GOOD MORNING: Can Hollywood take it? I mean, will the “industry” bear up when it sees itself portrayed in two major productions now before the cameras? One of ’em, “America’s Sweethearts,” is a week from final principal photography, having utilized five stages at Sony plus a location outside Las Vegas. I found the troupe shooting a studio press preview junket parody scene on Stage 18 with 200 “press” on hand to preview a “movie” starring (“America’s Sweethearts”) Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack. The audience included the studio boss, played by Stanley Tucci; the studio press agent portrayed by Billy Crystal; the movie’s eccentric director, played by Christopher Walken; other principals, including Hank Azaria as a Latin lothario; and Seth Green, Keri Lynn Pratt and Scott Zeller, all as real studio people. And to give the scene more credibility, yours truly. Whether the Hollywood press corps (and Foreign Press, in particular) will appreciate their depiction is, of course, to be seen — and laughed at. Ditto for the army of Hollywood press agents. Crystal, who wrote the Revolution/Sony script with Peter Tolan, said his character is based on many of those who have represented him. And the other principal players also told me their (seemingly exaggerated) roles are also familiar to them … Julia Roberts, who plays a personal assistant to superstar Catherine Zeta-Jones, had just completed her role and has a short break before starting “Ocean’s Eleven” and then returns to Revolution’s “Butterfly.” Since Roberts had departed, I was given her 50-foot-long trailer-dressing room, which boasts a bedroom with king-size bed, bathroom, shower, kitchen and dining-room areas and two TVs. I doubt Julia spent much time there — director Joe Roth told me the pic is four days ahead of schedule “and under budget.” He held up two fingers. I guessed that meant “two million under.” … The entire cast went through the pic’s hysterical finale (comedy is very serious stuff to do!) with two cameras on them plus a projection camera showing a movie-within-this-movie. Complicated, yes. But it was done with split-second precision — as if it were “live theater.” “It’s like a Marx Brothers movie,” Roth smiled. He reminded that the Marxes went on the road with their act before filming routines for movies … Producers Donna Roth and Susan Arnold were also busy on the set during filming on the complicated scene. They were also talking with Crystal, who produces as well as co-stars. He’s also been busy finalizing cuts on his HBO baseball’er, “61*” which preems April 28. It’s no wonder he couldn’t also take on hosting the Oscars this year. He won’t even attend as he’ll have a final day’s shooting on “Sweethearts” the day after the Oscars. He’ll watch at home “or at a friend’s house,” he said. And Billy assured that he’d be happy to again host — some day. Although he didn’t originally want to direct “61*” he now says he wants to take those reins on another project. He and Steve Martin had a long talk at the Aspen Comedy Awards. They agreed hosting the Oscars is serious business for a comedian. So is “America’s Sweethearts” … Joe Roth won’t be directing again for a while. “I have to go back to work running a studio (Revolution),” he smiled. Five of its eight pix are in production, with “Sweethearts” to open July 11, as comedy counterprogramming to other studios’ summer action extravaganzas.
MEANWHILE, OVER IN HOLLYWOOD, another film-within-a-film was being lensed, this time at Mann’s Chinese theater, which was closed to the public Monday and Tuesday (a first). Hollywood Boulevard was shut Tuesday night (9 p.m.-6 ayem) from Sycamore to Highland. It was all for Castle Rock/WB’s “The Majestic.” Chris Rock’s “Down to Earth” was KO’d two days as the Jim Carrey starrer took over. The pic’s set in 1951 and, thanks to the magic of Charlie Gibson’s CGI, the Red Line trolleys and their tracks will be re-inserted on Hollywood Boulevard. And, would you believe, the film company got an OK to take out the five ficus trees that have since grown in front of the Chinese. Palms will replace ’em after the movie company departs! Frank Darabont, who directs, used the magic of Gibson for his “Green Mile” segs with the mouse. CGI also will remove the current marquee from the Chinese to give it its 1951 look. In the movie, scripted by Darabont’s Hollywood High School classmate Michael Sloane, Carrey plays blacklisted screenwriter Peter Appleton, who loses his job, and later his identity, and winds up in a small California town. The troupe will film those scenes in Ferndale and Fort Bragg. Allen Garfield, who co-stars in the pic set in the blacklist era, played the role of Lionel Stander in the L.A. stage play, “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been.”
THE DGA WILL PRODUCE a memorial tribute to Stanley Kramer March 31 at the DGA with speakers from many of Kramer’s pix, including DGA president Jack Shea. And Producers Guild prez Thom Mount will also announce an annual Stanley Kramer Award to a producer of “socially conscious material.” Jeffrey Katzenberg, speaks on behalf of the MPTVFund. Kramer succumbed at the MPTVF hospital … Sad to note these accolades come after Kramer’s death. Corky Hale and Gene Davis tried desperately with PBS, A&E, Bravo and Turner to do an hour special on Kramer — and already had an interview with Kramer and Poitier at the MPTV Country House … Happy 88th birthday to Lew Wasserman … And happy 54th wedding anni to Trudi and Fyvush Finkel … And Shelly and Alex Hyde-White welcomed their first, son Jackson Conor, Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.