Plus: Moesha actor killed, Harry Potter director picked, and more

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 20, 2005 08:00 AM

ANNOUNCED: Last year’s Best Actress Oscar winner, Monster star Charlize Theron, 29, is the first Academy Awards presenter to be announced. The ceremony will take place Feb. 27 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater and be aired live on ABC. Nominations for the Academy Awards will be announced next Tuesday by The Pianist Best Actor Oscar winner Adrien Brody.

KILLED: Former Moesha regular Lamont Bentley, 31, was killed in a car crash Tuesday night when his vehicle plunged off Southern California’s San Diego Freeway, the actor’s manager, Susan Ferris, tells the Associated Press. The Milwaukee native and father of two daughters began his career after moving to Los Angeles with his mother, an aspiring singer. Bentley, who played Hakeem Campbell in the 1990s UPN sitcom starring Brandy, had appeared in a number of films, including The Wash and Tales From the Hood. He also played Tupac Shakur in the TV movie, Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story, and did guest roles on The Parkers, NYPD Blue and Clueless.

SELECTED: Warner Bros. has officially confirmed that British director David Yates will helm the big screen adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is due to begin in England in January of next year. The film’s producer, David Heyman, said: “Not only does (Yates) have tremendous passion for the world of Harry Potter, but he is a great director with a keen visual sense who fills every frame with humanity and compassion for his characters.” Yates follows previous Harry Potter directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell.

TESTIFIED: Prosecution witness Robert David Renzi, who befriended Robert Blake in 2000, testified in the actor’s murder trial Wednesday that an “obsessed” Blake was determined to keep his baby daughter away from her mother, Bonny Lee Bakley, reports Reuters. Offering an account of Blake’s state of mind, Renzi said: “He was totally concerned about the child. He didn’t want her, Bonny, to have anything to do with her (the child).” Blake, 71, has pleaded not guilty to the May 4, 2001, murder of Bakley, 44, as well as to two counts of solicitation of murder and a special circumstance of lying in wait.

SPLIT: Gandhi Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, 61, and his wife, Alexandra, have separated after 15 months of marriage, the actor’s publicist said Wednesday. “For some time now, Ben and Alexandra have been leading separate lives,” said Ildiko Nagy. “The separation is very amicable, they remain fond of each other and will continue to be very close.” This was the actor’s third marriage.

CHARGED: Stefan Wohl, 42, a driver for the Dave Matthews Band, was charged on Wednesday with reckless conduct for dumping up to 100 gallons of human waste from a tour bus over the side of a bridge onto passengers aboard a boat on the Chicago River on Aug. 8, AP reports. Wohl, who turned himself in to authorities and was released pending a March hearing, drives a bus assigned to the band’s violinist, Boyd Tinsley. Several of the boat passengers, who were on an architectural tour, vomited and ripped off their clothes. Wohl was also charged with polluting the river.

DECREED: A federal judge has ordered Marvel Enterprises Inc. to pay Spider-Man creator Stan Lee 10 percent of Marvel’s profits from the Spider-Man movies, the comic book publisher announced, saying it would appeal the ruling. The dispute centered on Marvel’s claim that Lee, 82, was not entitled to share of profits from the first Spider-Man movie, which made more than $800 million at the box office worldwide and another $100 million in associated toys. The company instead was paying him an annual salary of $1 million for a 15-hour workweek.

REDESIGNED: Toy manufacturer Hasbro has taken Mr. Potato Head to the dark side. The spud’s been remade into Darth Tater and will hit the market – the toy store market, that is, not the supermarket – next month, in anticipation of the May 19 release of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The item will retail for $7.99 and comes complete with light saber, cape and helmet, in addition to the regular Mr. Potato Head accessories such as eyes, mouth and nose that can mixed and matched, AP reports. May the Fries be with you.