Englund moving forward with Noriega biopic

GOOD MORNING: Manuel Noriega is alive and well — the biopic, as well as the general. This movie’s to be made by George Englund, as originally reported here May 2, when Englund also said he planned to star Robert Davi. With Thursday’s announcement of the cancellation of the Oliver Stone-Al Pacino-New Regency-WB “Noriega,” Englund told me, “It’s full steam ahead — the field is clear.” Englund, who will meet again next month with the jailed general, represents the rights for Noriega’s life story and is the agent for Noriega’s book, being written by Peter Eisner for Random House. Englund says, “This is the most illustrious, timely and dramatic story of my career. The action sequences are enormous — 23,000 U.S. troops looking for him and no one found him — he turned himself in to the Vatican Embassy in Panama, you recall. The Iran-Contra implications are enormous. The dealings with the State Dept., CIA, DEA, U.S. Southern Command, the White House, all make for a great story — and movie. It’s a big picture and Oliver (Stone) has left the field for us.” Englund’s also completing his own writing –“Marlon & Me” (Warner Books) — and he’s the agent for Brando’s bio, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”…”Chico,” the story of Chico Mendez, Brazilian union organizer in the rubber plantations, being filmed by HBO in Catemaco, Veracruz, had some delays when Raul Julia, in the lead role, was a food poisoning victim and was flown to Mexico City for treatment, reports co-star Tony Plana. Plana planed into L.A. for a coupla days and returns today, missing tonight’s preem of Arthur Miller’s “The Price” at his (Plana’s) East L.A. Classic Theater. Plana, partnered with Paul Rodriguez, also missed the preem here of their “A Million to Juan,” but returns to start their “Panchostein,” Latino takeoff of “Frankenstein,” next … Plana says John Frankenheimer’s directing “Chico” using three-four cameras and making the HBO picture look like a $ 20 million bigscreen’er. David Puttnam produces the pic, which was once a WB project — the studio still retain foreign feature distribution.

IT STILL HAPPENS IN HOLLYWOOD: Keith Mitchell, E! Entertainment librarian, and Eric Champnella, comedian, both 26, and pals who were classmates at the U. of Michigan, are anxiously waiting the outcome of a bidding war that started Tuesday for their original script, “3000.” Susan Sussman of Premier Artists is fielding six-figure offers for the baseballer — from Touchstone, Michael Douglas-Steven Reuther, Richard Gere, TriStar and Universal. The yarn’s about a retired player whose record of 3,000 hits is suddenly found to be three short. His long-lived fame is suddenly shattered until –. The writing duo’s no stranger to fulfilled baseball dreams — another college pal is sensaysh one-handed Yankee pitcher Jim Abbott … Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Joan Plowright and Cicely Tyson are joined by 15-year-old Catherine Heigel (“My Father, the Hero”) in New Line Cinema’s “The Grass Harp.” The Truman Capote yarn’s directed by Charlie Matthau for producer Jerry Tokofsky. Young Heigel, here from N.Y., was dined at Spago by Joey Lawrence (18) — accompanied by Heigel’s mom Nancy and ICM agent Tracy Brennan … When Ann Miller and Esther Williams arrived in D.C. Tuesday to tout MGM’s “That’s Entertainment III’s” preem under AFI auspices at the Kennedy Center, Miller said she’d love to meet President Clinton. Voila! Wednesday a.m., she and Esther were ushered into the Oval Office where the president told ’em how much he enjoyed their pix — when he was growing up. “I spent my childhood money sitting in the movies all day,” he told ’em. Miller, who’d visited the White House of JFK and Ronald Reagan told Clinton, “You’re the best-looking president I’ve ever seen!” Williams gave him a T-shirt with her pictured in a bathing suit — to wear when he jogs. The Hollywood ladies were followed in the Oval Office by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who danced at the Warner Theater in D.C. Thursday night — with Williams and Miller, who danced on that stage in “Sugar Babies,” in the audience.

JIMMY STEWART IS 86 TODAY and his daughter Judy and stepson Michael McLain (and wife Barbara) have flown in to cheer Jim, who is mourning wife Gloria … On Saturday, agent Frank Cooper celebrates his 82nd birthday, 57th wedding anni and 67th year in showbiz … Daily Variety’s Kathy O’Steen and husband Malcolm Macdonald welcomed daughter Calley M., May 19 at Verdugo Hills Hospital … Jack Scalia, whose series “Pointman” was picked up by Fox, makes his legit bow tonight in Paul Gillette’s “Red River Rats,” Vietnam War-set drama at the Burbage … The “Vintage Takeoff’ fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation tonight at the Museum of Flying boasts auction prizes including walkons for your favorite TV shows.

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