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‘Hope’ gets Williams more respect, offers

GOOD MORNING and welcome American Film Marketeers: “The Oscar nomination has definitely helped people take me more seriously, and it’s resulted in more offers — to direct,” says JoBeth Williams, who directed “On Hope,” nominated for best live action short. The Chanticleer Film was part of Showtime’s “Directed By” series and stars Mercedes Ruehl and Annette O’Toole in the drama by Lynn Mamet. “Hope” also features Alan Rosenberg, Michael Tucker, Jill Eikenberry and Veronica Cartwright. It is Williams’ first directorial effort and she admits the experience is “more than I ever expected.” She’s married to director John Pasquin, who directed the hit “The Santa Clause.” Williams says he had no input into her movie — he was busy in Canada for six months with “Santa” while she was making her bow here. “You might call the two the commercial and artistic sides of the business,” she laughed. “But I wanted it to be completely mine.” She acted for Pasqun in three plays and one soap but no features. Would they now work together in a feature? “He is so particular about casting, I’d have to be exactly right — and there could never be any question about my being hired by him for the job.” And yes, Williams definitely says, “Obviously I’m still serious about acting”… Denise Nicholas is honored Friday as cultural artist of the year by the Harvard Foundation of Harvard U. in recognition of her contributions to American performing arts and intercultural relations. She’ll be feted in Boston. Nicholas, who winds her four years on “In the Heat of the Night” with one more two-hour MOW to be aired, viewed last Friday’s show at her home along with series star Carroll O’Connor and his wife, Nancy. Nicholas, who married O’Connor on the TV’er, told me a friend asked her, “Are you having an affair with Carroll?” A shocked Nicholas said, “I must be doing a good job (at acting)!” She and the O’Connors and Clarence Williams III later dined at Georgia. Williams is her co-star in the upcoming “Ritual” feature, which will be shown March 10 at Raleigh Studios to potential distribs. She calls the low-budget pic “a black ‘Ordinary People.’ ” Further, “It’s a rare movie in which you see a successful black family. It’s like a hidden part of our society. It has incredible range from comedy to drama. And was the best role for me.” Stanley Bennett Clay directed his screenplay and Beth Michael Hubbard is producer.

JERRY SEINFELD SIGNS for another season. Bette Midler guestars on one of this season’s last shows. In April Jerry does another American Express commercial … Carl Reiner, who guested hysterically last week on “Mad About You,” will visit again next season. Reiner just wound his updated autobiography, “Continue Laughing” (“Enter Laughing” was the first) and shipped it to Birch Lane Press … Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis went back in drag a la “Some Like It Hot” for part of Vanity Fair’s special April issue, “Hollywood: The Power and the Glamour”… Bruce Vilanch, one of Billy Crystal’s writers on the Oscar shows, will be a member of David Letterman’s lettermen. Vilanch has also written the script of “A Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” for Herb Ross … When Billy Crystal and wife Janice visited with Jane Fonda and Ted Turner at the latter’s ranch, Billy suggested Ted settle the baseball strike. He’s the man who could do it, says Crystal, a Turner fan … Andy Williams is here for the Grammys — for which he was the first host (seven years). He got the job when NBC told Pierre Cossette they’d air the awards if he could get Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Andy Williams to host. Pierre was golfing with Andy, asked him if he’d host. Andy said “OK.” And they were off and running. This year, Pierre’s honored — and he has to make his acceptance from a script — no funny stuff! Williams was honored at the San Diego Golf Tourney — which he also started 20 years ago when the only celeb golf tourneys were Bing’s and Bob’s … Williams returns to his Moon River theater in Branson, Mo., immediately after the Grammys.

A SIGHT TO BEHOLD was the preem of the TheatreVision system for the blind to “see” movies. The premiere pic, “Forrest Gump,” as described by Vin Scully, was an emotional hit at the Paramount studio showing before 600 — 100 of the audience members were blind. Scully, who kept on the blindfold throughout the movie, said afterward, “I think this is a winner.” All agreed. Oliver Stone taped a PSA as well. Retinitis Pigmentosa Intl.’s Helen Harris said the evening raised $ 30,000 and several offers have resulted from other studios and they have a request in to Disney for “Pocahontas.” Also on hand was founding committee member and Oscar nominee Gary Sinise. He receives his supporting actor award and Tom Hanks receives his best actor award from the National Board of Review on Monday at Tavern on the Green … Legendary acting coach Sandy Meisner returns to acting for the first time in 25 years in an “ER” guestint tonight, the deal set by his former student Michael Linden Greene, now an agent with the Goldey Co.

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