GOOD MORNING: Sure, we all know how much an Oscar nomination helps a film’s boxoffice, but does a nomination mean anything to an actor’s salary? “A lot,” admits Michael Caine, nominated as supporting actor in “Cider House Rules,” his fifth nom. Caine, completing his role in England in “The Shiner,” was unable to attend Sunday’s SAG Awards (at which he was a winner) or to be at the nominees’ luncheon Monday. “I really wanted to be at both,” he said to me on his 67th birthday, Tuesday, at home with wife Shakira. “I’ve never been able to attend the nomination luncheon. I apologize to both SAG and the Academy.” Don’t think that Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein didn’t try to get a relea$e for Caine to be sprung from “Shiner” to attend both! Caine winds the film Friday and wings to L.A., where he has rented a house for three weeks to assure being here for the awards and the hoopla that precedes and follows. He told me he’s going to take the summer off after “Shiner” — unless he gets a script he couldn’t refuse. After Caine received the Oscar nom, he was offered (and accepted) “Miss Congeniality,” telling me, “I couldn’t refuse working with Sandra Bullock” (who also produces the Castle Rock/Village Roadshow). But he also admits his price was upped “a lot.” Is he also getting a percentage? Caine said, “Details are still being worked out.” It’s a comedy. In “Congeniality” he plays an expert on beauty pageants who coaches Bullock (an undercover FBI agent) on how to win the event. Caine is no stranger to beauty pageants: His wife Shakira (Baksh) was third-place winner in the Miss World contest in 1967. “I was only 6 years old at that time!” Shakira, a native of Kashmir, laughingly added. They met when she segued into the world of modeling and have been married 28 years. With “Congeniality” coming up, Caine comments he only wants to do comedies from now on. “I’m a funny guy” — and a very serious actor as evident by his Oscar credits.
WANT TO SAVE MONEY ON GAS? With the price of gas nearing the $2 a gallon mark, it was exciting to hear Dennis Weaver’s latest venture: helping to develop a fuel that could sell for 45-50¢ a gallon. His Institute of Ecolonomics has formed an alliance with inventor Tim Lee (of Bloomington, Ill.) and the Chattanooga State Community College to create a hydrogen fuel when a car is running on ethynol and water. He says the college will teach students how to retrofit cars to utilize this fuel. “Not only will it lower the price of gas,” Weaver notes, “but it will also clean the air.” Sorry to say Weaver’s wishes won’t become a reality for a coupla years. But –it’s a start … Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” will be a Showtime/Paramount feature directed by Richard Benjamin and starring Nathan Lane (who also starred in the B’way version). Benjamin’s no stranger to Simon: He got his first job from Simon in 1965, went on to act in his “Barefoot in the Park” with Myrna Loy, “The Odd Couple” with Dan Dailey, “The Star Spangled Girl” with Connie Stevens, the pic “Sunshine Boys” with Walter Matthau and George Burns, and directed “Barefoot in the Park” in London. Benjamin says Simon’s script for the TV’d “23rd Floor” “is more emotional than the stage play — but I’ve also never laughed so much. It’s not for nothing he’s Neil Simon!” Also set for “Floor” is Mark Linn-Baker, who was also directed by Benjamin in “My Favorite Year.” Benjamin has just directed “Sports Pages” for Showtime/Par for producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy with Bob Newhart and Kelsey Grammer.
OSCAR’S NEW HOME THEATER (for 20 years, after 2001) will be named the Premiere Theater. Back Row Prods. will bring (all other) live events to the retail/entertainment center built by TrizecHahn Development Corp. Peter Holmes a Court, CEO of Back Row, says Josh LaBelle (an alumnus of the Music Center) will be booking the productions . The theatrical center will boast many top attractions including, it is hoped, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Wolfie tells me, however, detail$ are yet to be worked out. He’s also working on the Club House, a restaurant at Dodger Stadium, near the new 35 suites, also an eatery below the dugout. He notes, “The Dodgers may no longer have Piazza but now they’ll have pizza!” The Puck family heads to Austria at month’s end to help his dad Josef celebrate his 80th birthday. Wolfie is also completing his cookbook, which has been on the back burner three years because, he says, his book agent made off with the Random House advance! “I never saw it,” says Puck. “I thought they didn’t want it.” The advance has now been repaid and he’s completing it … Le Cirque’s owner Sirio Maccioni, who usually mingles from table to table, will actually be seated at his own table with family at the Academy’s official Oscar night party at Le Cirque. Arthur Manson chairs the N.Y. party along with Arlene Dahl, vice chair of the N.Y. Events Committee. Oscar winners attending the SRO night include Celeste Holm and Rita Moreno and former nominees Burt Young, Sylvia Miles and Reginald Rose … Tonight at the American Cinematheque’ Series screening at the Egyptian: “The Happiest Millionaire” (1967). It was Lesley Ann Warren’s first pic (as daughter of Greer Garson and Fred MacMurray) and she’ll be there, as will the Sherman Brothers and A.J. Carothers.