GOOD MORNING: “Everybody you know is here shooting something. They’re building stages everywhere — they have the latest equipment.” It was Dick Donner, on the phone from Toronto, where he’s directing Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, et al., in Millennium’s N.Y.-set “16 Blocks.” “We should be in L.A. It’s a cardinal sin we don’t have production back home,” Donner said. “But our governor doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it. He should have his SAG card rescinded. Look what’s happening (with tax breaks for filmmakers) in Louisiana, Arizona, New York….” Donner complimented the Canadian film crew — “They’ve made their city look just like New York” — but the pic also will have a 12-day shoot in Gotham. The action of “16 Blocks” takes place in two hours — and that’s approximately what the film will run. “There’s no wardrobe changes for anyone,” he laughed. He warns that Willis has a new, scruffy look in the film. He’s added poundage (some via padding) for his role as a veteran cop who’s found solace in too much food and drink. “Maybe it’s what Bruce will look like in 10 years,” Donner laughed … It’s Donner’s first outing with Willis; he’s had a 20-year, six film relationship with Mel Gibson. Asked to compare the two, Donner said, “Mel is like my son — but they (Gibson and Willis) are not far apart. They’re always on the set, whether they’re in the scene or not.” Donner and Gibson will reunion in “Sam and George” — it has been in preparation four years … Also in Canada, Lauren Shuler Donner in Vancouver, readying “X-Men III” and “She’s the Man” starring Amanda Bynes. Both pix are for the Donners Co.
CBS ENTERTAINMENT president Nina Tassler called Joe Mantegna Wednesday to let him know his series “Joan of Arcadia” was not picked up. He reasoned the show didn’t meet the goals of the web — to win in every demographic. He was, however, in good spirits when I talked to him a coupla hours later — about PBS’ Memorial Day concert May 29 from the lawn of the Capitol, with 300,000 expected to attend. (The president does not make an appearance at this wide-open air show.) … The 60th anni of the battle for Iwo Jima is featured in the program, which Mantegna hosts, taking over from the late Ossie Davis. “I’m honored to fill his shoes,” Mantegna told me. Walter Miller produces, his son Paul directs. They duo again on CBS’ Country Music Assn. Awards (three hours) Nov. 15, for the first time away from Nashville and at Madison Square Garden, hosted by Brooks & Dunn … Joe Sargent has optioned political thriller “High Crimes” by Dick Guttman. It’s the story of a president who tries to bring down a Supreme Court justice he’d put on the court as a conservative and then–. There are 10 main D.C. characters whose identities are very recognizable. Sargent’s “Something the Lord Made,” which won three Emmys, will be honored at the Monte Carlo Film Fest.
THE TURNOUT WAS so hefty for Wednesday’s United Hostesses’ Charities Lunch & Fashion Show at the BevHills Hotel, a second retrospective showing of Cardinali (1956) creations by Marilyn (Mrs. Harry) Lewis was presented at 3:30 p.m. Event helps the group support Cedars-Sinai Medical Center…Carol Channing breezed by our Variety offices Wednesday, fresh from recording a seg for Fox’s cartoon’d “Family Guy” in which she battles Mike Tyson! She’s also readying her own animated series, “Code Name Channing,” hosts “Broadway’s Lost Treasures III” for PBS and takes her one-woman show from N.Y. to Las Vegas. And she’s only 84! … Agent Frank Cooper celebrates his 93rd birthday Saturday as he and sculptress wife Sylvia celebrate their 68th wedding anni. She has an exhibit at Bergamot Station July 9 — her 90th birthday … Skip E. Lowe is birthday-partied on his 75th at Cafe Roma on June 6 … HBO chairman-CEO Chris Albrecht receives an honorary doctorate and delivers the commencement address Sunday at his alma mater, Hofstra U. … Billy Crystal receives the Actors’ Fund’s Artistic Achievement Award Monday at N.Y.’s Cipriani. Honorees also include Roger Berlind, Phyllis Newman, John McGuire. Neil Sedaka will perform in a “Broadway Sings Sedaka” tribute.