Newman’s picky about his own projects

GOOD MORNING: Paul Newman is nobody’s fool, you should pardon my riding on the coattails of his latest picture-perfect performance. I asked him whether he’d continue to drive — after winning the Daytona race last week — and winning a spot in the Guinness Book of Records as senior winning race car driver. “You leave the party when it’s at its best,” he said. “I’ve contemplated it (quitting driving).” What about quitting acting? “It could be, too.” What’s left for Newman to conquer? “Football,” he laughed, adding he couldn’t make the weight for — mud wrestling. Of course, Newman’s told me before that he’d quit racing — only to come back — and win — at age 70. He again philosophized, “As Bette Davis, said, ‘Getting old ain’t for sissies.’ ” As for quitting acting, he said, “Are there any great, original screenplays out there?” How about a stand onstage — wife Joanne Woodward’s at the Long Wharf in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Again, he answered, “If I can find a really spectacular original play.” Newman’s always been embarrassed by winning, and reluctant to attend award ceremonies, but should he receive an Oscar nomination tomorrow, would he attend the awards March 27? “Oh, sure,” he said. But he’d really like to see some recognition for (the late) Jessica Tandy. “What a presence,” he reminisced. So what is occupying Newman’s time and thoughts if it’s not racing or acting? It’s Newman’s Own Second Generation Organics — the expansion of Newman’s Own food products with daughter Nell and continuing to benefit charities here and abroad. In September ’96 a Hole-in-the-Wall Gang camp opens in Orlando; same year, one in France. The Ireland camp will host 400-500 terminally ill children this summer and Charles Woods is founding and funding a camp in upper New York state, Newman tells me. Daughter Nell adds to the product line of pretzels and he has another line of specialty foods readying to hit the shelves. We are holding off on the announcement of the line because, he says, big food companies race to the market to undersell him when they hear of an upcoming Newman’s Own product. The big boys don’t give anything away — Newman gives his all.

TYPE CASTING: Director Ben Stiller plays an ambitious young director working under the watchful eye of B-movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) in Jersey Films’ “Get Shorty” for MGM/UA, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Stiller, you recall, was a first-time director on “Reality Bites”– for Jersey Films … Model-actress Angie Everhart is revealingly photo’d in a scandal rag — as she plays a hooker in “Jade.” She’s caught (nekkid) in bed with Dick Crenna (a body double for him), who plays a governor. Everhart made news when Kevin Costner joined her table at Drai’s, but Everhart said she was dining with a girl friend … Andy Griffith, proud of completing his ninth “Matlock” year, segues from the ABC’er into NBC’s telepic “Gramps,” playing a heavy. “I enjoy doing those roles, ” he smiled. The vidmovie’s for Andy’s friend Fred Silverman and Viacom … And Margaret O’Brien’s playing “a real bitchy role” in “Sunset After Dark.” She laughs, “It’s a little departure for me.” O’Brien’s daughter Mara, 18, a karate black belt, told her mom she wants to be — a criminal lawyer … Another MGM alumnus, Mickey Rooney, is partnered with Steve Binder, readying a TV spec toasting Mickey’s 75th anni in showbiz. Rooney’s readying to legit “The Sunshine Boys” with Sid Caesar in Chi, and then, “Sugar Babies II” with Juliet Prowse and Rip Torn. Tuesday, he preems his movie “The Legend of O.B. Taggart” at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City … Lauren Bacall’s here to star in a family film for ABC, “The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” She winged in from her book tour in London, wings out to lecture in Vancouver.

AUDITIONS START TODAY for Broadway-bound “Big” despite the fact no theater is yet available in N.Y. for the incoming (fall) musical based on the “Big” movie. Producer Jim Freydberg is using his Coronet Theater in West Hollywood for the trials. Mike Ockrent directs, Susan Stroman choreographs … Burt Reynolds and George Segal read Jason Milligan’s new play, “Walking on the Moon” Thursday at the Egyptian Arena Theater to benefit the Grace Players … Helen Mirren bows in “A Month in the Country” next month on Broadway … Helen Hunt and Anthony Edwards produce “An Evening With the Tonics” Tuesday at the Hollywood Roosevelt … Sidney Sheldon was birthday’d on his 78th Friday at Chasen’s by the American Library Assn. with ditto toasts to his contributions at libraries across the country. Charles Wick led the toast here … Charles Dutton signed with William Morris … Director Steve Kloves segues to CAA from UTA … AMC Century City’s sparkling with a million-dollar remodel.