NEWS BRIEFS: Brittany Murphy Engaged
BETROTHED: Actress Brittany Murphy, 26, and talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz, 34, got engaged Jan. 9 at a silent-movie theater in L.A. The couple started dating last spring after Murphy’s breakup with Ashton Kutcher, her costar in 2003’s “Just Married.” And how did Kwatinetz rate with his ring? Says jeweler Neil Lane: “Jeff was looking for something cool, big, flawless and old. And he ended up getting all four — a big ol’ rock that was flawless, just like Brittany.”
RENEWED: Nick Lachey, 30, and Jessica Simpson, 23, are coming back for a second season of “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica” on MTV, reports the Associated Press. New episodes of the reality series are scheduled to begin Jan. 21 at 10 p.m. ET. Their show will then be followed by the new “‘Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen & Dave,” about the months leading up to the wedding of former “Baywatch ” babe (and former Mrs. Dennis Rodman) Carmen Electra, 31, and heavily tattooed Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, 36.
CONFIRMED: Harrison Ford, 61, and Calista Flockhart, 39, are still an item, Ford’s manager, Patricia McQueeney, tells New York’s Daily News, putting to rest rumors of a rift between the two stars that was sparked by a New York Post photo of the “Indiana Jones” star with two women in a Mexico bar. McQueeney identified one of the women as the owner of the bar, and the other as a fan, and said that Ford and Flockhart were South of the Border for New Year’s but “left after just a few days. … It was too cold and rainy in Mexico.”
BOOSTED: Ratings for “The Crocodile Hunter,” starring the embattled Steve Irwin, 40, have jumped after the host’s controversial stunt feeding a croc while holding his 1-month-old son Bob. Rather than the usual 315,000 viewers that the Animal Planet show usually attracts, last week’s episode averaged 372,000 viewers, the New York Post reports. That’s up nearly 20 percent.
BARGAINED: In a move to keep her from going to trial on drunken-driving charges, lawyers for Diana Ross, 59, said at a pretrial hearing Monday in Arizona’s Tucson City Court that the pop diva is ready to accept a plea agreement and will change her earlier “not guilty” plea at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 9, reports AP. Ross faces three DUI-related charges after being stopped by police on Dec. 30, 2002, after authorities received a report of a car traveling the wrong way on a city street.
SET: A dispute between Alec Baldwin, 45, and ex-wife Kim Basinger, 50, over custody of their 8-year-old daughter, Ireland, will go to trial Feb. 23, a judge said Monday, according to AP. The specific issue was unclear because the case file was not available to the public. Baldwin and Basinger were married from 1993-2000.
READJUSTED: A day after claiming the top spot at the North American box office, director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” returned its crown to Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” when the studios tallied up final weekend numbers on Monday. The confirmed count: $14.2 million for “King,” putting it back on top for a fourth consecutive weekend, versus $13.8 million for “Big Fish.” “The Return of the King” has earned $312.3 million domestically to date — taking 10 days less than its 2002 predecessor, “The Two Towers,” to break $300 million.
SPONSORED: Maybe Dracula has sworn off blood for Coca-Cola, because The New York Times reports that the long-in-coming Dracula theme park proposed for Romania has attracted the soft-drink giant as one of its investors. Not that the famous vampire is a teetotaler, either. Another investor, says the paper, is Brau Union, Austria’s largest brewery. Coke has pledged $150,000, and the brewer, $500,000. Drink up.