ABOUT A DOZEN YEARS BACK, Charles Burnett was working full-time in the advertising industry and making films in his spare time. His first feature, “Killer of Sheep,” was called an “admirable effort” in these pages. It went on to be cited by the Library of Congress as one of its 25 annual films to be preserved and cherished.

More recently he made “To Sleep With Anger,” a multiple winner at the Indie Spirit Awards in 1992, and left his day job. Naturally, you’d assume U.S. producers have been knocking furiously at his door.

Well, guess again.

Burnett’s next, “Glass Shield,” will be financed by French-based Ciby 2000. The story, by Burnett, focuses on a young deputy stationed at the Signal Hill precinct. His wide-eyed attitude toward law enforcement soon is pummeled by exposure to department bigotry and internal corruption.

Burnett’s leads are “China Beach’s” Michael Boatman and Lori Petty and he’s put together a strong support cast on a favored-nations basis. That means everyone works for a fraction of their usual quote. Barring schedule conflicts, that will include Treat Williams, Elliott Gould, Ice Cube and Bernie Casey.

“I’m pleased whenever someone says ‘yes.’ It doesn’t matter where the money comes from as long as the story stays intact,” said Burnett.

Still, he’s amused his foreign backers don’t always understand American moviemaking ways.

Ciby likes working with filmmakers of Burnett’s stature, especially because this pic’s low budget could translate into rich returns. Still, they wonder why he didn’t cast Danny Glover, “Sleep’s” star and executive producer, in a small part.

“First, there’s no role in the script suited to Danny,” he said. “That didn’t seem to matter — they said they would pay his asking price. I said that was fine but it would mean everyone else would have to get a salary boost. I think they thought favored nations had something to do with tariffs.”

DOES NO ONE WANT TO TAKE CREDIT anymore?

We’re all acutely aware of Gene Hackman’s decision not to have his name in the ads for “The Firm.” But at least he takes screen credit.

This is definitely emerging as the season for the uncredited cameo. In the same Sydney Pollack film, both Paul Sorvino and Joe Viterelli, as gangster brothers, pop up unexpectedly.

And when the plot turns in “In the Line of Fire,” that’s John Heard providing a key clue to the assassin’s identity.

Finally, John Candy pops up again and again in the forthcoming “Rookie of the Year,” uncredited, in the part of an sports announcer.

IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME before La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff would segue into feature films.

Theater’s reigning snowback (Canuck to the less informed) is set to make his movie directing debut in October with a project titled “Sudden Darkness” for Accent Prods. The Hugh Graham screenplay centers on a group of small-time thieves who have an opportunity to break into the “bigs” thanks to the arrival of a major criminal figure.

However, the yarn isn’t just “Reservoir Dogs II.” Based on a true incident that occurred back in the 1970s in Toronto, the crime lord happens to be one of those border-crossing Yanks who prey on unsuspecting hosers. Though the gang’s still to be cast, names mentioned include Matt Dillon, John Malkovich and Viggo Mortensen — all of whom are American citizens. Furthermore, there’s been no inclination toward such obvious names as John Candy, Michael J. Fox or Wayne Gretzky for roles.

The Canadian connection does sound conspiratorial when you consider that the film’s producer, Andras Hamori, though Hungarian-born, is Canadian-trained. And to cap things off, both he and McAnuff had the same mentor in the Great White North, stage director John Hirsch. However, while both men knew of one another, they did not meet until Hirsch’s funeral.

McAnuff wasn’t available for comment; he was busy mapping out his invasion plans of the U.K. with “The Who’s Tommy.” We’ve also been told he’s in discussion with Disney’s Jeff Katzenberg about creating a movie musical.

CRUISE OR CRUZEIROS?

Universal may have unintentionally misspoken last week when it claimed “Jurassic Park” had the biggest opening weekend in the history of Brazil. It did appear that the dino-thriller racked up the equivalent of $ 1.7 million in the South American country.

But then the studio got a curve ball. In the midst of the celebration, the country’s currency was devalued.

“What can you do?” shrugged MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Pollock. “Brazil’s annual inflation is something like 300% and the exchange rate is always fluctuating. I still have no idea what our box office translates to in U.S. dollars. And who knows whether we’ll paid at today’s conversion exchange or the rate in place a month from now.”

HARVEY KEITEL IS TENACIOUS. Mr. Bad Lieutenant, recognizing a good script, has previously stepped up to the plate for first-timer Quentin Tarantino. Now he’ll produce and star for another tyro talent, “Iron Maze” scripter Tim Metcalfe. The project is titled “Killer” and centers on the relationship between a prison guard and a death row murderer. It’s being made under Oliver Stone’s Ixtlan banner.

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