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Morning Report

July 25, 2002|Elaine Dutka

TELEVISION

Lowe to Depart 'West Wing' in '03

Rob Lowe will leave "The West Wing" next spring, NBC said Wednesday.

The actor, who plays White House deputy communications director Sam Seaborn, decided to depart after finding out that Martin Sheen received a raise that nearly triples his pay to $300,000 an episode, Variety and the New York Post reported, citing anonymous sources.

Lowe, who has been earning about $75,000 an episode since the series began in 1999, is reportedly the only cast member who failed to get his first-season salary increased. Co-stars Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford banded together last year and negotiated a raise to about $70,000 per show in a deal that keeps them on through the seventh season.

Lowe was one of the biggest names on the show when it began, thus commanding a higher salary. But his importance receded as other members of the ensemble broke out.

"As much as it hurts to admit it, it has been increasingly clear, for quite awhile, that there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on 'The West Wing,' " the actor said in a statement. Professing his gratitude at having been on the show, he added, "We were a part of television history and I will never forget it."

Though NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker wouldn't provide reasons for Lowe's departure, he confirmed that the actor will be written out of the show in March.

POP/ROCK

'American Taliban' Song Ignites Controversy

A new tune about John Walker Lindh by Nashville singer-songwriter Steve Earle is making waves on the music front.

The song, "John Walker's Blues," describes Lindh as "an American boy raised on MTV" who sought out another culture because he felt alienated from his native country. "If my daddy could see me now--chains around my feet/He don't understand that sometimes a man/Has to fight for what he believes," Earle sings.

Lindh, a 21-year-old Californian captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty this month to fighting alongside the Taliban militia. He is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison in October.

Nashville radio personality Steve Gill says Earle is trying "to be outrageous to attract attention."

"We're within a one-year period of the attacks on America, and I think it's too early for a song like this," Gill told CNN. "He is free to put this song out there, and the American people are free to say 'No, thank you' when it comes to buying it."

Earle wasn't available for comment, but Charles Wolfe, a pop music scholar at Middle Tennessee State University, came to the singer's defense.

"What Earle is doing is what good songwriters--and in fact, good poets--have been doing for a hundred years, which is trying to get inside and understand the motivations of people who may not be popular right now," he said, comparing the song to Bob Dylan's tune about the boxer convicted of murder, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, or Woody Guthrie's songs about the gangster Pretty Boy Floyd.

Artemis Records is releasing the song in September, a move the label defends. "It would be a pretty shallow culture if songwriters only wrote about nice people," Chairman Danny Goldberg said.

MOVIES

Luhrmann to Tackle Alexander the Great

Having completed a trio of musicals ("Strictly Ballroom," "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge"), Baz Luhrmann has signed on to direct Dino De Laurentiis' historical epic about Alexander the Great for 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures.

The project is due to start shooting early next year in Morocco, where the king has committed about 1,500 members of his army to the production. That will put it ahead of other Alexander the Great projects undertaken by Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson.

QUICK TAKE

Women in Film has tapped Rosie O'Donnell, "Judging Amy" stars Amy Brenneman and Tyne Daly, and ABC Cable Networks Group/Disney Channel Worldwide President Anne Sweeney as this year's winners of the Lucy Award, named after Lucille Ball. The honors will be presented at the Century Plaza Hotel on Sept. 20.

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