GOOD MORNING: Kirk Douglas is going back to work for the first time since his stroke 2-1/2 years ago. He will star with Dan Aykroyd in Total Film Group’s “Sundowning”; he starts work Oct. 5 on the pic, for which Miramax has acquired North American rights. It’s Douglas’ first film since “Greedy” in 1994. He admits he and son Michael have been working on the script of “A Song For David” in which to costar. “But we’ve had three drafts, and the sun is sinking in the west,” laughed Douglas, pere. ” ‘Greedy’ was my 80th picture and I thought it was the last. Maybe I’m starting my career over again! But I promise to quit at 100!” As you can see, Douglas is as sharp as ever, and speaking perfectly. “But,” he admitted, “it will be a challenge for me to do the movie.” Wife Anne said Kirk is as excited about this movie as if it were his first.” Kirk laughingly said, “I’ve been getting more requests for public speeches since I had my stroke — maybe they want to hear if I have anything to say?” Believe me, when Douglas talks, he has something to say. Noting Tuesday’s latest, tragic terrorist bombing, he told me his son Joel was scheduled to leave for Nairobi on safari on the day our embassy was bombed. He was advised not to leave from London. Kirk said, “I’ve learned this philosophy: No matter what happens, you should always realize, things can be worse” … The term ‘sundowning’ refers to those (usually elderly) who reverse their lifestyles from day to night; in the pic, Aykroyd, as Douglas’ son, plus a yet-to-be announced thesp to play his grandson, decide to take the 81-year-old Kirk on some good times: in search of 13 magic diamonds, love — and sex. Kirk and Anne dined Lauren Bacall and Jennifer Jones Monday night at Maddeo’s where Kirk asked Bacall if she’d like to play the whorehouse madam in the pic’s Reno scenes. She said she would, “So I gave her my script,” twinkled Kirk. John Asher directs the “Sundowning” script by Allan Aaron Katz, and Patricia Green produces. Gerald Green is chairman-CEO of Total Film Group.
THEY’RE OFF AND RUNNING at Santa Anita — at least they were filming there Tuesday. On the first day of “The Debtors,” in which Evi Quaid is making her debut directing, Phyllis Diller was karate-kicking Quaid’s husband Randy Q. Diller plays his grandmother in this far-out comedy and in the scene, Randy has just blown all of his grandma’s pension money on the ponies … The pic costars Michael Caine as a “sex addict” and Catherine McCormack (“Dangerous Beauty”) as a compulsive therapist. As for playing the grandmother role, Diller quipped between takes, “Think of all the money I wasted on my face and body!” And Randy laughingly noted, “I must be nuts to let my wife direct me.” Has she ever done it before? “Only in the bedroom. But,” he quickly added of her directorial ability, “she’s doing a great job.” The film ($14 million) will boast fashion scenes sparked by gowns contributed by Armani, Chanel, Dior, Blass, Lacroix, Herrera and more. Scenes will be re-created of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Insti-tute’s Ball. Evi Quaid’s b.g. is in the fashion world, which she had photo’d … They’ll also location at the Stardust in Vegas. For her directorial bow, Evi has backed herself with experts including d.p. Eric Allen Edwards and production designer Patricia Norris. Philip Stewer and Kara Meyers join Evi as producers. Miramax gets first look at the indie-financed “Debtors,” Gramercy, second, says Quaid.
I’D GO BACK IN A SECOND; it was one of my favorite times,” said “54” costar Sela Wald of the era, 1979, when she was a young (19) model. Ward admitted she and her model pals would “chip in” and rent a limo — “that’s how we got in.” She said they’d dance away the night, till 4 in the morning. “It was a pure adrenaline high. I don’t know how we got to work.” As for the drug scene, Ward admitted, “I didn’t get caught up in it, but some of them (model friends) ended up in rehab.” Ward, who welcomed daughter Annabella nine weeks ago, again danced the night away Monday at the post-preem “54” party for 1,100. Stage 5 of Raleigh Studios was converted into Studio 54, complete with giant disco ball, bubbles, glitter, videos projected on the walls, shirtless male bartenders, and barely attired dancers on the bars, tables and floors. Ward said it was authentic, “packed and hot!” And with decibels even 54 co-founder Steve Rubell would have lowered! … Thelma Houston sang her theme of the period, “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” Also in the dancing throng were the film’s Salma Hayek, Ryan Phillippe and Mike Myers (Rubell) … Hugh Hefner was also on hand with a bevy of Playmates … AMC and 20th host the 30th anni of “The Planet of the Apes” at the Academy Thursday. Stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter will be on hand plus 15 “apes” in the original makeup and costumes. My longtime pal (the late) Arthur Jacobs produced the innovative pix and if you notice one left-handed ape in the first “Planet,” it’s yours truly in complete ape makeup. I am always ready for monkeyshines if it meant a good column … Director Joe Sargent is en route to London — via New Orleans. In London, he’s in post on NBC/Hallmark’s “Crime and Punishment” starring Patrick Dempsey and Ben Kingsley and in New Orleans, Sargent preps HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying” to star Don Cheadle (Sammy Davis Jr. in “The Rat Pack”) in the Jim Crow-set story set in the South, 1947.