DID STERN WAIT TOO LONG? The early returns on “The Miss Howard Stern New Year’s Eve Pageant” indicate that it’s the most profitable pay-per-view entertainment program ever. But hopes that the special would propel Stern to a huge movie payday were somewhat dashed this week when Paramount rescinded an offer of a go picture based on his bestselling book, “Private Parts,” sources said.
The studio was the most ferocious among several suitors — Universal and Fox among them — interested in making a mock autobiographical movie with Stern as its star. Here’s how hot and heavy it got: Par guaranteed Stern a green light, plus first dollar gross participation. The catch? No upfront book option money or emoting money for Stern. The studio wanted to limit its risk and hold the budget to $ 9 million, but if it was a hit, Stern would have made a fortune.
Though being an active partner served Stern well in PPV — he might clear as much as $ 4 million — he wanted upfront film bucks, and likely figured the PPV success would trigger a better offer. Instead, Par pulled the offer this week, after the special aired, though sources said it wasn’t because of the show’s racy contents, or the FCC’s recent attempt to block Stern’s employer, Infinity Broadcasting, from buying more radio stations.
The Par breakdown comes on the heels of reports that Stern and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch have parted company over a possible latenight gab show (although Fox insiders insist negotiations are still alive), indicating Stern miscalculated the effect his PPV show had. Sources close to Stern maintain that he’d been more interested in a Fox feature for producer Stephen Chao than a talk show for Lucie Salhany, since it would be next to impossible to host the TV show without giving up his $ 6 million radio gig. But he badly wants a movie career, and the shocking contents of his New Year’s Eve beauty pageant could hurt him.
There’s been much discussion in Hollywood over the no-holds-barred moments, including one scantily clad contestant putting live maggots in her mouth, and another, who, while singing opera quite skillfully, placed a clear plastic bag over her head and hit high notes until oxygen deprivation sent her to the canvas.
A source close to Stern defended his pic prospects: “Once his pay-per-view numbers sink in, they’ll salivate all over again. And the ones who are shocked by the content, who were they expecting, Snow White?”
KIM MOVES. AGAIN. Kim Basinger has just signed with Creative Artists Agency honcho Ron Meyer, DISH has learned. Basinger had most recently been with ICM, but has bounced back and forth between those percenteries before. Meyer reps her husband, Alec Baldwin, who has been a growing influence in Basinger’s life as she tries to get out from under her devastating loss in the “Boxing Helena” case. The couple is certainly high maintenance, which, sources said, Meyer does well.
MCTIERNAN’S “GUARD” DUTY: Though TriStar’s “Guarding Tess” was directed by Hugh Wilson, the studio found itself in a pinch two days before Christmas when it decided to shoot a 15-second segment to close the film. DISH hears that Wilson, who’d already done his share of reshooting, was home in Virginia by then. TriStar, in turn, wanted the movie finished, since it opens March 11. So they got John McTiernan to shoot the scene. He’s a close buddy of Ned Tanen, who’s co-producing with wife Nancy Graham Tanen, and agreed to shoot the required footage.
DOHERTY’S DOWNFALL? At Fox, they’re still trying to figure out a way to write Shannen Doherty out of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and are debating several scenarios. Whatever they decide, she’ll conceivably have to participate, since she’s contracted to appear in remaining episodes this season. DISH hears one discussed scenario is to have her abruptly get married and move to Europe. There’s also a plan being floated to have a cousin move from Minnesota to replace her.
Initially, producer Aaron Spelling wanted Drew Barrymore, but she’s concentrating on a film career. The top candidate now is Alyssa Milano, whose last regular series stint was “Who’s the Boss.”
Why’d the producers really dump Doherty? DISH hears that they hedged on picking up her option because of habitual lateness, but hadn’t closed the door. On decision day, she was half an hour late, and the entire cast marched in to the line producer’s office to say they’d had enough. A running tally of Doherty’s tardiness during the season totaled something like 23 hours, and warnings to her reps went unheeded. Despite this, DISH hears Doherty would like to stay, but things looked ominous Wednesday, when the internal newsletter distribbed around the Fox lot pronounced her exit.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The casting process is about to begin on “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar,” Amblin’s adaptation of Douglas Carter Beane’s hit play about three drag queens who, while travelling cross country to a queen contest, break down in the Midwest. Big names are vying for three starring roles, but director Beeban Kidron isn’t making it easy. When stars come in for meetings, she wants them in costume, which means that a lot of leading men out there will be shaving down and tarting up in smart, yet sexy, dresses.