Samples gives helming a try

GOOD MORNING: “This is a closed set. Absolutely no visitors to this location, ” read the call sheet Saturday for Rysher’s “A Smile Like Yours.” The pic is shooting in the heart of San Francisco, in a construction site on Pine and Van Ness streets. The film is shooting amid giant equipment, which is now complemented by a movie company’s caravan of gear. Traffic was detoured by S.F. police, who cooperate fully with the company that shoots here Saturdays through Wednesdays. So I donned a hardhat, as did vet publicist Vic Heutschy, and we joined the troupe; everyone was wearing protective headgear, including Rysher CEO Keith Samples and David Kirkpatrick. Samples is making his directing bow and Kirkpatrick is producing, along with Tony Amatullo. This is not a one-shot at helming for Samples: He is already planning a ’97 start on “A Soldier’s Heart.” He says it’s a story with a heart: “If you don’t cry in this one, I didn’t do my job!” Kirkpatrick’s next for Rysher is “Home Made Sin,” which, he says, will boast romance, music — and sin … I asked Samples about his yen to helm. He admitted, “I always wanted to direct, but no one would hire me, so I had to go the back way”: as CEO of a company funded with $240 million (from Cox). Samples balances his directing with exec duties; in addition to his own dailies, he views rushes of other Rysher projects. I asked producer Kirkpatrick: how do you tell off the boss (Samples) if you don’t like something? Samples heard me and laughed, “He tells me!” But Samples is aware of everything, cameraman Richard Bowen told me, as the new director viewed Greg Kinnear, Jill Hennessy and Jay Thomas on two monitors … I asked Samples for his models as a director; he said Mel Gibson and Ron Howard are two whose examples he’d like to follow. Hennessy, who was in “The Paper,” said Samples’ work reminds her of Howard’s. Praise indeed … He’s also aware of this large budget (for Rysher) –$25.6 million, which he hopes to bring down. (It would have been considerably more expensive with the originally planned cast: Sharon Stone and John Travolta.) Of the Cox funding, he says, “I told them I wasn’t going to spend it on three or four movies — we have a better chance with 20-25. “And we’re doing OK,” he said modestly. “We diversify our deals, we have no development or overhead costs.” And often benefit from development costs major distribs have already spent when giving Rysher their projects!

“YOU’VE GONE FROM SYDNEY POLLACK to Garry Marshall to Keith Samples — aren’t you going in the wrong direction?” That’s how Samples greeted Greg Kinnear when they first discussed the role. (Greg had just wound Marshall’s “Dear God,” after his movie debut in “Sabrina.”) Kinnear and Lauren Holly, who were engaged in “Sabrina,” are now “married” in “Smile.” Hennessy tries to charm him away, although Kinnear and Holly are trying to have a baby. The “trying” includes a fertility clinic. “That’s the lowest point in my career,” Kinnear told me of his scene in a “masturbatorium.” “They could have at least called it the ovule office,” said Greg. I visited that set being built in a former hangar on Treasure Island, which is starting to look like a Hollywood movie lot, with a dozen films either in production or planned in the giant hangars. This one, which once housed flying boats and other Navy planes, is 315 feet by 179 feet and is the site for Rysher’s “Nash Bridges,” the Don Johnson CBS TV’er. The Navy’s almost gone from here and from Alameda Air Station, where the movie company will build other sets. Kinnear will be back on the NBC Burbank lot for his “Later With Greg Kinnear” show, re-starting Aug. 27. He thanks the web for being generous with time off for “Sabrina” and “Dear God.” But, with a film career now blossoming, they will talk about his TV future. As for his future film career, he’d like something with adventure — like ‘Romancing the Stone,” he smiled. Shirley MacLaine, who has a cameo in “Smile,” said Greg reminds her of working with Jack Lemmon. High praise indeed, here, too. Kinnear’s been visited in SanFran by his steady, Helen Labdon.

LAUREN HOLLY COMMUTES TO L.A. to be with Jim Carrey, who’s just started “Liar, Liar.” Both plan time off after these respective pix. As for their future, “We’re just happy,” she says, “and we’re together.” She next starts “The Lady Takes an Ace” in January, again for Rysher. She just wound their “Turbulence” with Ray Liotta, which she described as “very physically and emotionally demanding.” Bob Butler directed — much of the film aboard a 747 on gimbals … There will be some computer-generated imaging in “A Smile Like Yours,” and Rhythm and Hues, the company that built up “Babe,” will be called in … Tony Amatullo, who exec produced Rysher’s “Two Days in the Valley,” says the pic is looking so good, it’ll get a hefty sendoff from MGM late this fall (when he and wife Mariana expect their first baby).

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