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Chris Stapleton Ready to Remove His Finger Splint, Return to Stage

The splint on Chris Stapleton's right index finger is coming off, and he's going to walk on stage for the first time on Thursday night.

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Luke Bryan's First Time on the Radio: 'Screaming and Crying at the Same Time'

Luke Bryan remembers his first time on the radio.

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Ron Howard takes helm of Han Solo 'Star Wars' film

Ron Howard is taking command of the Han Solo "Star Wars" spinoff after the surprise departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

Lucasfilm announced their replacement director Thursday, two days after Lord and Miller left the project over creative differences. Howard gives the reeling production a veteran hand in the wake of Lord and Miller's exit in the midst of shooting.

Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said filming will resume July 10. The untitled film, which stars Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo, is about three-quarters of the way through production. It has several weeks of shooting left, along with reshoots.

Howard has shepherded Oscar winners like "A Beautiful Mind" and "Apollo 13." But his recent films, including the "Da Vinci Code" sequel "Inferno" and "In the Heart of the Sea," have struggled at the box office. He also has some history with Lucasfilm. He helmed the 1988 fantasy "Willow" and starred in George Lucas' 1973 breakthrough "American Graffiti."

"We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie," said Kennedy.

Disney reiterated the film's release date of May 25 next year, suggesting that — at least for now — the "Star Wars" spinoff will be released on schedule. Representatives for the studio declined to comment.

How producers and the Directors Guild of America handle the film's directing credit will also be closely watched. DGA rules govern the crediting of directors.

Lord and Miller had previously been considered among Hollywood's most sought-after directors, having turned "The Lego Movie" and "21 Jump Street" into unexpected and widely praised comedy hits. But reports have circulated that the duo, who favor improvisation and irreverent humor, clashed with Kennedy and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, a "Star Wars" veteran and executive producer.

"Unfortunately, our vision and process weren't aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren't fans of the phrase 'creative differences' but for once this cliche is true," the directors said earlier in a joint statement. "We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Everything You Need to Know About the 2017 CMA Awards

When are the 2017 CMA Awards? Who's hosting, performing, presenting and nominated? Here's everything you need to know.

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Luke Bryan Demands Respect for a Woman in New Song 'Like You Say You Do' [Watch]

Luke Bryan treated VIP fans to a brand new song called "Like You Say You Do" during a concert at Verizon Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, Ga., over the weekend.

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Coal company sues HBO's John Oliver for defamation

Coal company Murray Energy has sued HBO and its Sunday-night host, John Oliver, for what it says was a "false and malicious broadcast" last Sunday evening. It's seeking financial damages and a court order barring rebroadcasts of the segment's "defamatory statements."

Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" coal segment criticized the Trump administration's effort to revive the industry, saying coal jobs have dropped for decades and other energy alternatives are driving the industry's decline.

He ribbed Murray Energy's CEO Robert Murray, who blames regulatory efforts by the Obama administration for damaging the coal industry. He said the 77-year-old looked like a "geriatric Dr. Evil" and noted that the company had fought against coal safety regulations.

The Ohio company sued the comedian Wednesday afternoon in circuit court in West Virginia, saying that he tried to embarrass Murray by making fun of his age and appearance and made false statements about a 2007 collapse of a Utah mine, when nine miners died. The company said Oliver ignored information it sent the show that it says showed an earthquake caused the mine's collapse and that the show made no mention of "the efforts Mr. Murray personally made to save the trapped miners."

An HBO spokesman says the show didn't violate Murray Energy's rights or those of Murray. Oliver noted on the show that Murray Energy has a litigious past, and last month sued the New York Times for libel.

Murray Energy employs about 5,400 people, about half of those in West Virginia.

Former US attorney Preet Bharara has a book deal

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney fired earlier this year by President Donald Trump, has a book deal.

Alfred A. Knopf announced Thursday that Bharara was working on a book about the "search for justice" that would come out early in 2019. Bharara was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for 7 1/2 years. His prominent cases included the conviction of Sheldon Silver, former Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Bharara was fired abruptly by Trump in March and has since said the president tried to cultivate a relationship with him, potentially compromising his independence. He has called the conversations "weird and peculiar."

Bharara expects to "address the circumstances that led to his firing," Knopf spokesman Paul Bogaards said Thursday.

Bharara said in a statement issued through Knopf that his book, not yet titled, was about law, but also "integrity" and "moral reasoning."

"The law is merely an instrument, and without the involvement of human hands, it is as lifeless and uninspiring as a violin kept in its case," Bharara said. "People will regard a result as just if they regard the process leading to it as fair and if they believe the people responsible for it are fair-minded. That is the process I want to illuminate in this book."

Watch Kellie Pickler Perform Emotional New Song 'If It Wasn't for a Woman'

Kellie Pickler debuted a brand-new song, "If It Wasn't for a Woman," during the 2017 CMA Music Festival.

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Watch Kellie Pickler Perform Emotional New 'If It Wasn't for a Woman'

Kellie Pickler debuted a brand-new song, "If It Wasn't for a Woman," during the 2017 CMA Music Festival.

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Kane Brown's Self-Titled Album Being Pressed for Vinyl Release

Kane Brown self-titled debut album is getting a makeover. A vinyl edition of 2016's Kane Brown will be released on June 30 with updated cover art.

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