GOOD MORNING: Tradition! That’s the story behind the priceless congratulatory ad from George Lucas to Jim Cameron that appeared in the Hollywood edition of Daily Variety Wednesday. The cartoon drawing features the cast of “Star Wars” aboard the sinking ‘Titanic,” with C3P0 saying to R2D2, “I’m sure this is all your fault.” The creation (sure to be a collector’s item) from Lucas was drawn by “Star Wars” art director Iain McCaig Reached at work on the first prequel to the “Star Wars” trilogy (to bow in May 1999), Lucas explained the ad: “Steven (Spielberg) did it (an ad) for me when ‘Star Wars’ beat out ‘Jaws.’ And I did it for him when ‘E.T.’ beat out ‘Star Wars II.’ (Spielberg returned the favor yet again last year when “Star Wars” retook the crown.) And now ‘Titanic’ is the new champion. It’s all in the family.” ILM and Skywalker Sound are represented in the film ‘Titanic” and in the Oscar nominations as well: “We helped sink it!” Lucas said of Cameron, “He’s made a major accomplishment. It’s better when it comes out of difficulties.” Lucas says his work on the next three (of six future) “Star Wars” features could never have been made before the current technology used in ‘Titanic.” The first “prequel” will be in the $100 million class, but the studio is not yet set, sez Lucas. … Jim Cameron admitted he was stunned when he picked up Wednesday’s Daily Variety and saw Lucas’ tribute ad. He said Lucas was his inspiration. “When I was a truck driver for the Orange County school district, the reason I got jump-started into this business was because of him (Lucas and ‘Star Wars’). He has been so gracious to me all these years and he has meant a lot to me. And he will probably take it back (the box office championship) when he releases the new trilogy.” As for the Oscars, Cameron admits, “It’s the icing on the cake. The audience has already bought it.” But getting the nominations, he said, “is wonderful.” Cameron admitted he is certain the movie will win some Oscar recognition, but as for winning himself, he said, “If I have to go up there, I don’t know what to say. I’d rather be home eating a pizza!” Cameron added, “When I heard a billion people will be watching the Oscars, I once said, ‘If I only had a dollar for every one of them!’ But we now do have it — and more!” As for the question of money coming to Cameron, who declined his salary and percentages when the cost mounted, he now says, “I think they (Peter Chernin and 20th) are working it out. It’s complex, impacted on how we go forward with other projects.” Meanwhile, Chernin partied Cameron and other members of the “Titanic” team last Friday, “expressing good will.” Cameron asked Oliver Stone what to say at the Oscars when the two lunched at Locando del Lago in Santa Monica Tuesday. “Directors don’t usually do that,” laughed Cameron. “But we are good friends.” Stone, in turn asked Cameron some of his “Titanic” secrets. Both filmmakers tell me they are not talking to team on a project. Would you rule it out? Stone continues to develop his contemporary “Gridiron” feature at WB but admits they have to keep the budget down “because its main interest is for American audiences only.” It’ll be below $50 million, he assures.

RUSSIANS SAID NYET to Gloria Stuart when she could not find her visa as she was about to board a plane from St. Petersburg Tuesday to return to L.A. following “Titanic” p.a.’s there. She told ‘em “How did you think I got into this country?” She and daughter Sylvia (Mrs. Gene) Thompson were finally able to depart, but had to detour via Paris; they’re due back today for a rush session in wardrobe, etc. for Monday night! … Jack Nicholson modestly told me, “I wish it would end up in a five-way tie!” He also noted, “Think of all the great performances that did not get nominated.” He’ll be attending Oscars with Rebecca Broussard, daughter Jennifer and her husband. … Sorry to learn that Elizabeth Taylor is not feeling well and, at this writing, the two-time acting Oscar winner (plus Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient) will not be attending the Oscars. … Shirley Jones, Oscar winner for “Elmer Gantry,” will be trailed for three days by “American Journal,” tracking her career from her win, April 17, 1961 at the Pantages. … And talking Hollywood history: Rick Spalla’s “Hollywood Backstage: The Sensational ’60s” will start airing on AMC nightly, April 1. It has 115 segs with stars including Jayne Mansfield, Steve McQueen, Stephen Boyd, Dean Martin, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren, etc. When we first filmed ‘em, they were called “Hobbies of the Stars” — and there are some very interesting ones!

LUKE PERRY’S BACK in the TV series saddle again — three years after departing “BevHillls 90210″: Wednesday at 20th Perry was filming the pilot for the ABC one hour sports-themed “The Game” in which he’s an attorney running a sports agency. He shares Exec Producer chores with Magic Johnson and Luke says they are certain to get sports star visits — the first skating in to guest is Wayne Gretzky. But Perry says the show “Will not be ‘Love Boat’ with professional athletes.” John Tinker and Bill Delia produce.

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