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Biopic makes Helfgott ‘Shine’

GOOD MORNING: The sun is shining particularly brightly in Adelaide this morning, said “Shine” director Scott Hicks. We spoke early Friday (Aussie time) after he’d gotten word of five Golden Globe nominations for his Fine Line Features film. But more important was the letter he’d just received from Gillian (Mrs. David) Helfgott (played by Lynn Redgrave in the movie). She wrote Hicks: “The film is changing our lives in remarkable ways. He (David) is loving it. He is walking taller in himself and his self-esteem has increased so much that his vision of himself has expanded and that is a gift beyond anything.” Hicks, in turn, acknowledged, “David gave me the special gift of trusting me. I always knew the film would have an impact on his life, but–!” Helfgott was elated with Rush’s depiction: “elated, pleased, laughed a lot, as well as cried.” Helfgott is on a major tour, including the Sydney Opera House. Hicks spoke with “Shine” scripter Jan Sardi in Melbourne, producer Jane Scott in Sydney and star Geoffrey Rush in N.Y. Hicks talks with writer Raphael Iglesias in Australia for WB’s “Secret History” (book by Donna Tartt), is in discussions only with DreamWorks for “Arkansas,” and is talking with Disney on a tentatively titled screenplay “Brothers and Keepers.” He arrives here next month to talk about ’em all Ron Howard, Christmas shopping in N.Y., stopped to phone Marion Ross, his “Happy Days” (1974-1980) mom, to congrat her on her Globe nomination for “The Evening Star.” Ross had just come from playing the first of two segs as Drew Carey’s TV mom. “I love being characterized as a mother,” laughed Ross. As for her bows for “Evening Star,” she told me, “If I’m good in it, it’s because of Shirley (MacLaine)” Jimmy Woods had just returned from the N.Y. press junket for “Ghosts of Mississippi” to get his Globe notice plus “The Summer of Ben Tyler” TV nomination. Woods is in the midst of starring in “Contact” for Bob Zemeckis at WB and is finalizing building a home. No wedding date discussed, yet, with Missy Crider But Daniel Benzali and Kim Cattrall are now planning a Spring wedding here, since he’s decided to skip legit’ing “Clarence Darrow” on London’s boards.

“THIS COULD BE PETER O’TOOLE’S last hurrah,” said Robert Halmi who has offered him the role of Dr. Livingston, I presume, in “Stanley & Livingston.” Halmi just returned from Africa, retracing the trek of Stanley in preparation of his two-hour ABC vidpic, the first of six shows with the National Geographic. He will shoot from Zanzibar to Lake Tanganyika and is not worried about conditions. “It is my kind of picture.” Halmi has readied a six-minute tease of his four-hour NBC “Odyssey” for the Jan. national press tour. I saw a preview: it’ll knock their socks off. It makes Halmi’s “Gulliver’s Travels” look like a drawing-room drama. It has everything from a 60-foot Trojan horse loaded with troops to tender love scenes between Armand Assante and beautiful women including Greta Scacchi and Vanessa Williams, and Bernadette Peters as Circe, plus battles at sea, on the land, etc. Andre Konchalovsky directs, with special effects by Henson’s Creature Shop. It airs in May sweeps, winding production Jan. 25. Cost: $ 10 million per hour (four). Also upcoming from Halmi: “Mother Teresa” (at the age of 24), to shoot in India, “Moby Dick” with Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab, “Brave New World” for USA, and “Orwell’s Animal Farm” for HBO. Halmi will live his own adventures during the holidays sailing toward Cuba with his family in four houseboats!

JUST SET AS PART OF THE GIANT Presidential Inaugural Gala, Jan. 19 in D.C.: production numbers by B’way’s “Chicago” and “Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk.” Gary Smith exec produces the gala at the 14,000-seat U.S. Air Arena (formerly the Cap Center), on the eve of the election. … Mel Torme received word his album, “An Evening With Mel Torme” (Concord), which he cut just before suffering his stroke, bowed at No. 25 in the jazz hit list. He’s making rehab progress but is not expected home from the hospital until after Christmas. … Candy Spelling’s fantasy dolls are in good company at the BevHills Time Machine toy shop, where Buzz Aldrin stopped by to check out the kid-sized Discovery space capsule. … Dean Jones returned from Rome, where he starred in Aurelia De Laurentis’ “A Brush With Time,” playing two roles and in Italian! He’s seen here returning in Disney remakes of “That Darn Cat” and “The Love Bug” and now readying to produce “The Present Darkness” with Howard Kazanjian and Bruce Isaacson, with Chuck Russell to direct. … New AFI chairman Tom Pollock and outgoing chair Fred Pierce were toasted as Allen Bernstein donated his Arnie Morton’s of Chi eatery on La Cienega for the fete (and feed). Jean Firstenberg thanked ’em, as did the 200 AFI supporters on hand. … Fielder Cook, one of the pioneers of TV, returns after an absence of five years to direct “A Member of the Wedding,” starring Oscar winner Anna Paquin; it airs Jan. 29 on USA cabler. … Faye Resnick and Sue Cameron cochair “A Gathering of Angels,” Jan. 21 to benefit Interval House Crisis Shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence. Larry King m.c.’s and Bill Maher entertains at Jo-Ann Wallace’s La Villa Consalata; it’s underwritten by the Playboy Foundation.

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