Daily dose of celebrity


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Not that long ago, in a nearby galaxy, George Lucas joined forces with the dark side. The “Star Wars” creator has become a Storm Trooper.

Hasbro, maker of “Star Wars” toys, is paying plastic tribute to Lucas, interpreting him as a limited-edition action figure in Storm Trooper attire.

The head of the toy maker’s “Star Wars” division called Lucas “the greatest character in the universe.”

“We took a cue from when Han Solo and Luke disguised themselves as Storm Troopers,” said Derryl DePriest, marketing director and acknowledged lifelong “Star Wars” fan. “We placed George in his own universe that he created.”

This is the first time Lucas has been honored with an official “Star Wars” action figure, DePriest said, but not the first time his likeness has been used. Hasbro had previously issued a figure that looked like Lucas called George Sacul.

“That was very subtle,” DePriest said. “This time we really wanted to pay tribute to the man himself.”

Lucas thought it was a “fun” idea, said Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale.

“He laughed because he never imagined he’d be a Storm Trooper,” she said.

The new toy is only available to participants in Hasbro’s “Ultimate Galactic Hunt.” Fans must show proof of purchase of five vintage “Star Wars” action figures to get the George Lucas Storm Trooper figurine.

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SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – Dame Edna Everage has issued a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of a claim that her alter ego punched a photographer.

A publicist for Barry Humphries, who has played the purple-haired Dame Edna since the 1950s, confirmed Wednesday that Humphries had hit photographer Malcolm Ladd.

“Handbags fly as Barry lashes out” ran the headline in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. However, Dame Edna, known for her extravagant behavior and questionable fashion sense, made light of the news.

“Poor Barry, desperate for publicity as usual,” read an e-mail statement issued Thursday by publicist Suzie Howie in Dame Edna’s name.

Ladd has said that Humphries punched his face Wednesday as he tried to take a close shot of the Australian actor outside Dee Bee’s Cafe in Sydney’s exclusive Double Way.

“Luckily I wasn’t there, but I’m told he didn’t deliberately hit the poor photographer but was pushing the camera away and his knuckles accidentally grazed the poor chap’s cheeks,” Dame Edna’s statement said.

“I’ve never pushed a camera away. The papps (paparazzi) can invade my space whenever they like. I adore them, especially this little chap, because I’ve always had a weakness for ponytails. Call me old-fashioned. I’m sending Barry off for counseling. He is a rageaholic and a tragic attention seeker.”

New South Wales state police had not received a complaint about the punch, a police spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity.

Ladd’s photos of Humphries at lunch appeared in Thursday editions of News Corp. newspapers in Australia.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld” fame put his Prius where his mouth is – giving away the hybrid car in a contest aimed at increasing awareness of global warming.

David and his wife, Laurie, an environmental activist, surprised a class Wednesday at the University of California, Los Angeles, to award the car to medical student Erick Tarula.

Tarula, 24, of Azusa, registered for the yearlong Virtual March to Stop Global Warming, an online petition organized by Stop Global Warming. The group was co-founded by Laurie David to spur politicians to act on the issue.

Tarula “jumped up, he was all excited” when Larry David announced his name, Laurie David said Wednesday. The student told the class he drives a “gas-guzzling” truck and was eager to switch to the Prius, she said.

David’s Toyota Prius was used in his HBO comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” David co-created the NBC comedy “Seinfeld.”

The actor-writer remained true to his cantankerous “Curb Your Enthusiasm” character in reacting to the giveaway, an idea his wife said she came up with spontaneously and without consulting him.

“I’m still waiting for the moment when I’m supposed to feel good about this,” Laurie David quoted her husband as saying.

MTV’s college cable TV network, mtvU, a partner in the virtual march, filmed the couple’s visit to UCLA’s “Effective Methods of Social Change” class for the series “Stand In.” The episode will air May 9 on both mtvU and the broadband channel mtvU Uber.

More than 300,000 people and counting have signed up for the virtual march, said Laurie David.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Hollywood came to Lake Wobegon as Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan and other stars gathered for the world premiere of “A Prairie Home Companion,” the movie version of Garrison Keillor’s folksy radio show.

Hundreds of people gathered along the red carpet outside the historic Fitzgerald Theater on Wednesday as the stars arrived by horse-drawn carriage. Many fans screamed and some actors stopped to sign autographs.

The film, directed by Robert Altman, is set on the last night of the radio show before the station’s new corporate owners shut it down.

In an interview, Keillor, who plays a radio-show announcer, praised Lohan’s acting. The 19-year-old actress plays the moody daughter of Streep’s character and spends her time writing poems about suicide before taking the stage with a show-stopping version of the song “Frankie and Johnny.”

“Lindsay wanted to be in the movie. We lobbied to be in the movie before there was even a part for her. And she turned out to be just a terrific pro. She was there, she was on time, she knew her marks, and she knew her lines. She’s a very classic actress,” Keillor told The Associated Press.

Lohan called the movie, which opens nationwide June 9, “something nice to come into. Definitely a wonderful experience to work amongst other amazing actors.”

While Lake Wobegon is not mentioned by name in the movie, Keillor said he hopes Altman makes a film about his fictional hometown.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – In her latest film, “Freedomland,” Julianne Moore plays a woman whose son was kidnapped. In real life, the actress is helping the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to keep kids safe.

The center has launched a new Power of Parents program – a Web site with free safety information. The site encourages parents to practice safety skills with their children and keep photos and basic physical details about their kids handy and up-to-date.

“That was a truly novel idea to me,” Moore told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I’m a loving parent, but I didn’t realize the importance” of keeping current, straightforward headshots of her children on hand.

Moore, 45, has two children, Cal, 8, and Liz, 4, with her husband, Bart Freundlich.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A Huckabee-Colbert ticket in 2008?

Gov. Mike Huckabee raised that prospect in a recent appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”

The show is hosted by Stephen Colbert, who sends up fads and fashions. On Tuesday night, the target was healthy living, which has been a theme of Huckabee’s during his current term as chairman of the National Governors Association, after losing 110 pounds and adopting a running regimen.

The Arkansas governor traded quips with Colbert from the start.

“You look fantastic,” Colbert told Huckabee.

“I bet you say that to all the guys,” Huckabee responded.

He told Colbert in jest that he embarked on his diet-and-exercise regimen after he “kept getting letters from people who said they wanted to see less of me.”

Besides, as a politician, it made him less vulnerable, because “when you’re a smaller target, you’re not as easy to hit.”

Huckabee, who has said he is considering seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2008, was pressed by Colbert to declare if he would do so.

“If you run as my running mate, Stephen, we could change America,” Huckabee responded.