Hepburn nabs top spot in AFI legend poll

GOOD MORNING: Katharine Hepburn (92) was busy doing yoga exercises yesterday when notified she was No. 1 on the AFI poll of top 25 femme legends. Hepburn continues to live in the same houses in Conn. in which she grew up … Shirley Temple, the perfect choice to m.c., the AFI/CBSpec, said she would have liked to see Jennifer Jones and Clara Bow on the list of top 25. Temple, who placed 18, also laughingly said, “I was No. 13 on the San Francisco Chronicle poll!” … Kirk Douglas (No. 17) admitted, “I have been blessed to work with thousands of fabulous actors — people like Arthur Kennedy, Edmond O’Brien and Paul Stewart come to immediate mind. However, I would not want to be a part of the committee to select the top 50 actors. I’m just delighted that I made the list.” … Gregory Peck, among those in the top 25 (No. 12), admitted the scene aired of Hepburn and Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond” showed the power of movies “where they can touch your heart, unwind emotions which are shared by all of us.” But, he said, “To me, the greatest were Chaplin and Greta Garbo. But I don’t have any fault with Bogart and Hepburn being No. 1.” Peck receives another honor, the Marian Anderson Award in Philly, June 25-27. Brock Peters (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) and Angie Dickinson (“Captain Newman, M.D.”) will fly in to honor him as will Harry Belafonte, last year’s recipient. Peck served on the National Council of Arts with Anderson. On Friday, Peck speaks at the U. of Mich. from which his father graduated in 1909, having played on the basketball and football teams. As for Peck, fils’ professional acting career, he laughs, “I’m keeping the barn door open just a crack for a cameo — I’m the king of cameos — but it has to be a powerful one!” … I reported the news of his AFI listing to Sidney Poitier, on vacation aboard ship in Monaco. He was very pleased and modestly said he hoped “we have left some mark on American culture.” He interrupts his vacation to deliver the commencement address June 25 at the College of the Bahamas — in the country where he had only a bare education — and is now one of their honored ambassadors … Gene Hackman, who took a year off, and is now starring with Morgan Freeman in “Under Suspicion” in Puerto Rico and financed by TCI, will back-to-back with “The Replacement” with Keanu Reeves. Hackman’s not working for his usual fee on “Suspicion,” a project (originally French) which he had wanted to do for many years. But Hackman will revert to his usual, full fee when in “The Replacement” — for WB.

NEW GENERATION: Natasha Gregson Wagner (R.J.’s daughter) will star for director Josh Evans (Bob’s son) in “Blue Hearts” which will be shot in digital-video, reports young Wagner. Michael Madsen co-stars. Natasha says the filming “should be very interesting” — she and young Evans had a seven-year relationship. “We were very close,” she says, “and we have a lot of respect for each other. And it’s good to stay close to parts of your life.” She just returned from Las Vegas where she had a role in “Play It to the Bone” starring Antonio Banderas, Woody Harrelson, Lolita Davidovich — and Bob Wagner. As for her dad’s “Number 2” role in the blockbuster “Austin Powers’ pix, she says, “His fan base is now changing! People never realized (because he is so handsome) that he has a great comedic talent, too.” Young Wagner also wound a role in Stephen Frears’ “High Fidelity” with John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Iben Hjejle and — Catherine Zeta-Jones (unbilled) … Coals to Newcastle? No — but Georgia’s soil to Toronto, yes. Jennifer Beals is such a stickler for accuracy for her portrayal of Amanda Dickson in Showtime’s biopic of Kent Anderson Leslie’s, “Woman of Color,” she says she brought back samples of the rich Sparta, Ga., soil to the Canada location where a Southern plantation and other sites are reproduced. Also, before starting the role of the woman born to a white slave holder and one of his slaves in the 1830-80 South, Beals said she researched the role by visiting Sparta. “Everyone was so friendly to me — everyone except the United Daughters of the Confederacy. I couldn’t get any one of them to talk to me. But they’re the same ones who wouldn’t have talked to her (Dickson) then. Everyone else was so generous — invited me into their homes.” Asked about their reaction to the storyline, she said, “Everyone had his own take on her. They lived with that reality every day of their lives.” Beals’ Gilgamesh Prods. is teamed with Ted Demme’s Spanky Prods., developing “Inside Job” with Walter Mosely, whose book, “Devil With a Blue Dress” starred Beals opposite Denzel Washington.

IS ‘TODAY’ IN THE FUTURE for Fergie (Sarah Ferguson), the Duchess of York? She’s been at NBC talking a possible “correspondent” in England job. Bobby Zarem’s fundraising luncheon Wednesday at Elaine’s for Fergie’s Chances for Children (tents for homeless-orphaned Kosovo kids) brought contributions to $500,000 with the latest $100,000 from SFX Ent.’s Bob Sillerman and $50,000 from Denise Rich who intro’d Fergie. Guests included Patricia Lawford Kennedy, Anne Hearst, Kimberley Rockefeller and Naomi Rockefeller Waletsky who wrote the song “Please Don’t Turn Away” about the refugees’ plight.

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