I'm told that Michael Jackson's defense has subpoenaed at least three people in the film business as character witnesses.
"Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner and star Chris Tucker — both of whom had a lot of contact with Jackson's accuser and his family — are the top two names summoned to court to help Jackson's defense.
The family spent time on the set of "Rush Hour 2" in the first three months of 2001. Ratner has already said in this column that the boy in the case was something of a smarty-pants and was no pushover. He will no doubt give those observations on the stand.
Tucker had even more contact with the family, flying with them back and forth to Miami on his private plane in February 2003 to visit Jackson.
The return trip, on which Jackson came along, is when the pop star allegedly licked the boy's head and drank wine in soda cans and shared it with the boy. Tucker may be used to refute those claims if they're brought into evidence by the prosecution.
Tucker also figures in the case because his girlfriend and the mother of his son, who also may have been subpoenaed, actually watched the kids in the family when their mother was out on dates or shopping, according to my sources.
As an impartial witness, Tucker's girlfriend could provide crucial testimony. (She does not know Michael Jackson, I am told.) She was also present when the family was interviewed by Los Angeles County Child Protective Services.
Also subpoenaed by Jackson's defense is his longtime friend Bryan Michael Stoller , director of "Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls," a feature-length spoof released on DVD that stars Jackson, among others.
Stoller told me yesterday that despite no chain stores stocking "Miss Cast Away," he's sold 30,000 copies on his Web site, misscastaway.com.
Stoller may be one of several witnesses to testify about his knowledge of Jackson's pursuit of women, a subject that — albeit incredible — could turn out to be riveting.
Meanwhile, Jackson's revamped Web site, mjjsource.com , has started charging $49.99 for premium memberships.
Molto congrats to two Fox 411 picks who wound up with Screen Actors Guild Award nominations on Tuesday: Cloris Leachman of "Spanglish" and Sophie Okonedo of "Hotel Rwanda." Maybe a few of our readers are SAG members, since this was pretty much the only outlet that cited either actress repeatedly.
MTV.com reports that Jennifer Lopez, who has not toured live, not once, since becoming a pop star, is thinking of hitting the road. This should be interesting. The top-paying job on such a venture would be "synch coordinator," I do believe.
Courtney Love has regained custody of her daughter Frances Bean Cobain. A family court judge in California has sent Frances back to her mom after having lived for about a year with Courtney's own mother's former husband. It's got to be a good thing. We can only hope and pray.
Jimmy Griffin of the '70s pop group Bread died this week from lung cancer. He didn't write any of Bread's wonderfully schmaltzy hits, but he and fellow starchy-band member Robb Royer did compose the Carpenters' huge hit "For All We Know."
Oliver Stone's "Alexander" leaves most theaters today with $79 million in the till worldwide (including $34 million domestic). That's roughly $120 million short of not breaking even.
Condolences to Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, two of the nicest people around. They lost their only child, 17-year-old son Jesse, on Monday night. He died of complications due to cerebral palsy. The Coopers had moved to the South Shore area of Boston from New York because they felt Massachusetts was more progressive about mainstreaming kids with disabilities, according to the Boston Herald.
Somehow in yesterday's column there was a union of two unions, IATSE and the Teamsters. They are separate and different, of course, which at least one of their groups pointed out immediately. We regret the error.