Updated at 1:23 p.m. ET: Casting the devil is a tricky thing; if you're not going with a caricature of a cloven-hooved man all in red with horns then you're going to have to watch what kind of face you put on the face of evil. History Channel's 10-part miniseries hit "The Bible," however, cast an actor (Mohamen Mehdi Ouazani) to play Satan that -- to some -- seems uncomfortably familiar.
"Anyone else think the Devil in #TheBible Sunday on History Channel looks exactly like That Guy?" tweeted @GlennBeck on Saturday, the day before the show aired to the general public, and linked to a photo from the series of Ouazani, hooded and in character. (Beck has taken a vow not to say the name of President Barack Obama in all of 2013, and so uses "that guy" instead.)
That helped lead the charge on Twitter and beyond, as others jumped on the bandwagon to agree -- or voice strong disagreement.
The History channel released a statement Monday, saying, "History channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History’s ‘The Bible’ is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history.”
The series' executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey also made similar comments.
“This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor," said Burnett. "He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics– including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President.”
Downey added, "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our President, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible.”
Steve Casino found a peanut, found a peanut. Then he cracked it open (gently). But he didn't eat it. Instead, the 46-year-old toy inventor decided to paint a face on the peanut shell ... and thus a hobby, and a lucrative second profession, were born.
"I was looking for something unique to work on," Casino says. So he dug into a whole bunch of peanuts at work (snack foods fuel toymaking brains, it seems), and found one that looked like himself. ("I have a shaved head and glasses, so I look like a peanut," he said.) "There are 10 billion people painting on canvases, and it's hard to stand out from the crowd."
So after experimenting with the self-portrait, Casino turned to one of his favorite bands, the Ramones, for inspiration. Soon enough, he had the whole band ("I nearly ran out of steam on Joey"), with instruments, created on peanuts.
And it all went to shell from there.
In just the past five months, Casino has made approximately 30 creations on nuts, ranging from TV favorite ("Star Trek") to Spider-Man fighting Doc Ock. One guy he knew growing up by the name of Trent Reznor contacted him around Christmas -- "I hadn't talked to him in 20 years" -- and he got a commission to paint the Oscar-winning Nine Inch Nails singer and his family on nut shells. "He encouraged me a lot," says Casino (and yes, that is his real name). "It was just a hobby, and after that it was like, 'This great artist likes my art, I must be an artist!'"
Courtesy Steve Casino
Steve Casino's The Ramones.
As he's gone on, the creation of the nut-works has gotten more elaborate; he lays on hair (embroidery floss) strand by strand, and he crafts appropriate accessories like guitars and microphones (plus arms and legs) to go with the miniature sculptures. Each takes from 5 to 10 hours to create, "mostly because I make mistakes," he says. "If you screw up one millimeter it doesn't look like the person any more."
Casino may not have known he could paint until recently, but he's not a complete creative newbie: He's a "failed caricature artist" who used to provide drawings to The Village Voice newspaper, and once had a regular job doing caricatures on Long Island, N.Y., but he hadn't done those in 15 years. He eventually ended up with toy company Bang Zoom Design, where he's worked on toys like racing puppies for Barbie dolls.
And for those racing to his website now to get their own favorites (or loved ones) done up in peanut shells (which, by the way, are opened, legumes removed, re-sealed and coated in polyurethane to prevent decay), there's something of a waiting list on commissions for the artworks, which run from $300-$1000 each, depending on complexity.
Courtesy Steve Casino
Doc Ock and Spider-Man.
Courtesy Steve Casino
"Star Trek's" Spock and Kirk.
Casino doesn't use a magnifying glass, so this hobby-turned-adventure may have an expiry date if his eyes don't hold up. For now at least, he says he's having a grand time with the good old fashioned peanut. And he's better able to focus on the art now that he has some extra hands to sort out the best nuts from the bunch. "Half of the caricature I do is finding the right peanut," he says. "So I have my daughters -- they're 7 and 11 -- helping me in the basement."
And how does he reimburse them? "I pay in peanuts."
Burr suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and according to the statement "had suffered poor health for many years." The treatment left him in debt, but the band staged concerts to form the Clive Burr MS Trust Fund, which had raised over $350,000 by 2007 to assist.
He had been a member of the band Samson before joining Iron Maiden in 1979, then played on three of their albums before leaving in 1982.
Maiden bassist Steve Harris said in the statement, "This is terribly sad news. Clive was a very old friend of all of us. He was a wonderful person and an amazing drummer who made a valuable contribution to Maiden in the early days when we were starting out. This is a sad day for everyone in the band and those around him and our thoughts and condolences are with his partner Mimi and family at this time."
Singer Bruce Dickinson added, "I first met Clive when he was leaving Samson and joining Iron Maiden. He was a great guy and a man who really lived his life to the full. Even during the darkest days of his M.S., Clive never lost his sense of humour or irreverence. This is a terribly sad day and all our thoughts are with Mimi and the family."
Check out Burr and the band performing "Run to the Hills" off the 1982 album "Number of the Beast":
Ellen DeGeneres with one of her People's Choice Awards.
By Randee Dawn, TODAY contributor
It's been 10 seasons since "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" first aired, and audiences can't get enough of it. And it looks like they won't have to give up their favorite dancing talk show host any time soon -- the series has been renewed through the 2016-17 season by its core syndicated group, Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Valari Stabb, president of NBC Owned Television Stations, announced in a statement Monday.
"Ellen" is the No. 1 nationally syndicated talk show (it is tied with "Dr. Phil") for the past season, and has seen a surge in ratings this past season. The show has 38 Daytime Emmy awards, and 13 People's Choice Awards. In recent months, celebrities have used their appearances to discuss a bed-wetting childhood and a decision to go commando, among other things. Degeneres is considered by many to be one of television's favorite talk show hosts, though she's not admired as much by the group One Million Moms, which was upset by her ads for JCP.
"Ellen is quite simply the best," said Werner in the statement. "Day in and day out she and her team produce a unique and compelling hour of entertainment which is appointment television for legions of women."
Ever since Valerie Harper announced her terminal cancer diagnosis last week, the former Rhoda Morgenstern from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda" has been the subject of intense discussion and some early mourning.
The 73-year-old sat with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie at her Los Angeles home, and on Monday talked about the illness (she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a form of cancer that strikes the membranes surrounding the brain), her memoir "I, Rhoda," and what she continues to savor about life.
"It is very rare," she said of the cancer diagnosis. "It was hard to detect because it was diffuse. It's all around. It's not in one lump."
The reality of her illness didn't hit, however, until Harper heard the word "incurable." "'Incurable' is a tough word," she said with a chuckle (despite some laryngitis). "So it is terminal."
Harper was working hard to take her Tony-nominated performance in "Looped" on the road when she went to the doctor with some odd symptoms. "I had this weird feeling in my jaw," she said. "I vomited for no reason and wasn't sick. And I thought, 'That's weird.'"
She wasn't the only one who was left reeling by the diagnosis -- her husband of 34 years, Tony Cacciotti, "got hit like a ton of bricks."
The couple sat down together for part of the interview. "Just try to live your life ... every day, feel strong and be strong for that person," said Cacciotti about how he's trying to assist his wife. "We're living our lives, and we're extremely happy. "
Just how long Harper has isn't certain -- her doctor has told her a week, three months or years, and she is receiving chemotherapy. Still, she's got to do what many people only say they will: Live each day as if it could be her last.
That said, she added, "I'm not dying until I do," adding that she remains "hopeful." "More than hopeful, Savannah. I have an intention to live each ... moment fully."
And while she says she's "ready to say bye-bye" if that's what it comes to, she's holding tight to hope: "The thing I have is -- is very rare and it's serious and it's incurable ... so far. So I'm holding on to the 'so far.'"
Tune in Tuesday to TODAY for more from Valerie Harper.
Tina Fey can do just about anything: Create and star in "30 Rock," co-host the Golden Globes, and now star alongside Paul Rudd in her newest film "Admission." But there's one thing she just isn't going to do, no matter how many times people ask: Host the Oscars.
"No!" she told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie Tuesday emphatically. "I'm happy to be able to say, 'No, thank you!' ... It's just so hard, it's super hard. And for a woman, the number of dresses you have to try on and the amount of tricep dips, forget it!"
So that's out. What's not out is "Admission," in which she plays a college admissions officer who discovers an applicant might be the child she gave up for adoption. Additionally -- no real surprise -- Fey's character is a wound-tight overachiever. "It's super dramatic acting," said Fey with a wry tone. "Not since Daniel Day-Lewis has there been such an amazing stretch, acting-wise."
But now that she's done filming the movie and her show "30 Rock" has ended after seven seasons, what will Fey be doing with her time?
"Children eat your time so beautifully," she noted, referring to her two young daughters. "(Not working) is OK because right now it just feels like we're on hiatus. I think come September I'll be wandering, I'll just kind of be walking out there" she gestured at the TODAY Plaza "in pajama pants and a coat going, 'Where do I work?'"
Sunday night's Oscar pool tallies got complicated with the announcement of the sound editing category winners: There was a tie.
"No BS," said presenter Mark Wahlberg, with a grin. Wahlberg wasn't fazed, though, reading the award for "Zero Dark Thirty" first, letting those filmmakers accept their trophy, and then returning to the podium to announce that the second honor went to "Skyfall."
Ties are not unheard of at the Oscars, but they're extremely rare. In 1968, Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand each received 3,030 votes as best actress. It was the first time a principal Oscar category had been divided perfectly.
In 1932, Fredric March and Wallace Beery split the best actor award, even though Beery had one more vote than March. The Oscar rules at the time said that a solo winner could only be declared if an individual earned three more votes than the runner-up, according to History.com.
Today, dual awards are only awarded for exact vote number matches.
Seth MacFarlane is best known as the creator of the often risque "Family Guy" series, not generally the kind of biography touted by an Oscar host. With a reported billion people watching worldwide, some Oscar fans wondered what MacFarlane would pull out of his bag of tricks Sunday night.
Everything, it turned out, and anything -- including a series of initial jokes that elicited as many gasps and groans as laughs. Sure, he made a solid base hit with his first words: "And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now" (cut to the man whose poker face became a meme during the Golden Globes chuckling gently). But a reference to Chris Brown and Rihanna's relationship problems (joking that they considered bloody and violent "Django Unchained" "a date movie") crossed a line for some, as did his comparing the multiple uses of the n-word in "Django" to "Mel Gibson's voice mails."
Fortunately, Capt. Kirk arrived to try and save the night. An enormous screen descended from the top of the stage featuring William Shatner in full "Star Trek" regalia, pointing out to MacFarlane that his jokes were "tasteless" and "inappropriate."
Shatner/Kirk showed the first of several "future clips" and headlines indicating that MacFarlane had ruined the telecast: First, a performance of "We Saw Your Boobs," a song that named a number of actresses who went half-dressed in various films. (Cut to pre-filmed clips of actresses giving him dirty looks for pointing out that at some point, billions of movie fans out there saw, well, their boobs.)
And no surprise, a boob singing songs about boobs won over the crowd, temporarily. It didn't necessarily win over the viewing audience, however, and spawned the first of what would be an evening's worth of blog posts and Tweets questioning whether MacFarlane was sexist. Buzzfeed made a list, The Atlantic Wire said the monologue was "maybe racist and sexist," and of course the Twitterverse weighed in.
But all of that was happening off-camera, and back on stage MacFarlane knew he had to "fix" the future. So he launched into "The Way You Look Tonight" as Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron danced in classic Fred-and-Ginger style behind him, a move that didn't fix everything. Shatner next had to explain why MacFarlane's sock-puppet reenactment of "Flight," in which he wore a brown sock to represent Denzel Washington, bombed at the "future" Oscars.
"You're a white guy in 2013," said Shatner to MacFarlane. "You can't wear black hand."
And that's when the mood of the crowd sank again. The truth: White guys doing racial humor, no matter how gentle, still makes everyone uncomfortable. So MacFarlane led into another older tune -- MacFarlane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe hoofing it to "High Hopes," a song popularized in 1959.
It still wasn't quite enough, said Shatner, to make MacFarlane an acceptable host -- and another future clip featured him dressed as Sally Field's character "The Flying Nun," chatting up Field backstage, ultimately making out with her and driving off in a "Smokey and the Bandit"-style Trans Am. "I went home with Sally Field, that's awesome!" he said.
But without Field there to get her Oscar, Shatner told him, Amy Adams "ran up and grabbed it ... they tried to take it from her and she bit a guy." So, the final attempt: MacFarlane had to give the crowds a showstopper of an opener. One more big song and dance number: "Beauty and the Beast's" peppy "Be Our Guest." And that seemed to do it -- Shatner's screen vanished, and projected across the back of the stage, the new headline: "Best Oscars ever, says everyone except Entertainment Weekly."
Cut to the new Tommy Lee Jones of the evening, the unsmiling nominee Joaquin Phoenix. So maybe Entertainment Weekly is in good company.
Poor Boston: Take a look at the films Hollywood makes within your borders and you'd think the whole place was flooded with guns, mobsters and mercenary Harvard students.
On the other hand, go, Boston! You appear to also be packed with geniuses and passionate sports fans. And in all cases, you'd be right. Here's a look at eight of the best Boston-based, (largely) Boston-made films out there. So pahk yer cah in our yahd a moment and check 'em out!
Ask any Bostonian to name the quintessential Boston film, and they're almost guaranteed to mention the Peter Yates film based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Robert Mitchum plays the title character, a gun-runner for the local mob in Boston who tries to save himself by becoming an informant, but ends up in very murky waters. The film uses the city to great effect, wandering from the legendary Boston Garden to suburban Brookline back to roughneck South End and ending at City Hall.
The story behind "Good Will Hunting" is in some ways better than the film itself: Two childhood friends, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, collaborated on the screenplay about an MIT janitor (who's a secret math genius, but also psychologically troubled) who matures and tries to reach his full potential underneath the mentoring eyes of his shrink, best friend and girlfriend. It won the virtual unknowns two Oscars and propelled them to Hollywood stardom, crowning them the kings of Boston big-screen storytelling.
This Clint Eastwood-directed film based in Boston's working class Southie neighborhood follows three neighborhood friends, one of whom was abducted and assaulted when they were children. Two of its stars, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, won Oscars for their performance in an uncompromising film about growing up lower-middle-class in Boston, and about trying to right very old wrongs.
What could go wrong? Jimmy Fallon, playing a diehard, life-long Red Sox fan, wins over Drew Barrymore thanks to his passionate commitment to baseball. Key scenes were shot on the Sox' home turf of Fenway Park, including one where Barrymore's character interrupts a game-in-progress to run across the field and declare her love. However, when the real-life Red Sox managed to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years in 2004, the movie's Sox-losing-playoff ending had to be re-written -- and re-shot in St. Louis, Mo.
Perhaps the greatest irony about "The Departed" is that it won iconic New York director Martin Scorsese his sole directing Oscar -- for a film not based in New York. Instead, "Departed" takes Scorsese's patented gangster expertise and applies it to Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a local Irish mob boss based loosely on the notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Leonardo DiCaprio goes undercover to get Costello, but Costello has his own mole (Matt Damon) in the Boston Police Dept., and things get rough.
Ben Affleck wants everyone to know: He's from Boston, darn it (even if he was born in California)! For his first and second directorial efforts, the man who shared an Oscar with Matt Damon for "Good Will Hunting" went back home to explore the criminal side of Boston's tougher neighborhoods. "Gone Baby Gone" ventures into Dorchester to investigate a kidnapping, while "Town" veers into Charlestown to find out what happens when a bank robber falls for a kidnapped victim.
Boston isn't all hardscrabble working-class folk. Across the Charles River lies the heart of Ivy League academia: Harvard University, in Cambridge. Facebook's tricky conception and birthing pains play out on the rolling lawns and hallowed dorm rooms of the school, which sticks close to Harvard Square for about half of the film before relocating to sunny Palo Alto, Calif.
The reality personality died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the Ventura County Coroner's Office confirmed to E! News. His death was ruled a suicide.
Balelo was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and was scheduled to appear in Ventura County Superior Court on Feb. 19.
The 40-year-old was the owner of Balelo, Inc., a liquidation merchandise business. He came to the media's attention in April 2011 when he returned a rare copy of a 1938 Action Comics comic book he found in a storage locker, more than 10 years after it was stolen from its owner -- actor Nicolas Cage.
Balelo first appeared on "Storage Wars" in August 2011. On his Facebook page, he had indicated he was "currently working on a new reality show of (his) own."
Since learning of Balelo's death, some "Storage Wars" stars have shared their thoughts about him on Twitter, including Darrell Sheets, also known to viewers as "The Gambler," and auctioneer Dan Dotson.
Mr Balelo may you now be removed from your demons R.I.P I will pray for your soul and loved ones #storagewars
Makeup and creature effects veteran Stuart Freeborn, who fashioned classic characters ranging from "Star Wars'" Yoda and Chewbacca to the "Dawn of Man" apes in "2001: A Space Odyssey," died in London at 98, LucasFilm said Wednesday.
Freeborn may be best known to modern film fans as the man behind many of "Star Wars'" most outstanding creature looks, but by the time he joined that franchise he was well known in Hollywood for his work transforming actors like Alec Guinness for 1948's "Oliver Twist" and Peter Sellars in 1965's "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."
His career reached all the way back to the 1930s, when he began working with Marlene Dietrich and Vivien Leigh; in the 1980s he worked on "The Great Muppet Caper" (1981) and the four "Superman" films starring Christopher Reeve. His last official film credit, according to the IMDB, was in 1990 for "Max and Helen."
"He brought with him not only decades of experience, but boundless creative energy," George Lucas said in a statement on the StarWars.com site. "His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created. His Star Wars creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations, but at their heart, they continue to be what Stuart created for the original films."
Freeborn became one of the franchise's secret weapons, and wasn't afraid to really get into his work: "Empire Strikes Back" director Irvin Kershner, said the StarWars.com site, "would note that Freeborn quite literally put himself into Yoda, as the Jedi Master's inquisitive and mischievous elfin features had more than a passing resemblance to Freeborn himself." (He also reportedly based the look in part on Albert Einstein.)
Freeborn's wife Kay, who worked with him at times, died last year, and his son passed on in 1996. His granddaughter Michelle Freeborn informed ITV that he had died of age-related illnesses, adding, "He was a really fun and imaginative individual. He gave you the feeling that if you wanted to achieve something, you should just get on and do it, and don't ever use excuses. He enjoyed life and the amazing world we live in."
There are some who will think "Silver Linings Playbook" is about ballroom dancing or the Philadelphia Eagles or a dysfunctional family. But underneath the surface quirkiness, it's actually a story about a family dealing with mental illness. And as director David O. Russell revealed, he knows that subject intimately.
Russell explained to TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager that his son Matthew (who has a small role in the film) has had to deal with mood disorders since he was very young. "Nothing comes easily to him, and that makes your heart bigger," he said. "It was a very healing thing to have written the movie ... I learned a great deal about resilience and about the relationship between the father and the son."
Oscar voters seem to feel it's triggered a chord; not only did Russell get a best director nomination, but it's the first movie in 31 years to be nominated in all four acting categories. And while that's gratifying, he says what's more important is that the film has brought him closer to his son.
"It's a very healing thing that I think will be a touchstone for the rest of our lives," he said. "(This story) we know personally that is filled with hope and shines the light on it and says you don't need to be ashamed of this. You can own it, and you can heal it."