GOOD MORNING: George Lucas celebrated his 50th birthday surrounded by friends and alumni at his ranch in Northern California over the weekend. Among those toasting Lucas was “Star Wars” trilogy co-star Mark Hamill. He recalled, “Ten years ago, Lucas told me he’d love to build puppet-size sets and be able to photograph actors in them. I laughed. Now, lo and behold, I’m doing it! It’s shocking!” Hamill is starring in the CD-ROM “Wing Commander II: The Heart of the Tiger,” an interactive entertainment movie for Origin Systems. Chris Roberts, creator and exec producer, also directs the ambitious project co-starring other veterans of innovative movies, Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) and John Rhys-Davies (“Indiana Jones” pix) plus Ginger Allen and Jennifer McDonald (“Terminal Force”). “Sometimes I have to go to the director and say, ‘Help!’ ” says Hamill. “I’d be climbing up a ladder — to nowhere — and I’m in a space station! I can have love scenes with any one of three girls (the viewer makes the choice) and I think –‘This must be like Sean Connery in James Bond pictures.’ I told the director I’m not sure I can do it.” (He can.) “I wonder if actors felt like this when their agent called them and told them they were going to be in talkies? This is not a movie, yet it is a movie.” He admits, “I was very apprehensive,” but he’s now having a ball.
SIDNEY POITIER SAYS one of the great thrills of his career was attending the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the first group of black naval officers. The celebration was held at the Great Lakes Naval Station and Poitier was there, as he’s preparing to produce and direct “The Golden Thirteen”– about that group — for TriStar. As for reports that the Poitiers are departing Hollywood for N.Y., he says they are selling their large home here — since both daughters are in college (NYU and Sarah Lawrence) — and will buy a smaller one. And — they’ll buy a bigger apartment in New York … CBS has made a precedent-setting deal with author LaVyrle Spencer: The web will film her novels in perpetuity — that is, as soon as one is filmed, CBS must start production on another. ICM’s Alan Berger made the unique deal. On Spencer’s upcoming CBS list are “Forgiving” and “November of the Heart” or “Family Blessings”… After four years of self-imposed “retirement,” Cathy Lee Crosby bought a house here and is back in action on the professional and personal front. “I’m starting to date again,” she laughs. Her C.L.C. banner is developing “5th & Philly,” a gang story , and “4 Broads and a Bank,” a comedy. She also co-produced and stars in “Untamed Love” for Lifetime and Hearst Entertainment to air in August. She calls the opportunity “a dream of a lifetime.”… And Ken Wahl’s back in action, two years after the motorcycle accident. In addition to “The Favor” on bigscreen and Tuesday’s “The Search for Grace” on CBS, he’d like to revive “Wise Guy” a la “Columbo”… Brian Dennehy, co-starring in “The Stars Fell on Henrietta” as the heavy –“no pun intended,” he says — is now being talked to go the comedy route as Chris Farley’s father in “Billy the Third.” The versatile Dennehy is also talking a N.Y. stage return in “Translations.” Meanwhile, Dennehy’s daughters, Elizabeth and Kathy, are keeping up the family tradition onstage at South Coast Rep and the Old Globe, respectively. Dennehy’s also paged for another “Jack Reed” outing at NBC.
WHY PRODUCERS GET GRAY: Richard Grieco, in Vancouver for Saban’s “Under the Gun,” admits to me he’s doing many of his own stunts — including riding atop the hood of a car at 60 mph. “After I did it, I wondered, ‘Why?’ ” He says the pic’s a modern-day “Serpico.” Grieco takes a change of pace at the pic’s finale by recording his rock tunes for Edel Records — he’s big in Germany on the music front as well as pix … If Paramount looks closely at the sky diver in “Drop Zone,” it’s not a double for Michael Jeter — but the thesp himself, who did seven jumps. And he says he’s got dozens of offscreen jumps behind him … A little too much realism on the “Frogman” pilot when the yacht hired for the shoot kept its (fake) Libyan flag flying after filming was completed. Someone forgot to tell the Coast Guard, who boarded. The crew had to explain it was only showbiz … KCET celebrates its 30th anni June 12 at the BevHilton, where the Women’s Council soiree stars Michael Feinstein, who has contributed several PBSeries … It still happens in Hollywood: Kenny Solms made a pitch for his untitled Palm Beach-set romantic comedy to WB’s Bob Guralnick and Channing Dungey, and 24 hours later, Solms had a deal memo … The Motion Picture Smart Set’s lunch at the Pinot Bistro in Studio City Wednesday will feature guest speaker Edie Adams … Rita McKenzie, starring in “‘Ruthless!,” takes two weeks off to perform “A Tribute to Ethel Merman” at the Kennedy Center May 26-27 with the National Symphony Orchestra. A little bigger setting than the Canon Theater in BevHills!