Woods involved in ‘Killer’ pic

GOOD MORNING: This is no Halloween gag by James Woods on the residents of Waterford, Conn. He’ll be hanging from a colorful tree in the beautiful New England countryside this weekend. “It’s a labor of love,” Woods tells me. It’s for the movie “Killer” for Spelling Films Intl. “I’m not doing it for money,” Woods says, revealing he’s getting a “bizarre” payment sked to play America’s first known serial killer, Carl Panzram, who actually ran to the gallows for his execution — to draw attention to the fact that he acknowledged he deserved to die. Woods says he’s playing the role because “my friend Oliver Stone and Janet Yang asked me to do it. Working this way (the low pay sked) paid off for me before with Oliver on ‘Salvador,’ ” he reminded. First-time director Tim Metcalfe is reining this low-budgeter … Woods returns to his usual salary next in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” playing Sharon Stone’s love –“the man she loves even though she marries De Niro,” Woods adds … Christopher Reeve claims he never before worked in a science-fiction movie until his current John Carpenter “Village of the Damned” remake for Universal. What about “Superman,” I asked, wasn’t that science fiction? “That was more of a fantasy romance,” Reeve logicked. Because of the extreme fire hazard in the Northern California “Damned” location sites (Inverness, Point Reyes, etc.), the finale, in which the evil space invaders (children) and Reeve sizzle in a giant fire, will be done with miniatures from the ILMagicians. Reeve, the hero in this one, will next be seen as Geena Davis’ fiance in “Speechless,” from MGM Dec. 16 and Savoy’s “Above Suspicion.” But Reeve and Robert Halmi have decided to KO a planned movie in Africa that Reeve was to direct. “The script never came together,” admits Reeve — who contracted malaria on a reconnaissance trek there for the movie last year. He’s fully recuped — and wants another directing offer from Halmi — not necessarily in Africa. Although Reeve’s 1979 “Somewhere in Time” flopped at the box office, it’s gained a cult following, and this weekend Reeve attends a convention of the Intl. Network of “Somewhere in Time” Enthusiasts at the Grand Hotel Mackinac Island location site.

DIANA ROSS GOES DRAMATIC again with the purchase of remake rights to the 1981 French film “Diva.” The original involved a Paris opera star with gangsters, drugs — and a chase in the Paris subway. Diana’s winding her 30th-anni European tour this weekend in Germany. She was a sensaysh this week in the U.K., with headlines capitalizing on the U.S.’s Diana vs. Britain’s. For instance, the Wales Western Mail proclaimed: “If pop legends are America’s Royal Family, this is one Diana who will never fall from grace”… Sidney Poitier, in the final roundup of his CBS made-for starrer in Calgary, says, “It’s the best opportunity as an actor I’ve had in 20 years”… Patty Duke, filming her NBC series “Amazing Grace” in her hometown, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is joined by these regulars: Dan Lauria, Joe Spano, Yvonne Toussaint, Justin Garms and Marguerite Moreau … Patty’s son Sean Astin is in Toronto to star with Christopher Plummer, Buck Henry, Andrea Martin and Miranda Pancher in Showtime’s “Harrison Bergeron”… Kadeem Hardison, who wound playing the lead in “Panther,” segues to comedy as Eddie Murphy’s sidekick in “Vampire in Brooklyn” co-starring Angela Bassett.

TOM POLLOCK, PERSONALLY on hand at ShowEast for U’s “The War” send-off, was particularly pleased with exhibs’ reaction. “It’s a feel- good pic for middle America audiences” and Pollock says the theatermen applauded it. The pic bows in 1,200 theaters Nov. 4. Jon Avnet’s pic starring Elijah Wood came in “under the industry average of the low 20s,” with Pollock reminding that Costner, in second billing, did not receive “anywhere near his usual deal.” Costner cannot come in from Hawaii for “The War” preem next week — can’t afford one day off for him. Nor will he be able to attend the benefit at his (and Cindy’s) Twin Palms restaurant for one of their favorite charities, Haven House’s 30th anni, on Tuesday. But Michele Lee, Barbara Eden, Joanna Kerns, comedienne Monica Piper, Mike Gealer and the band will entertain — plus the inimitable Mr. Blackwell conducting an auction … Fred de Cordova, recuped from his bout with pneumonia, is back at the “Tonight Show” at NBC where he was toasted at lunch Thursday on his 84th birthday. Execs on hand to congrat Fred included Warren Littlefield, John Agoglia, Todd Leavitt, Rick Ludwin. Don Ohlmeyer, bedded by a bad back, joined the list of callers-in and faxers … Meredith MacRae and Phyllis Frelich co-host today’s annual Media Access Awards at the Doubletree Hotel in Marina del Rey with awards for productions and portrayals of the experience of disability.