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'Dark Knight' tops People's Choice Awards; March returning to SVU


Christian Bale paid tribute to The Dark Knight co-star Heath Ledger at the People s Choice Awards.

Matt Sayles / AP Enlarge

Holy People's Choice Awards, Batman!

The Dark Knight soared away with every trophy for which it was nominated Wednesday at the 35th annual fan-favorite CBS ceremony. The caped crusader flick won five awards, including favorite cast, superhero, action movie, and on-screen matchup for Christian Bale's Batman and the late Heath Ledger's Joker.

"On behalf of all of the cast from the movie, thank you very much to the fans," said Bale. "Here's to Heath."

The CBS ceremony was hosted by Queen Latifah and returned to the Shrine Auditorium for its typical star-studded live show format, following last year's writer's strike-friendly, pretaped program. Stars such as Adam Sandler, Kate Hudson, Robin Williams, Hugh Laurie, and Reese Witherspoon showed up to accept their awards at the slightly subdued ceremony.

"It's such a great way to start the new year," Witherspoon, the Four Christmases star who won an Oscar in 2005 for portaying June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, said as she accepted her award for favorite female movie star. "A couple years ago, I won a great award for singing in a movie. This year, I won an award for having a baby throw up on me."

Other recipients selected by Internet voters in categories spanning movies, television, and music included Dancing With the Stars as favorite reality show, Carrie Underwood as favorite female singer, House as favorite TV drama, Brad Pitt as favorite leading man, Angelina Jolie as favorite female action star, and Ellen DeGeneres as favorite talk show host.

"I wish I could share this with you," DeGeneres told the audience while clutching her trophy on stage. "I could throw it on the ground and smash it into a million pieces, and give each one of you a little piece of it, but that's violent, and that's probably why you voted for me, because I'm not violent."

Other winners were WALL-E for best family movie, 27 Dresses for best comedy, and The Secret Life of Bees for best independent movie.

Will Smith was named both the top male action star and best male movie star; Kate Hudson was declared the best leading lady. The best TV comedy was Two and a Half Men and the top TV animated comedy was The Simpsons.

Queen Latifah accepted the favorite drama and independent movie awards alongside her The Secret Life of Bees co-star Dakota Fanning.

Stephanie March is going back to work as New York prosecutor Alexandra Cabot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

March will return to the NBC drama for six episodes, beginning at 10 p.m. Feb. 17.

The actress said yesterday she looks forward to spending time with a production that has been rewarding for her, and compared it to "an old flame."

March starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for four seasons, leaving the show in 2003 and returning for one episode in 2005. She briefly reprised the role of Cabot on NBC's Conviction, which aired in 2006.

Taylor Lautner will be back to morph into the monstrous Jacob Black in the Twilight sequel New Moon.

There had been talk that a bigger, buffer, more menacing actor might play the role when the second of Stephenie Meyer's hugely successful vampire novels hits movie screens come Nov. 20. Lautner, by comparison, appears lean and sweet-faced in part one. But distributor Summit Entertainment and director Chris Weitz confirmed Wednesday that Lautner would be returning.

Stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson will also be returning as the saga's sweethearts, high schooler Bella Swan and brooding vampire Edward Cullen.

Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight opened at No. 1 with a whopping $69.6 million at the box office in November, the biggest opening ever for a female director. It has since grossed about $177 million domestically.

Early last October, NBC unveiled the 16-member cast of Celebrity Apprentice to reporters. Everyone on hand at the locked-down news conference swore to keep the participants' identities a secret until NBC said "go."

With NBC issuing its cue yesterday to go public, the major media can take pride at having kept the lid on names such as country music's Clint Black, TV personality Khloe Kardashian, and former Baywatch babe Brande Roderick.

Those don't-I-know-him-or-her-from-somewhere? stars will be competing for the title of Celebrity Apprentice when the reality series returns for its eighth season March 1.

Others risking the wrath of Donald Trump in the boardroom will include Olympic figure skating gold medalist Scott Hamilton, comedian Tom Green, singer Brian McKnight, pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, former football great Herschel Walker, poker champ Annie Duke, Deal or No Deal model Claudia Jordan, singer Tionne (T-Boz) Watkins, and for-mer Monster Garage host Jesse James, a custom bike and car builder.

The 16 celebrities will not be vying for a job with Trump, as in past civilian "Apprentice" seasons, but instead will compete in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for their favorite charities. (McKnight's chosen charity is Youthville USA, while Watkins will be playing for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, and Kardashian has chosen the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Awareness.)

Seated at Trump's elbow, the celebs were happy to anticipate the challenges awaiting them as soon as the next day, when they would start taping.

Hamilton acknowledged having watched the prior season and wondering "if I had the skill set to pull it off, because it was pretty confrontational last year. I'm a pretty easygoing, nice person."

"I have a competitive nature," said Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy as a junior at the University of Georgia, "but this (show) is really different, where some people are conniving and cheating. I say, I'm gonna stay true to my morals."

Then he grinned disarmingly and drawled, "I tell 'em, I'm just a little country boy from Georgia."

The King of Pop is back - in town, that is.

Michael Jackson has signed a yearlong lease on a mansion in the swanky Bel Air area of the city, a spokesman for the singer said Wednesday.

Jackson has been staying in the estate for about a month, said spokesman Tohme Tohme, who called the property "a little bit more than an average home."

The lease agreement is for $100,000 a month. The home has seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, and 12 fireplaces.

Jackson, 50, relocated to the city with his three children to be closer to Hollywood and the entertainment industry, said Tohme, promising that "the second half (of his career) will be better than the first."

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