Halmi, minus a kidney, plans more pics

GOOD MORNING and congrats Emmy nominees: Robert Halmi is recuping in Marbella following removal of a kidney in which a cancerous tumor was discovered. But Halmi assures he’s feeling fine, and leaves in three days for Australia where his “Moby Dick” is filming. He continues on to Borneo for his “The Garden of Eden,” and next to London for the start of “Merlin.” And in the fall, the remake of “Rear Window,” with Christopher Reeve in the Jimmy Stewart wheelchair-bound role. “Work is the only thing I know,” he laughed. But the most exciting thing for me is the Sept. 17 premiere of “The Odyssey” at the Acropolis in Athens with an international audience of 2,500, including the cast led by Armand Assante. Halmi’s also in the contemporary world with his purchase of “The First Immortal” (Ballantine, 1998) by James Halperin, whose “The Truth Machine” will be produced by Bruce Berman at WB. “Immortal” deals with the first mortal preserved via cryonics; the author has made arrangements to have his (whole) body frozen before his death, at a cost of $125,000! Director Kevin Reynolds, who last gave us “Waterworld,” tells me his about-to-be-released “187” is “the best filmmaking experience I’ve ever had.” He brought this one in for “under $23 million,” he happily adds. Bruce Davey and Steve McEveety, both of “Braveheart,” produce the controversial drama set in high school. Samuel L. Jackson stars in the lead role of a teacher that was originally written for a white actor. But when he read it, he had to play it. Reynolds had a similar reaction when he read the Icon Prods. script by Scott Yagemann. “It read like it was written by a school teacher,” said Reynolds — and indeed Yagemann had been a teacher. Reynolds admitted WB had “concern” about reaction in the theaters. No punches are pulled, but guns and knives are. He reminded that Gerald Levin’s son Jonathan, a schoolteacher, was a murder victim. “To allay their (WB’s) fears we had several test screenings,” said Reynolds. The movie worked. Youth audiences know only too well that “187” is gang jargon synonymous with murder. The movie is set in N.Y. and L.A. schools. Reynolds moved his family and small children to Seattle.

WHITNEY HOUSTON WAS NOT on hand at Disneyland Wednesday as ABC previewed a taste of “Cinderella” to the visiting scribes. Houston, you recall, is an exec producer of the Rodgers & Hammerstein 1997 version, along with Craig Zadan, Neil Meron and Debra Chase. “She (Houston) is involved in every decision, ” the other producers told me when I visited the set where Whitney co-stars in the “rainbow-hued” cast as Fairy Godmother. She wound her role a week ago and left on the cruise which ended in Capri Monday when her cheek was cut by — conflicting causes. Meanwhile, Whoopi Goldberg arrived in L.A. by train, from N.Y. and the finale of her B’way stand in “A Funny Thing Happened,” to start in “Cinderella” as Queen Constantina to Victor Garber’s King Maximilian. (He was most recently Goldie Hawn’s husband in “The First Wives Club.”) Brandy, who plays Cinderella, had two days off this week to tape some “Moesha” segs. “Cinderella” airs Nov. 2, two hours, on the “Wonderful World of Disney”. … Lauren Bacall made her runway-modeling debut in Rome for young designer Gai Mattiolo. “It’s never too late,” she said, having totally enjoyed the experience. She’ll be at Mann’s Chinese July 31 with son Stephen and daughter Leslie Bogart when the Postal Service unveils the Humphrey Bogart stamp. En route here, Bacall stops in Santa Fe July 27 where Carol Burnett intro’s her as femcee of the Live at the Lensic Variety Show AIDS Benefit.

PRESIDENT CLINTON MAKES another L.A. appearance this weekend — first with a small, private dinner party Saturday (David Geffen is one of the guests), followed by Sunday’s dinner at the Regency Club for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: contributions $5,000- $20,000. … Col TriStar TV Distribution held a lavish launching for “Vibe,” its latenight talker on its base, Stage 46 at CBS TV City. The show airs in L.A. 11 p.m. on UPN, bowing Aug. 4. Quincy Jones exec produces with partner David Salzman and Daniel Kellison, and they repeatedly proclaim the show is for young adults who are searching for “a fresh, new alternative in latenight.” A very energetic host Chris Spencer (29) assured me the show would not simply be an outlet to plug movies or books. His talkshow idols are Jack Paar, Steve Allen and, of course, Johnny Carson. Spencer says his guests will hopefully range from, say, Tom Cruise to Whitney Houston. On a test run he traded jibes with Evander Holyfield. He also wants to go out and interview the man on the street, like Steverino did. Spencer told me he never expected to get the job but the Laugh Factory’s Jamie Masada talked him into trying out. … A stageful of Hollywood press agents was on hand to be a part of the new outlet. The indefatigable Quincy Jones said he loves adding a nightly show deadline to his multitude of showbiz ventures.

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