‘To Die For’ lands Kidman

Nicole Kidman has made life a lot easier for producer Laura Ziskin by attaching herself to the aptly titled “To Die For” at Columbia.

The black comic yarn centers on a manipulative woman who uses three sociopathic teens to advance her career as a reporter. You can expect something very dark, because Buck Henry wrote the original and has been doing rewrites with director Gus Van Sant.

Considering the creative talent involved and the subject matter, an actress with some heat was a priority. Susan Sarandon was briefly attached, followed by Meg Ryan. In fact, Van Sant was more than a little shocked when Ryan walked away from the project several months back. He thought everything was set for filming to begin in March.

The good news is that Kidman’s nod and attendant cachet should get it up and running quickly. Details are being worked out, but it could start as early as April, allowing the actress a brief respite before beginning “Portrait of a Lady” for Jane Campion next summer.

GET IT, GOT IT, GATT IT: With any luck, this will be the last word in 1993 on the U.S. entertainment industry and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A lot of people just don’t GATT it, because a lot of misinformation has been bandied about by American and European concerns.

In the past decade, revenues for U.S. filmed entertainment have increased by a not inconsiderable 100%. The MPAA’s Jack Valenti tells us that the sector returns $ 4 billion to this country. There’s no question that Valenti has done a superb job of negotiating favorable trade arrangements throughout the world. In fact, he did such a good job that it caught up to him in Geneva.

While the French have been taking the heat, other countries — including Spain, Germany and Australia — realized that collectively they represented a strong common front. Will initiatives or the lack of them keep U.S. filmed entertainment at arm’s length?

If you believe that, better reopen your bomb shelter now. Individually and collectively, the filmmaking nations of the world cannot supply the small and big screens out there without American product. Do not expect movie theaters from Jakarta to Jamaica to show even one fewer U.S. title. The situation for tube fare might have some impact.

The likely overall scenario is that U.S. film entertainment revenues could slip by a couple of percent over the span of two years. However, with television expanding into cable and satellite situations globally, there will be a growing need for new and library product. And guess who has the biggest cache of filmed entertainment? This is no cause for sending around the collection plate.

That aside, Valenti’s big sin remains invoking the issue of artists’ rights as a cudgel against foreign philistines. Cactus Jack even got such abused talents as Spielberg and Scorsese to decry the potential blockage of their art. While this might raise the level of xenophobia in this country, American creative artists have little reason to complain when it comes to access to foreign markets. Both mainstream and specialized talents tend to be known far better abroad.

At one top talent agency, the reaction was shock when Steve and Marty were so vocal on the subject. A get-to-know-your-GATT informational booklet was prepared so that reps could talk intelligently to clients and avoid a similar misuse of prime talents.

On the flip side, the picture is none too good. Quick, name Sweden’s most important filmmaker. When it comes to access, the U.S. has created cultural and economic borders far sturdier than any quota. No more than a dozen foreign-language films receive significant distribution in this country annually. Does anyone truly believe there are but a dozen worthy films made outside America in a given year?

Finally, let’s put the Jerry Lewis argument to bed forever (you know, that’s the one that dismisses French opinions since, after all, they love Monsieur Jerry). Lewis hasn’t directed a film in a decade, no matter how revered he may be in France. What some tend to forget is that those crazy Gauls happen to be the same people who rediscovered a lot of Americans who were forgotten at home, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, Nicholas Ray and Orson Welles. It’s those filmmakers’ reappraisal by French critics that is largely responsible for their current reputations stateside.

The French have a history of looking beyond their borders in hopes of reflecting on their own society — something Americans have never done very well.

OLIVER STONE ASIDE, others still feel there’s drama to be plowed in the fields of Vietnam. Sidney Furie, who made one of the better early Vietnam pix with “The Boys in Company C,” returns to that venue in March with “Americal.” The story centers on an Army officer assigned to a military unit whose past two commanders died under curious circumstances.

The trick, as always, is to hit both an emotional and visceral nerve simultaneously. The troop assembled for the Ruddy/Morgan production includes Cary Elwes, Gary Busey, Powers Boothe and Michael Rooker.

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