The man once best known for creating the hugely popular Spawn comic book may now be famous—according to Todd McFarlane himself—as “the guy with more money than brains.” The Calgary-born entrepreneur made the comment when he revealed last week that he was the anonymous bidder who paid $3 million (U.S.) on Jan. 12 for Mark McGwire’s record-setting 70th home-run ball. A baseball fanatic, McFarlane, 37, also owned up to paying a total of $300,000 for other significant homer balls from major-league baseball’s historic 1998 season: McGwire’s first, 67th, 68th and 69th of the year, as well as challenger Sammy Sosa’s 33rd, 61st and 66th.
McFarlane’s Spawn, first launched in 1992, is the best-selling independent comic in history. A successful 1997 movie version and a
line of live-action figures have also contributed to a $100-million conglomerate well able to support its founder’s indulgences— which include part ownership of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. But McFarlane only reluctantly turned to comics in 1984 when he had to abandon his own pro-ball aspirations after breaking his ankle while playing centre field for Eastern Washington State University.
Now living in Phoenix with his wife, Wanda, and two young daughters, McFarlane dreams of owning a baseball team—if only to be able to take daily batting practice with the players. As for McGwire’s magic ball, he plans to send it on a tour of North American ball parks and arenas, and says it will keep its value for decades to come—not least because he hates to even contemplate the possibility of someone hitting 71 home runs in a season. “Right now, I’m the idiot who spent $3 million on the crown jewel of sports memorabilia,” McFarlane says. “If the record falls, I’m the idiot who spent $3 million on a $5 ball.”
Oscar smitten with history
all it the war of the epochs— or the costume departments. When the Academy Award nominees were announced last week, the leading contenders were all set in a time and place far from modern Hollywood. Two Elizabethan-era films—the comedy Shakespeare in Love and the court thriller Elizabeth—and three Second World War movies—Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and Life Is Beautiful—garnered best picture nominations and dominated in many other categories. With 13 nods, including best ac-
tress (Gwyneth Paltrow), best supporting actress (Judi Dench) and original screenplay (Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard), Shake-
speare in Love outmanoeuvred Saving Private Ryan. That film, which depicted the Normandy landings with chilling brutality, garnered 11, including best actor (Tom Hanks) and best director (Steven Spielberg).
Shakespeare’s 13 nominations fell just one short of last year’s juggernaut, Titanic, which received a record-tying 14 nominations (and won 11). And like Titanic, Shakespeare received those nominations in all the major categories but one—best actor. There is no word yet whether Joseph Fiennes, the British actor who played the lovestruck playwright and is scheduled to start filming Forever Mine on March 17 in Toronto, will boycott the Oscars on March 21 the way the previous snubbee, Leonardo Di-
Caprio, did last year’s event.
The best actor category is notable for another omission; Canadian Jim Carrey was overlooked for his lead role as an unwitting actor in the critically acclaimed The Truman Show. Still, Canadians will have a presence at this year’s ceremony. The National Film Board nabbed its 63rd Oscar nomination, for Sunrise over Tiananmen Square, in the documentary short subject category, while Vancouver’s Lions Gate Films earned five nods for two of its films, Gods and Monsters and Affliction. And veteran Canadian director Norman Jewison will receive the prestigious Irving G. Thai berg Award for his body of work, which includes In the Heat of the Night and Moonstruck. History in the making.
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