GOOD MORNING: Martin Scorsese, deep in the desert outside Ouarzazate, Morocco, directing “Kundun,” was deeply concerned about his now-in-release film “Grace of My Heart” when he phoned me Thursday. “I had been working on that picture for two years,” he said. (He’s exec producer of the pic.) But his concern continued on the effectiveness of the recall of the “Heart” soundtrack, which MCA had inad-vertently released with Joni Mitchell’s warbling one of the pic’s tunes, “Man From Mars.” Her rendition had been KO’d by the filmmakers (including director Allison Anders) and Kristan Vigard’s voice used — she’s the singing voice of Illeana Douglas throughout the rest of the movie. “Joni Mitchell totally understood,” said Anders, “and she’s totally in love with the movie and will put the song in her own next album.” As noted in Daily Variety Sept. 17, MCA recalled more than 40,000 copies. “But, it’s hard for me to deal with,” admitted Scorsese. Anders, who had been in Venice when the erroneous recording was fast-shipped, said she was equally shocked. Late Thursday in Morocco, Scorsese got word the new CD was out. But when Anders tried to buy a new one at Westwood’s Rhino shop Thursday morning, she was told it was already a sellout. The original with Mitchell is now a collector’s item. “Everyone who sees the movie wants the soundtrack,” Anders said, basing her claim on conversations she’d heard in ladies rooms of theaters playing the pic! A video is also being readied with Elvis Costello on “God Give Me Strength,” his and Burt Bacharach’s tune heard over the final credits Back to Morocco, Scorsese said he had built a sound stage on the site, which has become a favorite for biblical epics. “There’s so much room here,” Scorsese said. “We’ve built the Dalai Lama’s summer palace there’s also lots of room for offices, everything.” The cast of “Kundun” is all Tibetans, several hundred of whom have been flown in from Nepal after searches in many countries. “Many are related to the Dalai Lama,” he added. The costumes are made in India for the $25-26 million film, which will be released in Fall ’97. The story starts with the Dalai Lama at 2 and becoming the god king in Melissa Mathison’s script. There’s hardly any violence in the film, Scorsese says but it includes the confrontation with the Chinese (in Beijing ) “I’ve made it a very personal story,” he said, but there is a Chinese invasion and big opera sequence. Computer-generation will make the cast seem like more.
WHAT A PLEASURE to sit in a theater, surrounded by a full house of moviegoers, all ages, all colors all attentive, all applauding. It’s what movies were made for. So it was such a joy to be at the AMC in Century City, sitting with a non-industry audience watching “Fly Away Home” and marveling at the Carroll Ballard movie, its moviemakers, and its cast led by the remarkable Anna Paquin. When I heard David Rintels just returned from directing her in “Member of the Wedding” for USA Network (Jan. airing), I wondered about Paquin’s performance. Rintels’ description of the now 14-year-old Oscar winner: “She is kind of a miracle. She astonished me. The part is usually played by an older woman. But there isn’t any-thing she (Paquin) can’t do gracefully. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She has the luminous grace of an Audrey Hepburn and at 14. And in four days during Hurricane Bertha this little New Zealand girl, with the help of voice coach Susan Hegarty, learned a perfect Georgia accent.” Carson McCullers’ book became a play, then a 1952 movie, which starred the B’way cast of Ethel Waters, Julie Harris and Brandon deWilde. The TV cast stars Paquin, Alfre Woodard and newcomer Corey Dunn. Rintels had once produced the play as well, but says “I wanted to do my adaptation of the book”). As for Woodard, Rintels said, “Marty Ritt directed her in ‘Cross Creek’ (1983) and told me, ‘There is no finer actress anywhere in the world,’ so I always wanted to work with her. And he was right.”
“YOU NEVER SEE LATINOS PORTRAYING a role like (U.S. Secretary of Transportation) Federico Pena,” said Esai Morales. Instead, it’s “in handcuffs, a gardener, a heavy. That is one of the chal-lenges why I accepted the role to play him (in ABC’s “Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Hart Pena Story”). It scared me a little.” And now, Morales heads to D.C. to present Pena with an Hispanic Heritage Award Monday at the Kennedy Center. Other honorees include Jimmy Smits, Bobby Bonilla, Oscar de la Renta and Isabel Allende. Morales met Pena in ’88 when he was mayor of Denver and Morales was stumping for Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. They met again during the making of the vidpic, when Pena re-vealed he had wanted Morales to portray him. Morales says, “I’m honored to play him.” He studied Pena and even sounds, walks like him! Crystal Bernard stars in the vidpic as Ellen Hart Pena. Jan Eagleson directs The Pacific Pioneer B’casters salute Margaret O’Brien at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Sept. 27 with a dais including Roddy McDowall, Virginia Mayo, Elinor Donahue, Theresa Saldana, Janet Leigh and Tab Hunter Bea Arthur will femcee the Acad of TV Arts & Sciences tribute to Milton Berle in N.Y. Oct. 28.