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Hopkins tribute showcases thesp’s range

GOOD MORNING: “I am not a crook,” Anthony Hopkins said in his best imitation — complete with extended hands — of President Richard Nixon. A few minutes earlier onscreen, he’d imitated Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando and appeared as Adolf Hitler in a clip from CBS’ 1980 “The Bunker.” It was all part of the finale to a grand evening, BAFTA’s Britannia Award to the versatile Hopkins. He was in town briefly, for the ceremony, and to talk to Oliver Stone about the Nixon biopic; he tested some makeup and returns today to England to complete editing of his first directorial feature, “August,” in which he stars, and for which he wrote the score. He’ll be back for the Oscars … Hopkins moved the audience with his emotional acceptance speech, saying, “I am truly grateful. What I put into this profession is nothing compared to what has been given back. This (the U.S.) is my spiritual home. My life has been a dream — I came into acting because I thought it was better than working!”… Helen Mirren, who made the presentation to Hopkins, said although he is a Welshman first, and a British subject — he’s “a man who loves America.” Liza Minnelli, making her first appearance since hip surgery, amazed everyone — especially femcee Angela Lansbury, whom I sat next to — and who had undergone the same surgery with the same surgeon. Liza looked spectacular and put down her cane as she progressed through three dramatic songs written by Charles Aznavour and accompanied by Billy Stritch. Liza will be back, dancing too, for her date March 21 in Thousand Oaks. And , Thursday she and Stritch recorded “People Magazine,” “We Had a Dream” and “Use What You Got” by Cy Coleman for his upcoming Broadway’er “The Life.” Roddy McDowall made the intros after the audience viewed an appetizing film on Hopkins’ Wales. American Airlines donated a raffled two-week vacation there. British Consul General Merrick Baker-Bates and ICM’s Jeff Berg led the toasts to the president and to the Queen, respectively — and in that order. During the evening a parade of colleagues and friends who had worked with Hopkins made their way to his table to congratulate him: Alan Alda, Ellen Barkin, Frank Price , Martin Ransohoff, Michele Lee, John Schlesinger, Ronald Neame, Bob Wise, Gil Cates, Marvin Antonowsky, Joan Collins, Alain Bernheim, Jay Kanter, Edgar Scherick, Rod Steiger, Gareth Wigan, Ed Zwick, Kate Burton, Lauren Bacall, Dick Van Dyke, Stacy Keach, Mike Medavoy, Dina Merrill, Michael York, his agent Ed Limato and press agent Bob Palmer. The evening also raised $ 150,000 for BAFTA.

ROSEANNE AND BEN THOMAS will wed at Planet Hollywood, Lake Tahoe, Valentine’s Day. Thursday, she taped segs for her show with these “sitcom moms” guesting: June Lockhart, Pat Crowley, Barbara Billingsley and Isabel Sanford … Jurors on the O.J. Simpson trial were upset they were not permitted to see “Melrose Place” Monday night, so Judge Ito asked exec producer Darren Star if they could get a tape of it and all future segs. They’ll get ’em, even earlier than the 8 p.m. air time. Don’t they have enough soap operas on that trial? … Richard Gere is set to star as an attorney defending a homeless man charged with murder in Par’s “Primal Fear” for producer Gary Lucchesi and director Greg Hoblit … Tom Selleck stars in Showtime’s “Ruby Jean and Joe,” about a former cowboy champ — and his horse. Geoffrey Sax directs James Lee Barrett’s screenplay for producer Walter Shenson in Arizona … John Saxon portrays director Richard Brooks in the Liz Taylor mini with a scene from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Saxon worked for Brooks in “Wrong Is Right” and “Fever Pitch”… Linda Purl and writer-husband Alexander Cary welcomed son Lucius Jackson Arthur Plantagenet Cary (!) on Monday … Jimmy Johnson, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, guests this week on “Coach.”

MARVIN DAVIS IS WHEELCHAIRED but improving, says wife Barbara after his back surgery and he’s unable to attend daughter Nancy’s celeb-packed Race to Erase MS at Vail this weekend … Steve Tisch guested this week on “Seinfeld.” He won the walk-on bidding for it at the Carousel Ball … Celebs are needed for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation NutraSweet Golf & Tennis Classic March 20 at El Caballero. Call David Kramer at Hanson & Schwam … Pierre Cossette’s honored by the Boy Scouts on Monday at the Waldorf, where Frank Gifford makes the presentation to good scout Cossette. And the L.A. Boy Scouts Inner-City Scouting Program benefits from the Friars’ March 24 Milton Berle Lifetime Achievement Award dinner honoring — Uncle Miltie … While baseball’s bouncing about the negotiating tables and Babe Ruth’s 100th birthday is being celebrated, Hoyt Axton’s celebrating a pact as voiceover for Baby Ruth candy bars. Charles Stern made the deal — without congressional assistance.

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