GOOD MORNING: A holocaust -themed movie has long been an ambition of Arthur Hiller’s — and he’s now working on one. Tentatively titled “The Waltonsteins,” it’s based on the story of two holocaust survivors who met in Ottawa, married and had two children. The father was so paranoid about the holocaust, and what happened to its children, he and his wife and the children converted to Catholicism in Canada. How they regained their identify and the participation of the Catholic Church in their reconversion are parts of the drama. Hiller learned of the story when it was being performed in a one-woman show in Ottawa by Frannie Sheridan. She and partner Pat Bermel are now writing the screenplay. Hiller would make it as a lower-budgeted indie … Those who have seen “Wag the Dog” have no doubt that Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Hollywood producer Stanley Mott is a takeoff of Robert Evans. But director Barry Levinson says, “It could be a half dozen others with similar hairdos and big glasses. As a matter of fact, we switched to those glasses at the last minute, because of the hairdo.” As for trying to make him a character designed to humor Hollywood’s “insiders,” Levinson noted that would be “too simplistic, Besides, there is no ‘inside’ Hollywood anymore: Everyone is savvy about the movie business, with entertainment shows airing everywhere. Example: when my mother in Boca Raton asks me what the weekend grosses were, I know there is no more Hollywood inside!” Of course most “insiders” (except Levinson) saw a gag reel made during filming of “The Marathon Man” at Par, where stars Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider and Hoffman all did takeoff imitations of the pic’s producer, Robert Evans. Evans says that reel is now “locked up” but added he was “flattered” that Hoffman was reviving his portrayal. P.S. Evans has not yet seen the movie. “For the first time in a long time, I have (had?) nothing to complain about.” He’s working on his book “Seduction” and, with Scott Rudin, readying the new version of “The Out-Of-Towners.”
“WHAT DO I DO FOR AN ENCORE?” asks Lauren Bacall as she is named as one of the honorees for the 27th Theater Hall of Fame. The news comes at the close of a year in which Bacall received an Oscar nomination, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Palm Springs Fest and this weekend she is a Kennedy Center Honoree. Of course, Bacall reminds, it would be nice to have another job! The other Theater nominees are Eric Bentley, Philip Bosco, Ming Cho Lee, Harold Pinter, Tony Randall and Donald Saddler. The Founders Award goes to Otis Guernsey. Exec producer of the show is Terry Hodge Taylor; Marion Seldes femcees, while Joy (Mrs. George) Abbott is chairman of the board of directors. The awards will be given at the Gershwin Theater Feb. 2, followed by a dinner at “21” … “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom,” which segued from TV to B’way, will make a return to the stage July 29-Oct. 24 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater in Chicago. Alan and Marilyn Bergman will write several new songs and update a few of their old ones from the B’way production, “Ballroom.” But Alan says the new legit musical will be more like the original TV’er, which starred Maureen Stapleton, Charles Durning, Charlotte Rae and was directed by Sam O’Steen from a script by Jerome Kass.
ANOTHER L.A. LANDMARK EATERY is biting the final fortune cookie. Madame (Sylvia) Wu has sold her Santa Monica property on Wilshire Blvd. and is closing the restaurant and retiring after the Chinese New Year’s celebration in Feb. During its 37 years, the restaurant has seen all of Hollywood’s elite dining at the gracious Madame Wu’s. Cary Grant was an early regular, Robert Redford could be found at Booth 55, Paul Newman, 54, Mary and Jack Benny celebrated their last (46th) wedding anni there, Elizabeth Taylor toasted “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” there. Steven Spielberg and his father were Sunday night regulars. Eva Marie Saint and Jeff Hayden as well, as were Nancy and Ronald Reagan. And when Lord Run Run Shaw ran in from Hong Kong, he headed for Madame Wu’s. Recently, Tom Cruise, after dining there, helped an accident victim in the street to the hospital. Sylvia and husband King Wu will now spend more time with their grandchildren and will travel … N.Y.’s Beacon theater will be beaming Dec. 10: some of the top names in the music biz will not only be performing gratis, but each will also contribute the copyright to one of their biggest hits, to the U.S. Committee for UNICEF. It’s the “Gift of Song” gala, which since its first performance in 1979, raised $15 million from the concert and sales of the ensuing double album. This year will be even more productive, promises producer Ken Ehrlich. Performers include Celine Dion (singing “My Heart Will Go” from “Titanic”), Diane Warren, Wyclef Jean, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, Aaron Neville, the Bacon Bros., Bryan Adams and Simply Red. The event celebrates the 50th anni of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF and airs live on TNT. Who says there are no more variety shows?