20th aboard ‘Last Train to Memphis’

GOOD MORNING: The Elvis Presley biopic, based on Peter Guralnick’s “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley” (Little, Brown), will be made by 20th under Laura Ziskin’s aegis. Jerry Schilling will co-produce. His friendship with Elvis began in l954, continued through several Presley spex; he was later head of creative affairs for Graceland, where he is now a consultant. Schilling was also manager of and remains friends with Lisa Marie Presley who, Schilling believes, will renew her once-promising singing career. She had three major label offers, declined at that time to have her second baby … The biopic about Elvis starts at age 19 until he became a G.I. Steve Tisch and Gary Goodman, who bought the book rights a year ago and who had many offers before inking with Fox , will produce, as will John Taplin and David Fanning, reports Schilling; he says the pic is “moving right along” with script by Tom Rickman (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”) and that 20th promises to be faithful to the book. And that an unknown will undoubtedly play Elvis. Approval by Elvis Presley Enterprises for Presley imaging and music rights is anticipated soon … Schilling adds that Priscilla Presley is enthusiastic about the movie about Elvis’ early life — which precedes her (and, natch, Lisa Marie). The filmmakers already have a deal with Col. Tom Parker as technical adviser. Who better? The ever-active Cuhnel (86), a consultant at the Las Vegas Hilton for 25 years, will add his showman savvy to the Jan. 24 groundbreaking of “Star Trek: The Experience,” a giant attraction to be built at the Hilton … I was pleasantly surprised to find a “happy birthday” song message from Cuhnel on my telephone tape. He added, “If Elvis were here, he’d be singing it with me!” By the way, none of the above Presley pals cared to comment on their feelings about the breakup of Lisa Marie and you-know-who.

WHO CAN EVER FORGET Jack Nicholson’s frightening leer in “The Shining”? Who will try to follow him in the three-part, six-hour miniseries version of Stephen King’s thriller — which he has himself adapted? I asked director Mick Garris why they would want to follow Stanley Kubrick’s bigscreen chiller. “We’re doing the book; Stephen wanted to do his book.” King and Garris teamed successfully on King’s “The Stand” and “Sleepwalkers” and upcoming “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts,” starring the pop icon. Mark Carliner produces “Shining,” with King as exec producer. The movie starts in March in at the Estes Park, Colo., Stanley Hotel, the grand 1909-built hotel that was King’s inspiration for the Overlook hotel in his novel … Garris also has a feature, “Disconnector” upcoming for DreamWorks. It’s written by Preston Sturges (son of the legendary director) … Jonathan Pryce, hoping to depart next week for Argentina to start “Evita,” tells me he, Madonna and Antonio Banderas completed all their songs for the pic and a CD — but there’s a possibility of one new song for Madonna. The versatile Pryce, Cannes award-winner for “Carrington” and Tony winner for “Miss Saigon,” had always been so busy, he could never see “Evita” on stage. “So,” he admits, “I can’t compare it to anything I’ve done. It’s completely new territory for me”… The San Sebastian Film Fest’s director Diego Galan and general manager Mikel Olaciregui hosted a preview party at Jimmy’s restaurant here for the 44th annual fest Sept. 19-28. On hand: past jury prez Robert Wise, who is next off to the Istanbul fest, and director Alfonso Arau, whose “A Walk in the Clouds” screened at San Sebastian last year. Both praised this fest’s friendly ambiance and creative contributions via their q&a sessions. Also there were Dick Fleischer, Elliott Gould and producer Ann Templeton, composer Leonard Rosenman, studio execs Ted Shugrue, Duncan Clark, Randy Greenberg, Norman Katz, Fran Zell and Steve Saltzman and Foreign Press Assn. prez Aida Takla-O’Reilly.

CLINT EASTWOOD AND MERYL STREEP were voted best director and actress for “Bridges of Madison County” by the Japanese Critics Assn. … Jayne Meadows, married to Steve Allen 42 years, asked him whether she should do (tonight’s) seg on “High Society” in which she suffers a heart attack in bed having an affair with her lover, the doorman! “Just make sure he’s an attractive doorman,” said Steve. He is — Erik Estrada. She did it. Jayne added, “If my mother and father were alive (they were missionaries) I couldn’t have done it!”…”I’ve lived a charmed life,” Beatrice Arthur told me as she readied to segue with the “Bermuda Avenue Triangle” cast of co-stars (and authors) Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna from the sold-out Tiffany to the Canon Feb. 4. They are looking forward to N.Y. and London next. This is Arthur’s first time on L.A.’s boards and she’s having the time of her life — as are audiences who see ’em. Ironically, Arthur thoughtof departing L.A. and making her home in London after she wound her ‘Maude” and “Golden Girls” series. She’s glad she didn’t. “This is a TV series-free year — but TV was terribly rewarding,” she admits.

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