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‘Bliss’ sticks in ratings mire; Col chops ‘Woods’

BLISS AND G-RATINGS DON’T MIX: Former studio executive Lance Young has completed his directorial debut on a romantic drama called “Bliss,” but his recent ratings board experience falls well short of that title. Sources said Young and the distribbery Triumph have been informed that unless they make major cuts, his film is headed for the scarlet NC-17.

Young acknowledged the dilemma, even though he said his film has “no full frontal nudity, no genitalia, no thrusting. Yes, there are people making love, and there’s a glimpse of breasts or chests here and there. But we’ve been told this is cumulative, that they don’t like what the movie’s about.” It’s about a man (Craig Sheffer) who thinks he’s pleasing his wife (Sheryl Lee), only to discover she goes to a sex therapist (Terence Stamp) for the real goods.

Like Rocky Balboa, the man trains under the master, hoping to go the distance and give his wife an orgasm. “We’ve gone through five versions of the film,” said Young, who wrote the highly regarded script. “It’s about intimacy, and was always designed to be provocative, both visually and verbally. But it’s life-affirming and deals with problems with sexuality without shame.”

Sources said the Classification and Ratings Administration board is troubled by verbal discussions of masturbation and G spots. Another meet is skedded with the board for next week, with Triumph either seeking to make substantial cuts, or stand tough and arbitrate. Triumph topper David Saunders didn’t return calls and an MPAA spokesperson said no official rating had been issued, and no comment will be made until it is.

SHOWGIRL TROOPERS? “Starship Troopers” is shaping up as a major sci-fi pic for TriStar and Disney, but some who’ve seen it were left wondering if Paul Verhoeven had gotten “Showgirls” totally out of his system. “The main villainous bug looks like a giant vagina,” said a source.

Verhoeven, who never met a question he didn’t answer honestly, acknowledged it has been an issue. “It’s certainly an orifice,” he said. “Some people have said that to me but it was never designed that way and I never saw it that way. I think some people seem to think about vaginas much faster than I do.”

After his last flesh fest and Sharon Stone’s leg-crossing stunt in “Basic Instinct,” some would argue that a convention of gynecologists wouldn’t think of vaginas faster than Verhoeven. But he promised “Starship Troopers” is squeaky clean. “I’m very far from ‘Showgirls’ here, all of these characters are ethically of the highest levels, where in ‘Showgirls’ everybody was morally or ethically flawed. They were mostly bad. Here you have the contrary.”

MUSICAL CHAIRS FOR ‘WOODS’: After three Golden Globes and boffo grosses of “Evita,” huge ratings for Angela Lansbury’s CBS telepic “Mrs. Santa Claus” and strong critical reaction to Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You,” live-action musicals are out of the woods. Except at Columbia. After it seemed to be fast-tracking the screen version of Stephen Sondheim’s multiple Tony-winning musical “Into the Woods,” Col has put it in turnaround.

Studio moles guessed that John Calley was reluctant to make a musical his first green light, but rarely do other studios get such a clear shot at a project with so many major elements in place. The script’s by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, now scribbling “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” for Jim Carrey and New Line; the director is Rob Minkoff, of “The Lion King” fame; Sondheim wrote two new songs especially for the film; and Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Susan Sarandon are in talks to topline.

The film’s produced by Jim Henson Prods. and Storyline Entertainment, and several studios have set meetings, sources said. CAA’s Jon Levin hopes to steer the musical out of the woods shortly.

THE PACK BACK? Nobody in Hollywood will be rooting harder for the Green Bay Packers on Super Bowl Sunday than producers John Davis, Tony Lord, Matt Weaver and David Friendly. They’ve kicked off an attempt to find a new home for their biopic of Vince Lombardi, the famed head coach who led the Packers to wins in the first two Super Bowl games.

Script’s by Tom Rickman, whose biopic efforts include “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Truman.” Savoy developed it but went out of the film production business. Stars like Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise have all been mentioned to play the dynamic disciplinarian. The timing is propitious: The Pack’s poised to replace the troubled Dallas Cowboys as America’s Team and as Super Bowl champs, and the producers hope it pushes the pic over the goal line.

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