Pakula screens ‘Pelican’ for prez

GOOD MORNING: “It’s great we have a president who is a movie fan, and a president and First Lady who have a sense of humor,” said “Pelican Brief” director-screenwriter Alan Pakula. However, before the movie screened at the White House, Pakula announced to the 40 or so guests (who also dined with Hillary and Bill C.), “Clearly, Mr. President, this is a far different White House than the one in our movie.” Pakula told me, “I could never have shown the movie without pointing that out.” Robert Culp’s the president in “Pelican,” and he is portrayed as an influence-bought politician who obstructs justice. One of the movie’s opening lines notes, “What some men will do to get into the Oval Office!” They had hoped Vice President Al Gore would be on hand as well, since the movie revolves around a major environmental issue. Pakula was back in D.C. last night for another screening. This audience included many White House staffers. “I wish the president could have seen it with 400 people instead of 40 ,” he said. However, Pakula noted, “The president and Mrs. Clinton were “very gracious hosts and they applauded afterward. It couldn’t have been a more pleasurable evening” viewing his movie in the White House –“which has a very good projection system,” he added. (Thanks to Ronald Reagan, another presidential movie fan.) “Brief” author John Grisham, also at the White House showing, is a distant cousin of the president’s, you recall. It wasn’t the Pakulas’ first visit to the White House: He had worked on the campaign — and stepson Robert Borsten is a special assistant to the president … Robert Culp accompanied Pakula back to D.C.’s showing last night following the Monday night bow here at the Bruin and party that followed at La Boheme. Culp got high praise from Pakula on his presidential performance. As a matter of fact, Pakula said he never had “a more wonderful cast” than this one, headed by Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. Pakula had to work seven days a week for eight months to get it ready for this week’s opening. The last scene was added a few weeks ago — and ad-libbed (effectively) by Roberts in Santa Barbara to a tape made in N.Y. by Washington being “interviewed”… Pakula’s plate is full for the next few years. WB also bought “Green River Rising” and “The Secret History” for him. He and Garry Trudeau are also readying a black comedy, “C.D.C. ,” about scientific research, and “Friday Night Lights” for Imagine.

AN ARMY OF PHOTOGS was on hand at the Bruin for the arrival of Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett, co-star Denzel Washington and wife Pauletta plus “Pelican” cast members Robert Culp, William Atherton, Tony Goldwyn, John Lithgow and Stanley Tucci … Roberts looked stunning with hair pulled straight back in a chignon and wearing a severe black dress, totally different from her soft, flowing look in the movie. She’d come from the set of “I Love Trouble,” and said she loves playing the reporter — with editor Nick Nolte. She follows with the short role in “Pret-a-Porter” in Paris and then into “Mary Reilly” in London. Asked when she and Lovett would have a honeymoon, Roberts laughed, “We’re on it all the time.” Lovett joins her in the Altman “Porter” but in scenes with Lauren Bacall, while Roberts acts with Tim Robbins. This was Lovett’s first time out at one of his wife’s preems and he was all smiles talking about watching her work (and how!) in the nonstop chase “Brief.” Lovett, shy but friendly, said he’s happy to be working in the same city with her — he’s cutting a new album. “It’s acoustical,” he said … There were two “presidents” at the “Pelican” preem — the aforementioned Culp as president in this pic, and John Lithgow, who is currently playing FDR in David Rintels’ “World War II: Then There Were Giants,” a four-hour NBC mini that will shoot sequences of the U.S. Senate and House in — Prague, which also will double for the Kremlin and Teheran. Czech star Jan Triska joins the cast as Molotov. Joe Sargent directs … Culp follows with a Western feature he wrote, “John’s Last Job,” and has also scripted “Shepherds”– which he showed to Pakula on theWB plane to D.C. Tuesday!

WHOOPI GOLDBERG QUICK-TRIPPED to N.Y. from the Minneapolis bow of Planet Hollywood to meet with Budd Schulberg on “A Face in the Crowd”… At the Planet’s preem (before a crowd estimated by the fire department at 35,000!), Jean-Claude Van Damme told me he and Darcy La Pier will wed March 19 … Julie and John Forsythe celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Monday with a quiet dinner party for friends at their new home in the Santa Ynez Valley. He’s back at work here hosting “I Witness Video.” Forsythe recently returned from Vienna where he and Joan Collins staged a classic “Blake and Alexis fight scene” for an Austrian TV special — entirely in German!

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