Brando’s ‘ill-chosen’ words shock biz

GOOD MORNING: Marlon Brando’s comments (on “Larry King Live”) that the Jews run Hollywood and that is why minorities like the Indians and “chinks” are treated the way they are must come as news to people like Rupert Murdoch, Frank Mancuso, Bob Daly, Alan Ladd Jr., etc., who are not Jewish. And Brando’s use of the word “kike” also was found deplorable by many, including Lew Wasserman and Jay Kanter, his longtime friends. Despite Brando’s rambling and often incoherent comments on the Larry King show, Wasserman and Kanter did offer some support. Did Marlon Brando ever complain to Wasserman about the lack of African-Americans in a movie he was making? “I’m sure he did,” Wasserman told me. “It must have been 45 years or so ago. MCA at the time represented him from New York until we left the agency business to become Universal.” Wasserman wasn’t certain of the picture on which Brando complained, so he suggested I talk to Kanter, who was Brando’s MCA representative. When I reached Kanter on Sunday, he recalled the picture was Universal’s “Bedtime Story” in 1964. “I remember he went to Lew and told him, ‘You’ve got to put a stop to this,’ and Wasserman told him, ‘I’ll take care of it. I’ll do something about it.’ And Wasserman started talking to people in the industry, other studios than Universal, unions, etc.” As for anyone’s accusing Brando of being anti-Semitic, Kanter, who has known him since 1948 as his agent, producer (“The Nightcomers”) and friend, says they are wrong. “And if the Jewish Defense League is looking to find an anti-Semite in Marlon, they’ve got the wrong guy. And if anyone wants to call me about it, let them call me … Marlon has spoken to me for hours about his fondness for the Jewish people, and it is well-known he has been a very staunch supporter of Israel. And he was in a play on Broadway, ‘A Flag Is Born,’ with Paul Muni. I said some of the words were ill-chosen and offensive. I speak with experience,” Kanter emphasized. Wasserman had not yet seen King’s interview, but had received many calls about it and will see a tape of it this morning. Kanter had seen it. Kanter, after being an agent with MCA, was European production head for Universal (which MCA had acquired) and later production VP at Fox, then teamed with Ladd in the then-new Ladd Co. He is now an independent producer.

“RACE IS ON A SECONDARY LEVEL,” emphasizes director Kevin Rodney Sullivan of his HBO “Soul of the Game,” about Satchel Paige (Delroy Lindo), Josh Gibson (Mykelti Williamson) and Jackie Robinson (Blair Underwood). “It’s about the men, their friendship, their humanity. That’s what attracted me to it. I hope that’s the way of the future (with black movies) — fully dimensional stories. That’s what we intended here. And while I’d been approached by feature producers to do it, HBO had the guts to greenlight it in its present form.” Sullivan’s film background includes acting four years on “Happy Days” (where he wrote scripts for shows like “Cagney & Lacey” at night), “in the environment that gave us Penny Marshall, Garry Marshall, Anson Williams and Ron Howard.” He then directed the “Fame” and “Knightwatch” series, where he also edited. He won the Humanitas Award for the “Amazing Grace” seg of ‘I’ll Fly Away.” As for Jesse Jackson’s recent statements about the biz and blacks, Sullivan tells me, “It’s the general consensus, among my friends, that his (Jackson’s) timing and focus were wrong”…”Soul of the Game” opens the Intl. Black Film Festival in Oakland and gets a preem at the DGA on the 17th, having had its first bigscreen showing in Atlanta’s fabled Fox theater last Thursday. Sullivan shot the $7 million pic in 29 days — after working on it since June ’95 — and didn’t finish till last Wednesday night! “Soul,” a Mike Medavoy, Gary Hoffman Prods. pic, produced by Robert A. Papazian, was scripted by David Himmelstein from Hoffman’s story.

AFTER WRITING 26 HOURS of vidpics and minis, Lionel Chetwynd is scripting two major movies: “Vatican II,” a thriller based on an idea by Ron Howard, with Brian Grazer producing for their Imagine Films, and “Fatal Justice,” for Avnet/Kerner Co. Latter drama, from Jerry Potter and Fred Bost’s book, is about Army Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, convicted of killing his wife and two children. Endeavor Agency made Chetwynd’s deals … The three reasons Lisa Amsterdam sez she took the role of a tough sports newshen in TriStar’s “Jerry Maguire”: Tom Cruise stars, Cameron Crowe directs and “I have a scene in a locker room full of football players — stark naked! I’m like a kid in a candy store.” She told me Crowe has instructed her not to lower her eyes. “What if I drop something?” asked comedienne Amsterdam, who is also writing (and will also exec produce) CBS’ “The Harlettes” for Bette Midler-Bonnie Bruckheimer’s banner at Castle Rock. Amsterdam is also writing the bigscreen script of “Survival of the Fittest” for Witt/Thomas. It’s about the competition among three editors to win out when a trio of magazines merge.

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