Leonard lectures on filming books

GOOD MORNING: Advice to all writers, would-be writers, frustrated writers — even successful writers: Be at the Santa Barbara Writers’ confab on Monday when Elmore (Dutch) Leonard talks about “books to movies.” I talked to him from the South Miami Beach set of his book “Pronto,” which Showtime is shooting, starring Peter Falk, James LeGros, Glenne Headly, with Jim McBride directing. I had last spoken to Leonard on the set of “Get Shorty.” Leonard loves to see his movies come to life on sets. Well, he’ll be busy from now on visiting sets of his books coming to life — some of ’em were written 20 years ago! “I’m 70 years old,” he laughed. “It’s the best time for all this to happen — if it had happened sooner, it might have affected me!”… F’rinstance, “Gold Coast” which he wrote in the late ’70s, will also be a Showtime feature. “La Brava,” which he wrote in 1983, will be made by Walter Mirisch at Universal. His “Get Shorty” director Barry Sonnenfeld and scripter Scott Frank reteam on Leonard’s “Maximum Bob” as a series for ABC. And his 1977-written “Unknown Man No. 89” will go the TV feature route for Mandalay. His “Touch” has been completed by Paul Schrader for MGM/UA with a cast including Bridget Fonda, Tom Arnold, Christopher Walken and Lolita Davidovich. Tom Selleck is now starring in Leonard’s “Last Stand at Saber River” for TNT. And Danny DeVito and Sonnenfeld repeat their “Get Shorty” teaming on Leonard’s new book (out in August) “Out of Sight.”

What’s next? He just started writing “Cuba Libre,” about Cuba 100 years ago –“I arrive there three days after the USS Maine is sunk in February 1898,” sez Leonard, “and I stay till the Spanish-American War starts.” You can bet he won’t have to wait long for movie bids on this … I asked Leonard why the title “Pronto” for the Peter Falk starrer? “I happened to phone someone in Italy — and they answered the phone with (the usual Italian phone greeting) ‘Pronto!’ ”

MARLON BRANDO HAS BEEN GETTING TAPES of edited sequences of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” from director John Frankenheimer. “He’s a genius. Why not get the benefit of his opinions?” Frankenheimer asked. Apparently the Brando input worked: Frankenheimer took the New Line feature to Camarillo for its first preview and reaction was excellent, he sez. (You recall “Dr. Moreau” also stars Val Kilmer.) Frankenheimer’s had one of the busiest years in a long, successful career, with “Andersonville” from TNT an Emmy contender, “The Rains” upcoming for producer Brian Grazer at Universal, and upcoming another TNT’er, Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead”… Add the “Diagnosis: Murder” series troupe among the missing from the Emmy nomination balloting. No one submitted their names — including that of series star and TV Hall of Famer Dick Van Dyke … Suggestion to the Emmy Awards Committee: special recognition for someone who has never won but who is always a winner in whatever she does — Angela Lansbury (nominated 11 times!) … The word is still out on whether “CPW” will be renewed for the fall; meanwhile, Raquel Welch who has been added to the series as a welcome transfusion, starts today co-starring in Trimark’s bigscreen “Chairman of the Board.” “I’m the queen of mean,” she laughs. She plays a corporate raider in a cast including Carrot Top (Scott Thompson), Courtney Thorne-Smith (“Melrose Place”), Larry Miller, Jack Warden, etc. Welch says “It’s very funny — I want to do more comedy” and she says those on the pic predict Thompson will be another Robin Williams or Jim Carrey. Get out the checkbook … Lee Meriwether has signed to join ABC’s “All My Children,” taking over the role of Ruth Martin, which Mary Fickett departed. Meriwether was to have toured in “Mame” but departed for the soaper. However, she will play “A Little Night Music” Aug. 16- 19 with husband Marshall Borden at Chautauqua, N.Y.

THE FOURTH ANNUAL DAY OF COMPASSION on Friday is shaping up as the biggest media event for AIDS awareness. Hollywood Supports’ list of participants is staggering, includes all the major talkshows, daytime dramas, local TV stations, English- and Spanish-speaking stations across the country, 15 cable nets and cable systems, radio, MTV and, of course, publications. This year’s focus is on the rising rate of infections among those under 20. Education, education … Billy Wilder’s classic “Sunset Boulevard” will be shown in new print glory Friday at Par’s theater as part of Camp Pacific Heartland’s benefit for children infected with HIV/AIDS. A silent auction will include walk-ons on “Murphy Brown” and “Home Improvement”… Michael Jackson made a four-day hush-hush business trip to the Bahamas — also to scout possible locations for projects … Jimmy Rogers and Ruth Brown helped break ground in Robinson, Miss., at the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel’s “Bluesville” for a hotel complex to house a Blues museum, 1,500 -seat club — and, of course, a casino. Rogers presented one of his guitars to launch the museum.

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