Gong’ host movie alive thanks to star interest

And why did this shining nugget of a pitch almost get lost in the Hollywood Shuffle? Imagine, if you will, Johnny Depp as a hired assassin. No stretch o’er the imagination, ay? How about Depp as gong-beater-wielding game show host Chuck Barris? How about Depp as a gong-beater-wielding-game-show-host-hired-assassin?

Whew. According to Variety, George Clooney loves Barris’ bio-pic, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” scripted by Charlie Kaufman (the man behind the ever-so-twisted “Being John Malkovich”). Clooney is not merely content to star as the CIA agent who hires Barris to go undercover as a hired assassin. He will be directing, with a little help from Steven Soderbergh. Hmmm, who knew gong beaters could be lethal weapons?

UNGRATEFUL BOYS, ALL OF ‘EM: Hey, karma’s calling. Lou Pearlman brought the world boy bands ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, only to be fired as their manager once they hit it big.

Now, reports The New York Post, he has been fired thrice. The latest one dropping the ax is O-Town, the all-boy group featured on the ABC show “Making the Band.” It bumped “Big Papa” for a new management team, Actual Management. In a case of “et tu,” the team was launched by former members of Pearlman’s company.

Ah, but the PR never ends. Pearlman’s lawyer Michael Friedman insists it was an “amicable” parting. “Lou is still involved with the group through contracts with the show, but he is no longer the day-to-day manager of the group,” he said. The O-Town representative confirmed the split, but not the why.

$25 MILLION A GAM: How much are body parts worth? Michael Flatley, who brought “Riverdance” and lots of chest sweat to millions everywhere, has the papers to prove his legs are worth $50 million. The 42-year-old Celtic dancer has insured his dancing feet (with the calves, knees and thighs thrown in).

“Everybody was afraid that if I stopped dancing, the tour wouldn’t go on, and if the tour doesn’t go on a lot of people would be out of work, and I would stand to lose a great deal of money myself,” Flatley told AP Radio while in Washington, D.C., with his “Feet of Flames” tour. However, he fears not what twisted ankles or menial injuries may lie ahead. “No, life is too short, man. I love to dance and, you know, I love all of those things, and whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” he said. “It’s a matter of fate.”

NO WIZARD IS HE: Steven Spielberg is a self-confessed “fraidy-cat.” At least, that’s what he told the New York Times, which probably hasn’t seen the words “fraidy-cat” fit to print for years. “I’m the fraidy-cat who makes a picture and immediately assumes that nobody is going to show up the first day, and it will be reviled around the world,” said the director.

“Relief is the largest reaction I have to a film that’s well received and opens well. I don’t celebrate. I don’t have victory parties. I simply feel relief.”

His fear isn’t a contrary reaction from his last film, “Saving Private Ryan,” which grossed more than $500 million. It was the drubbing that he got after “The Color Purple” that kept him away from “Harry Potter.” Explained he, “The Color Purple’ was a film where there was more ink shed on the comparison with the Alice Walker novel than there was on the merits or problems with the film Every kid in the world will be waiting to see how close Harry Potter’ will be to the books.”

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