Coppola pulling strings for ‘Pinocchio’

GOOD MORNING: Francis Coppola says WB has placed “a cloud” over progress on his “Pinocchio” planned for Columbia. Back on Feb. 27, 1992, Daily Variety carried a story about Coppola and Jim Henson planning “Pinocchio” at WB. Coppola was to produce, but he had no deal to write or direct — as he has now been planning to do at Columbia. Coppola says Columbia tells him, “You’ve got to clear this up.” And, unless the issue is settled, he’ll lose deposit money he’s placed on stages at Pinewood — for his Columbia version. Meanwhile, he continues to write songs for the pic, some of ’em charming and which I’ve heard and already reported here Aug. 12 when I gave his intricate details for making the movie (at Columbia) …”We’re still trying to work it out,” Francis tells me. “But an individual can’t compete with a whole legal department of a giant corporation.” In the meantime, he’s also busily working with Michael Herr on the script adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and developing projects for TV with Robert Halmi. But he’s most excited about his most recent acquisition — for $ 10 million — of the former Inglenook winery chateau and 90 acres, now giving him 1,800 acres. The label? “We have to do a study,” he admits, “it’s now big business.” He admits he financed it “out of our retirement savings. I didn’t think that I was really going to get it. It’s bigger than I anticipated.” The winery’s chateau gets as many as 300,000 visitors a year and Coppola plans to use it for ventures including “concerts, premieres, lots of other aspects”– assuming he gets zoning OKs.

DON’T MISS FRIDAY’S edition of Daily Variety — not that you’d want to miss any edition. But on Dec. 23, Anne Rice, in 18 single-spaced pages, tells her opinions about everything and everyone on “Interview With the Vampire.” You recall she originally bought two pages in Daily Variety after seeing the movie on VHS. And now that the movie’s been out and a hit, she discusses the full meaning of the movie “to be quoted anywhere, anytime.” And, I guarantee you it will be. Howcum she chose Daily Variety and only Daily Variety for this (paid by her) revelation? “It’s worth it to me. We like Daily Variety as our place to give our message to our fans. It’s just an American gesture,” she says. “I don’t want to seem arrogant.” But, she says she didn’t want to give it out in a magazine interview “because only 50% of it gets printed.” She gives full critiques on Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater and the film’s behind-the-cameras personnel. Also comments about the blood-letting, the Theater of the Vampires, vampires and sex and her opinion of the R rating and why kids should be allowed to see it. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg — her opinion of Time and Newsweek is summed up with, “Let’s kiss them goodbye.” Read her for details. Oh yes, she also told me she “thoroughly enjoyed (producer) Coppola’s ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” saying, “It’s a classic — they’ll be watching it for generations.” She’s now writing “Servant of the Bones” (Knopf) and says, “It’s wonderful to be sprung free (of the Lestat chronicles).””Memnoch, the Devil,” the last of the Lestat stories (which she wrote before the movie) will be out in September. David Geffen has the rights to it. “He’s my hero. I don’t think anyone else could have — would have — gotten it (‘Interview’) made.” She has a listed phone number in New Orleans, (504) 522-8634 to receive people’s responses to the film and she’s often on the line, talking for as long as two to three hours. “I’d like to buy a radio station to talk to people,” she admits.

GREGORY PECK IS OK after an overnight exam at Cedars-Sinai where he was checked after a pinched vasovagal nerve caused him to keel over during dinner Monday. Luckily he and wife Veronique were dining with Dr. Arnold Klein, who rushed him to the hospital. “I had so many tests — I didn’t know how healthy I really was,” laughed Peck … Paula and Rod Steiger repeated their marriage vows (eighth time) at Malibu’s Taverna Tony’s with pals including the Jim Garners, Darryl Marshaks and Harry Golds on hand. Steiger, fresh from “Columbo,””OP Center” and an MOW in Vancouver, is now talking with director Jodie Foster on her “Home for the Holidays” with Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey … Lainie Kazan opens “Lainie’s Room” at N.Y.’s Regency Hotel ballroom for a week bowing Dec. 27 through New Year’s Eve. If the cabaret is successful, the room may become a permanent fixture a la the hotel’s “power breakfast”… Phyllis Diller returns to Harrah’s Reno Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 for her 40th stand there in 35 years … Betty Endo and Fred Hayman hosted a classic Christmas, caviar to crouqenbush dinner party at their home with the Michael Lyon quartet warbling everything from operatic arias to Christmas carols to cheers of bravo from guests.