Culkins making effort to mend fences with WB

THOUGH WARNER BROS. EXECS wouldn’t care if they never saw Macaulay Culkin again after a fallout with his father/manager, Kit Culkin, on “Richie Rich,” DISH hears that efforts are being made to patch things up.

The town is talking about how Kit’s difficult negotiating posture is beginning to affect his son’s future. WB execs, who offered Culkin $ 8 million for the pic, plus a $ 10 million sequel option, will only play ball if the elder Culkin signs on and lets them pick the director.

According to sources, the deal dissolved over silliness. Culkin refused to consider John Avildsen because his name appeared in trade reports attached to the pic. Since Culkin had given thumbs down to Joe Johnston, David Mickey Evans, Peter Hewitt and Brian Spicer, and meetings were next to impossible to schedule, WB execs lost patience.

When Kit threatened to withhold Mac from Fox’s “Home Alone” sequel unless he got the lead role in “The Good Son,” he won a gutsy gamble to Mac’s benefit. But some feel the latest move was ridiculous, and Kit has put Mac in a position of having sorely tested the patience of two major studios before he hit puberty.

ROUGHING IT? Say it ain’t so, macho men! Just as the mighty band of Tinseltown titans jetted off for their Jeff Katzenberg-organized Colorado River rafting and bonding extravaganza, DISH heard rumors that the 24 rafters would be lugging along inflatable bedding so the Hollywood heavyweights wouldn’t have to sleep on the ground.

A Katzenberg confidante swore that the guys will only have sleeping bags between them and the ground. Katzenberg should sleep well, off good word-of-mouth for fall pics “The Joy Luck Club,””Cool Runnings,” and “The Three Musketeers.” If “Tombstone” lives up to Kevin Jarre’s memorable script, the studio’s poised for a major rebound.

TIM TURMOIL: A few weeks ago, DISH told you how Disney’s decision to make a “Home Improvement” merchandising deal with Cooper Tools killed a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract for the show’s star, Tim Allen, who’d been the spokesman for the hardware chain Builder’s Square.

Sources say Disney was careful to keep Allen happy on another merchandising matter. The Mouse’s publishing arm, Hyperion, wanted Allen to write a book. He wants to, but hasn’t had time.

Finally, Billy Riback, a former staff writer on the show, did the book. When Allen heard, he complained loudly enough to have the book killed, DISH hears. Hyperion head Robert Miller disputes this, saying the Riback book needs work but isn’t dead, and that Allen had nothing to do with it.

LOW TIDE? The huge paydays for book rights sales by Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy and John Grisham have apparently gone to the heads of some. Last week, a small buzz was created over a book called “Green River Rising,” Tim Willocks’ dark thriller about an imprisoned doctor who, one day away from parole, watches a prison riot unfold. Does he get involved and blow parole, or watch the people he cares for die?

The book doesn’t even have a publisher, but producers swarmed the author’s London-based agent with calls. Those potential buyers were singing a different tune this week, after receiving a fax from the agent, Michelle Kass, with a list of ground rules.

She plans to bring the author to L.A. this weekend, but needed to know beforehand what each producer would offer, including backend participation, plus fee for Willocks’ first script draft. Producers who were hoping to make a find suddenly felt like they were buying the next Grisham, and they seem turned off. “Kass might find that she’s throwing a party that no one will come to,” said a source in the know.

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