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Wang on ‘Box’ drama; O’Neal in boxing bout

Wang on 'Box' drama; O'Neal in boxing bout

WANG WRANGLES HONG KONG HOMECOMING: Director Wayne Wang (“The Joy Luck Club”) has put his numerous other projects aside to take a film that will bring him to his birthplace of Hong Kong to capitalize on next summer’s transfer of power from the British to the Chinese. Wang has agreed to direct “The Chinese Box,” a drama set against the backdrop of the events that will take place in Hong Kong next year. The screenplay was written by Jean-Claude Carriere, who scripted “Valmont.” Gong Li (“To Live”)has been set to star, and an offer has been made to Sean Connery to play the male lead. The film is a $10 million undertaking financed by Asian, French and German money. The U.S. rights are available, sources said.

SMITHEE’S” SMITH LAID TO SMITHEREENS?: Imagine you’re Ryan O’Neal. You’ve had a few scrapes with the tabloids over the years, sometimes over your ability and willingness to fight. You’re starring in a movie and the script calls for you to deck the Hollywood correspondent of the National Enquirer with a punch. Would you pull your punch?

That very issue faced O’Neal on the set of “An Alan Smithee Film,” and it’s a split decision on whether O’Neal intentionally clocked Alan Smith, the longtime Hollywood scribe for the Enquirer. Like many Hollywoodites, Smith did a cameo, in a scene filmed at Bulgari’s that called for the scribe to walk up to O’Neal, who’s playing the role of tough-guy producer James Edmunds. Smith introduces himself as a writer for the Enquirer, at which point Edmunds asks if he wrote a particular unflattering piece about Ryan O’Neal. When Smith answers yes, Edmunds asks if O’Neal sued him. When Smith says no, Edmunds is supposed to punch him and say that O’Neal should have.

Sources said that Arthur Hiller did several takes, but the punch looked too phony. Not on the fifth take, when O’Neal hit him square on the jaw, knocking a surprised Smith to his knees. “I pulled the punch,” O’Neal protested, as Smith was helped up and given ice for his swelling jaw.

“There was this unmistakable sound of bone against bone,” said one bystander, who added: “Plenty of people might have wanted to hit this guy, and Ryan got the chance and took it.”

Smith and producer Ben Myron denied the shot was near Holyfield proportions. “I was three feet away and after half a dozen takes, he got too close to the punch,” Myron said. “It was clearly an accident.” The scribe downplayed the contact. “He clipped me on the end of the jaw, but I’m OK and Ryan showed great concern,” Smith said. “He was a boxer, so if he really wanted to hit me, he could have.” Said O’Neal: “It was an accident, but he fell like a sack and Don King is calling. Truthfully, I didn’t mean to hit him, but I was all sweaty, we were doing take after take, and they kept saying, ‘You’re missing him, you’re missing him.’ So I didn’t miss him.” Word is Hiller will use that take.

MATERIAL READING: Mary Lambert, who directed such films as “Pet Sematary” and “Siesta” before taking a siesta to have a baby, is back with a new script she’s written and plans to direct called “Immodest Acts.” While Lambert hasn’t cast it yet, she drew quite a crowd for a recent reading. The film’s set in 16th-century Rome, and the lead heroine was read by Madonna, with a supporting cast that included Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands. None of them is attached to the film, but all are said to be interested.

Lambert directed five of Madonna’s videos, including “Like a Prayer,” and directed Byrne and Sands in “Siesta.” Madonna, who just completed “Evita,” was Lambert’s inspiration for the main character, though the film is based on true events.

“It’s a controversial piece about a woman who explores the line between religious and sexual ecstasy, and I learned a lot about that from her,” said Lambert, whose reps at the Gersh Agency are in the process of lining up financing and a distributor so she can shoot the film in Rome.

RICH PITCH: Screenwriter Doug Richardson, whose screen credits include “The Money Train” and “Bad Boys,” has set up an untitled pitch with Cloud Nine producers Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn at Paramount, where senior veep Don Granger made the mid-six-figure purchase in a deal brokered by William Morris’ Jim Crabbe. Richardson described it as “a high-octane ‘Sting’ for the ’90s.”

It was sold as a pitch, and was an outgrowth of an idea Richardson and Gordon came up with two years ago. “I wanted to do a heist movie, and though I wrote the script for ‘Money Train’ that way, the film didn’t really turn out like that. Mark was patient and waited 18 months for me while I wrote a novel.” That novel, a political thriller called “Dark Horse,” will be published in February 1997 and already has been set up under a film deal with Imagine and Fox 2000, with John Travolta attached to star.

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