GOOD MORNING: Before coming to Paris for the locations of Castle Rock’s “Forget Paris,” Debra Winger appeared with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Michael Tilson-Thomas in a performance based on the diaries of Anne Frank, originally commissioned and performed by Audrey Hepburn. Winger told me, “I felt her (Hepburn’s) presence (as she did the reading).” Winger plans to repeat, perhaps in San Fran. (Hepburn’s performances were for the benefit of UNICEF.) … Winger’s co-star/director Billy Crystal told me his deal with Castle Rock will soon be ending — but he would readily re-sign. “I’d work with Rob Reiner anytime.” Le smoking still pervades French restaurants. And as I lunched with Crystal, a lady and a man seated in the banquette right next to us lit up cigars — yes, both the lady and the man! “They are assassins!” Crystal exclaimed to me as we made a hasty retreat into the fresh French air … And talking of restaurants, Yanou Collart, who knows every chef in Paris, introduced us to Les Allobroges — a new eatery — which boasts the most reasonable gourmet menu in Paris. In Collart’s dinner party were Mets owner Fred Willpon and wife Judy. With no World Series they are seeing the world. He’s a good friend of Sandy Koufax and Sandy’s ex-father-in-law, Richard Widmark. We all wondered what Koufax would be paid on today’s star-salaries chart. He and the late Don Drysdale were the first $ 100,000-a-year players, you’ll recall.
AND TALKING OF FRESH AIR, I will never forget Ireland and its green countryside and blue skies everywhere — and the Irish. They are the friendliest , most cooperative, gentle people I’ve ever met. Michael D. Higgins, Minister of Arts & Culture, told me at length the tax advantages offered to film companies are not simply a matter of economics but a plan to train young people in the movie industry for the future. He is sincere — and knows whereof he speaks, since he had several documentaries to his credit before taking this post, as well as teaching in college. He’s hoping to have a film commission in the near future and a committee, Stapcom, to work out any difficulties. “We want to set up everything needed for future scripts, for post-production,” he told me. He calls it an “integrated strategy.” Morgan O’Sullivan, with partner Ignatius Forde, has put together tax-saving projects including RHI’s “Scarlett,” RHI and the Elstree Company’s “The Old Curiosity Shop,” NBC’s “Remember,” Par’s “Braveheart,” and Castle Rock’s “Run of the Country.” O’Sullivan will be in Hollywood next month to talk more potential projects to take advantage of the Irish tax savings — and pleasant working conditions there. Judy James arrived there last week to talk about “Spontaneous Combustion.” And Peter Ustinov said he’d love to come back there to do “The Pickwick Papers” at the Ardmore studios. Some of the movies that have been made at that venerable studio include “My Left Foot” and “In the Name of the Father.” I had visited there many years ago on the “Blue Max” set. On one giant stage, O’Sullivan showed me an upcoming set that “Braveheart” production designer Tom Sanders had built for a great hall sequence. It is a great set in the tradition of Hollywood’s creative geniuses. Kevin Belanoy, unit manager on Mel Gibson’s film, could tell them all about the cooperation they can get from Ireland, as he put together the logistics of the enormous sequences.
DURING OUR LONDON STAY we had a chance to chat with Sandy Lieberson, former studio topper in London and now independent producer — who is also teaching at the National Film & TV School — the only American on the faculty. Michael Caton-Jones (“Doc Hollywood”) is a grad, Sandy told me. Lieberson just wound Trimark’s “Frank & Jesse” and is now prepping –“Report From the Sex Factory.” He sez it’s an inside look at the California porno industry! Also in London we saw Herb Lazarus, president of Cannell Intl. Distribution, selling “Hawkeye”– in advance of Mipcom … After visiting with the movie companies in Ireland, we drove through the countryside — beyond description in beauty — to see Maureen O’Hara and her daughter Bronwyn, who live in Glen Gariff in West Cork. Her home (she lives here six months of the year) is filled with her movie memorabilia and awards, plaques — and memories. She looks as beautiful as ever and as cheery and as Irish as she can be. We drove together ever farther south to the very end of Southern and Western Ireland to the tiny town of Schull — and even beyond to the home of Ava Astaire and husband-artist Richard McKenzie, warm, friendly hosts in their unique home and garden with the seascapes and verdant scenery just waiting for McKenzie to put them on canvas. What a joyous couple. They winter in their home in Pennsylvania.