PEOPLE: Hank Azaria willing to drop voicing controversial "Simpsons" character; Cher brings Vegas audience to its feet; in Iraq, American filmmaker Oliver Stone denounces USA.

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'Simpsons' actor willing to silence Apu

Hank Azaria is ready to stop voicing Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu on "The Simpsons" in the wake of criticism that it's a stereotype.

Azaria said on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that he hopes the Fox animated show makes a change, and he's willing to step aside if necessary.

Azaria said: "I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that's what 'The Simpsons' does."

He added: "It just feels like the right thing to do."

People of South Asian heritage have criticized the heavily accented Apu for reinforcing stereotypes they say lead to bullying and self-loathing.

Cher draws a standing ovation

Cher and a dozen backup dancers have brought the house down Wednesday in Las Vegas with a surprise performance of Abba's "Fernando" for CinemaCon attendees, who responded with a standing ovation.

The legendary performer closed out Universal Pictures' presentation at Caesar's Palace.

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Cher co-stars in the movie musical "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!" She plays the mother of Meryl Streep's character. The sequel hits theaters on July 20.

In Iran, 'JFK,' 'Platoon' filmmaker lashes out at U.S.

Oliver Stone, making his first-ever visit to Iran, says the United States is a global "outlaw" that has made a mess of the Middle East.

The director of "JFK" and "Platoon" spoke at a press conference Wednesday during his visit to the country, where he attended an international film festival.

Stone reprised his criticism of the 2003 Iraq war and suggested the U.S. has acted similarly in Libya and Syria.

He went on to say that "national security has trumped artistic freedom," claiming "you cannot make a film critical of the United States' foreign policy."

His remarks drew applause.

Today's birthdays: Rock musician Ace Frehley is 67. Pop singer Sheena Easton is 59. Actress Sally Hawkins is 42. Rock singer Jim James is 40. Rock musician Patrick Hallahan is 40. Neo-soul musician Joseph Pope III is 39. Country musician John Osborne is 36. Actress Ari Graynor is 35. Singer Allison Iraheta is 26.

                                                                            — The Associated Press


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