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Seagal on the pulpit may be too much for WB

IS SEAGAL’S PREACH on shaky ground? Most Steven Seagal fans go to his movies to see the tough guy clean clocks, not the environment. But at Warner Bros., where Seagal has completed his directorial debut with the ecology-themed adventure “On Deadly Ground,” DISH hears there has been much debate over the ending of the movie in which Seagal gives an estimated 10-minute speech about the environment. Sources said the speech is accompanied by visuals to support his points. The studio, on the other hand, feels that since the actioner — which stars Seagal — imparts a subtle pro-environment message, why hit the audience over the head with a direct plea?

Seagal, through a spokeswoman, said: “Warner Bros. and I are partners in the film, and we have decided to let the audience determine the length of the closing speech by their reactions to the test screenings we have with them.”

Several studio execs polled about the idea of a lengthy message ending were dubious. “Say goodbye to that speech after the testing,” wagered one exec, “because audiences won’t sit for it.” It might not be that easy to sway Seagal, who’s passionate about causes he believes in. He tried awhile back to set up a script he’d written in which he would have starred as a doctor who discovers that AIDS was a man-made virus and then has to elude conspirators who try to bump him off. Though some studio execs were indignant that he wanted to use the disease as the premise for an action vehicle, Seagal stood firm, explaining he believed the theory had merit. Even though the pic didn’t get set up, Seagal felt the theory was worth introducing as a possibility, a la “JFK.”

FLINTSTONE FODDER: The brouhaha over script credit among the 35 or so writers who took part in shaping the script for Amblin’s “The Flintstones” is heating up. As previously reported (Daily Variety, Jan. 4), Universal and Amblin submitted tentative screen credit to Brian Levant (who directed), Al Aidekman, Cindy Begel, Lloyd Garver, David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic, Nancy Steen and Neil Thompson, with story credit going to Michael Wilson.

Meanwhile, a swarm of earlier writers, including Tom S. Parker and Jim Jennewein, Jeffrey Reno and Ron Osborn and Gary Ross among them, claim they provided the bedrock for “The Flintstones,” and that the other team of writers should be ineligible because they broke WGA rules.

The Guild stipulates that a credited writing team can’t number more than two, unless a waiver is obtained before they start work. Levant, who comes from TV, where scripts are regularly worked out roundtable-style, apparently ended the harrowing script process of “The Flintstones” with that method. The scribes will get to have their say in a two-day arbitration next Wednesday and Jan. 21. DISH hopes the WGA has plenty of chairs.

EMMA’S NEXT: Emma Thompson, who co-starred with Daniel Day-Lewis in Universal’s “In the Name of the Father,” will continue drawing checks from the studio: She’s just about signed to play the female lead alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Ivan Reitman’s “Junior.”

MEDAVOY MOVES: So what’s Mike Medavoy going to do now that he’s exited the executive suites at TriStar? One scenario had Medavoy, a soccer enthusiast, kicking around the prospect of getting heavily involved in World Cup soccer, and possibly running a soccer club. Medavoy said that while he’s already got limited involvement in World Cup, he denied he’d be increasing it or changing businesses.

“I intend to remain in the business, in some kind of entrepreneurial producing capacity,” said Medavoy, who added he’s been approached by several money sources to put movies together.

SMART MOVE? Would you believe, Don Adams, reprising his role as Agent 86 in a contemporary revival of the espionage sitcom “Get Smart”? DISH hears that Fox, in conjunction with HBO Prods., is putting together a revival of the show, has signed Adams, and is working on bringing Barbara Feldon, the famed Agent 99, back in a recurring role.

Though Edward Platt, who played the chief, passed away, sources say he’ll still maintain a presence in the show: They’ve preserved the chief’s brain. Sources said the Fox Network has committed to six episodes. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, who created the original series, won’t be involved.

USHERING IN NEW DEAL: Looks like Tim Burton has two choices for his first film foray in the new deal with Warner Bros. Aside from “Catwoman,” which will star Michelle Pfeiffer, word is beginning to circulate about an adaptation of the classic Edgar Alan Poe tale “The Fall of the House of Usher” by playwright Jonathan Gems.

Speculation in Hollywood is high that the Burton-produced Touchstone pic “Cabin Boy” is bearing the brunt of Burton’s 11th hour decision to sign an overall deal with WB instead of Disney. He’d seemed headed for the Mouse after Disney agreed to finance his black-and-white love labor “Ed Wood.”

At Tuesday’s Superhighway Summit at UCLA, Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg made the critically savaged “Cabin Boy”– which opened last weekend with a paltry $ 1.5 million gross — into a running joke, making it clear that even though his studio had opened the film, it was clearly at sea as far as Disney was concerned. Some felt it unusual for a studio topper to poke fun at one of its films in current release. DISH hears the studio’s prime inspiration for making the movie was that Burton loved Chris Elliott’s quirky sitcom “Get a Life ,” and was high on the movie. But after golden boy Burton went to WB, and Cabin Boy Elliott stayed behind, all bets were off.

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