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Two out of four ain’t bad for Winkler

GOOD MORNING: In this biz it’s either feast or famine. Ask Irwin Winkler, who had two pix ready to go, “Jack America” and “Grounds for Dismissal,” when they were KO’d, and now he has two Col pix going back-to-back. He’s now directing (and producing with Rob Cowan) “The Net” in L.A. but will have to edit in N.Y. where he next produces “The Juror.””Net” stars Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam and Dennis Miller and is budgeted “in the 20s,” confirms Cowan. And “Juror,” with Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin plus a $ 1 million script by Ted Tally from a $ 1.5 million pricetag for George Dawes Green’s book and Brian Gibson directing, ups the above-the-line for this second movie considerably. I caught up with the “Net” troupe shooting at the Eastern Star Home in Brentwood, the pic having returned from the Mac World convention in San Francisco. The thriller’s about a computer network head (Bullock) who inadvertently taps into a covert computer program giving her access to data bases including the IRS, New York Stock Exchange, etc. It’s as timely as today’s headlines about cyberspace. The beautiful Bullock is a net’ head herself, so she easily understands the ramifications of the role. And Winkler confided he’s no stranger to the computer world — his wife, Margo, spends as many as four hours a day screening all kinds of direct-line programming into their home computer. The movie also has mucho action besides the heady stuff — includes a cable car chase in San Francisco. It’s a switch for Bullock, who survived the wild bus and subway rides in “Speed.” Asked whether she and Keanu Reeves would do “Speed 2,” she said yes — depending on the script, match, and only if Jan De Bont will direct again. “It was so easy with him directing,” she admits of the breakneck-paced pic. Since “Speed,” her stock’s rapidly risen and she segued from “While You Were Sleeping” to “Net” and next stars in “Two if By Sea” and produces/stars in “Kate and Leopold.” A sequence I watched had Bullock dueting on the piano with Diane Baker , who plays her mother. Both actresses were coached in their realistic pianistics by Margie Balter, who also coached Holly Hunter for “The Piano.” Baker, by the way, turned down the role of Elizabeth Taylor’s mother in NBC’s “The Elizabeth Taylor Story” to play Bullock’s Alzheimer-afflicted mom in the bigscreen “The Net.” Baker says her best friend has Alzheimer’s.

ROCK HUDSON, IN THE Liz Taylor mini, will be played by Daniel McVicar. He tells me he turned down the Hudson role in the ABC telepic. And says, “People often tell me, ‘I hope you’re not offended but you look like him.’ ” Among his many credits is the role of the rakish Clarke Garrison on “The Bold & the Beautiful.” His scenes in the mini with Elizabeth include their early friendship during the filming of “Giant” and later scenes as she visits Hudson when he has AIDS. There’s a month break for McVicar between filming the sequences and he tells me he’ll “look for a healthy way to lose weight” during that break… Last week, I reported the treasure trove of Russian-made Paul Robeson recordings to be released here this month. Now, the Moctesuma Esparza-Robert Katz company (which produced ‘Gettysburg” for Ted Turner) has optioned Mel Shavelson’s screenplay based on the life of Robeson. And they are considering Laurence Fishburne for the lead. It’s titled “Ballad for Americans,” the patriotic song Robeson sang at the Hollywood Bowl during WWII — before the U.S. tossed him out of the country and took away his passport for his pro-Russian beliefs … The Writers Guild Foundation is videotaping interviews with some of the screen’s top writers; Jack Lemmon narrates the interview with Billy Wilder and pal Walter Matthau narrates the interview with Julius Epstein. Salary: $ 1. The tapes will be viewable in the James Webb Memorial Library of the Guild.

SORRY TO LEARN Vanna White lost the expected (second) baby … Anna Nicole Smith, co-starring in “DaVinci’s War II” on location at the home of Aladdin hotel owner Jack Sommer, was idly singing between takes. Sommer overheard her, quickly asked if she’d be interested in singing in Aladdin’s cabaret room? She’ll work on an act after her dramatic bow in the pic … A pole strikes a Hungarian: Zsa Zsa Gabor was struck on the head by a descending parking lot pole at a BevHills Thrifty. She was checked at West Side Hospital and says she’s trying to pull herself together … Interscope hired writers Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott to write a remake of the 1960 “School for Scoundrels,” which starred Alistair Sim, Terry-Thomas and Ian Carmichael. Lynn Danielson, Steve Bedell and David Madden produce. Daniel Ostroff set the deal … Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”) is now tuning Disney’s “Crimson Tide” and then segues to 20th’s “Nine Months.”

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