‘Africa’ has dangerous location

GOOD MORNING: “Should I go?” Eva Marie Saint wondered about her skedded Thursday departure for the Africa location of “I Dreamed of Africa,” in which she’s to play Kim Basinger’s mother. The latter’s already there, shooting the Hugh Hudson-directed film of Kuki Gudmann’s true story. Tuesday’s front-paged L.A. Times story of the continuing and expanding Africa conflicts — including South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, where Saint told me the company is filming in a preserve for a month. (You recall, Basinger is an animal rights activist, and Eva doubts she’ll be able to visit a zoo after this upcoming experience seeing animals living on a preserve). Saint met recently with producer Stanley Jaffe here at the Bel-Air Hotel to seal the deal, but Tuesday, when she read the newspaper report, she called Sony. “Do I get stunt pay?” she laughed, but seriously asked what the dangers are. She was assured that the company “has taken all precautions,” including guard dogs who can sniff out any problems, reports husband Jeff Hayden. In the pic, Oscar-winner (“On the Waterfront”) Saint plays the very wealthy mother to Oscar-winner (“L.A. Confidential”) Basinger, who has returned to live in Africa with her husband (played by Vincent Perez) and their two children. Basinger’s real-life husband, Alec Baldwin, is also there with their family. They all follow this location with another month in Venice, where Saint has a villa — which will no doubt be a welcome sight (site).

“ABSURD,” SAYS MICHAEL EISNER of Vanity Fair’s claims he is an Internet fan who likes to adopt an alias to address Disney issues in Christian-right chat rooms. John Dreyer, Disney’s VP of corporate communications who left a screening with Eisner to answer my query about the magazine’s claims, added, “Vanity Fair is going about quotes the way tabloids do.” Eisner moves up to No. 3 in the mag’s (October) New Establishment List of 50. (Of course Bill Gates is numero uno, Rupert Murdoch holds on to the No. 2 spot.) As for Eisner taking on “an alias,” he’s shown he can handle the so-called Christian right on his own, as himself, as proven on “60 Minutes” and elsewhere … Also in the List, Apple Computer and Pixar Animation’s Steve Jobs is up from No. 32 to No. 14. He says Pixar began discussions on “A Bug’s Life” with Disney when Jeffrey Katzenberg was still there. He “became furious when he heard one of the first projects on DreamWorks’ slate was an animated bug movie.” We’re awaiting word from Jobs — or Katzenberg … And writers who are embroiled in copycat (copyright) suits against studios, producers, etc. will get little sympathetic prose from Tad Friend in the Sept. 14 New Yorker. He says a court once reminded that “in Hollywood, as in the life of men generally, there is only rarely anything new under the sun.” Which, reminds Friend, “is a steal from Ecclesiastes — but tweaked just enough to be original” … Joanne Worley bowed out of the national tour of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (as Pseudolus) when the company couldn’t live up to a memo agreement that her dogs (“my family”) could travel (air) with her and husband Roger Perry to all the dates. Rip Taylor, who was originally skedded to play it, now takes over the role starting Oct. 5. He has no canine “family” … Marvin Davis, who suffered a fall, is now skedded for knee surgery — after the Carousel of Hope Ball, Oct. 23 at the BevHilton … Roger Williams’ 113th album, “Softly as I Leave You,” a tribute to Frank Sinatra, will be released in November by Varese Sarabande and Universal. It’s a collection of love songs. Williams and wife Louise have separated after a marriage of 12 years.

ONE OF THE JOYS OF SUMMER in Southern California is the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. And this 66th edition tops all previous. Audiences leave expressing wonder at the creators and the performers who live out the masters of paintings and sculptures in tableaux vivants. Diane Challis Davy is pageant director and Marcy O’Malley is costume director of the shows in the Irvine Bowl of Laguna, which are a sellout (so plan for next year!). Hollywood visitors are too few, but those who visit come away inspired, as we do every year. Director-actor Charles Nelson Reilly and Heather Locklear were a few on hand recently. Also Jennifer Tilly, whose stepbrother Stuart Christensen is a photographer-exhibitor in the festival. The largest set ever attempted by the Pageant is this year’s re-creation of Rome’s Trevi Fountain by Judy Parker, Pageant sculptor. There are over 300 in the cast alternating in the shows; approximately 500 backstage volunteers will have donated, by season’s end, 60,000 hours collectivly. It is a tribute to the art-loving, community-spirited Lagunans, a lesson to be learned by their neighbors here. This year’s Pageant includes a salute to Music City USA, with reproductions of Thomas Hart Benton’s “Sources of Country Music,” and Kelly Akins’ “Patsy” and “Hillbilly Shakespeare”; and “live” re-creations of American history with “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and Korean, Vietnam Women’s and Marine Corps Memorial Statues. The tribute to international artists includes the paintings of Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Leonardo da Vinci. Tickets go on sale for the 1999 Pageant, “The 20th Century: Ten Decades of Art” on Dec. 1, 1998.

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