GOOD MORNING: Remember you heard it here first — “Hollywood has a friend in the White House.” I told you on Wednesday that President George W. Bush was screening Showtime’s “Varian’s War” at the White House that evening, and here’s the report from the film’s writer-director, Lionel Chetwynd. The President and First Lady thought the pic was “fantastic” and lingered an hour after the screening to talk about the making of the film, which centers on American hero Varian Fry, who rescued French Jewish artists from the Nazis in the South of France. Chetwynd said Bush wanted to know more about “the industry.” In that discussion, “He also wanted to know more about the people who are making movies.” Chetwynd says he became convinced: “We have a friend in the White House.” Others viewing the Showtime movie (and not mentioned here Wednesday) include Hollywood GOP supporters Bruce Ramer (also national president of the American Jewish Committee) and Frank and Katherine Price. While in D.C., Chetwynd met with Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman, an outspoken critic of violence in pix and TV. Chetwynd will arrange for him to be a guest of the Hollywood Caucus. “I’d disapprove if the government got involved (in ratings),” Chetwynd told me. “We should worry about that and we should address it before the government gets around to it.”
THE SCOTTS LOVE MOROCCO: Tony Scott recently departed the country, where he was locationing “Spy Game” with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Thursday, brother Ridley Scott started the first day of principal photography of “Black Hawk Down” outside Rabat. Of course, Ridley’s no stranger to Morocco, having shot great sequences of the early arena battles, Casbah, etc., outside the city for his multi-honored “Gladiator.” While he’s unable to be on hand for Saturday’s DGA Awards (he’s a nominee), he assures he will be here for the Oscars, “even if I have to fly in on a seagull!” He’s got much more flying for him on “Black Hawk Down,” the true story of the battle of Mogadishu during the Somalian civil war in October 1993 — and the rescue attempt of two of our downed Black Hawk choppers. The humanitarian action, which was skedded to take 39 minutes, resulted in “an 18-hour nightmare,” reminds Scott. He has total cooperation from the Dept. of Defense, and four Black Hawk helicopters are due on the location in a week. He doesn’t anticipate using any computer-generated effects for this pic, as he did for some of the spectacular sequences of “Gladiator.” The chopper action will be done live and, he reminds, “with the greatest of care.” This $90 million pic for Revolution/Bruckheimer/Columbia has the full blessing of the DOD, and Scott says the pic will tell in no uncertain terms that we must never be an isolationist country. He promises it will be an “eye-opener” to those who only knew of the event via “clips seen on CNN.” Prior to the U.S. arrival in Somalia, the Russians had given ’em $1 billion in firearms. Three clans were creating the genocide. The problem came alive at the end of the George Bush administration, the start of Clinton’s. The story, says Scott, “is one of bravery and courage under immense fire.” P.S. There are no femmes in the pic … Scott, of course, also is celebrating the success of his “Hannibal” and has been talking with “the amazing” Dino De Laurentiis about a prequel. Of course, Scott wants to work again with “virtuoso” actors Tony Hopkins and Russell Crowe.
A LITTLE HUMAN INTEREST music, pliz: United Airlines and Frank Sinatra Enterprises are teamed for an inflight audio program of travel-inspiring tunes and on a “Come Fly With Me” CD to be given “select” (100,000) UAL customers (a royalty’s paid on each one). Songs include “New York, New York,” “L.A. Is My Lady,” “Chicago” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Frank took katter song off the marketplace and the Reprise label (he owned it) when he heard Tony Bennett’s version! Tina Sinatra’s also interviewed on the inflight program and CD … Gary Smith will exec produce the Tonys, June 3, again from Radio City Music Hall. Smith is no stranger to these awards, having done them for five years. Theater’s his first love: He started as a scenic designer … Michael Douglas will receive the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award June 25 at the BevHilton. Previous recipients included Elizabeth Taylor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jonathan Dolgen and Jeffrey Katzenberg; the latter two are event chairmen this year, along with Ron Meyer and Jim Wiatt … The ladies of SHARE distributed a million-$ to 18 local charities Wednesday night at Par. SHARE chairlady Esther Rosenfield and president Marilyn Katleman announced the checks mark a total of $35 million distributed by their group in its 48 years. This year’s fundraising Boomtown party will be held May 12 at CBS TV City. Maxine (Mrs. Gary) Smith chairs this year’s event … “Ocean’s Eleven’s” star-studded cast is locationing at Merv Griffin’s plush Palm Springs Resort and Givenchy Spa before heading to its Vegas film sites (though they did put in an appearance at ShoWest Thursday) … Kimmi Kappenberg, “Survivor: The Australian Outback’s” lone vegetarian, will present the 15th annual Genesis Award Saturday night to “Popular,” for a seg questioning the eating of cows and wearing of leather.