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson also said Smollett would continue cooperating with police.
Police said they combed surveillance video in the heavily monitored area where Smollett said the attack occurred but were unable to find any footage of the incident. They did obtain images of two people they said they would like to question.
On Wednesday, Chicago police picked up the brothers at O’Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. They described them as “suspects” in the assault, questioned them and searched their apartment.
Then, late Friday evening they released the two men without charges and said they were no longer suspects. They said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of them.
One of the men is Smollett’s personal trainer, whom the actor hired to help get him physically ready for a music video, Smollett’s attorneys said in their statement.
“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the attorneys said.
Police have said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and considered Smollett a victim. Reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities. Smollett’s account of what happened also has been met with skepticism, particularly in the wake of the latest developments.
Smollett, who is also a musician, gave an emotional speech during a Feb. 2 concert in West Hollywood, California, saying he went ahead with the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
He also gave an interview to Robin Roberts of ABC News that aired Thursday in which he said he was “pissed” at people who did not believe he was attacked.
“I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative,” he said. “I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”
Earlier this week, police said reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax were unconfirmed.
Producers of the Fox television drama have supported Smollett, saying his character on “Empire,” Jamal Lyon, was not being written off the show.
Smollett turned over redacted phone records that police said were not sufficient for a criminal investigation.
This story has been corrected to show that the spokeswoman’s last name is Kavanagh, not Kavanaugh, and that the first name of Smollett’s character on the show is Jamal, not James.
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.
Teacher brings furry friends to help comfort students
By BECCA OWSLEY
Monday, February 18
VINE GROVE, Ky. (AP) — J.T. Alton Middle School in Vine Grove now has two extra students — two furry ones.
Clint, 11, and Victoria, 7, are corgis owned by resource classroom teacher Sylvia Stuckey.
At least one of the dogs comes to a classroom almost every day. The visits not only benefit the students in her classroom, they also provide stress relief for fellow educators.
A resource classroom is a class for students with specific learning disabilities to receive direct, specialized instruction. In Stuckey’s classroom earlier this month, students were learning about ancient civilizations.
While the students worked on computers, Clint and Victoria walked up to various students and sat next to them. Many reached down to pet the dogs while they continued their work. The sensation of touching their soft fur helps many of the students, Stuckey said.
“They cheer me up when I’m in a very bad mood,” said Elijah Manning, 12, adding Victoria is his favorite. “I love to pet her. She’s so soft.”
If he starts his day frustrated, he comes in the classroom to pet Victoria. He also said he likes that Clint is Victoria’s uncle.
Elijah said he’s never been to school with dogs or in a classroom with a pet.
“So I didn’t see this coming at first,” he said. “I love their kisses.”
Stuckey said before she started bringing two of her three corgis to class, she received permission from the school principal and spoke with the superintendent. She also made sure no one in the class had dog allergies.
Both dogs have been through the Fort Knox Red Cross pet therapy program. She said though they give a lot of support to the students, they are not emotional support dogs.
The dogs’ presence in the classroom has improved much of the arguing that used to go on, Stuckey said. Students have lowered their voice levels and have been friendlier to each other so they will not upset the dogs, she said.
The students have learned to pick up after themselves better because they don’t want to leave anything on the floor that might harm the dogs if they eat it, Stuckey said. They’ll even police the room to make sure a classmate hasn’t left a mess.
Student work ethic also has improved. Stuckey said having dogs in the classroom doesn’t cure everything, but they help. Attendance has improved because students want to be there with the dogs, Stuckey said.
The dogs know their jobs, she said.
When the dogs wake up in the morning and Stuckey pulls out their bandannas, they know what’s happening. They are going to work.
“Victoria’s job is to come in here, to lay by the kids and be petted,” Stuckey said, adding Victoria enjoys her job.
Clint isn’t a fan of too much love and affection, but often sits by the students or under their desks to be around them.
Both corgis are show dogs and Clint has won numerous honors.
Stuckey said many of the students don’t have pets at home, so seeing the dogs in class is an extra treat.
Zachary Bonifield, 13, was excited to talk about the dogs.
“They’re so adorable,” he said. “They’re like tiny little foxes.”
The class has researched the corgi breed and know they have a fox-like appearance, Stuckey said.
“I like touching their fur and treating them like cute little babies,” Zachary said.
“They’re awesome,” he said as he gave them two thumbs up.
Each student benefits in different ways.
“They help to keep us calm and they help us focus on the work,” said Harley Yates, 14.
He has to come say goodbye to the dogs every time he leaves class, Stuckey said.
“They’re nice,” Harley said, adding Victoria is his favorite.
For Emerson Schmidt, 12, who has a cat at home, the dogs help him stay focused.
“I like that they let me pet them,” he said.
But the students are not the only ones at school to benefit from the dogs.
Teacher Michelle Hale said staff members enjoy the dogs at school because their job often is stressful. She said Victoria will run down the hallway to see her and slide across the floor as she tries to stop.
“They are good stress relievers,” Hale said. “It makes you feel better; their love is unconditional.”
Part of what makes them so helpful is they accept love and give it, she said.
“There’s nothing like a dog,” Hale said.
Stuckey hopes to continue bringing the dogs every year, depending on classroom allergies.
“It’s been successful this year,” she said. “Even I like them here because they are comfort to me, too.”