The two brothers who were interrogated by police investigating the alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett claim they helped him concoct the assault after he became upset that a now-suspicious letter threatening him, sent to Empire‘s studio, did not get enough attention, sources told ABC News on Monday.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo also told investigators that Smollett paid them to help him orchestrate and stage the January 29 attack that he said occurred near his Chicago apartment, sources said.
A letter threatening Smollett was sent January 22 to the studio in Chicago where Empire is filmed, police said. The letter contained threatening language and was laced with a powdery substance investigators believe was likely crushed-up Tylenol.
Detectives are actively investigating the account of Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, but thus far police have not independently verified the allegations, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told ABC News.
The Osundairo brothers agreed to cooperate with authorities after detectives confronted them with evidence that they bought the rope — allegedly used in an attack that Smollett described to police as laced with racial and homophobic slurs — at a Chicago hardware store, sources said.
Smollett also claimed the attackers shouted “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”
“We are not racist. We are not homophobic and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens,” Osundairo brothers said in a statement to CBS Chicago affiliate WBBM which has been confirmed by ABC News.
Detectives have now shifted the investigation towards determining whether Smollett made up the entire story, sources said.
There was good new and bad news for James Cameron‘s sci-fi adventure film, Alita: Battle Angel, which topped what will go down as the worst three-day President’s Day box office weekend since since 2004.
The film, starring actress Rosa Salazar as the title character in a CGI-enhanced motion-capture performance, beat expectations by delivering $27.8 million from Friday-Sunday, with expected earnings to reach about $33 million through Tuesday. That would bring the five-day totals for Alita, which opened on Thursday, to over $40 million — about $10 million more than anticipated. The film earned estimated $56.1 million overseas, bringing its worldwide tally to $94.3 million.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part dropped to second place in its second week of release, grabbing $21.2 million and upward of $27 million for the long weekend.
The weekend’s second debut, Rebel Wilson‘s comedy Isn’t It Romantic, took third place with an estimated $14.2 million from Friday-Sunday and $16.5 million through Monday. That adds up to a $22-23 million six-day haul for movie, which opened on Wednesday.
What Men Want landed in fourth place, earning an estimated $10.9 million for the three-day and around $12 million for the long President’s Day weekend.
Happy Death Day 2U, this week’s third and final debut, collected an estimated $9.8 million for the three-day, with expectations of gobbling up just over $11 million for the four-day period. The sequel to 2017 slasher dark comedy, which bowed on Wednesday, should rack up a total of $15 million-plus in its first six days, about $5 million shy of expectations.
Fighting with My Family, produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who also makes an appearance in the film, had an impressive debut in limited release, delivering and estimated $131,625 from four theaters. It expands nationwide next weekend.
Here are the top 10 movies from Friday through Sunday, with estimated domestic box office earnings:
1. Alita: Battle Angel, $27.8 million
2. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, $21.2 million
3. Isn’t It Romantic, $14.2 million
4. What Men Want, $10.9 million
5. Happy Death Day 2U, $9.8 million
6. Cold Pursuit, $5.965 million
7. The Upside, $5.48 million
8. Glass, $3.9 million
9. The Prodigy, $3.16 million
10. Green Book, $2.85 million
Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman is taking the film’s Oscar nominations in stride. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate the recognition.
Although the Marvel superhero blockbuster is nominated for seven Academy Awards — including Best Picture — Boseman, who plays the tilte role, tells ABC Radio that he isn’t necessarily focused on the film bringing home the biggest prize.
“I think it’s meaningful any time any film is acknowledged,” Boseman says. “In any part of a film, whether it be behind the scenes, design, director, performers. It’s always meaningful to be acknowledged by the Academy.”
Black Panther is the first superhero film to ever earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Boseman says the fact that the Academy recognizes the film, and the people who made it, is a big deal.
“Because, you know, being a part of the Academy — I know the caliber of people that are in there and that actually vote and care about this art form that we do,” Boseman explains. “So, it will be amazing especially because Marvel has never had that happen before with a film.”
The 91st Academy Awards air Sunday, February 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
J.J. Abrams hit up Twitter on Friday to announce the completion of principal photography on Star Wars IX. The film is said to be the final installment of the Skywalker family saga, which launched in 1977. The film stars Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant, along with he main cast from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, led by Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran and Joonas Suotamo. Original cast members Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams also return, as does Carrie Fisher, who will appear posthumously using previously unreleased footage from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars IX, due out in December, is still untitled…
It’s the end of the road for The Punisher and Jessica Jones. Deadline reports the Marvel superhero series will end with their current seasons — season two for The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal, and the as-yet unreleased third season for the critically-acclaimed Jessica Jones, with Krysten Ritter returning in the title role. The reason for the cancellations has mostly to do with Disney, which owns Marvel, tying up loose ends as it prepares to launch its own streaming service soon. Disney’s also the parent company of ABC News…
HBO is teasing the seventh and final season of Veep with a NSFW President’s Day trailer featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, exploring her own presidential ambitions with a liberal sprinkling of her trademark potty-mouthed dialogue. Veep returns March 31… (Video includes uncensored profanity.)
Ken Nordine [nor-DEEN] has died. Considered by even his fellow voiceover artists as the best there was, Nordine began making a name for himself in the 1950s, lending his deep, distinctive baritone to everything from commercials and movie trailers to narration and musical compositions, working on the latter with greats including Tom Waits, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and The Grateful Dead, among others. Nordine also wrote and performed his own trademark “Word Jazz” pieces and albums for decades, and both wrote and voiced a popular series of commercials for Levi’s in the late 1970s and early 80s. Nordine suffered a stroke 18 months ago and died Saturday at age 98…