Col in bed with John & Yoko

NEW YORK — Columbia Pictures is in final talks with Yoko Ono on a deal to develop a feature film about her romance with John Lennon. The deal would tie up rights to such Lennon songs as “Imagine,” as well as the life rights for the duo. The studio wouldn’t comment, but sources said the deal’s expected to be done by Labor Day.

The deal’s being driven by Col prexy Amy Pascal, and the film will show, among other tidbits how Lennon and Ono fell in love while Lennon was still in the Beatles, and still married to his first wife, and will look at the bad press Ono received over the years — she was blamed for driving a wedge between Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The film’s expected to tell the story right up to Lennon’s murder in front of his apartment across the street from Central Park.

While music movies have not hit a lot of high notes at the box office lately, a number of music pics have suddenly emerged.

Aside from the Lennon-Ono pic and a Spice Girls movie, Columbia is working on a biopic on jazzman Miles Davis with producer Martin Worth, and Des McAnuff will direct an untitled film about how music came of age at the Monterey Pop Festival. It’s being scripted by Susan Tarr and Lynn Siefert, who worked with McAnuff on “Cousin Bette,” with Ethan Hawke and Clare Danes mulling participation.

The “Jerry Maguire” team of director Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise are working on a biopic of songwriter and producer Phil Spector for Universal, and “Maguire” Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. is in talks to play singer Otis Redding in the Joe Eszterhas-scripted “Blaze of Glory.”

And that’s not to mention projects in development on Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, the Village People and two films about Janis Joplin.

A ‘GINGERBREAD’ HOUSE DIVIDED?: A potentially serious controversy has arisen between Polygram Films and director Robert Altman over the final cut of “The Gingerbread Man,” the John Grisham-scripted film that will be the second major release of the new Polygram distribution arm. Dish hears that Polygram has inserted its own editor, Don Cambern, to turn in a new cut of the film after dissatisfaction with the one delivered by Altman.

Polygram wants a commercial film that it can open on upwards of 1,500 screens, but has a director whose track record consists of more eclectic pics. Neither party is talking, but Altman’s said to be not at all happy with having an editor he didn’t choose cut his film. He’s not currently involved in the editing process.

Studio sources said Altman agreed to use Cambern, while others said he had little choice. In either case, Cambern turns in a new cut in two weeks.

If Altman and the studio are in disagreement over the new cut, Altman won’t likely accept it quietly, since he doesn’t do anything quietly. It would be interesting how a rift with the director would affect the film’s star, Kenneth Branagh, who is also a director.

Sources at Polygram said the situation is hardly that dramatic, the normal give and take between financier and director. We’ll see.

IN THE PESCE MODE: P.J. Pesce, who was expected to next direct “The Lone Ranger” at Fox Family Films, will make the masked gunman wait. He’ll instead begin work immediately directing “Hangman’s Daughter,” the prequel to “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

The prequel, which starts shooting Oct. 15, was scripted by Robert and Alvaro Rodriguez, and traces the evolution of the character Santanica Pandemonium, who was portrayed memorably in the original by Salma Hayek. She won’t reprise the role, since they’re looking for someone even younger. Pesce, who made his mark with the Western “The Desperate Trail,” is repped by UTA’s David Kanter and managed by 3 Arts.

Miramax’s Dimension Films division plans to drain every drop of blood from the vampire franchise. As soon as Pesce completes production on the prequel, Scott Spiegel will start work on the sequel, “Texas Blood Money.” The sequel, based on a story by “Dusk” scribe Quentin Tarantino, Spiegel and Boaz Yakim, was scripted by Spiegel and Duane Whitaker.

Pesce will then go back and do “Lone Ranger,” and move on to “The Battle of Ono,” a Western about Chinese immigrants working on the railroads in the 1870s. John Woo produces and Chow Yun-Fat will star, with several studios in talks to acquire the rights. Pesce wrote the “Battle” script with Tom Abrams and David Henry Hwang.

FREEMAN SEEKING COMMITMENT: Morgan J. Freeman, whose debut pic “Hurricane Streets” won three prizes at Sundance and will be distribbed by MGM on Oct. 24, is in the process of setting up his next film. It’s the ensemble drama “Desert Blue,” and he’s got Brendan Sexton III (“Welcome to the Dollhouse”) and Christina Ricci in talks to star.

It’s described as an offbeat romance in what might be the last weekend on earth for a small desert town. While Freeman’s reading studio scripts, he’ll likely make “Desert Blue” his next film — if his 3 Arts manager Daniel Rappaport and William Morris agents Cassian Elwes and Joanne Roberts are successful in setting it up with financiers.

DISHINGS: Sisters Nora and Delia Ephron are having a tough time finding actresses who look like sisters for “Hanging Up,” which Columbia hopes will be Ephron’s next film. First offer was a dandy — pairing lookalikes Goldie Hawn and Meg Ryan as siblings. Unfortunately, that pairing didn’t work. Dish hears they’ll hold a reading next week, with the following actresses acting as sisters: Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Lisa Kudrow. … Janet McTeer, who won the Tony for “The Doll’s House,” is moving toward screen work, and has signed with Marc Epstein at Gallin Morey and ICM’s Michael Foster, the duo behind the career surge of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” star Rupert Everett.

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