Hollywood power couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are set to return to Israel as co-hosts of this year's Genesis Prize ceremony.
The Genesis Prize Foundation announced on Wednesday that the pair would co-host the June 18 event, where former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky is to be honored as the 2020 laureate.
Douglas, 75, was the 2015 winner of the prestigious $1 million prize, granted each year in recognition of professional achievement, contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values and Israel. He is recognized for his cinematic work and advocacy for disarmament as a U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Douglas, whose mother wasn't Jewish and who himself is intermarried, directed his award toward projects promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the Jewish world.
"Catherine and I look forward to returning to Israel, a country our entire family loves so much," Douglas said in a statement. "We are particularly honored to have the opportunity to host the ceremony honoring a true Jewish hero, Natan Sharansky."
Douglas said the visit will also be a way for his family to honor the memory of his father, Kirk Douglas, who died on Feb. 6 at the age of 103. Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch and raised in a religious home, reconnected with his Jewish roots in his later years and had a strong connection to Israel.
"His re-discovery of his Jewish faith, his passion for his heritage has been a guiding light for me, passed down to my children," Douglas said.
The foundation said that during Douglas' visit, it will hold a special event honoring his father's cinematic legacy.
Douglas, who has acted and produced in dozens of films over a five-decade career, won the Academy Award for best actor for his role as ruthless financier Gordan Gekko in the 1987 movie "Wall Street." Other films have included "Fatal Attraction," "Basic Instinct," "Romancing the Stone," "Traffic" and the recent "Ant-Man" superhero movies. He also won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his portrayal of Liberace in the 2013 HBO production "Behind the Candelabra."
Zeta-Jones, 50, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 2002 musical "Chicago" and collected the 2010 Tony Award for Lead Actress in a Musical for her work in the Broadway hit "A Little Night Music." Her other films include "Ocean's 12," "The Terminal," and "The Mask of Zorro" and "Traffic."
The Genesis Prize was inaugurated in 2014 and is run in a partnership between the private Genesis Prize Foundation and the chairman's office of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that works closely with the Israeli government to serve Jewish communities worldwide.
Other previous winners include Michael Bloomberg, violinist Itzhak Perlman, sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The 2018 winner, actress Natalie Portman, pulled out of the prize ceremony because she did not want to appear to be endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The same year, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received the foundation's first Lifetime Achievement Award.
Paramount Pictures on Monday halted production on the seventh "Mission: Impossible" film due to the new virus, as Hollywood began to more drastically adapt to the growing global outbreak.
"Mission: Impossible 7" had been scheduled to shoot for three weeks in Venice. More than 200 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy, the largest number outside Asia. While most of those cases are in the neighboring Lombardy region, authorities said three people in Venice have tested positive for the virus.
In a statement, Paramount cited the Venetian government's halting of public gatherings, and said it was canceling the shoot "out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew."
Paramount also on Monday postponed the Chinese release of "Sonic the Hedgehog," which had been set for Friday. Cinemas in China have been shuttered due to the outbreak, closing down the world's second largest box-office market.
At stake is potentially hundreds of millions in ticket sales in China and elsewhere. Media stocks were among those that tumbled Monday on Wall Street as fears increased of the virus' effect on the global economy.
Last week, the James Bond film "No Time to Die" canceled its planned Beijing premiere and promotional tour. The film is to open in Britain on April 2 and in North America on April 10.
The Walt Disney Co.'s anticipated live-action "Mulan" remake is also soon to open worldwide, with a particular focus on China. It's due to open there on March 27.
Michael Jordan says he didn't see Kobe Bryant as his rival for the mythical honor of being recognized as the best basketball player ever.
Instead, he came to love Bryant as the little brother he never had, and as a student eager to learn from Jordan's experiences and skills.
"He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be," Jordan said Monday at Bryant's public memorial service at Staples Center. "And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."
Jordan broke into tears with those words during a moving speech about his largely unpublicized friendship with Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," Jordan said. "And as I look (around) this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died, or else you wouldn't be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother."
The heartfelt comments from Jordan, the relatively media-shy billionaire owner of the Charlotte Hornets, were a poignant highlight of the two-hour ceremony. Jordan also provided a memorable image from the event when he stepped up to help Vanessa Bryant off the stage after she delivered her eulogy of her husband and daughter.
Bryant's career with the Los Angeles Lakers took off in the late 1990s when Jordan was wrapping up his own stellar career with the Chicago Bulls. The two shooting guards with silky, aggressive offensive games competed fiercely against each other, with Jordan initially unwilling to cede ground to Bryant as the next superstar at their position.
But once they became acquaintances, Bryant bombarded Jordan with late-night phone calls and questions about how to improve. When a retired Jordan traveled to Los Angeles to visit Phil Jackson, the former Bulls coach then in charge of the Lakers, Jordan was greeted by Bryant — who immediately asked him if he had brought his shoes so they could play.
"No matter where he saw me, he saw the challenge," Jordan said. "And I admired him because of his passion. You rarely see someone who's looking and trying to improve each and every day, not just in sports, but as a parent, as a husband. I am inspired by what he's done and what he's shared with Vanessa, and what he's shared with his kids."
Bryant kept up his questions even during their retirements. Just a couple of months ago, Bryant texted Jordan for insight on teaching moves to Gigi Bryant, who aspired to a basketball career.
Jordan is the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history with 32,292 points. Bryant — who played 274 more games — passed him on the career scoring list during his penultimate season in December 2014.
Kobe's 33,643 points currently put him fourth on the chart, with only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and LeBron James above them.
Jordan won six titles with the Bulls, while Bryant won five rings and reached seven NBA Finals with the Lakers.
Fans have spent decades comparing Jordan to Bryant, and comparing both to James. Jordan isn't interested in that game.
"Kobe never left anything on the court, and I think that's what he would want for us to do," Jordan said. "No one knows how much time we have. That's why we must live in the moment. We must enjoy the moment. We must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our families and friends and the people that we absolutely love."
Jordan teared up several times during his speech, which allowed him to bring a moment of levity to the somber proceedings.
He is well aware of the Crying Jordan meme in which an Associated Press photo of his tear-stained face from his 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is superimposed on athletes and public figures at moments of loss or disappointment.
"Now he's got me. I'm going to have to look at another crying meme for the next ..." Jordan said while the arena dissolved into laughter.
"I told my wife I wasn't going to do this because I didn't want to see that for the next three or four years," Jordan added. "That is what Kobe Bryant does to me. I'm pretty sure Vanessa and his friends all can say the same thing. He knows how to get to you in a way that affects you personally. Even though if he's being a pain in the ass, you have a sense of love for him and the way that he can bring out the best in you, and he did that for me."
Grammy award-winning singer Pharrell may have been fired from three different McDonald's as a teen, but that didn't stop him from opening what has become one of the hottest restaurants in Miami.
The singer hosted a soul food brunch Saturday along with his dad Pharaoh, a self-taught chef, known for his sweet and spicy Nono Sauce, as part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Growing up, family meals were the heart of the Williams home, a place to "hear what's exciting at your parent's job."
"Cooking is a reflection of your parents, the energy, the love. Food is a connector and it's a meeting place," Pharrell told The Associated Press during an interview before the brunch.
Back home, Pharaoh Williams was always in the kitchen and so were his grandmothers. Favorite dishes included his dad's chicken and pork and fried catfish with a special sauce that Pharrell says was more savory than spicy.
"His seasoning was what was always so distinctive with my dad's cooking and both my grandmothers cooked like that," he said.
At Saturday's sold-out $150 per ticket brunch at the upscale Swan restaurant in Miami's design district, they served platters of cornmeal-crusted catfish with chow chow, juicy BBQ chicken and ribs, cheddar grits and French toast with candied oranges and amaretto whipped cream.
Back in the kitchen, a team of chefs hustled to carry out Pharaoh Williams' menu, pulling mini sweet potato biscuits out of the oven and crusting copious plates of catfish. Fellow Grammy winner DJ Khaled, and former "Breaking Bad" co-stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were among the guests savoring the food on a tropical jungle style patio.
Happy to leave behind his fast food days, Pharrell opened Swan restaurant and its swanky upstairs Moroccan-themed Bar Bevy in 2018 with South Beach nightlife guru and LIV club owner David Grutman. The restaurant has been a hotbed for celebrities, especially during the Super Bowl and recent Art Basel weeks, where everyone from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West to Leonardo DiCaprio and Bono have indulged.
Grutman and Pharrell partnered with Top Chef Europe champion executive chef Jean Imbert for their restaurant, while Pharrell works on the side with a line of food products for his father.
But the "Happy" singer is clear about his role in the restaurant business — he happily stays out of the kitchen.
"I didn't cook then. I don't cook now," he laughed, adding "I love food."
He has a deep appreciation for the culinary arts, comparing it to "the same way I work in music. You're adding different sounds and things together," he said.
"Ingredients are like instruments. It's how you use them and it's who's using them. That's what makes one song different from the next, one style different from the next."
When dancer Camila Prins entered Sao Paulo's Carnival parade grounds, a costume of feathers clinging to her sinuous body, she fulfilled a dream of feminine beauty nearly three decades old.
Prins says she first realized she wanted to be a woman at a Carnival party at age 11, when, like the other boys, she was allowed to dress like a girl as part of the burlesque festivities. Now, in the final minutes of Saturday, she became the first transgender woman to lead the drum section of a top samba school in either of the renowned Carnival parades put in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Prins, 40, was hand-picked to be "godmother" of the Colorado do Brás samba school's drum section, an iconic role fought over by dozens of models and TV celebrities. Her duty was to dance infectiously for 65 minutes in front of the drummers, using her legs to drive their rhythm while judges assessed the school's parade.
"Gorgeous women wanted to be here. I'm very excited because this shows we can be anywhere. We can be godmother of the drummers, we can be owners of a samba school," Prins told The Associated Press before the parade. "Soon they will see many other transgender girls, who will find it easier than I did."
Colorado do Brás, which rose to Sao Paulo's top samba league only two years ago, made a bold decision in picking Prins for the role, despite Brazil's Carnival being a party at which few things have never been tried.
Transgender people remain something of a taboo among Brazilians, even in Sao Paulo, the country's most cosmopolitan city and host to the world's largest gay pride parade. Brazil has more slayings of transvestites and transgender people than any country in the world. In 2019, 124 were killed, 21 of them in Sao Paulo state.
As godmother of the drum section, Prins teamed up with a drum queen who has a similar role, and together they worked to dazzle fans in the Sambadrome bleachers with their beauty and sex appeal. Prins said she was counting on her penetrating brown eyes, long blond hair, strong legs, open smile and imposing breasts to help win points from the judges.
Colorado do Brás finished the 2019 parade in 11th place, only two spots above the cutoff for being relegated back to a lower league. Directors of the samba school decided to try for something different this year, since the group has fewer resources than richer samba schools. Its floats and costumes were clearly less luxurious than the main challengers for the title.
Keila Simpson, president of Brazil's National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals, was happy Prins secured her prominent Carnival role, and said their community aims to make cases like hers the new normal.
"We have to be proud of Camila and hope her symbolic message allows us to think of reducing violence against trans people. Why can people celebrate her at the Sambadrome while trans people on the street are subject to violence?" Simpson said. "We don't have data, but there are many violent cases against us during Carnival. Because there's more of us outside, there's more attacks."
Sao Paulo is trying to root out persecution of LGBT people during Carnival, and this year set up 20 tents spread among major street parties to handle cases of violence against the community. Psychologists, police officers and social workers are on hand until Wednesday for revelers who are victimized.
English teacher Alessandra Salvador, a transgender woman who encouraged revelers to come to the city hall tent at the LGBT street party Minhoqueens, said she was excited by Prins' selection.
"I don't even watch parades that much, but this year I will when she is on," Salvador said. "It is good to see one of us being talked up. We don't get it so often. If we don't get that in Carnival, we won't get it anywhere else."
It's been a long road for Prins to reach the big leagues. She has worked as a professional dancer for 20 years and, though she lives in a small town in Switzerland with her husband, practices her steps at home all year and listens to samba incessantly. As Carnival nears, she splits her dance routine with ab workouts and squats at a gym, then makes her annual return to Brazil.
Prins' first time dancing as a samba school's godmother came in 2018, in the second division of Sao Paulo's Carnival league. And it wasn't easy.
"Many people turned their backs, because they thought I shouldn't be there. They thought it was a role for a woman," Prins said. "Little by little I won them over with a lot of respect and true dancing."
Prins said her friends in Switzerland feared for her because of the increase in violence against transgender people, and because of the rise of far-right political groups in Brazil. She said she was worried about an increase in hateful comments aimed at LGBT people since President Jair Bolsonaro took office Jan. 1, 2019, but she planned to keep her smile and march on.
Just before midnight, when Colorado do Brás finally started its parade, a TV Globo reporter approached a tearful Prins in front of her drummers. She was already the most talked about of all 2,200 members of the samba school, even more than eight young topless women dressed as "goddesses of the sea."
"I feel so blessed this is happening. I came here to hold my banner and dance samba to the face of prejudice, for all the LGBT community," she said. "Trans girls, I am sure your day will come, too. I am just the first, many more of you will follow."