Jack’s back — and ready to work

GOOD MORNING: After a year off, Jack Nicholson is readying to go to work again. “I feel great,” sezze, having vacationed with his two youngest children in Aspen — and they now go back to school as he goes back to work. Among projects he says he’s interested in — Bob Rafelson’s “Blood and Wine.” After being away from the scene a year, Jack laughingly says, “It’s like coming back to a foreign country. But I love it out!” I asked what he thought of the past year’s deal makings –$10 million-$20 million upfront for thesps with far less experience and less international drawing power than Nicholson. He pooh-pooh’d all the monetary machinations and the agency affiliation wars, reminding he’s been with his agent, Sandy Bresler, for “at least 25 years.” And added, “I don’t like to spend half the time making a deal instead of a picture,” claiming, “I’m always under the market, trying to make it easy, ” he laughed. Remember, he often takes little upfront against backend gro$$ deal$ . “But,” said the ever-knowledgeable Nicholson, “I don’t take any cuts.” He’s readying to leave for the Venice film fest, with his golf clubs –“They’ve got a great course on the Lido, built by Hermann Goering!(?).” He’ll be there praising director Sean Penn and their “Crossing Guard.” On his way back, Nicholson of course stops in Paris to meet with pal Roman Polanski, with whom he always has pic plans … The Neil Simon-Robert Halmi TV plans for “London Suite” include TV stars Kelsey Grammer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards. They’ll tape Simon’s now-closing Off Broadway play for NBC next April in London. Future Simon-Halmi projects include “Barefoot in the Park,”‘Laughter on the 23rd Floor” and the currently filming “Jake’s Women” for CBS. Apart from Simon, the busy Halmi plans a “Harvey” remake starring Harry Anderson (“Night Court”). “The only thing Anderson insisted his contract include,” says Halmi, “is a portrait of Harvey. He (Anderson) is passionate about the part.” Halmi’s completing “Kidnapped” in Ireland, “Bye Bye Birdie” in Canada and “Gulliver’s Travels.” His latest acquisition is Robert Ludlum’s “Apocalypse Watch,” as a mini for ABC.

EARTHA KITT CONTINUES HER nonstop career — she’ll do a title tune for “James Dean — Race With Destiny” with lyrics by Dan Sefton, music by Daryl Waters. Kitt was a close friend of Dean’s. He used to call her at 3 ayem to discuss his problems. Diane Ladd joins the “Dean” cast as Pier Angeli’s mom. And Ursula Andress is portrayed by Monique Parent … Add movie memories: Yvonne de Carlo, in from her Ojai home, is ever active, now with a cameo in “Here Come the Munsters” for Fox TV. De Carlo then segues to Disney-ABC for a “Norma Desmond-like” type in “The Barefoot Executive”… Sylvia Sidney arrives here this weekend to be honoree as Cinecon’s Star of the Year at the Hollywood Roosevelt doings. She’ll also meet with Tim Burton, who wants her for his next pic — she was in his “Beetlejuice,” you recall … Hugh Grant has a $6 million pay-or-play offer to star in Capella Films’ “Time Share.” It’s a “wholesome role,” I’m told — Grant would play the father of two children … Tommy Lasorda and wife, Jo, expect to be grandparents for the first time, thanks to daughter Laura and her husband, art gallery owner Billy Goldberg. The stork date’s Oct. 12, when the Lasordas also hold the Tommy Lasorda Jr. Memorial Foundation inaugural Outstanding Creative Achievement award dinner, honoring Billy Crystal — at the Crystal Room of the BevHills hotel. The Foundation is raising funds for a multipurpose recreational/cultural/arts center for kids of all ages. Lasorda happily told me Tony Bennett starts off the list of celebs who will perform that night, when it’s hoped $ 1 million will be raised. Tommy, baseball’s ambassador — for all teams — has been pitched to do a Pizza Hut commercial with the Dodgers’ pitching phenom, Hideo Nomo.

TOM HANKS, WHO MET PRESIDENT Clinton at the White House, will m.c. the Clinton/Gore ’96 Primary Committee fundraiser ($1,000 per person), Sept. 21 at the Century Plaza, with the Clintons and Gores on hand … First it was Chasen’s and now San Francisco’s Ernie’s is shuttering with a grand finale feed Sept. 23. Victor Gotti (73) tells me he and brother Roland (70) just want to enjoy life. “We’re going out on top.” Among the Hollywood faithful being notified of the closing: Frank Sinatra, Ed McMahon, George Sidney, Brenda Vaccaro (whose mom was a restaurateur) … Over at Drai’s, Sherry Lansing and Billy Friedkin dinner-partied Jackie Mason with his fans at the feed including the Gregory Pecks, Norman Lears, George Schlatters, Verna Harrah and Leonard Rabinowitz. It was Friedkin’s birthday, but Sherry allowed, “The present I gave him couldn’t compare to his meeting Jackie!”… Karen (Sharpe) and Stanley Kramer celebrate their 30th wedding anni Friday. Daughter Katharine just wound her successful cabaret bow at the Monkey Bar and returns next month.

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