GOOD MORNING: Robert Wagner, who co-starred in two of the funniest “Pink Panthers” with David Niven, including the original in ’64, met with Blake Edwards when the current “Son” was in preparation. “I was in one version,” says Wagner, “and out of the other,” which starts filming Thursday in Nice. But Blake is confident of more “Panthers” with Roberto Benigni as Inspector Clouseau Jr., because he told Wagner he might be in “the next one.” Meanwhile, Wagner winged to Hong Kong to star in U’s “Dragon,” the Bruce Lee biopic starring Jason Scott Lee as Bruce and directed by Rob Cohen. Wagner wound those locations and returned to L.A. last Thursday and jetted out Friday for Luxembourg and NBC’s mini version of Danielle Steel’s “Jewels.” And on the TV movie’s completion, Wagner wings back here for L.A. locations of the Lee movie, in which Wagner plays a composite of Hollywood exex, “but mostly Bill Dozier,” he allows. During his Hong Kong stay, R.J. met with Charles Wang and they are putting together feature plans along with Fred Weintraub. … Joining “Blake Edwards’ Son of the Pink Panther” for MGM is Robert Davi, whom Blake once hired for “City Heat” with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in ’84–but Edwards departed the film, which was then directed by Richard Benjamin. Davi stayed in–but his role lost the original humor. Davi’s excited about finally doing a comedy with Edwards. He leaves this week for London and locations in Nice, Monaco and Jordan, with interiors at Pinewood. Davi said he’s observed Benigni’s work in Italian pix and predicts, “He’s a genius choice for the role” of Clouseau’s illegitimate son. Davi, who also plays the captain of the Pinta in the Salkinds’ “Christopher Columbus,” says he’s seen some of the film and believes Marlon Brando may be interested to learn that harsh treatment of the Indians is depicted in some sequences. … Davi next reunions with Zalman King (“Wild Orchid II”) in–“Love, Lust and the Electric Chair.”
NO TV WEATHERMAN could have predicted the lucky weather that has befallen the “Groundhog Day” troupe. The entire movie takes place in one day, Feb. 2, traditional (since 1887) Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa. “And, naturally, we had to make the weather match throughout the shoot,” says director Harold Ramis, now in the movie’s final two weeks. “We thought we’d have to strip leaves off the trees!” While the weather held out–the true location in Punxsutawney didn’t work out and the company’s shifted to Woodstock and Cary, Ill., plus a second unit in Pittsburgh. The movie, starring Bill Murray as the TV weatherman, Andie MacDowell as his producer and Chris Elliott as cameraman, is budgeted at $28 million — which is what the first “Ghostbusters” cost, Ramis recalls. (Columbia is “not pressing” to do a third.) And Ramis’ first movie, “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” came in at $2.7 million. Ah yes, and then there were the days when “a million-dollar epic” was a hefty come-on ad line. … Ramis appears in a small role in “Groundhog Day” as a neurologist. “Acting is such a luxury,” director and co-producer Ramis says, “compared to writing and directing. I’ll be on this until Christmas. If it’s good, it’ll come out at Christmas. If it isn’t–it’ll be out on Groundhog Day.” Incidentally, Ramis says it isn’t possible to train groundhogs–“You can get them to do some things, but you can’t train them.” Ask Bill Murray, who was bitten twice. … Howard W. Koch Sr. is in hefty action again at Par with four scripts in preparation, including two comedies (he did the blockbuster “Ghost,” you recall), “Boys and Girls” and “The Great Unwashed.” Plus an action-drama, “Hour of the Wolf.” … Johnny Carson’s set from “The Tonight Show”–and all his props–will remain standing on Stage 1 at NBC until August. … “Heeere’s Freddie” is the invite to the Center for the Partially Sighted “Tonight for Sight Show” benefit honoring Fred de Cordova June 20 at the BevHilton. … Joining the “Genghis Khan” miniseries troupe in Russia today is John Saxon, who’ll play a Mongol Prince. After a month on this location, Saxon returns here and in September rejoins the epic in Beijing.
“STARDUST,” in its pre-B’way stand at the Wilshire, is extended through June 21, thanks to ducat sales, reviews and word of mouth. … At the Tamarind bow of “Tiger Lady” were Lily Tomlin, Susan Ruttan, Elya Baskin, Henry Polic II and William Sanderson. John Rust, director of the show detailing Winnie Ruth Judd insanity hearings, learned one of Judd’s victims was his great aunt. Paige O’Hara, Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” plays Judd. From beauty to the beast? Michael Bolton joins Natalie Cole singing at the Carousel of Hope, Oct. 2 at the BevHilton. Among silent-auction items is a two-week trip to Disney parks in Tokyo, Paris, Orlando and here. Roger Moore, Michael Caine and Merv Griffin host the Marvin Davises’ benefit for children’s diabetes foundations Hal Roach receives the Marilyn and Monty Hall Statesman’s Club of the Jewish Home for the Aging’s Rose Media Award tomorrow night at the Four Seasons. … And Connie (Hines) and Lee Savin suggest that traveling showbiz folk donate their frequent-flier mileage to “Heart to Heart” to enable U.S. medics to fly to Leningrad to teach Russian surgeons pediatric heart surgery for patients whose life expectancy is three to four months without it. “60 Minutes” did a seg on the “Heart to Heart” operation.