In Hollywood, broody superheroes are easy to find. The kind without neuroses, that's tricky. After considering nearly every square jaw in show biz, including those of Jude Law, Brendan Fraser and Josh Hartnett, Warner Bros. has finally cast its next Superman an unknown Iowan named BRANDON ROUTH. Like his predecessor, Christopher Reeve, Routh, 25, started as a soap hunk, in the cast of One Life to Live. His not-so-muscly résumé also includes a stint on Will & Grace and a role in the upcoming film Deadly, opposite Laura Prepon. In an age of flawed superheroes, Routh and his director Bryan Singer face the tough task of updating the straitlaced all-American icon. Singer, himself at least the fourth director associated with the project, says he always intended to fill the part with a fresh face. Routh "is an extremely fine actor," says the X-Men helmer, and as a small-town Midwesterner, "he also embodies the legacy and history of this character." Plus, we're pretty sure he'll look good in tights.
Q&A with Bette Midler
Bette Midler just hit the road on the second leg of her Kiss My Brass tour. The first grossed nearly $1 million a night last year
You joke that you paved the way for the Britney Spearses of the world for mediocre singers with big breasts. But you've always been in on the joke. Isn't there a difference? I always took a kind of jaundiced view of the whole show-business thing. The idea was to use whatever you could to get as far as you could. I personally was stunned to get as far as I did.
You do a lot of anti-Bush banter on your tour. Do you worry about offending your red-state audiences? No. Everyone's behaving pretty badly, and I think attention must be paid. My audiences are kind of a humanist group anyway.
Why do you think there's been such a resurgence of interest in American standards? Those songs offer a window into a life that's calmer and more beautiful than the one you may be living. It's like looking through your scrapbook in a way. The memories acquire a patina, a sheen they didn't have when we were growing up.
What was it like to hear from your old accompanist, Barry Manilow, who called you to collaborate on a Rosemary Clooney tribute album? I was very surprised because our relationship had been quite fractious. I never really expected to hear from him again. But once we started working together, it was as if we had never stopped. He always gets the best performances out of me 'cause he won't take no for an answer.
Your daughter just left for college. How's the empty nest? I went right on the road again. I'm not gonna sit around and feel terrible. The dog isn't doing too well.
A rival in a hip-hop battle show on BET told JIN to "leave rap alone and keep making fortune cookies." But last week the Miami-born son of Chinese immigrants became the first Asian-American rapper to release an album on a major label. On The Rest Is History, Jin plays off his roots in a way that has sparked controversy among Asian Americans. He calls himself "the original Chinky-eye M.C." and raps about labor abuses ("The sneakers on your feet cost 100 a pop/ My people get 15¢ a day in sweatshops") and interracial dating. "I'm not a gimmick," says Jin, 23. "I'm not the Chinese version of nobody." Well, maybe Jackie Robinson.
The Mouse's Miserable Mikes
Forget Desperate Housewives. This week's juiciest backbiting scenes may come from a Delaware courtroom, where former Disney president and fallen über-agent MICHAEL OVITZ, near left, is expected to testify. Shareholders are suing Disney's board, claiming the 1995 hiring of Ovitz and his dismissal 14 months later by Disney CEO MICHAEL EISNER cost the company up to $200 million. The plaintiffs allege Disney could have fired Ovitz for lying (a charge his spokesman calls "hearsay and gossip") and denied him his $140 million severance. In an internal memo read in court last week, Eisner called Ovitz, once his close friend, "a psychopath" who "doesn't know right from wrong." Stay tuned for yet more evidence Disney isn't the happiest place on earth.