Sci-fi oater set for De Bont

GOOD MORNING: Hollywood wasn’t the first to believe in signals from aliens — Native Americans, back in the 1860s, received some (smoke?) signals which they, too, believed came from outer space. and it’s all coming together speedily in a movie by Jan De Bont. Following Monday’s preem of “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” De Bont told me “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by W.D. Richter, a story set in the West with Indians and aliens, will be one of his next pics for 20th. Already announced for him is the contemporary “Zero Hour.” What about “Speed 3”? He said he doesn’t think it’s possible: “It’s getting more difficult and more expensive to top each previous pic. ‘Speed 2’ cost $120 million,” while the first one came in for $35 million. “Of course there were no stars (in it) at that time,” he reminded. When I asked Sandra Bullock if she’d do a third “Speed,” her answer: “Not in 10 million years!” (Nor tens of millions of dollars?) De Bont says the budget rose on his pic when “Titanic” became landlocked and Fox wanted to speed up his pic’s release. “We worked seven days a week when we were pushed up four weeks,” he said. “There was no time to make mistakes!” One saving grace was the ability to get the use of the $100 million Seaborne Legend cruise ship for two months. “We never expected a cruise line to say OK. But we showed them the script. They looked at me like I was crazy but they said, ‘Yes.’ I really must thank them.” At the preem, we were sitting behind Seaborne Cruise Lines president and chief operating officer Larry Pimentel, his wife and Ernest Beyl, VP of Seaborne’s corporate communications. In back of us sat Tom Sherak, chairman of the 20th Domestic Film Group, and his wife Madeleine. The Sheraks will soon be cruising to Alaska aboard the Seaborne Legend. De Bont built a replica of the port of St. Marten — to destroy — in the pic. Sherak credited De Bont as “a incredible filmmaker.” Seaborne’s Pimentel said he’s not concerned that would-be cruisers will be turned off by possible machinations of a madman as played by Willem Dafoe. “After all,” he laughed, “people did not stop coming to L.A. because of ‘Volcano.’ Nor did they stop flying because of ‘Airport’ or ‘Con Air.’ Our clientele is affluent and they’d look at this (movie) as Hollywood.” As a matter of fact, Pimentel believes younger patrons will be attracted to his ships due to the Sandra Bullock-Jason Patric romantic duo-ings aboard. The cruise line exec added he was thrilled at how beautifully the ship was photographed — when not under siege. But he laughingly added, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many things blow up in any movie!” 20th was lucky to get the ship as it was coming to the U.S., brand new with not many bookings. Upcoming aboard the Legend will be a retrospective program of Fox chef d’oeuvres, with some of their stars on board. But first, 20th readies for its next launching, “Out to Sea,” which ups its anchor July 2.

“LIAR LIAR” WILL TOP “Apollo 13’s” $175 million box office, Brian Grazer told me, adding that “Liar” has remained the longest in the top 10 this year. He’s dying to do another movie with Jim Carrey. But next is “Bofinger,” scripted by and starring Steve Martin with Frank Oz directing, and then the Ron Howard-directed “Ed TV,” by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Grazer is keeping an intense watch on the accuracy of “Mercury Falling” (also known as “Simple Simon”), starring Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin, The thriller involves a 9-year-old autistic savant played by Miko Hughes. Grazer assures, “We have gone through so much research to make this accurate.” Grazer has personal reasons to take extra care with the portrayal of a youngster with problems … Julie Andrews was surprised at her final curtain of “Victor/Victoria” Sunday night when “Sound of Music” co-star Chris Plummer arrived onstage (from the nearby Music Box, where he stars in “Barrymore”). He led the singing of “Edelweiss” with the entire “V/V” cast. Andrews was bouqueted by Blake Edwards, producers Tony Adams and John Scher. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Raquel Welch stepped in Tuesday night, the start of her six-month run. She officially bows on the 26th for reviews. She’s got a million-$advance; the show’s box office hit an estimated $58 million for the run to date.

FORTY-THREE YEARS AFTER he produced his first movie, Sam Arkoff celebrates his 79th birthday June 12 by starting his 504th film, a remake of “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” … Mathew McConaughey and Ashley Judd are a hot (tub) item … Cameraman Richard Anthony Crenna and wife Alexandra welcomed their first, daughter Isabella Rose C., June 5. The happy grandparents are Penny and Richard Crenna … During his visit to L.A. for a UCLA lecture, the Dalai Lama taped a rare interview, on Mahatma Gandhi, with director Noah Morowitz for the debut show on the “International Biography” series for A&E. Gandhi was the Dalai Lama’s inspiration, while the first place he visited when he fled Tibet was the site where Gandhi’s body was cremated. Morowitz’s long list of docus includes Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain … Ann Miller was honored by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America with their Lifetime Achievement Award at the BevWilshire. On Sunday, Miller, Ann Rutherford and Anne Jeffreys were honored at the Museum of Flying with special USO Medals for their efforts during WWII … Sacha Newley, son of Joan Collins and Anthony Newley, was toasted by Raymond Katz and Barbara Darnell at Katz’s home, where artist Newley’s portrait of Raymond was unveiled and shown with several of Newley’s other oils, including one of his mother, Joan, and one of Gore Vidal. Collins was there as she readied to wing to London for daughter Tara’s wedding June 15. Collins then returns here to film more “Pacific Palisades” segs for Aaron Spelling.

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