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Swank upset by Oscar fallout

GOOD MORNING: Hilary Swank says she’s truly saddened hearing the reaction from Teena Brandon’s mother JoAnn following Swank’s Oscar acceptance speech, in which she thanked “Brandon Teena,” her character in the film. “It makes me sad,” Swank told me. “She (JoAnn) can’t see what Brandon has done for everyone in our society. But my heart goes out to her, to lose a daughter!” Swank says, “I never tried to define her as a lesbian” … But Swank will be on hand at N.Y.’s Liberty Awards from the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund (it’s the civil rights organization for gay men and lesbians and people with HIV and/or AIDS), May 8 at N.Y.’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Honorees are Kimberly Peirce, director/co-writer of “Boys Don’t Cry,” and Tim Gill, president of Clark Software. Swank is also busily preparing for her next film, “The Affair of the Necklace,” studying the historical (17th century) period, learning the intricacies of its language and getting in shape for those elaborate costumes by even taking karate lessons.

REGIS PHILBIN STILL HAS NOT been able to get Alex Trebek to guest on the upcoming celeb week of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” — even though Regis put himself on the “Jeopardy” line twice, celeb-guesting for Alex. Trebek said he is too busy. But nobody’s busier than Regis, who just (unhappily) learned ABC wants to keep the show running with new segs through August … Talk about busy: I got a call from Erin Brockovich (the real Erin, that is), who tells me she is inundated with requests for even more talk shows, plus requests from film schools. She’s had to hire personnel to handle this added career, while she continues her day job readying another suit vs. PG&E with her legal bosses … Meanwhile, “Erin Brockovich’s” Julia Roberts, who went all-out to help launch the blockbuster film, is out of the limelight and visiting Benjamin Bratt on the Belize location of his “After the Storm” for USA Network. Julia’s hour-long docu on “The Wild Horses of Mongolia” will first be seen in Europe on Easter Monday; it follows later in the U.S. via PBS … Globe-circling Robert Halmi winged in from London to attend Thursday night’s DGA preem of “Don Quixote.” Director Peter Yates also arrived from London for the launching. The show bows April 9 on TNT with airings continuing through the month. Yates says this film is his best since “The Dresser” (and that’s saying a lot!). John Lithgow told him “Quixote” is his favorite role since “M. Butterfly” on B’way. Lithgow also exec produced with Halmi; the Yateses’ son Toby edited the pic … Michael Imperioli, who plays Christopher Moltisanti on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” cameos in HBO’s “Disappearing Acts” starring (exec producer, also) Wesley Snipes, during series hiatus … Gloria Estefan guests in HBO’s “The Arturo Sandoval Story,” directed by Joe Sargent, with Andy Garcia starring and exec producing.

OSCAR’S TV DIRECTOR, Louis J. Horvitz, who helmed another terrif job juggling all the action on the Shrine’s stage, is now in N.Y. readying a Joni Mitchell all-star tribute in TNT’s Masterwork Series to air April 16 with Elton John and Ashley Judd among those toasting Mitchell … Jason Robards joined the list of stars filming TCM’s archival project. He told me he was pleased to relate his (50-year) history and adds “It’s important” for others to make their stories part of the archives. Of course, he’d like to keep adding credits! He’ll be back on stage at the Westport Playhouse with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Pete Gurney’s “Ancestral Voices.” Robards is feeling robust again; he reminds he was seriously ill during the filming of “Magnolia,” but kept the “show must go on” credo going … Temple for the Arts’ Rabbi David Barron and Visas for Life will cohost Monday’s U.N. assembly of diplomats from 24 countries who risked their lives to rescue Jews and other refugees during the Holocaust. Many appeared on the Temple’s Yom Kippur services in past years. Film Roos will produce “Diplomats of the Damned” for the History Channel. Elie Wiesel, New York Mayor Giuliani and Nane Annan, wife of the U.N. Secretary General and niece of legendary Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg will be on hand Monday … A first for award-winning scripter Mel Shavelson: His play “The Great Houdini” has been translated into a Yiddish musical which bowed at the Saidye Bronfman Centre des Arts in Montreal to raves. It’s hoped to take it off-B’way. Shavelson donated his book to the theater in memory of his parents, who spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want him to know what they were saying. Elan Kuin wrote the music and stars, Bryna Wasserman directed … Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who sponsors the Newport Beach Film Fest, tells me he is also angling to acquire a showbiz management agency … The New Encore Channel toasts Gregory Peck on his 84th birthday, April 5 with an eight-film salute, starting at 10 ayem … Joe Sutton’s “Heart of Hollywood” KIEV radio show has been picked up through Jan. 1. Happy New Year … Hollywood story: young Brandy Gold brought in former schoolmate Nick Von Esmarch to the Gold (her dad), Marshak, Liedtke Agency; one of the agents, Doreen Eliassen got him a job two days later costarring in “Second String” for TNT and “Nicki,” a new TNT series. He quit his job at the video store … Barry Miller inked for a leading role in ABC’s pilot “Gideon’s Crossing” … Ernie Chambers plans to develop and expand “The People Vs. Mona” in regional theaters prior to the spring’s off-B’way bow … I’m off on vacation, returning to this office April 10.

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