Stars sign on to Declaration reading

GOOD MORNING: How about this cast: Paul Newman, Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kathy Bates, Charlton Heston. And those are only the ones who have so far agreed to participate in a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the 225th anniversary of its signing: July 4, 200l, on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Norman Lear and Rob Reiner are teamed to produce the event; Lear is one of the two owners of original, unsigned copies of the Declaration, Reiner reminds me. Also found were notes by Thomas Jefferson on how the Declaration was to be read, as it was, in towns around the young country after its signing. This reading will be filmed, with music added; copies will be sent to presidential libraries, schools, etc., as a living rendition of the historic document. The reading, by the way, takes only about 12 minutes … Reiner is just back from D.C., where he dined at the Al Gores. Rob was a staunch supporter, you recall, of the Gore-Lieberman ticket; Reiner’s confident Gore will be the candidate again. Meanwhile, Gore is writing his book between teaching college classes. Reiner also visited Sen. Joe Lieberman during his D.C. visit. He also had a “very cordial” talk with Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne. The subject: school readiness initiatives. “She’s very committed,” said Reiner, the father of California’s Prop. 10 … Wednesday night, PBS aired the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Awards gala honoring Rob’s dad, Carl Reiner. It was taped Oct. 24 and during his acceptance speech, Carl paid tribute to his brother Charles, also in attendance. He was a WWII hero, from African landings to the liberation of Dachau. Carl said Charles was responsible, “along with FDR, for starting my career — via a WPA project.” Carl had no acting experience or showbiz ambitions but brother Charles encouraged him to go to the government-sponsored project — leaving his job as a machinist grinding sewing machine parts. Charles Reiner, 82, died Wednesday afternoon, hours before his younger brother’s tribute to him aired. Carl Reiner’s illustrious career continues as he joins the all-star cast of “Ocean’s 11.”

LAUREN BACALL WILL RECEIVE the Julie Harris lifetime career achievement award from the Actors Fund of America and Aid for AIDS. She’ll receive the applause June 3, following the live feed of the Tonys from N.Y. to L.A. at the Museum of Flying. The West Coast celebration features a cocktail party and silent auction in addition to the Tony telecast. During commercial breaks in the live vidshow, West Coast party attendees will salute Tony winners in attendance as well as other celebs on hand … Bruce Vilanch is honored by TV CARES March 31 at the Leonard Goldenson Theater of the TV Academy in Burbank. He is toasted for his personal commitment to the cause of TV CARES. Hugh Hefner and Playboy Enterprises will be honored for their promotion of safe sex via the Playboy Channel … The Producers Guild TV Comedy Award will be named the Danny Thomas Award — and Marlo Thomas will be the first presenter, Saturday at the Century Plaza. She and her brother and sister just wound last night’s gala for St. Jude, with Chaka Kahn, Destiny’s Child and Robert Klein entertaining. Marlo also applauded Amy Grant, who contributed her $125,000 “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” celeb quiz winnings to St. Jude Hospital. Marlo just wound the CBS movie “Two Against Time” … More than 30 years ago, Oscar nominee Ellen Burstyn (“Requiem for a Dream”) and Jim Garner summer-stocked together in “John Loves Mary.” Fade in: They’ll play husband and wife in “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” with Sandra Bullock as their daughter and Ashley Judd as a young Burstyn.

JACK NICHOLSON CALLED “Before Night Falls” director-writer Julian Schnabel to congrat him on the pic. “And Julian asked me to host a screening — now how can you say no to Julian?” said Nicholson as he intro’d the film Wednesday night at Par. “It’s a brilliant work of art in every sense,” continued Jack, who added, “This is certainly one of my favorite films and performances given by Javier Bardem. I hope you enjoy it.” (Oscar nominee Bardem wasn’t on hand; next week he wings from Spain to N.Y. and L.A., where he’ll get an American Cinematheque tribute March 12 and 14.) … Before arriving here for the Oscars, “Malena” music score nominee Ennio Morricone conducts soldout concerts at the Barbican in London March 10-11 with a 90-piece orch; the second part of the program features a suite from some of his best-known movie scores … And one week before the Oscars, on March 18, Marc Anthony performs in concert on Rodeo Drive’s “Jaguar’s Tribute to Style: The Red Carpet as Hollywood’s Fashion Runway.” Hosts include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Elizabeth Hurley, Kelly Preston, Sela Ward, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson and Kelsey Grammer. The event benefits the Entertainment Industry Foundation … Congrats to Keely Shaye Smith and Pierce Brosnan, who welcomed their second son, Paris Beckett Brosnan, Feb. 27 … Marion Ross, Emmy-nominated for her maternal performances in series “Happy Days” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” will play the great-grandmother of the Gilmore family in WB’s “The Gilmores.” Ross will be makeup-aged, of course, to play an elegant octogenarian.

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