GOOD MORNING: What magic can be brewing? George Lucas is off on vacation today — and joining him is Steven Spielberg. You can be sure this will be no vacation from ideas. They had first teamed on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) then the two sequels, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989). They’ve asked me not to divulge the location of the vacation. Today is, of course, the day “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” bows around the country. But Lucas will not appear with the film again — until the London opening. He says the next prequel will be completed in three years — “and costs will drop dramatically as the technology (which he’s helped develop) is expanding so rapidly as more people adapt it.” He says “a cast of thousands worked behind the cameras” on the current pic over the 4-1/2 years in production. Aside from the special effects, Lucas credits his actors’ swordplay as being totally real — “It was not speeded up (on camera) and the crew applauded them after the takes.” Before leaving town, Lucas got a report on the last “preview” — an invited (by Peter Chernin) audience of the Fox Entertainment Group, News Corp., and L.A. Dodgers for a screening of “Star Wars” both at the Loews Cineplex Century City and on the lot in the Zanuck Theater with a party following on Stage 8. The movie audiences also included industryites involved with the many Murdoch merrymakers. There was applause at the opening, and cheers following both the spectacular and comedic scenes. Lucas would have loved it. He would have also appreciated the conversations from the guests at the party that followed. Among the 20th toppers, Chernin, Bill Mechanic, Chase Carey and Tom Sherak. Also: David Geffen, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Willis, Lin Shaye, Gillian Anderson, David Arquette, Kenny “BabyFace” Edmonds, Matt Groening, Luc Robitaille, Luke Perry, Courtney Thorne-Smith, David Fincher, Helena Bonham Carter, filmmakers Arnold and Anne Kopelson, Al Sargent (his “Anywhere But Here” next stars Natalie Portman) and Laura Ziskin, plus agency toppers, and below the liners who made up the crowd of 1,000. While guests dined in the eerily lighted, emptied (except for food stations) soundstage, John Williams’ dramatic score backgrounded, and aerialists from the Cirque du Soleil performed overhead. Lucas would have loved this, too. And he would have loved the feeling in the crowd — that “Star Wars” belonged to everybody in the biz. And judging by the crowd that waited for this morning’s 12:01 start at the Chinese theater, “The Phantom Menace” will belong to another generation as well.
LOOK FOR MORE REVELATIONS about the O.J. Simpson civil trial when CNN’s “Burden of Proof” cohost Greta Van Susteren moderates a panel of Goldman family attorney Daniel Petrocelli, Fred Goldman, KNBC News’ legal reporter Manny Medrano and juror No. 5, Deena Mullen. The event will follow the May 24 screening of HBO’s docu, “Juror Number 5: 58 days of Duty on the O.J. Simpson Civil Trial” at the DGA. As an attorney, Van Susteren has represented clients in criminal and civil cases but she tells me, “I’ve tried so many cases but I’ve never been a juror. This will be intriguing for me. I’ve been interested (in the Simpson case) since June 12, 1994 when I heard about it while aboard the QEII!” She says she wants to ask Petrocelli why the civil case was so different from the criminal. I want to find out from the juror when it was she decided the case. This will not be another ‘O.J. Simpson show,’ ” she promises. The film debuts on HBO June 1, near the fifth anni (June 12) of the Nicole Simpson-Ron Goldman murders.
STARTING A SECOND CAREER: Producer Joe Wizan launches hosting a talk radio show, “Inside the Movies,” Sundays 3-5 p.m. on KRLA. His first guests are Daily Variety‘s Editor-in-Chief, Peter Bart and Ron Bass. Wizan, with David Brown and Don Schneider, next produces “Along Came a Spider” at Par. “Spider” is a sequel to “Kiss the Girls” … Roy Christopher, readying the set for the June 6 Tonys on the stage of the Gershwin theater, has his work cut out for him — he has to work around the set of “Peter Pan” now playing there. Last year, Christopher had the expanse of the Radio City Music Hall for the Tonys. This year’s set will be “very contemporary,” he promises. He follows with an even more intimate setting for — “An American Celebration at Ford’s Theater,” June 13 in D.C. and Christopher moves on to the cavernous Shrine for the Emmys, Sept. 12 … Muhammad Ali was toasted at Kate Mantilini’s by sports video production co. Electronic Arts. Sugar Ray Leonard hosted the bash boasting ringmasters Jake La Motta, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Ken Norton — and Red Buttons who was (briefly) a fighter before finding out burlesque was more fun. Ali was impressed by the giant (40-feet long) mural of Tommy Hearns vs. Marvin Hagler above the counter at Harry and Marilyn Lewis’ eatery … Shirley and Jay Livingston celebrated their 7th wedding anni at Trader Vic’s with friends who included Tony Martin, who recorded Jay Livingston-Ray Evans’ first hit, “To Each His Own” in 1956. Martin again beautifully warbled it to the Livingstons. Martin and wife Cyd Charisse were also congratted — on their 51st wedding anni … Frank Cooper celebrates his 87th birthday Friday, also 69 years in the biz and his 62nd wedding anni with wife Sylvia on May 30. Congrats, congrats, congrats.