Film studio didn’t lie to Coppola in regard to “Pinocchio”

Warner Bros. still owes Francis Ford Coppola millions of dollars for “Pinocchio,” but a judge ruled this week that at least the studio didn’t lie about its involvement with the film project technically speaking and dismissed a $60 million ruling against the studio.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury originally decided in July 1998 that the studio falsely claimed to have a “Pinocchio” deal with Coppola, thereby preventing the director from working with Columbia Pictures on the film. On Tuesday, the California Court of Appeal ruled that Warner Bros. had a right to tell Columbia in 1994 that it reserved all rights to a Coppola “Pinocchio” movie. Although no contract was ever made, the director did sign a 1992 certificate of employment that gave Warner Bros. rights to his “Pinocchio” project and that the studio paid $350,000 on the project.

The trial judge threw out the jury’s $60 million 1998 punitive damage award, but left Coppola with $20 million in compensatory damages. Attorneys for Coppola were not available for comment.

NO, NO, THAT’S BOND; NOT BOMBED: Whitney Houston needs an upgrade in protection (from herself, perhaps), and she might just have found it with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The singer may be in the next James Bond film and is awaiting confirmation from the bosses that be, according to a Wednesday report in Britain’s top-selling Sun tabloid. “The movie bosses think Whitney would make a fantastic Bond girl and are desperately working out a deal which will be acceptable,” the Sun quoted an unidentified source as saying, although apparently the source didn’t add that a Bond girldom almost always means certain career death.

The final decision rests with Dana Broccoli, widow of Bond film producer Albert Broccoli, who has the last word on everything to do with the 007 franchise. The Sun said the movie would be filmed later this year, but did not give its title.

OOPS, SORRY FOR THE HYPOCRISY: Now it can be told the “s” in S Club 7 stands for stoners. The British pop group created by the Spice Girls’ original manager has amassed two No. 1 singles, a No. 1 album in the British charts and was deemed 2000’s Best British Newcomer at the Brit Awards. They were also arrested Wednesday and cautioned on drug possession charges. Now the male faction of the group Bradley McIntosh, 18, John Lee, 19, and Paul Cattermole, 24 have to spit-polish their squeaky-clean image with an apology for being caught with a joint in London’s West End. “We have been very stupid, we know we’ve made a mistake and we’re very sorry,” the three said in a statement. A spokesman added, “They rate their fans very highly and they know that they have let a lot of people down. Now they’re learning their lesson the hard way.” The other four members Rachel Stevens, Hannah Spearritt, Jo O’Meara and Tina Barrett didn’t have to say anything except “nyah, nyah, nyah.”

THE PITT-PATTER OF LITTLE FEET: Brad Pitt and wife Jennifer Aniston may be planning to add to their brood soon. Or as Pitt put it to the Sunday Express magazine, a British periodical, “the planning is under way, negotiations are taking place, and I’m willing to predict a successful conclusion.”

The actor seems to have changed his tune from a solo to a lullaby. In January, the 37-year-old star sounded more cautious in a Details magazine interview, “I’m still a little selfish I’m sure I’ll mess them up somehow.” Maybe Pitt is more forthcoming and family-friendly to the British press. “I believe in the concept of marriage and family and it’s always been my intention to take this step and build a life with someone,” he said. Pitt also commented on celebritydom. “At certain points in my life, I could honestly not believe how huge the whole media frenzy became,” he said. “Now I don’t care anymore, because I realize that it’s not personal you’re just a vehicle for the notion of celebrity.” Being a star is “like a girl walking past construction workers.”

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail