Batman '12 Years a Slave' Writer Penning New Comic, Hero Will be Black

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The Oscar-winning writer behind "12 Years a Slave" is coming back with a new project that'll see Batman's cowl donned by a Black man ... and fans already think they know who it is.

John Ridley is heading up a 4-issue, limited series comic for DC, in which the Dark Knight will NOT be Bruce Wayne, but a different character entirely ... one who will likely be African-American. The news was announced this weekend during the online Fandome event.

Ridley teased the fact Batman wouldn't be white, saying, "I think it's a pretty safe bet that if I'm writing Batman, it's probably a little better than a 47 percent chance he's going to be a person of color." Batman being Black, though, was confirmed when John said the story would likely focus on the character Lucius Fox and his family ... whom folks know all too well.

Lucius is the head of Wayne Enterprises in the comics, and was played by Morgan Freeman in Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' trilogy. He's a bit too old to rock the cape himself -- but his son, Luke, is known in some iterations at Batwing ... one of Batsy's sidekicks.

Long story short ... fans believe if there's going to be Black Batman, Luke is an obvious choice. The new limited series is set to hit shelves sometime in January 2021, so soon.

Taryn Manning Going Full 'Karen' ... For Upcoming Movie

Karen is going Hollywood ... with an upcoming suspense thriller starring Taryn Manning!!!

The "Orange Is The New Black" star just signed on to play a "Karen" on the big screen ... in a story about a racist, entitled white woman in the South who terrorizes her new African-American neighbors. Sound familiar?

The movie, from writer and director Coke Daniels, seems like a mixture of all the "Karens" who have become Internet famous. Taryn's playing a Karen who believes people should stick to their own kind. Yeah, that's a Karen hallmark.

Taryn's character, Karen White, makes it her mission to oust the new kids on her block, a black family, by any means necessary. It's a very 2020 movie -- the neighbors are staunch Black Lives Matter supporters.

Taryn makes a lotta sense for the title character ... if you've seen her work in 'OITNB' you know she was Karen-ing way before it, unfortunately, became so prevalent in real life, it's a bonafide part of pop culture.

There's a moral to the story, which we don't often get with real Karens. Daniels says he wants to give folks an interesting perspective on social justice and race relations in America.

'Straight Outta Compton' Star Jason Mitchell Playing Sean Bell ... in '50 Shots' Biopic

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Jason Mitchell's next big role is incredibly timely -- he's portraying the life of a Black man shot and killed by cops just hours before his wedding ... one of the most controversial police-involved shootings in recent history.

Jason, who's previously played Eazy-E in "Straight Outta Compton," has landed the role of Sean Bell in the film aptly titled "50 Shots" ... a reference to the 50 bullets cops fired in 2006, killing Sean in Jamaica, Queens.

Bell was only 23 and had just finished celebrating his bachelor party with his dad and 2 friends when cops opened fire on their car. Undercover cops investigating a nearby strip club believed the men were armed -- but they were not.

Four years later ... the city settled with Bell's family for $7 million, but 3 of the cops who opened fire were fully acquitted. It's one helluva story ... one Jason couldn't pass up when he read the script.

Jason will be an executive producer along with Tru of TruVision Films, as was first reported by Urban Hollywood 411. Jason initially read for the part of one of the undercover cops. But, as he read the script he immediately asked to instead play Sean's role because he wanted to help tell his story. Tru was all for it.

The movie, which has been in the works for 3 years now and will be filmed in Queens, is one of many projects centered around the tragic incident ... but Sean's family feels this one is special because they've been so involved -- especially Sean's father, William. We're told he's spoken with Jason almost every day since he took the role.

Stacey Dash's Estranged Hubby I Was Hypnotized Into Marrying Her Annul Our Marriage, Judge

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Stacey Dash and her husband both want their marriage off the books like it never happened ... and the mister's claiming he only said "I do" while in a spiritual trance.

Stacey's estranged lawyer hubby, Jeffrey Marty, filed new court docs in response to Stacey's divorce petition ... and he's asking a judge to annul the marriage, something Stacey herself doesn't appear to oppose.

Jeff claims he only took his vows after Stacey's pastor put some serious religious pressure on him. He says they got hitched on April 6, 2018 -- but that's only because 10 days prior, he claims her pastor "unexpectedly and suddenly proclaimed that it was God's will" they get hitched.

Anyway, Jeff says that his ability to consent to the marriage was hijacked by the use of "hypnotic prayer techniques." Jeff doesn't describe the techniques or how he was programmed to marry Stacey. He also says there was pressure from other clergies to tie the knot.

Now, for Stacey's part ... she and her attorneys don't fully admit to what Jeff claims here about the hypnotism and all ... they say he didn't show any unusual signs about his mental state at the time. But, she's not fighting him and she too is asking the judge to annul the marriage ASAP.

That might be best -- their marriage was pretty rocky, and that's putting it lightly.

Will Smith Ya Gotta Stay Safe in Theaters, China ... No Translator Needed!!!

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LAYIN' DOWN THE LAW
Westbrook Courtesy of East Goes Global

Will Smith's been brushing up on his Chinese during the pandemic ... welcoming folks back to movie theaters in China with a safety PSA in their language!!!

Here's the deal ... theaters are beginning to reopen over in China -- yes, other countries are way ahead of the curve -- and Will's sharing coronavirus safety tips so the Chinese can finally get a look at him and Martin Lawrence on the big screen in "Bad Boys For Life."

Will checks all the usual boxes for theater etiquette in the age of COVID-19 ... face coverings, social distancing, assigned seating, temperature checks, no eating, drinking or talking ... but he does it in a super fun way, and ya gotta watch him speak Chinese!!!

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

The final product PSA is great, just like Will dropping knowledge in a foreign language ... but the outtakes might be the best part!

Post Malone, Slash & MGK Lend Voices to Keep Legendary Guitar Shop Rockin'

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Norman's Rare Guitars is in trouble ... and Slash and Post Malone are among the celebs holding out hope the legendary guitar shop avoids its swan song.

Here's the deal ... Norman Harris' famed guitar shop in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley is in serious jeopardy of closing its doors forever due to the pandemic, and celebs are trying to raise awareness in a new documentary, with personal tales of how Norman and his store impacted their careers.

END OF AN ERA
Directed by Devin Dilmore

The shop's served as a mecca for guitar enthusiasts and music icons ever since it opened its doors way back in 1975, but the coronavirus could be the final nail in its coffin -- unless MGK, Post and other famous rockers can pull off a miracle -- and get people to buy product.

Norman's daughter, Sarah Edwards, says her dad's store isn't in dire straits financially, but Norman could be forced to keep the store shuttered because he's a 71-year-old type I diabetic who can't interact with customers like usual anymore.

Norman's Rare Guitars closed its doors back in March, and Sarah says her dad can only go in on Tuesdays and Fridays for a couple hours to pack and ship internet orders and film content for the store's social media.

Gone are the days when Norman would shake hands and take pictures with customers, and lend his guitars to rockers for epic jam sessions. Sad.

Slash, Jeff Daniels, The Goo Goo Dolls, Melissa Etheridge and Jeff Garlin are among the celebs lamenting the possible loss of another music landmark in the upcoming documentary directed by Devin J. Dilmore and produced by Norm's daughter and Kiefer Sutherland.

It's currently in production, but until then ... we know where you can get a sweet guitar!

LeBron James Powerful Speech on 'Space Jam' Set I Came From Nothing, Can't Believe I'm Here

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TAKE IT FROM ME
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TMZ Sports obtained audio of the farewell speech LeBron James gave to the "Space Jam" cast and crew on his last day of shooting ... and it's emotional stuff.

The NBA superstar addressed the cast and crew in Summer 2019 (before the COVID pandemic) ... and explained why it was so important for him to take the role in the first place.

"I'm gonna be honest completely with you guys -- when I found out about the project, I was like it's 'Space Jam'! It’s a movie that I grew up watching. People in the movie that I idolize. I was like absolutely, I gotta do it. There’s no way I can turn down 'Space Jam'!"

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Bron joked that he had second thoughts when he realized the production schedule was so demanding, but ultimately decided it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I’m just a small kid from Akron, Ohio -- a very small town outside of Cleveland. From a single-parent household, I’m the only child, my mother had absolutely nothing. She was walking around high school when she was 16 years old and she was pregnant with me as a high school sophomore. So, I’m really not supposed to be here."

"Growing up in the inner city, as an African-American kid, there’s no way you’re supposed to f*cking make it out. And, the fact that I’m who I am as an African-American adult now with 3 kids of my own, and I made it out of the situations that I was in. This sh*t is like extra credit for me man."

Bron proceeded to thank everyone involved with the movie -- saying, "Y'all say you appreciate me, but I’m sh*t without y'all."

As we previously reported, James invited some of his NBA pals and teammates to participate in the movie -- including  Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson and Anthony Davis.

The piece is set to drop next summer ... start gettin' that popcorn ready now!

Stipe Miocic 'Steven Seagal's a Savage' But Secret Training Won't Help Cormier

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BUSINESS AS USUAL
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Yep, Stipe Miocic has seen that footage of Daniel Cormier training with Steven Seagal back in the day ... but he ain't worried about it!

The footage was shot back in 2015 when Cormier was getting ready to fight Jon Jones at UFC 182.

Seagal -- who considers himself a martial arts expert -- hit it off with Cormier and offered to share some of his secret fight moves ... but only if UFC turned off the cameras.

Cormier and UFC obliged, and now -- in theory -- he's been trained up in the ways of the guy from "Under Siege."

So, when we spoke with Stipe this week as he preps to headline UFC 252 on Saturday -- we had to ask if he was concerned that Cormier could unleash some of that "Hard to Kill" knowledge on him during their final fight?

Spoiler Alert: Stipe ain't worried ... but he was complimentary of the actor.

"Seagal's a savage. Ya gotta look out for that guy."

There's more ... Stipe also told us why he's not planning to retire any time soon and why he doesn't feel bad sending Cormier into retirement with an "L."

He also tells us how excited he is to watch the return of Mike Tyson in November -- saying the dude still looks ferocious as hell!

R. Kelly Alleged Manager Charged ... Over Shooting Threat to Nix 'Surviving' Doc Screening

R. Kelly's alleged manager is facing more legal fallout over what the feds claim are efforts to run interference for the disgraced singer.

Donnell Russell has just been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for an alleged threat to shoot up an NYC theater in December 2018 when the Lifetime documentary, "Surviving R. Kelly," was being screened there.

The feds claim Russell admitted to first sending a cease-and-desist letter trying to end the screening -- but when that failed, prosecutors allege he phoned in the shooting threat ... and successfully nixed the event, which was being attended by a number of Kelly's alleged victims.

TMZ broke the story ... law enforcement sources told us an R. Kelly associate was a person of interest over an alleged threat that came in just 20 minutes before the start of the screening. Russell was charged with 1 count of conspiracy to threaten physical harm and 1 count of threatening physical harm. Each charge carries a max sentence of 5 years in prison. This, of course, is just the tip of the legal iceberg for Russell.

As we reported ... Russell is also 1 of 3 people charged for allegedly harassing and intimidating witnesses in Kelly's criminal cases.

Steve-O Gets Duct Up ... Wild Billboard Stunt in Hollywood!!!

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SKY-HIGH STUNT
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Steve-O's up to his old tricks, and though his latest stunt isn't his gnarliest ... it's pretty damn funny.

The 'Jackass' star attached himself to a Hollywood billboard Thursday morning with the help of a bunch of black tape, in what he believed was a super safe publicity stunt rigged by professionals.

As you can see ... Steve-O was covered from his chest to his knees in the duct tape, leaving his arms free to take a selfie for social media -- after all, the whole point of this was to promote his new special.

LENDING A HELPING HAND
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We got him while he was plastered up there, and he told us he was wearing a diaper underneath. He also confessed he wasn't sure his stunt was legal ... but said he rented the billboard, and just wanted to make people laugh.

The prankster claimed there was zero chance he'd fall while pumping up his upcoming special ... it's called "Gnarly," btw, and we have no doubt the title fits.

Steve-O hoped to not use up any city resources getting him down, but despite his wishes ... the L.A. Fire Dept. showed up rather quickly to get him down safely.

The LAFD had to partly block traffic to bring in a crane and remove the jackass. Steve-O was not arrested, and law enforcement tells us he won't face any criminal repercussions from his stunt ... because he paid for the billboard.

Anthony Michael Hall Goes Berserk on Guests in Hotel Pool ... Says He's 'Deeply Sorry'

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OFF THE DEEP END
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Anthony Michael Hall got weird in a hotel pool and caused a ruckus over feeling disrespected, but video only shows him acting belligerent and disrespectful ... and now he's apologizing.

The '80s movie star was with his wife and his assistant Wednesday afternoon at the South Congress Hotel pool in Austin, TX and brought along a portable speaker and a jug of something ... according to witnesses.

We're told Hall was being rude and obnoxious from the get-go -- blasting his music, bothering other guests and cursing in front of kids, so he was asked to tone it down.

Based on this video, Anthony didn't respond kindly to that request, and started yelling at the group of pool patrons ... making it clear he didn't care what they thought about his behavior, and accusing them of being in the wrong.

At one point he referred to a woman recording the incident as Rosie O'Donnell. Clearly agitated over her filming, he started splashing water in her direction.

Our sources say hotel security was called during the altercation, and Anthony ended up leaving the pool area. Police were not called.

Anthony's now issuing a major mea culpa, saying he formally apologizes to the entire staff, his family, and everyone who witnessed the incident.

Hall says ... "As a result of a misunderstanding and miscommunication between myself and some hotel guests, the situation needlessly and regrettably escalated." He adds, "I am deeply sorry for my words and actions and ask for forgiveness from anyone who I may have offended."

As you might recall ... Hall was facing prison time back in 2016 for allegedly assaulting one of his L.A. neighbors. He ended up pleading no contest and got 3 years probation instead.

Cuba Gooding Jr. Lawyer in Sexual Assault Case Argues Small-Breasted Women Delusional

Cuba Gooding Jr.'s lawyer is making what sounds like, on its face, an odd argument in his sexual assault case -- claiming women with small breasts tend to be delusional.

The actor and his legal team appeared in a Manhattan courthouse Thursday for a preliminary hearing in his trial, and things took a strange turn when one of his attorneys argued a woman's negative feelings about her breasts can directly affect her perceptions of reality ... specifically when it comes to sexual assault.

Now, some context -- the attorney, Peter Toumbekis, raised this because one of Gooding's accusers once blogged about women's self-esteem and body issues. It seems he used her words as a jumping off point for his theory ... but it's a risky, if not straight up offensive, legal maneuver.

There was no jury present today, but if Gooding's team uses that tactic later in trial ... it might backfire. Suggesting an accuser misperceived something as sexual assault due to the size of her breasts could easily be seen as victim shaming to a jury.

Reporters asked Gooding about it as he exited the courtroom, and he only removed his face mask to reveal a Black Lives Matter symbol. He didn't say a word.

10/24/18
THE VIDEO EVIDENCE
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As we reported ... there are at least 22 women who have accused the actor of sexual misconduct. Back in October, Cuba pled not guilty to 6 sexual abuse charges.

TMZ obtained security footage of an alleged butt-touching incident that relates to 2 of the 6 counts he's facing. Remember, Natasha Ashworth had claimed he pinched her butt while walking past her at TAO in NYC back in October 2018.

There's also the June 2019 incident ... in which a woman accused Cuba of groping her thigh and breast while at the Magic Hour Rooftop Lounge in NYC.

JUNE 2019
THE ALLEGED GROPING
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Gooding's other attorney, Mark Heller, tells TMZ ... the strategy for their opening statement to the jury will be to play video they believe shows absolutely no crime was committed.

Heller insists Gooding respects women and has never acted inappropriately toward them.

Akon African City's Like Real-Life Wakanda

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THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
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Akon is turning his dreams into reality -- building a futuristic city in Senegal, which he says will resemble Wakanda from "Black Panther" ... in more ways than just its futuristic appearance.

The singer, who hails from Senegal, joined us on "TMZ Live" Tuesday for an update on "Akon City," the $6 BILLION cryptocurrency-run city which recently broke ground in his West African home country.

Akon told us why the city's centerpiece will be a 5,000-bed state of the art hospital, which he says will cost about $1 BILLION alone to build. The hospital is part of the first phase of construction, which Akon says will also include residences, hotels, schools, police and fire stations, an airstrip, a mall and all the other hallmarks of modern-day cities.

Looking at renderings for Akon City, it's easy to see why some folks think Akon's building a real-life Wakanda ... and he tells us how "Black Panther" actually helped him sell the project to investors and partners.

Akon is expecting phase 1 to be completed by 2023, and when the city's completed in 2029 it will run entirely on, you guessed it -- akoin cryptocurrency.

All it needs now is a catchphrase ... 'cause "Wakanda forever" is very taken.

Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom Scouting New Digs ... Can't Go Wrong in Montecito, Baby!!!

Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom are looking to live large -- as in a much larger house as their first baby's about to arrive.

The couple's been making the rounds in the exclusive, celebrity-enclave of Montecito where they spent the weekend looking at a variety of massive homes. Based on the 3 they toured, it'll be a huge upsize from their current digs ... a 3,000 square ft. pad in nearby Santa Barbara.

The new homes are really massive estates, all of which are at least 10,000 square feet on multiple acres of land.

Property #1:
It's listed at $10 million ... featuring 6 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms on 5 acres. There's also a tennis court, bocce ball court, swimming pool, spa and cabana. There's also some room for their fancy wheels with a 4-car garage.

Property #2:
It's listed at $11 million and features 5 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms on 3.5 acres. The Mediterranean estate includes sweeping ocean views and a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest house. It's got all the bells and whistles ... gym, climbing wall, pool, theater and wine cellar.

Property #3:
The most expensive property the couple toured is listed at $14 million. It's got 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms on 2.5 acres. The architectural gem also includes a 2 bedroom guest house. The entire property's surrounded by lush lawns. There's also an outdoor kitchen, fire pit and pool.

Hard to go wrong if they go with any of the above -- they've all got plenty of space, and then some, for their new addition.

Katy's getting closer and closer to giving birth to the couple's first kid together. Not that's it's stopping the pop star from busting out dance moves ... or house hunting.

Viola Davis Celebrates 55th Birthday ... Shows Where It All Started

3:53 PM PT -- Welp, we clearly missed Viola's metaphor when she said, "I own it ... all of it," she wasn't referring to the ACTUAL home ... just owning the beginning, ups and downs of her incredible life story.

Viola Davis is coming full circle for her birthday by buying the house (and property) where she was born -- a place that was formerly inhabited by slaves.

The actress celebrated her 55th Tuesday by posting a photo of what she calls her birthplace -- an old rundown house on what's been said to be a former plantation in South Carolina. She said she not only snapped up the home, but the land surrounding it as well.

Viola captioned her pic with a moving tribute, writing ... "The above is the house where I was born August 11, 1965. It is the birthplace of my story. Today on my 55th year of life....I own it....all of it." She's previously described the property -- saying it's about 160 acres all in all.

Viola followed up with a Cherokee birth blessing, "May you live long enough to know why you were born." In light of all the success she's found, it seems she's done that too.

A bit more history on the former plantation ... Viola described it in an interview back in 2016, and said her grandmother used to live there, and that her house -- presumably the one depicted here -- was a one-room shack, without a bathroom, running water or much else.

Despite sparse conditions ... she recalls her mother telling her that on the day she was born, a bunch of relatives packed in here to honor the occasion, and enjoyed themselves. Viola says she didn't live there long, but came back to visit over the years as she grew up.

Amazing visual of just how far Viola's come from her humble beginnings.

Originally Published -- 11:14 AM PT

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