GOOD MORNING: “Welcome to the last picture for TriStar,” I was greeted Wednesday at Culver Studios, where “Crazy in Alabama” is filming. The Antonio Banderas-directed Melanie Griffith starrer wasn’t shooting on a sound stage but in a producer’s office, the one next to the original David O. Selznick’s. In the 1965-set “black comedy” (per Banderas), the site is supposedly the office of a “Bewitched” series producer; still pictures from the real series are on the wall. (“The Beverly Hillbillies” was to have been the series used, but Columbia owns “Bewitched,” thus …) Paul Mazursky plays the “Bewitched” series producer and Bob Wagner a gay agent repping would-be series actress Griffith. She is (even more) seductively made up for this film, in jet black hair and a ruby-red, deeply decolletaged dress as she oozed up to Mazursky as he “read” her for a role — which she, of course got. Later Wednesday, Randal Kleiser, “directed” Griffith in the movie’s ersatz scene of “Bewitched.” (Interesting that Banderas, making his feature debut, chose two directors, Mazursky and Kleiser, for roles.) Banderas is completing the feature in 44 days and at $15.5 million. Of course, Melanie agrees, “We (she and husband Banderas) are doing it for nothing.” The movie is a joint production of their Green Moon Prods. and TriStar with exec producer Jim Dyer, producers Diane Sillan, Debra Hill Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Meir Teper. When the project went into turnaround from Disney, Banderas told me he’d taken it to other studios, including Miramax, but John Calley gave him and Melanie the go-ahead at TriStar. Banderas adds the studio did not ask for any added conditions, like acting commitments from Banderas or Griffith. Nor did they object when Banderas insisted the screenplay be written by the novel’s author, first-time scripter Mark Childress. Banderas also insisted Childress be on the set every day. Childress’ newest novel, “Gone For Good” will be published by Knopf. No pic deal is yet set.
THEY SAID IT WOULD jeopardize our marriage,” Banderas admitted when he set out to direct Melanie. They agree that the result has been to the contrary. Melanie says, “It’s a pleasure — and beautiful to see his vision of America during the days of our Civil Rights struggles” … Since this is Banderas’ first directing outing, I asked him who was his director-idol. Without missing a beat, he answered, “Orson Welles.” His exuberance is evident to all on the set as he mad-dashes from a monitor to the adjoining room to talk with the actors between takes and rehearsal. Until last week, he was wearing a full beard and long hair; he is now clean-shaven and hair cut to a half-inch. He returns to acting, a brief role, in “The White River Kid” for Arne Glimcher (“Mambo Kings”) and then works on the editing of “Alabama.” But he says, “I am going to put my soul” into the next project: “The Phantom of the Opera,” on whose music he starts with Andrew Lloyd Webber next March … I asked Bob Wagner, an alumnus of both big and small screens — and who includes John Ford, Vittorio de Sica, Walter Lang and Blake Edwards among his directors — his opinion of helmer Banderas: “He’s an actor’s director — he reaches you.” Director-actor Mazursky, on acting for Banderas, said, “I’m a slave. He is extremely passionate; he has a vision and gets you excited, and makes you feel relaxed” … Melanie told Wagner that his daughter Natasha was excellent in her recently wound, heavily dramatic “Another Day in Paradise.” And Wagner’s daughter Katie, a producer on Jackie Collins’ talker, was arriving later that day to tape her dad for the TV’er.
WHAT’S MELANIE GRIFFITH’S feeling about her proposed TV series, “Me and Henry,” on hold at CBS for a six-seg order? “I’m not certain I want to do it, unless we know exactly where we are going. I’ve got to know (ahead of time) where it is going. We need a plan. I’d really like to do a series,” she admitted, “for the money — and to work near home! I had a wonderful experience doing the ‘live’ pilot. It made me feel wonderful. I loved being in front of a live audience for the first time” … TVeteran Wagner noted he has an idea for another “It Takes a Thief” vidpic. He did 36 segs a year for three years! … Banderas, soon to be seen in “The Mask of Zorro,” has surrounded himself with some of its other talents: DP Julio Macat (from Argentina), production designer Cecile Montiel (Peru) and Graciela Mazon (Mexico). They give Banderas the benefit of their longtime feature-making experience — in Spanish. He, of course directs everyone in English. And with a great smile! … Last-minute news: Robert Kennedy Jr., stricken with a kidney stone attack just before a skedded speech at Hillcrest Wednesday noon, was rushed to Cedars-Sinai. He was OK after passing a stone … Demi Moore and Bruce Willis confirmed the long-rumored split … Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts and producer Ellen Meyerwill wed July 18 … John Shea’s “Southie,” winner at the Seattle Film Fest, and starring Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan and James Cummings, gets its first L.A. screening for the Independent Feature West members tonight at the WGA theater.