GOOD MORNING: Francis Coppola, who told me he’d take a year off — a year and a half ago — still has not found the movie he wants to direct. And while he says, “I’ve had the time to attend to all the things I can’t do when I’m directing,” Francis still managed to be busier than ever! His Zoetrope now has two films in front of the cameras, “Don Juan De Marco and the Centerfold,” starring Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway and Johnny Depp, and “Mi Familia,” starring Edward James Olmos, with Greg Nava directing — both pix for New Line. And he’s produced TriStar’s “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” with Kenneth Branagh directing/starring with Robert De Niro as the creature. “It’s right on budget ($ 40 million) and schedule,” says Coppola. “Kenneth has made an extremely classic and authoritative film with deeply emotional themes. It’s a gigantic production”… As for Brando in “Don Juan,” Coppola says, “Marlon has been a total pleasure to work with.” When I reminded Francis of his experiences with Brando in “Apocalypse Now” in 1979, he said, “Marlon was not willfully tough in the past, just a perfectionist. In this case (“Don Juan”) he is a real prince, totally cooperative with new director Jeremy Leven, very reliable and very helpful. He is full of good humor, has a wonderful relationship with Johnny Depp — he has a big role” as a psychiatrist … Last week, Coppola met for the first time with Ted Turner and was impressed with his enthusiasm. Coppola’s Zoetrope is readying four projects for Turner including “Tecumseh.” Other TV pix include the four-hour mini “White Dwarf”… The supposedly inactive Coppola is also in heavy feature development with Columbia/Sony. As for a project to direct, he says, “It has to be original — and I must love it. But I do want to do something for children.” He’s in Vegas getting an award from the American Academy of Achievement in advance of Sunday’s UCLA Chancellor’s Award from the School of Theater, Film & TV … Talking earlier about “Don Juan De Marco,” co-star Faye Dunaway starts her role Monday and will finale with a location in Mexico or Hawaii. Thus, her bow on stage in “Sunset Boulevard” is now delayed until July 21. Meanwhile, Glenn Close closes here June 26, after which standby Karen Mason will appear until Dunaway winds her movie plus a week’s rehearsals. And Glenn segues to the bigscreen to cameo in “Mary Reilly.” Glenn resumes the Norma Desmond role on Broadway Nov. 17.
THE LAST TIME Leslie Nielsen captained a ship, he was on the bridge on “The Poseidon Adventure” (20th, 1972) for disaster film king Irwin Allen and director Ronald Neame — and we know what happened to that ship! Now, “National Lampoon’s Love Boat” producer David Permut tells me he’d like Nielsen to skipper the bigscreen comedy “Love Boat,” exec produced by Aaron Spelling. They plan to have an eclectic cast, hopefully including John Goodman, Rodney Dangerfield, Sandra Bernhard, Chris Farley, John Cleese. What about the “Love Boat” TV series regulars, including Captain Gavin McLeod? They’d like ’em in different roles, Permut says … From down Branson, Mo., way, the latest player to depart a stand there is David Brenner, leaving after a brief outing at the Ozark Theater. You recall Wayne Newton also early-departed Branson this year … Meanwhile, among those packing ’em in at his Branson Yellow Ribbon Theater, Tony Orlando got a request from President Clinton to perform June 24 at a fundraiser for Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) at the St. Louis Adams Mark … On June 22, Chaka Khan, Paula Poundstone and Lauren Bacall appear at the Demo National Committee’s feed for Clinton at the D.C. Omni Park. Khan’s songs will include her hit “I’m Every Woman” to be dedicated to the First Lady. On Sunday, Chaka also performs at the opening ceremonies of the World Cup at RFK Stadium with a parody of “Dancing in the Streets”–“Soccer in the Streets,” with 2,000 dancers.
THERE’S CONVERSATION ABOUT A SEQUEL to “Speed,” producer Mark Gordon sez of his Fox pic, which led the box office last weekend. He credits Tom Sherak with moving the $ 30 million “Speed” up on the sked from a proposed fall release. “We have a winner here,” Sherak told Gordon, who believes the pic is not just for “typical” action audiences. He’s next prepping a contemporary Western in the vein of “The Searchers” by Steve Pressfield for Fox, and Par’s “The Wild East,” and New Line’s “Genie Bob” comedy. And Gordon’s in production with Hollywood Pix’ “A Pyromaniac’s Love Story,” which he insists “is not ‘Backdraft 2,’ but a fairytale for adults. Love makes you insane but you can’t live without it!”… Barney won the Licensing Award of the Year at N.Y.’s Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. conclave. “Jurassic Park” and “Star Trek” were runners-up.