Malaria grounds Superman

GOOD MORNING: Malaria felled Christopher Reeve and producer Robert Halmi as a result of their location hunt in Northern Kenya for the upcoming “Samburu” feature. Reeve told me he’s undergone sieges of 105 degree fever and medics tell him his spleen is double normal size. He’s been ordered to avoid any strenuous activity for six weeks. But he still hopes to do the movie — when the script by George Malko’s completed. Reeve is paged for London’s West End in Arthur Miller’s latest play, “The Last Yankee,” in late June. He will first be seen April 18 with Charles Bronson in TNT’s “Sea Wolf.” Reeve weathered “Wolf” safely — he’s at home at sea … Halmi said he is recovering more quickly than Reeve, having started his malaria treatments earlier. “We didn’t know there was an epidemic,” the producer told me, but they still hope to film the contemporary adventure drama this year — in a different region, we assume. It goes out first theatrically in Europe — New Line wants it overseas, sez Halmi, who finances it himself. He also has 62 hours of TV programming in the works and arrives here next week to talk a two-feature deal with Elizabeth Taylor. He has a meeting with Magic Johnson, whose four-hour mini Halmi’s prepping for ABC. The producer also meets on the three-hour CBS “Gypsy” in which Bette Midler stars, and the seven-hour CBS “Lonesome Dove” sequel. As for the eight-hour CBS “Scarlett,” Halmi says the final choice of leading lady is down to three candidates — and the director, soon to be set, will join Halmi in making that decision.

Christopher Lofton’s writing the script.

CLINT EASTWOOD AND Kevin Costner were busy yesterday trying to decide on the young (9- to 11-year-old) boy to join ’em in WB’s “A Perfect World” in which Eastwood’s the sheriff chasing ex-con Costner — with the kid. Meanwhile, yesterday, Dan Curtis was deep in sales sessions with ICM reps on his pic “Goin’ to Mexico” (formerly “The Taking of Gary Feldman”), in which Danny Aiello and Joe Pantoliano are the heavies, Alex Zuckerman (age 10) the kidnapped lad and Rick Aiello and Demond Wilson, the FBI men doing the chasing. Curtis financed the pic himself ($ 5 million) and sez Danny Aiello’s excellent in it and he’s “thrilled” with the movie, calls it a combination of “The Champ” and “Home Alone.” Aiello, recently seen in “The Cemetery Club,” next bows in Paul Mazursky’s “The Pickle”– as a (recognizable) movie director … Director Michael Ritchie, who returns to TV (first time in 25 years) via HBO’s “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom,” sez, “It was too good to turn down — it fits my sensibilities to a ‘T.'” He claims he could have had it out before ABC’s “Willing to Kill” (which got respectable numbers) but is glad his is out now (Saturday) in the midst of all the hysterical reality (?) shows about the “wackos in Waco, the World Trade Center story, Amy Fisher, ‘Fire in the Sky’ (reality?!!).” Ritchie claims this small screen’er “is the best thing I’ve done since ‘The Candidate’ and ‘Smile.’ ” Ritchie is now directing TriStar’s comedy, “Cops and Robbersons” with Chevy Chase, Dianne Wiest and Jack Palance. He promises that Wiest has a razor-sharp wit and more than holds her own with Chase. Ritchie’s planning a Western. And hopefully a musical — with no rock or rap music, he promises.

IT’S GREAT TO live in L.A. Yesterday ayem, I was listening to the Mayor Bradley-Police Chief Willie Williams press confab on riot plans — when they were interrupted by Gov. Pete Wilson with the earthquake preparedness program … Walter Matthau spent another night in a Minneapolis hospital, but “Grumpy Old Men” co-star Jack Lemmon assures us his pal’s had every test, is resting one more day and should be out today. The company doesn’t work Good Friday so he gets an added day’s rest … Helen Kushnick, who has been enjoying life as a private citizen involved in AIDS education and research, receives an honorary doctorate of letters May 8 from William Woods College at the school’s 123rd commencement in Fulton, Mo. She’ll tell the all-woman graduating class and their parents “what it means to be a woman in a world where white men still make the rules.” I got a preview peek at her speech and among those she quotes are John Avnet, Barbra Streisand and Helen’s 9-year-old daughter Sara. Get a copy (after graduation, of course) … Thelma White and husband Tony Millard celebrate their 37th wedding anni today … Acad president Robert Rehme reminds that the 1970 nominee for best feature docu, “King: A Filmed Record — Montgomery to Memphis” produced by Ely Landau, will be screened Monday at the Acad in memory of the 25 th anni of King’s assassination. James Earl Jones introduces the program … Oscar winners’ celebration: Joe Pesci partied his “Cousin Vinny” co-star, winner Marisa Tomei at Nicky Blair’s … Celebs who autographed eggs for Jean and Casey Kasem’s Great American Wooden Easter Egg Hunt (Sunday) range from Michael Jackson to Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor to Tori Spelling. Children’s charities benefit from the event at the Kasems’ estate.