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Moore flexes muscle; distrib plays numbers game

IT’S BEEN THREE YEARS since producer Dan Melnick acquired John Raffo’s distaff, futuristic actioner “Pincushion.” The macha tale involves a female mercenary whose job is to take a child cross-country to an emergency medical research center. The boy — the title “pincushion”– had his blood medically altered at birth to develop into a vaccine against the deadly disease ravaging some future era.

Of course, the scientific elements are secondary to the thrills. In the course of protecting her charge, the mercenette must battle the minions of a corrupt military leader who wants custody of the lad for financial and political gain.

“Pincushion” has been on the fast track several times at both Columbia and TriStar. Originally it was to star Cher and be directed by John Carpenter. At one time Scott Rudin was also involved as a producer. In a more recent incarnation, Sharon Stone was attached to headline. But in all instances, the thriller got sidetracked by other priorities.

The project, however, refuses to play dead. It’s vital again, with Demi Moore attached to flex her box office muscle. The film would also appear to be primed for filming if director Rob Cohen gives his personal greenlight. But the filmmaker has other options — chiefly getting the go-ahead from Warner Bros. on the long-gestating “Mayor of Castro Street.” That’s awaiting a rewrite for the approval of Robin Williams, who would play Harvey Milk.

STRICTLY UNKOSHER: Among the cognoscenti, the term “Goldliebing” is enough to send a shudder up the spine. That’s industry parlance when a distributor, subtly or otherwise, inflates a box office gross. It’s strictly dishonorable, highly unethical and increasingly difficult in light of modern, sophisticated tracking methods.

But it’s not impossible to pull off, or even unheard of.

The most recent example involves an English-language import being handled by one of the flamboyant indies. The distrib has recently been hounding several exhibs to bring back the pic, telling them that they’re desperate to hit a certain gross figure.

However, that amount happens to be several million dollars less than what the company has already officially reported. Rivals have registered horror upon learning the news. But the sales agent shrugged his shoulders and continues to laugh all the way to the bank.

He told us that a principal of the strictly fast-and-loose org already confessed the discrepancy. Nonetheless, the contract for the film continues to be paid off according to the reported, rather than the real gross. A competitor tells us “Goldliebing” is one policy that is a sure road to ruin, and anyone who employs it as their usual practice has to be considered a Mickey Mouse operation.

VETERAN SCRIBE TED ALLAN recently relocated to his Montreal roots and has already sold new scripts to other former Canucks Ted Kotcheff and Arthur Hiller.

The Allan-scripted “Bethune” starring Donald Sutherland preems in the U.S. in mid-September.

But with decades of experience behind him, the writer still can’t quite figure out the slim margin that separates success from failure.

He recalls that several years back his play, “Gog and Magog,” ran for five years in Paris. At a party celebrating its 1,000th performance, he leaned over to actor/director Francois Perrier and asked him why he thought what Allan considered his worst play should be such a success with audiences.

Perrier mused for a moment and replied: “I only have explanations for the flops.”

NOW HERE’S A CAST with an amazing quality quotient. Producer/director Linda Yellen has gathered together, among others, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Liza Minnelli, David Bowie, Treat Williams, Jill Eikenberry, Lindsay Crouse and JoBeth Williams for her forthcoming Showtime feature, tentatively titled “Reunion.”

To be filmed this month in and around Sundance, Utah, the pic is, as you might suspect, the tale of a college conclave with assorted alumni, interwoven dramas and human comedy. As with her recent “Chantilly Lace,” the script’s merely a blueprint and the actors will improvise dialogue based on the dramatic dynamics. It’s a potentially dangerous methodology, but Yellen certainly has the cast to effect a happy ending.

THE EVOLUTION OF LEON is a rather curious thing. The singularly named actor was on hand at the Montreal Film Festival as the star of Disney’s forthcoming “Cool Runnings,” the droll Olympic saga.

Unlike such monolithically known types as Madonna, Cher and Liberace, Leon’s family name is hardly a tongue-twister. It’s Robinson. So, what’s the big deal?

Well, back when he made his film debut as Leon Robinson, the thesp was horrified to see this publication and another trade get it wrong. One listed him as “Robbins” and the other as the equally incorrect “Roberts.”

“I just got angry and decided to drop my last name,” he says. “I only intended to do it the one time, but somehow it just stuck. It seems like too much bother to change it back again.”

“Cool Runnings,” scheduled to open commercially Oct. 1, is the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team that wowed ’em at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Leon was elated by its enthusiastic festival screening and the fact that it’s 100% positive in its depiction of minorities.

He’s also jazzed about a benefit screening coming up in Jamaica where he’ll meet the original members of the team. During filming only one — who now operates a heliport service — was able to drop by the set.

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