GOOD MORNING: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — 2002. “The Snow Queen” is Bridget Fonda in Robert Halmi’s four-hour version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. The project is before the cameras in Vancouver and will air on the Hallmark Channel. Fonda will be called upon to reign in an ice palace that’s 20 degrees below zero and will get about in a flying sled, among many special f/x (including a skating polar bear). David Wu is directing Simon Moore’s script. Moore also penned “Dinotopia,” which Halmi will unveil at a preview party in L.A. on Jan. 15. The six-hour, $85 million ABC’er starts airing May 5 and will later go to hour-long series. Halmi modestly says, ” ‘Dinotopia’ has gone even beyond what I dreamed.” He says his projects are “especially welcome these days when people are looking for family entertainment” … And at this time of year, Boise Idaho’s Sandy Zuckerman again mounts her campaign to get Santa’s reindeer “Donder” (of the famous “Donder and Blitzen” team) properly identified and corrected in all the films (including 1965’s “Santa Claus”) and countless souvenir wares. “Donder and Blitzen” (“Thunder and Lightning”) had their origin in Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” But over the years, “Donder” became “Donner,” and must be corrected. It’s a cause celebre for Zuckerman — an original Playboy Bunny in London in the ’60s!
ARE-START OF “THE HUNTED” is set for Jan. 7 in Portland. Benicio del Toro broke his wrist in a freak accident in a scene with Tommy Lee Jones in June. Director Billy Friedkin tells me six days remained to be filmed but it will now require 12 days, as daylight is shortened and all remaining scenes for the Par pic are exteriors. The film is skedded for October release … Friedkin starts rehearsals in April for two operas at L.A.’s Music Center: “Bluebeard’s Castle” and “Gianni Schicci” … Meanwhile, “Gods and Generals,” which shut down for two weeks to wait for “winter weather,” resumed filming in Virginia. The Ted Turner Pictures/Warners project is shooting the mammoth battle of Fredericksburg battle until its finale Dec. 5. Ted Turner goes into the act on Dec. 2 when he reprises the role he played in his “Gettysburg” (“Gods and Generals” is a prequel to that film). The pic is geared for award consideration in 2003. Ron Maxwell is director-producer-writer and it stars Robert Duvall, Stephan Lang, Jeff Daniels — and boasts thousands of “re-enactors” … Val Kilmer, who has “Salton Sea” and “In God We Trust” ready for release, is enjoying his home in New Mexico until he leaves next year for Hawaii and “Five Stones,” now being put together.
MILTON BERLE AND WIFE LORNA celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary Monday at home surrounded by friends and family, who were also celebrating Lorna’s birthday. Among those who could claim knowing Miltie (93) the longest was writer Irving Brecher (88). He told me he started writing gags for Berle after placing a one-inch ad ($15) in Variety in 1933. The ad: “Positively Berle-proof gags for sale — so bad not even Milton will steal them.” Berle called him and Brecher made it over to the Capitol theater where Berle was headlining — over Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and George Givot. Berle bought Brecher’s “Berle-proof” material and they’ve been friends ever since. Miltie will be on hand to toast another of his writers, Buddy Arnold, tonight at the Friars … David Brown’s “Let Me Entertain You” gets a reprint by New Millennium in January, with updates by Brown. New Millennium also has his audio version … Alumni of the once-great MCA agency got together at the Sheraton Universal to exchange a few unprintable stories. The ex-tenpercenters on hand included Jay Kanter, Mort Viner, Pierre Cossette, Danny Welkes, Dick Shepherd, Mike Fenton and the boss, Lew Wasserman … BevHills launched the season with an ice skating rink frozen into the plaza of the Civic Center, where “Beverly Hills on Ice” was taped for syndication. The show featured Olympic and National medal winners plus Special Olympics figure skaters Jani Tyler and Michael Rodriguez, who skated to “America the Beautiful” — to a (deserved) standing ovation.
ESTHER WILLIAMS SUFFERED “a tiny stroke” and reinjured the right foot that she’d fractured on Mother’s Day. It’s not stopping her. When I called, she was heading for her daily workout in the pool; she wears a fiberglass cast, “so I can shake out the water before getting into bed,” she laughed. Unstoppable Williams heads to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to spend the holidays with daughter Suzie. Williams brings along a copy of “The Duchess of Idaho,” in which she starred with Van Johnson and guestars Lena Horne, Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton. She made the film in 1950 … David James Elliott, Commander “Harm” Rabb in CBS’s “JAG,” and Reba McEntire announced nominees for the “28th Annual People’s Choice Awards,” Monday morning at the BevHilton. Elliott told me the series has gotten an OK to shoot on some bases, which were nixed after 9-11. They will shoot establishing shots from the Pentagon, showing what the murderers hath wrought.