Helmer’s story makes for bizarre ‘2 Days’

GOOD MORNING: Fade in: The Los Angeles National Cemetery off Wilshire Boulevard and Sepulveda. A lone figure walks past rows of tombstones. He passes the rows marked Appomattox, San Juan Hill, and reaches the crest of the hill overlooking more than 81,000 graves in the nearly 100-year-old veterans resting place. The lone, lonely figure is a Hollywood screenwriter-director, despondent, having written the 35th draft of a movie that he’s finally convinced, after a year and a half, is going nowhere and so is he. Even though he hasn’t worked in more than a year, he decides he won’t go back to TV, despite the fact he’s had four, highly successful telepics. He was determined to direct a feature. But now , here in the cemetery, he’s made the decision — to burn the script. And commit suicide. But suddenly, looking around the cemetery, he gets an idea … Fade out and Fade in: Six months later, I am atop this same hill at the cemetery. They are atop San Juan Hill, which is now filled with tell-tale trucks of a movie company, Rysher/MGM’s “2 Days in the Valley.” The writer-director who has returned to the scene of his inspiration in the cemetery is John Herzfeld. And writer-actor Paul Mazursky is playing the role somewhat based on Herzfeld’s experience. The role is so great and written so well, Mazursky canceled a trip to the Moscow film fest where a retro is unspooling in his honor. (Elya Baskin, who played Anatoly in his “Moscow on the Hudson,” winged over for the event.) “Valley” is exec produced by Keith Samples with Jeff Wald and Herb Nanas as producers. Mindy Marin put together a cast of favored-nations players in record-setting time. They include Marsha Mason, Danny Aiello, George Cruttwell, Jeff Daniels, Teri Hatcher, Glenne Headly, Peter Horton, James Spader , Eric Stoltz, Charlie Theron, Cheryl Ladd, Keith Carradine, Louise Fletcher, Kathleen Luong, Austin Pendleton, Paul Rodriguez and Michael Jai White … Mazursky is in a scene with Mason, playing the Army nurse who comes upon the downcast writer-director in the cemetery. Mason, coincidentally, got her movie start from Mazursky in “Bloom in Love.” Now, Mason is also a director, having done an afternoon TV’er and says she’ll direct again. “Every actor should direct ,” Mason says. And Mazursky says, “Every director should act. After four or five films (directing) you need a vacation — so I go back to acting.” Herzfeld also plays a small role in his film … Now that Herzfeld is getting his feature bow behind him, will he return to TV? “Of course.” He, Mazursky and Mason agree you can tell many stories on TV that cannot make it to the bigscreen … They are all happy in their work. I drive down San Juan Hill past Appomattox and out of the cemetery. Fade out.

BRIAN GRAZER GOT A RELEASE FROM his Universal pact to produce “Ransom” along with Scott Rudin at Touchstone. Grazer’s partner Ron Howard directs and Mel Gibson stars … Teaming for the first time are veteran producers David Brown and Edgar Scherick on “The Blue Conspiracy,” a story of NYPD corruption by Arthur Vincent Deutsch. It’s to be a bigscreen’er. Brown also acquired “Isle of Joy” (Dutton), Don Winslow’s thriller set in N.Y. Returning to his first love, writing, Brown has the candid lead piece in the July 31 New Yorker’s Talk of the Town — it’s devoted to Lew Wasserman, who, Brown told me, “changed my life.” When Wasserman stepped down, Brown said, “Dick (Zanuck) and I sent him a letter telling him our eight years together with him were our happiest days”… Finally , the screenplay for author John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is “in progress,” producer Anita Zuckerman happily tells me. She and Berendt returned from Savannah, where they met the characters from his book, including the voodoo high priestess Minerva, who will never reveal her true identity — but who will be a character in the movie. The film trio also met up with Joel Silver on his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed plantation house near Beaufort, S.C. Silver’s company shares production of “Midnight.”

PERFECT TIMING: “Dinner With Your Attorney” is the theme of this year’s Society of Composers & Lyricists’ Sept. 22 feed at the Hotel Nikko. Last year’s “Dinner With Your Agent” was a hit and this one looks to be on key with Arthur Hamilton, Bill Conti and Hal Kanter hosting. Louis Nye and Ed Asner are the first thesps set for the night of biting satire and song. Four top industry attorneys (names withheld briefly to protect the innocent) have agreed to do a special song as cross-examination. “Sidebar” music by John Chiodini and the Hung Jury … Sammy and Pauly Shore were such a hit at the La Jolla Comedy Store, the father-son team will continue on a two-week tour. P.S. Mitzi Shore, Pauly’s mom, Sammy’s ex, was among those laughing in the debut audience … After 70 years playing practically every venue globally, Donald Mills, last of the legendary Mills Brothers, plays his first Hollywood Bowl date, with son John, Aug. 4-5 in the “Great American Concert” with Rosie Clooney.

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