‘Byron’ lays down Law

GOOD MORNING: The “Byron” biopic will star Jude Law in the title role. He just completed “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” playing Billy Hanson (Danny Hansford in the book), the murdered lover of Jim Williams. Also set to star in “Byron” is Omar Sharif as Ali Pasha. Producer Billy Clark, in L.A. Tuesday to meet with director-screenwriter Charles Jarrott, set a mid-January start in England, then on to Italy and Greece. Already set are Vilmos Zsigmond as D.P., Fred Harpman as production designer and Malcolm Christopher as production manager. Among those who want to be involved — skeds permitting — is Chris Plummer, says producer Clark. He is also readying “The Buffalo Soldier” with Louis Gossett Jr., Blair Underwood and Vanessa Williams — with General Colin Powell as adviser Another “Midnight in the Garden” costar, Paul Hipp, thanks Clint Eastwood for setting him in the part of Joe Odom — Hipp’s acting salary makes it possible for him to complete his own directorial debut film, “Death of a Dog.” His pic was on hold due to a lack of operating funds. “Clint Eastwood is my hero!” says Hipp. He was last seen in Abel Ferrara’s “The Funeral” and Ferrara agreed to exec produce the pic for Hipp. Other pals who helped finance “Death of a Dog” include David Caruso. … Saban Entertainment partner and co-founder Shuki Levy is readying his “Masada” as a musical and a concert to help celebrate the state of Israel’s 50th anni next year. Levy leaves for Russia next week when the Moscow symphony will record an album of his music for the production. Levy then returns here to prep the live performance to be staged at the base of Masada in Oct. ’98 with book and lyrics by Shell Danielson. Levy says the theme of the musical is “Let no man be another man’s slave.” He hopes to enlist an international cast of star singers.

WHILE TENS OF THOUSANDS of tourists make their summer vacation ogling the marvel and majesty of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, another Old Faithful is spouting away in Utah. This one is Hollywood-made — and it equals the legit geyser’s average 135-foot high spurts. It’s for Disney’s “Meet The Deedles.” It would be impossible to shoot the feature in Yellowstone with all the visitors at this time of year. Also, sez producer Dale Pollock, there’d be no cooperation or assistance from the Park Service. “They don’t have much of a sense of humor,” said Pollock of the $17 million film in which the heavy, Dennis Hopper, tries to divert the real Old Faithful underground to his own amusement park. Pollock describes the Disney pic as “a silly teenage comedy with adult wit and humor.” It’s Steve M. Boyum’s directorial debut. Jim Herzfeld scripted and Tim Landry (“George of the Jungle”) creates the visual effects, which include a Yellowstone Lake in which the characters surf. The moviemakers hope Disney will see the surfing possibilities for an attraction at one of its parks. … Composer-producer David Foster, who produced Lisa Marie Presley’s warbling of “Don’t Cry Daddy” to duet with Elvis on the anniversary concert, says Lisa Marie came to him to do the number for two reasons: He’d done the Natalie Cole-Nat Cole “Unforgettable” and — Foster’s wife, Linda Thompson, had been with Elvis four or five years. After Lisa Marie sang the number, Foster admitted, “I wanted to sign her as an artist — she has a sexy, smoky, charismatic voice — like Elvis. She wants to reflect about it (the contract) . If she does an album — it will be on her own merit.” Lisa Marie brought her two children with her to Foster’s session in which she recorded the “Don’t Cry Daddy” number. But her mother, Priscilla, did not attend. “I never met her,” adds Foster. He is now senior vice president of Warner Music Group, which he hopes to make “cohesive again.”

JANE SEYMOUR IS DOWNED with Dengue Fever-1 on the Puerto Rico swamp location of “The Swiss Family Robinson.” The fever was reportedly caused by a mosquito bite. The feature film’s sked is extended a week and the delay KO’s plans by Jane and husband James Keach to visit her English mansion before the Sept. 8 re-start of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”. … Production on the “L.A. Confidential” CD (Restless-BMG) was held up when producer/director/writer Curtis Hanson was unable to get Joni James’ OK to include her 1955 triple-platinum “How Important Can It Be?” in the platter. It figures prominently in the murder scene of the Kim Basinger-Kevin Spacey co-starrer. James finally said OK and the disc’s out next week. Meanwhile, James sold out her two (live) shows at the new 1,200-seat Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. … Their many friends in the industry are saddened by the death of Norman Tyre’s wife of 62 years, Margery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Guild.

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