Kaye sets sites on tragedy; Lane enters ‘Door’

AMERICAN HISTORY X director Tony Kaye is dropping everything to make a feature on the recent death of a 6-month-old black South African girl allegedly shot by a 42-year-old white farmer as she and two other girls wandered across his farm. Steve Tisch and Marty Bauer will produce, and Kaye has spent his own coin to send scribe Joe Vicinguera to South Africa to research the murder, which indicates that, while apartheid has ended in the country, racism hasn’t.

The suspect, Nicholas Steyn, is in jail awaiting trial that he shot at the three girls, seriously wounding 11-year old Francine Diamini and killing the 6-month old cousin, Angelina Zwane, who she carried on her back.

Kaye’s idea is to focus on events leading up to the assault: “I want to show in 90 minutes of real time how this white man’s rage built up into such a state,” Kaye said. It’s a variation on the racial tension ground he covers in “American History X,” the New Line drama about skinheads, which stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong.

Kaye will put aside plans to direct the unproduced Tennessee Williams script “One Arm.” Though equally senseless acts of violence occur around the world on a regular basis, Kaye, a prominent artist and director of commercials in Europe before becoming a filmmaker, is so bent on doing the movie he said he’ll finance it himself if he has to, like he did “G-D,” an abortion documentary he’s worked on for six years.

COMING OFF STRONG ADVANCE BUZZ for her work in the Tony Goldwyn-directed “The Blouse Man,” Diane Lane is being fitted to replace Madonna in “The Red Door,” the indie film about a sister and brother who reunite and reconcile a rough upbringing after the brother contracts AIDS. Lane, who’s repped by CAA and Hyler Management, is negotiating with producer Alan Saffron.

Madonna dropped out recently (she’s eyeing the Paramount film “The Next Best Thing”), Mattia Karel is still aboard to direct, with Rod Steiger and Stockard Channing expected to co-star. “Blouse Man,” which co-stars Anna Paquin and Viggo Mortensen, is the first pic in the partnership between Village Roadshow and Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Prods.

JERRY ZUCKER SEEMS to be rethinking his course of making “A Course in Miracles” his next pic. He seemed all set to lens at Touchstone from Michael Petroni’s script, but difficulty in budget and getting an A-list actor for a summer shoot has Zucker listing toward “In Your Dreams” at Universal, another project he’s sweet on. Word is Zucker’s eyeing Monica Potter (“Con Air”) for the film, and might well return to “Miracles” next summer.

DON SIMPSON IS BACK, and just like when he was alive, he’s creating controversy. “High Concept” (Doubleday), the Simpson bio by Charles Fleming (no relation to this columnist), has reached No. 3 on the L.A. Times bestseller list, even as some Simpson confidantes who wouldn’t talk to the author (a former Variety reporter) are now disputing his version of some events in Simpson’s life.

While Fleming gives Simpson credit for trademarking the star-driven, high-concept event pic, he spent more time chronicling Simpson’s pioneering and eventually self-destructive efforts in the areas of sex, drug and dietary abuses. Fleming feels those areas were such a part of Simpson’s life that scrutiny was unavoidable.

It also proved necessary because of the blockade he encountered from Simpson’s brother, Lary, ex-partner Jerry Bruckheimer and many of Simpson’s friends. Part of that was undoubtedly a desire to protect their pal, some could have stemmed from conflicts Simpson had with the journalist before his death. The loss of power lunches was more than made up for by clandestine meetings with drug dealers and hookers.

“I found myself in the company of some terrifying and unsavory characters,” Fleming said. “One arrived for the interview with two heavily armed bodyguards, brandishing a hunting knife as he explained that, if I wasn’t who I purported to be, I’d be going home in a bodybag.”

The question is, was the embargo worth it? In a negative L.A. Times review Sunday, Peter Biskind, the author of the new Hollywood book “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” argues that both the book and Simpson would have benefited from giving access. Fleming said he did his best to get that, and did his best without it.

“This was a blockade that lasted until the very end,” Fleming said. “I had a conversation with David Geffen at the end of my reporting, and told him it was counterproductive to prevent me from talking to the people who cared about him and leaving the ones who didn’t. Geffen said no, they weren’t making a mistake, that I’d do my little book, it’d be a piece of shit, and nobody would read it. That turns out not to be the case, since it’s on the L.A. Times bestseller list already.”

Fleming said he’s not surprised some of them are knocking the book now, though neither he nor his editor has heard directly from any disgruntled readers. “Many Simpson friends and colleagues didn’t want to know the truth about him while he was alive, so it doesn’t surprise me that they don’t now that he’s not.”

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