Uhry play again getting screen offers

GOOD MORNING: The morning after winning this year’s Tony for best play for “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” writer Alfred Uhry told me he has received offers to put the play on screen. (After seeing the play on B’way, I wrote on April 15, “Alfred Uhry’s poignant play could make another budget-proof movie like his ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ ” which won an Oscar for Uhry, well as best picture Oscar for producer Richard Zanuck and another win for star Jessica Tandy.) Uhry, of course, would again write the screenplay. He said, “I wouldn’t trust anyone else. It’s easy to mess up things about the South. And it’s not just like turning over the play to a camera.” Uhry said that “Ballyhoo,” like his previous hit, requires “the right person (producer).” As for Zanuck again producing, Uhry said, “He’s the best. He would be great.” But there are other “greats” making offers and among them is “ER’s” John Wells, who is talking to Uhry. Offers are also in from Fox Searchlight Films and Showtime. “I like their cable movies,” said the playwright. As for making the decision to start the movie, he noted, “I’m the one dragging my feet. It has to be clear in my head. It takes some removal from the stage.” He’s still very much involved with the play, as co-star Paul Rudd is departing the company (for the pic “The Object of My Affection”). Also this week, Uhry is readying a reading of Hal Prince’s “Parade,” a musical version of the Leo Frank wrongful murder case (Atlanta, 1913) starring Matthew Broderick. Jason Brown has written the score and lyrics to the book by Uhry. Garth Drabinsky produces for a fall-winter ’98 bow. Uhry reminded that this story aired as a five-hour NBC two-night’er in January 1988 as “The Murder of Mary Phagan,” with Jack Lemmon starring in the George Stevens Jr. production.

WHEN TONY PRESENTER Whoopi Goldberg greeted the camera with “Hi, Honey, I wish you were here,” everyone knew she was talking to Frank Langella. He had been on B’way starring in the revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter,” but is now in L.A. costume-fitting and makeup-testing for “Sugar Daddy,” which starts filming July 7 in Vegas. His role in the Motion Picture Corp. of America feature is inspired by Liberace. Tony presenter Rip Torn, who got a healthy hand when noting he’d never missed a performance in 40 years, said he got word Monday morning that his show “The Young Man From Atlanta” will close Sunday night. He immediately called agent Bob Gersh to give him the news; an hour later, Gersh called back to say Torn’s set for a terrific role in “Senseless,” a Marlon Wayans comedy that Dimension starts this month for Miramax release. Penelope Spheeris directs, David Hoberman and Don Carmody produce. Torn’s now on screen in “Trial and Error” and is next seen in “Men in Black” and heard as the voice of Zeus in “Hercules”. … That Disney animated feature will get a big TV preem special (on the Disney Channel, natch,) with a vidshow directed by Louis J. Horvitz (who helmed this year’s Oscars). The “Hercules” special will cover a mile-long (Electric Light) parade, with traffic in N.Y. shut down June 14 (spec airs on the 15th); it will also feature a performance by Michael Bolton and appearances by all the celebs who voice “Hercules.”

IT WAS WHAT CBS MANDATED: That’s what exec producer Gary Smith and director Walter C. Miller delivered — a Tony TV show that attracted a bigger audience, one that understood what the Tony s were all about, thanks to the PBS preamble, of course. The show(s) came in on sked, with few “live” edits — one of ’em, unfortunately, the abbreviated intro of Julie Andrews. … After the RCMH program, Grayline shuttle-bussed over 1,000 to the Mariott Marquis party, which went on long into the night (sans speeches). … Among those happy with the “Titanic” wins was Bill Haber, who became a hefty investor (after viewing it 10 times in rehearsals). He’s also a producer, with Pierre Cossette, in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” which bows Nov. 9 in the Minskoff (vacated by “Sunset Blvd.”). But Haber’s main love is Save the Children and he just returned from another “saving” visit to Bosnia. … “Dream” producer Louise Westergaard says she feels like “I’m on an emotional roller coaster” with “Dream,” which she says gets nightly standing ovations — but? Next for Westergaard is “Jackie” (Kennedy), due on B’way Oct. 15. A Shubert house will be chosen this week for the show, which boasts 10 actors in 150 roles. … Joel Grey says he’ll probably stay on in “Chicago” past the June end of his pact, through the summer. Grey, who called the omission of his name in the featured Tony nominee list (due to a failure of show management to properly apply) “one of the lowest of the lows (in his career).” But, he’d added, “Working with this company and the material scores among the highest of the highs.”

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