GOOD MORNING: Who could fill Gary Cooper’s boots? Tom Skerritt will portray Will Kane, the “High Noon” heroic role that won Gary Cooper an Oscar in 1952. Skerritt stars in a TBS remake. Cooper was 51 when he played the role; Skerritt is 66, “But I don’t feel it,” he laughed. Skerritt “loved the movie when it came out and we rented a tape and saw it again over the weekend.” He reminds that it’s a very simple story which still holds — “particularly the frustration of this man.” The TBS version will be made with Norman Rosemont and son David as exec producers. The original was a Stanley Kramer production directed by Fred Zinnemann from a script by Carl Foreman (the three were Oscar-nominated). Those too are tough shoes to fill! Thomas Cook has written the new script that is changed, Norman Rosemont says, “mainly in language, which is acceptable for the year 2000.” The TBS director is Rod Hardy — no stranger to the lore of the outdoors, with credits including “Two For Texas” starring Skerritt … The telepic will be shot out of Calgary, starting in four weeks, with casting yet to be completed on roles originally played by a remarkable cast: Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Katy Jurado, Lloyd Bridges and Ian McDonald (who was the killer returning from jail who was out to get Cooper in the classic’s climax). And let’s not forget Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s unforgettable song “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’,” as sung by Tex Ritter. You can start humming it now.
ANOTHER 50 ARE MISSING! This time, they were the fully stuffed gift packages, to have been given to guests at Ark Trust’s 14th annual Genesis Awards, at the BevHilton last Saturday night. But those in the packed ballroom who did not receive them could not have complained, because the evening was a gift in itself. It’s hard to single out the most memorable moment of the night. Prince was a total surprise: He showed to accept an award for his “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic,” whose CD cover told the real horrors of sheep-shearing. Prince was intro’d by Maria Conchita Alonso simply as “The Artist.” He admitted he was ‘humble to be here; this is a moving experience.” He then caused a hush over the crowd, saying, “I was going to wear a fur coat”; he quickly added, “that’s a joke.” He reminded, “It’s true you are what you eat and I eat light.” He got a standing ovation. The menu for the evening was , of course, vegan — “no animal suffered for your meal.” P.S. it was delicious … Other emotional moments: the acceptance speech by Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent two years in a redwood to prevent loggers from cutting it down; 11-year-old Amanda Walker-Serrano, who started a petition against a circus, citing cruelty to animals; and Steven M. Wise author of “Rattling the Cage; Toward Legal Rights for Animals” and honoree Karl Ammann. Ark Trust’s Gretchen Wyler and Robert Halmi Sr. were exec producers of the evening, which will air as a special on the Animal Planet channel June 10. Paul Flattery produces. Funds raised at the awards will help pay for the special hosted by David Hyde-Pierce (ask him to do his imitation of Eddie the dog on “Frasier”) and Wendie Malick. Kelsey Grammer was one of the many presenters, also including Doris Roberts, “My Dog Skip’s” Frankie Muniz, Frances Fisher and daughter Francesca Fisher Eastwood in look-alike gowns, Susan Sullivan, Tippi Hedren, Concetta Tomei, Linda Blair, Dennis Weaver, youngster Jesse James, Alan Rachins, Garcell Beauvais, James Cromwell, Earl Holliman, Valerie Harper and Christian Bale. Halmi, a winner for his “Animal Farm,” admitted he had wanted to make the film “for 50 years” and credited TNT for its courage in making it. TNT prez of original programming Bob DeBitetto was on hand. TNT bows Halmi’s “Don Quixote” with a March 30 preem and will also air Halmi’s “Boss Lear” and an eight-hour mini “The Gods.” Halmi is also readying ‘Snow White” (for ABC) with Caroline Thompson to direct this summer in Vancouver. He also has “Around the World in 80 Days” in his upcoming sked while son Robert Halmi Jr. is working on the musicalized B’way version with Bill Haber. Wyler starred for Halmi 14 years ago in “When the Circus Came to Town.” She celebrates her 50th anni in the biz in June: She bowed on B’way with Ray Bolger in “Where’s Charlie?” and Bolger made her change her name to Wyler from Wienecke … Films shown that night of torture of dolphins, seals, elephants, dogs, yes chickens and the rape of forests and streams will remain in the minds of all who were present. Wyler said the purpose of the awards is to thank the media for bringing these messages to the world. The set on the BevHilton stage represented all the animals that will be extinct by the end of this century — frightening.
ANYONE(S) WE KNOW? Sidney Sheldon’s upcoming book “The Sky Is Falling” is about an anchorwoman suspicious about the deaths of a prominent D.C. family. Their (five) deaths are called “accidental” but Sidney’s heroine doesn’t believe it. What prominent D.C. family, I asked Sheldon. “Which prominent D.C. family has suffered accidental deaths?” he answered. And the anchorwoman? She’s a repeat character, Dana Evans, from Sheldon’s earlier book, “The Best Laid Plans.” Any similarity between her and CNN/”60 Minutes” Christiane Amanpour is strictly accidental. Sheldon’s winding the final (10th) draft of this book, “the biggest deal of my career.”