ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) -- Sure, "it's just an honor to be nominated," as many Oscars hopefuls will be saying this weekend, but being recognized by the Academy -- win or lose -- is an easy way for celebrities to scoop up a ton of freebies.
The gifts included in the nominees' SWAG bag this year includes more than $100,000 worth of goodies, according to Forbes -- though Distinctive Assets, the company that packages all the nominees' stuff, stopped counting after 2016, when the retail value of each was clocked at $260,000.
Among the goodies gifted by the company this year, Forbes explains, is a $40,000, 12-night Tanzania vacation for two, and a six-night and seven-day stay at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu in Kauai, Hawaii.
However, that's not the only SWAG bag in town. Nominees, Oscar attendees, and presenters staying at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles get their own bag of goodies, too, and ABC Radio has learned that in addition to the myriad gadgets and anti-aging creams and other A-List bric-a-brac, included will be a $13,500 VIP "axe-throwing experience" offered by Kick Axe, New York City's first axe-throwing venue.
For that price, one would think you'd get the chance to chuck axes at real-life dragons, though a rep for the company says The VIP experience includes one-on-one training with an "axe-pert," and a private party.
The establishment's founder and owner Ginger Flesher-Sonnier noted in a statement, "We look forward to hosting many of them for a bout of post-award-season stress relief...To be selected to be included as the gift celebrities are given in their hotel room at the Four Seasons is very axe-citing for the growing company."
Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago judge set Jesse Smollett's bond at $100,000 on Thursday and ordered him to surrender his passport, hours after a Chicago Police Department press conference, where Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted the Empire star, saying that Smollett's alleged staging of a hoax attack was a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."
Standing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr., Smollett appeared steadfast. He's repeatedly insisted that the attack was real and that he is a victim.
When first assistant state attorney Risa Lanier told Lyke that the actor had picked up the two brothers who authorities say he hired to carry out the attack, and showed them the location of where he wanted it to take place, Smollett shook his head in disagreement.
When Lyke told Smollett that the allegations, if true, are "utterly outrageous," the actor nodded his head in agreement -- adn did so again when Lyke said the noose detail was the most despicable part of the alleged scheme.
The judge also ordered pre-trial monitoring of the actor, and ordered him to stay away from the two brothers with whom he'd allegedly conspired.
At the Thursday morning press conference, a visibly angry Johnson called out the actor for betraying his race and his city with such an incendiary false claim.
"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’ Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?"
Johnson told reporters that Smollett staged the attack -- after sending himself a threatening letter to Empire's studios -- because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."
ABC(NEW YORK) -- After a nearly three-month extended hiatus from her daytime talk show due to health issues, Wendy Williams is set to return to her namesake show next month.
The news of her return came on Thursday via a statement from the show's production company, Debmar-Mercury, which was posted on the Wendy show Instagram page.
"Wendy Williams is an incredible talent with the most unique voice in daytime," the statement read. "We can’t wait to welcome her back to her iconic purple chair on the set of her show on Monday, March 4th."
The statement continues, "We so appreciate all of the guest hosts and panelists who filled in for Wendy during this time. These people are, and always will be, true family to the show. And we want to thank all of the loyal and supportive fans who have been with us for 10 years now."
The statement also included a special note from Wendy.
"Salute to Debmar-Mercury for believing from the start and thanks to my staff for tirelessly holding it down for me," it read.
As previously reported, Williams hasn't returned to her show since it went on a holiday season hiatus in December. In mid-January, she first revealed that that she'd be delaying her return due to a fractured shoulder and "complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment."
Since then, the show has been airing repeats, as well as original episodes with a variety of guest hosts.
According to the announcement, the show will air repeat episodes during the week of February 25th and will then return with original episodes starting on Monday, March 4th.
Paquin, who also serves as a producer on the U.K.-set series, says her character's "amped-up" life mirrors the craziness of her chosen profession.
"As we all know, news cycles and the Internet happen instantaneously, so there's no time to sort of think of things too much or dwell on things too much, the actress tells ABC Radio. Decisions have to be made immediately, crises have to be averted five minutes ago.
"[Robyn] also runs on sort of a crazy clock herself, just as far as some of her... let's say, pastimes and less, uh, PG habits, Paquin continues. "So she's a pretty amped-up person, sort of, already."
Paquin says she she jumped at the chance to bring the story to the screen on a smaller network, where she could have creative freedom to bring this flawed character to life.
"I really like being involved from start to finish on something that I'm working on," she says. "At this point, if I care enough about something to want to be in it, I probably wanna be more involved on the production side."
Flack marks another new chapter for Paquin, who won the 1993 Best Supporting Actress Oscar at 11 years old for her role in The Piano. With the Oscars airing this Sunday, Paquin remembers her genuine reaction to winning at such a young age.
"A picture's worth a thousand words," she says. "So the absolutely shocked facial expression and speechless thing was pretty much...that's what was going through my head: nothing. Just like, 'oh wow.'"
Chicago Police Department(LOS ANGELES) -- Celebrities are reacting to the arrest of Jussie Smollett, who's been charged by Chicago PD with filing a false police report. The Empire star falsely claimed he was attacked on January 29 by two men shouting racist and homophobic epithets.
Tyler Perry took to Instagram, writing, "I have personally spoken to Jussie, and he is adamant that he’s telling the truth. Also, everyone that I know who knows him says that he is not the kind of person who would make up such a horrible and awful thing. Yet the evidence seems to state otherwise.
He added, "I’m lost for words. To stoke fears and raise racial tensions is wrong in every situation on ALL SIDES! Yet my prayers are still with him and his family and our Nation. CAN WE PLEASE STOP THE HATE!"
Octavia Spencer reposted Perry's words, and added some of her own.
"I’ve been trying to find the words and @tylerperry is elegant with his thoughts on this," she wrote. "I’m seriously at a loss for words."
Yvette Nicole Brown insisted her support for Jussie remains unchanged.
"I’ve been vocal about this situation & my love for Jussie & his entire family," she tweeted. "I will continue to hope for the best for everyone involved as things continue to unfold. And I, like all of you, will watch them unfold. But believing victims is always the right choice."
However, Ice Cube's son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., voiced his frustration with Smollett, saying his claims could have led to actual violence.
"What upsets me about this Jussie situation is that people were genuinely worried about you man," he tweeted. "And the things that you said happened could have led to some serious outcomes. People were prepared to fight for you bruh. Things coulda got ugly...... and you made it up."
Paramount Pictures(LOS ANGELES) -- If you thought Elton John's upcoming biopic Rocketman, described as a "musical fantasy," would only focus on the positive parts of the legendary star's life, a new trailer indicates otherwise.
The trailer, which runs for about two-and-a-half minutes, shows Elton's transformation from an unknown musician named Reginald Dwight into an outrageously dressed full-fledged rock star. We also see him struggling with substance abuse and the pressures of fame, and there's a reference to his secret relationship with his then-manager and lover, John Reid.
We also see a montage of career moments, as well as life events, including his ill-fated 1984 marriage to recording engineer Renate Blauel.
In one scene, Elton, played by Taron Egerton, is wearing one of his more over-the-top outfits, when he's confronted by Bernie Taupin, played by Jamie Bell.
"Don't you just wanna just sing without this ridiculous paraphernalia?" asks Bernie.
"People don't pay to see Reg Dwight!" sputters an angry Elton, wearing faux plumage that would make a peacock blush. "They pay to see ELTON JOHN!"
However, he quickly apologizes a moment later, meekly touching Taupin's arm. "I'm sorry."
Knowingly, his longtime writing partner replies, "I know."
(The Monkees, Peter Tork foreground) Mike McLaren/Central Press/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Peter Tork of The Monkees has died at the age of 77, according to a post on the musician's official Facebook page.
"It is with beyond-heavy and broken hearts that we share the devastating news that our friend, mentor, teacher, and amazing soul, Peter Tork, has passed from this world," the note reads. A spokesperson for The Monkees' record label, Rhino, confirmed Tork's death.
Born Peter Thorkelson in Washington, D.C., Tork began playing music in the New York City folk scene during the early 1960s after dropping out of college. In 1965 he moved to Los Angeles, where, at the urging of his friend Stephen Stills, he tried out for a role in a new comedy TV show about a fictional band inspired by The Beatles.
Peter was hired to star in The Monkees alongside Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith, and the show became a huge success, as did the music the group recorded with the help of seasoned professional songwriters and session musicians.
Known as the "Prefab Four," The Monkees sold millions of albums thanks to the hit TV series, which ran through 1968 and won two Emmys. Tork played bass in the band, and contributed a few songs and occasional lead vocals to the group. Among the songs he's featured on are "Words" and "Shades of Gray."
Peter left The Monkees in 1968, but reunited with the band -- minus Nesmith -- for a successful 1986 reunion tour and a 1987 album, Pool It!. From the late '80s until 2017, Tork would take part in a variety of Monkees reunion treks. He also contributed to studio that albums the band released in 1996, 2016 and 2018.
Tork also had a music career outside of The Monkees: He released a 1994 solo record and several albums both with his band Shoe Suede Blues and with singer/songwriter James Lee Stanley.
In 2009, Tork revealed he'd been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the head and neck, and reported that he'd been successfully treated for the disease. This past November, Peter reported on his Facebook page that he was dealing with an unspecified health issue.
Tork is the second Monkees member to pass away, following Jones, who died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 66.
Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted Empire star Jussie Smollett in an emotional press conference on Thursday, revealing that the actor sent a threatening letter to himself, and paid two men to stage an attack against him, as a "publicity stunt...to promote his career."
An angry Johnson said, "Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," adding that Smollett orchestrated the attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary." According to HuffPost, he earned $65,000 per episode.
Smollett told the police, and then ABC's Robin Roberts, that on January 29, two men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him before they tied a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him. Smollet also claimed the assailants used the phrase "MAGA country," a reference to President Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" slogan.
But as detailed in the press conference, police work revealed that the "racist assailants" were two brothers of Nigerian descent, who were paid $3500 by Smollett to stage the phony attack.
Johnson, who spoke not just as the city's top cop, "but as a black man in Chicago," wondered aloud at the presser, "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"
Johnson called the accusations "a scar" that "Chicago...didn't earn."
Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and was charged with a felony for making a false police report. He faces several years in prison for that charge. But sending himself the letter -- which was filled with a white powder that turned out to be crushed-up Tylenol -- would likely bring further charges, authorities explained.
Bohemian Rhapsody, is "brought to you by...er...a director" -- poking fun of the persona non grata status of director Bryan Singer in the wake of sexual accusations against him. Meanwhile, the movie itself is celebrated as a tribute to "wigs and teeth."
The Favourite, a period drama about England's 18th century queen, Anne, is called the "other Queen biopic, that's also about a difficult charismatic figurehead and the people who jockey for power around them."
For Green Book, Viggo Mortensen's character is compared to "one of the cartoon Italian chefs on the pizza box," and the message of the film is described as, "Racism...now stay with me...is bad."
BlackKKlansman, from Best Director nominee Spike Lee -- "yes, the guy at the Knicks games" -- is described as a portrayal of racism in the past that "still relevant today...and really puts a damper on re-runs of That 70s Show" -- thanks to Topher Grace's portrayal of Ku Klux Klan member David Duke.
The oft-remade A Star is Born is described as a "film that comes along once in a generation -- literally, like once in a generation since 1937."
Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, about a middle-class Mexican family and their maid, is described as a "sweeping, emotional" film, "that got Academy voters to wonder if their housekeepers were actual people."
Other jabs: notoriously fickle comic book fans griping that Infinity War should have gotten a Best Picture nomination over Black Panther, and that Vice nominee Christian Bale has gone from "skinny, to fat, to Bat" on the big screen.
ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) -- Chris Hemsworth is famous for playing Thor in the Marvel movies, but next, he's been tapped to play a Hulk...Hulk Hogan, in fact.
The Australian actor is attached to a proposed biopic chronicling the wrestling superstar's rise to fame, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film would reunite Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, the respective director and writer of the DC Comics' upcoming Joker movie, while Bradley Cooper is on board to co-produce, along with Hemsworth.
Hogan -- born Terry Gene Bollea -- became a star of the World Wrestling Federation, which he parlayed into movie and TV appearances, endorsements and video games.
Hemsworth will next be seen reprising his role as Thor in Avengers: Endgame, opening nationwide April 26 from Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.
ABC(CHICAGO) -- Empire star Jussie Smollett has been arrested, and is currently in custody of detectives, according to Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for the Chicago Police Department.
Wednesday night, authorities filed a felony charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report against the actor, who falsely claimed he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime at the hands of "racist" supporters of President Trump on January 29.
Smollett's story quickly unraveled, however, when investigators located two brothers known to Smollett. Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo reportedly told police that the actor paid them to orchestrate and carry out the fake attack, after a threatening letter reportedly directed at him wasn't being taken seriously enough.
The class 4 felony charge against Smollett is punishable for up to three years in prison.
Guglielmi said the arrest was the result of an, "an intense investigation that took a lot of police resources," and insisted Smollett, "will be held accountable for that." The spokesman added, "That was a pretty hateful allegation, and it really put a terrible look on Chicago. Chicago trusted this young man. We loved Empire. And we took this very seriously that something this hateful could happen in our city."
Meantime, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are currently investigating whether Smollett played a role in sending the threatening letter himself, two federal officials confirmed to ABC News. If that's confirmed, more charges against the actor are likely.
Following news of the false report charge last night, attorneys for Smollett said in a statement provided to ABC News: "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
ABC/Paula Lobo(NEW YORK) -- Hours after Gwyneth Paltrow filed a countersuit against a man who claims he was injured by the actress while skiing in Utah, her accuser's attorney has issued a response, claiming her counterclaim is "rife with errors."
Utah man Terry Sanderson is suing Paltrow and the Deer Valley ski resort for $3.1 million, claiming a hit-and-run collision between him and Paltrow on February 26, 2016 left him with "a concussion, brain injury and four broken ribs."
In the countersuit, filed Wednesday, Paltrow claims it was she that was struck by the plaintiff.
"Ms. Paltrow remembers what happened very clearly. She was enjoying skiing with her family on vacation...when Plaintiff...plowed into her back," sustaining "a full 'body blow,'" reads the complaint. "Ms. Paltrow was angry with [Sanderson], and said so. [He] apologized. She was shaken and upset, and quit skiing for the day, even though it was still morning."
The suit adds that a Deer Valley employee and Paltrow prepared a report stating that Sanderson had "taken [Paltrow] out from behind,'" meaning the collision was his fault.
In a response obtained by ABC, Sanderson's attorney calls Paltrow's counterclaim "rife with errors," alleging she "skied into [Sanderson's] back, breaking 4 of his ribs and leaving him with a concussion.” Sanderson’s lawyer also claims they have a witness who can confirm that, as well as their assertion that Paltrow “left the scene of the collision."
The statement further alleges Paltrow and her group "failed to notify ski patrol as required by a criminal statute in Summit County, Utah,” adding, “Failing to stay at the scene of the accident or ski collision is a violation of that law."
Sanderson’s response also accuses Paltrow’s ski instructor of changing his story, first stating that he didn’t see the collision, then making false statement to cover it up.
The statement also contends the Avengers: Endgame actress' pleading “misrepresents Dr. Sanderson's medical records” by claiming that Sanderson, 69, "told his doctor about one year earlier that he was blind in his right eye, and that his vision in his left eye was decreasing. Just three weeks before the incident, Plaintiff told his doctor that Plaintiff had 'gotten old all of a sudden.'" It also notes Sanderson had "15 other chronic medical issues."
Paltrow's countersuit claims that after the accident, Sanderson's doctor tested him and did not find any "deficits in his cognitive functioning..." and that a friend insisted Sanderson "acted the same" after the collision as he did before.
Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET(CHICAGO) -- Empire starJussie Smollett, who claimed he was assaulted on January 29 in Chicago by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs, has been charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, signaling that investigators believe the 36-year-old actor and singer fabricated the attack.
"The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has approved a disorderly conduct charge on Jussie Smollett," the office confirmed to ABC News. A bond hearing for Smollett is set for 1:30 p.m. local time Thursday in Chicago's Central Bond Court.
Chicago PD spokesperson Anthony Gugliemi tweeted Thursday evening, "Detectives will make contact with [Smollett's] legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest."
Gugliemi further told ABC News that Smollett's attorneys "have not shared where he is at this point."
"I know this can be difficult emotionally, and we hope [Smollett] doesn't do anything terrible," said Gugliemi. "We want to make this as diplomatic as possible. In the end, this is only a class 4 felony. He will get through this and we want to make it as easy as possible for him to do it. But again, it is about accountability."
Following news of the charge, attorneys for Smollett said in a statement provided to ABC News: “Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
Two brothers known to Smollett have reportedly told police that the actor paid them to orchestrate and carry out the attack. According to Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, Smollett was upset because a threatening letter directed at him, sent to Empire's Chicago studios on January 22, wasn't being taken seriously enough. Chicago police reportedly have surveillance video of the brothers purchasing supplies for the alleged attack, during which Smollett claimed an unknown liquid was poured on him and a noose placed around his neck.
Attorney Gloria Schmidt, who represents the brothers, called the entire affair "very traumatizing" for them and emphasized that they'd cooperated with investigators. As for Smollet, Schmidt said he "should come clear, because the truth will set him free."
The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are currently investigating whether Smollett played a role in sending the threatening letter himself, two federal officials confirmed to ABC News.
Despite an initial report that Smollett was being written out of Empire, Fox released a statement Wednesday, prior to Smollett being charged, that he's still an important part of the series. "Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show," said Fox and 20th Century Fox TV.
Late Wednesday night, Variety reported that producers were now considering suspending Smollett from the series, in the wake of his indictment. That report has not been confirmed.
(CHICAGO) -- Empire star Jussie Smollett, who claimed he was assaulted on January 29 by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs, is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by Chicago police.
According to a tweet by Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, Smollett will be charged with filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony. Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.
The news comes after Chicago police continued their investigation into the alleged attack on the Empire actor. ABC News confirmed that police and prosecutors met with Smollett's attorneys in Chicago on Wednesday.
Guglielmi said that no evidence had been presented to a grand jury on behalf of the Smollett case on Tuesday. He also said he could not confirm reports that half a dozen subpoenas seeking Smollett's cell phone and bank records have been issued.
Despite an initial report that Smollett was being written out of Empire, Fox has released a statement on Wednesday confirming that Smollett is still an important part of the series.
"Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show," said Fox and 20th Century Fox TV in a statement to ABC News.
The statement was issued prior to Smollett being named a suspect.
Two brothers known to Smollett have reportedly told police that the actor paid them to orchestrate and carry out the attack. According to the brothers, Smollett was upset because a threatening letter directed at him, sent to Empire's Chicago studios on January 22, wasn't being taken seriously enough.
The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are currently investigating whether Smollett played a role in sending the threatening letter himself, two federal officials confirmed to ABC News.