‘Inside’ highlights S. Africa’s struggle

GOOD MORNING: “The police were the ‘heaviest’ guys in the world — they changed the law to suit themselves.” Those aren’t quotes from any on the defense “dream” team of O.J. Simpson. They were from Academy Award nominee (for “The Madness Of King George”) Nigel Hawthorne, talking to me from the Johannesburg location of “Inside,” in which he co-stars with Louis Gossett Jr. and Eric Stoltz. The pic’s story starts in 1985 and finales with today’s “Truth Commission,” bringing the tortured and their torturers face to face again. Hawthorne was brought up in Capetown, so he says he knows: “This movie is based on truth. When I read the script (by Bima Stagg), I said, ‘This is authentic and totally riveting.’ That is why we are all doing it. You can’t believe Mandela survived prison for 27 years to emerge to lead the country in a peaceful way. He should get every award. If I meet him I will kiss his feet.” In the movie, Hawthorne, as a member of the dread police, oversees beatings and physical and mental torture of Gossett and Stoltz. Arthur Penn directs; he reunites with longtime friend, producer Hilly Elkins, with whom he teamed on”Golden Boy” on B’way and the film “Alice’s Restaurant.” All the principals praise the talents of Penn (72). “He is Toscanini with actors. Hollywood is so youth-conscious. I’ll take advantage of the cream of this business when I get back,” says Gossett who also exec produces. “I’m going to try to get talents like Penn, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann to work with me. They give me courage.” Gossett recently wound “The James Mink Story” with Kate Nelligan and Rachel Crawford for CBS. He will next produce the Gail Devers biopic. Who to play the Olympic track star who overcame all adversity? “I’m going to ask Janet Jackson,” said Gossett … Young Stoltz told me, “I was in South Africa five years ago; it was very different! You never felt comfortable anyplace. I still get that feeling in Germany!” In “Inside,” Stoltz plays a “limousine liberal” sympathizer of the ANC, jailed, manacled, beaten, tortured daily. He eventually commits suicide — with neckties. He feels very uncomfortable about the scene — the last to be photographed. “You always worry about accidents happening!” Despite this fear, Stoltz says (of the movie), “It’s a delight to get this experience. In the first week, we’re a day ahead of schedule.” The Showtime movie is budgeted at $ 2 million and is headed for Cannes.

WHAT’S COOKING AT CHASEN’S? Those trucks parked outside are not bringing in new supplies of beef to reopen Dave’s beanery; they’re Columbia Pictures’ “Multiplicity” movie-making machinery. The Michael Keaton-Andie MacDowell starrer is directed by Harold Ramis. In the Chasen’s scene, Keaton and McDowell are having lunch when a Keaton clone (remember, the title’s “Multiplicity”) enters the eatery. And, there’s more than two of him. The special visual f/x for the multiple Keatons is handled by Richard Edlund (four-time Oscar winner) and Boss Film Studios … And there’s more than one Chasen’s perking: Movement on a mall conversion on the site continues, with environmental impact studies and neighborhood traffic discussions still under way. Scott McKay, Maude Chasen’s grandson, is talking a Chasen’s Grill at a site in Santa Monica overlooking the ocean; plus, Chasen’s chili stands at three LAX terminals, where tourists can take home a memento of old Hollywood — or where locals can revive traveling tastebuds … And to further revive memories of the halcyon days of Chasen’s, producers David Gerber and Rosalie Swedlin are heating up a B’way musical with the setting, Chasen’s through the eras combining chow biz and showbiz — and backed by the love story of Maude and Dave C.

O.J. SIMPSON’S LEGAL dream team convened once more Friday night — at Jackson’s Eatery — where O.J.’s oldest son, Jason, is sous-chef. O.J.’s sisters also were on hand as was KABC radio’s Michael Jackson, whose son, Alan, owns the place. Michael, who has made his opinion well known about O.J.’s guilt (or innocence) invited Johnnie Cochran to guest Tuesday on his show when he plans to ask him questions like “now do you want to retract your Hitler comments?” Cochran said he’d appear and he’d answer … Roseanne has the solution — since Carnegie Hall won’t let her kid the hallowed hall, she’d shift her N.Y. menu to — the Carnegie deli. At last Friday’s taping, Shecky Greene guested on “Roseanne”… Also last Friday, Whoopi Goldberg filmed a seg with David Letterman for her pic, “Eddie,” during her guestint on his “Late Show”… The NEA’s National Medal of Arts winners, to be medal’d by President Clinton Thursday, include: Bob Hope, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Licia Albanese, patrons Iris and Gerald Cantor and artist Roy Lichtenstein.

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