Brawls K.O. ‘Brawler’

Just for Variety

Bruce Willis’ “Broadway Brawler” has hit the deck, at least temporarily.

The movie, filming in Wilmington, Del., shut down Friday after 20 days filming. Director Lee Grant, producer-husband Joe Feury and d.p. William Fraker have been fired, while rumors are flying about which cast members will remain (if any), how much of the film will be retained (if any). Willis and Cinergi’s Andy Vajna made the moves.

Dennis Dugan will now direct; he arrived there “on the red eye” Sunday. When reached Monday, he said he did not yet know when they would resume, or what will be kept of the cast or script. “It’s such a turmoil. I haven’t seen a foot of film.” As for retaining footage, he said, “Out of respect (to Lee) it’s yet to be determined. I’m going out to look at locations now.” Dugan is no stranger to the will of Willis, having directed him in the TV series “Moonlighting.” Reached at home in N.Y., Grant said the atmosphere around the set was “like a tornado,” on Friday. “Considering the disaster, I’m OK,” she said. ICM’s Jim Wiatt, agent for her and Feury, was furious their agency was not notified of the firing by Vajna or Willis, whose Flying Heart Prods. also produces, withJoseph Feury Prods. But Wiatt assured that his clients would have to be paid fully and added, “I was talking to their lawyers on the phone.” Willis’ agent, William Morris’ Arnold Rifkin, said the firings and shutdown were “not a unilateral decision and Cinergi was in accord” with Willis. Rifkin said he believes they will start up again by Wednesday. (That would make Dugan some kind of hero!) Willis, by the way, is not getting his normal fee for this family-oriented story. It’s not the first time Willis has lowered his fee for a (smaller) film in which he believes — unlike his salaries ($20 million) in big-budgeted pix like “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” which he also did with Vajna. I tried to reach Vajna but he was at “Evita” doings in his native Budapest. Willis was busy at the Planet Hollywood fifth anni party and the opening of the eatery’s branch in Toronto with wife Demi Moore, Sylvester Stallone and groups including the Barenaked Ladies and Cowboy Junkies. Cinergi’s marketing consultant Sandra Rush described the situation as the usual “amicable parting of creative differences.” But, Grant (Oscar winner as supporting actress for “Shampoo”) said, “It’s unprecedented,” referring to the way she and the others were let go. And six-time Oscar nominee Fraker, in the biz 45 years, noted, “No one ever exploded on the set on this set. And there are no explosions, no car chases in this charming story, evidently something different Bruce wanted to do.” When Feury (Oscar winner for his docu feature, “Down and Out in America”) asked him to do this small picture, Fraker (whose credits range from “Rosemary’s Baby” to “Bullitt” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) immediately agreed. However, he admits, “Bruce wanted closeups every time, even when over the shoulder (with beautiful leading lady Maura Tierney). We did some terrific stuff. Lee Grant is a terrific director.” This kind of film fracas never before happened to Fraker. As for Tierney, who is “absolutely wonderful,” says Grant, she is skedded to start Mike Nichols’ “Primary Colors” in May with John Travolta and Emma Thompson; whether Tierney can linger in a renewed “Brawler” will have to be worked out. says Gersh Agency’s Raelle Koota. Tierney has been commuting to the Wilmington movie set from “NewsRadio” tapings in L.A. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Grant, while putting up a brave front, is understandably saddened. “This was our project: we worked on this two years and got Bruce interested. I’ve had joy every day making this movie. It was so strange: one minute you’re going great — and the next minute, when some kind of whim can destroy it, it was like a tornado. But on the other hand, that’s life and you go on and do other stuff. I tried to do my best —my best shot and I lost. If you lose, you lose.”

GUESS WHO’S LEFT on the cutting room floor? The director. Arthur Hiller decided his scene with Joe Eszterhas in “An Alan Smithee Film” was unnecessary. Not to worry about Joe: he remains in other scenes in the pic, as one of the re-writers. Among others playing a re-scripter is Billy Bob Thornton, who was cast in the role before his Oscar nominations … The city of Fargo will hold an Oscar party, with black overalls, in its historic Fargo theater, carrying the telecast. And yes, Fargo will also have its first film festival this summer … Pretty public relations exec Linda McCoy and Pulitzer Prize-winning sports writer Jim Murray were married Monday night at the home of the Frank Rothmans with Mrs. R., Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, performing the ceremony. It was just the four of ’em, explained Linda. “If we were to invite Jim’s friends, we would have needed the L.A. Convention Center.” Absolutely correct! Murray proposed to Linda three weeks ago, while he was en route to Cedars-Sinai for tests. P.S. he passed the tests with flying colors. And the marriage remained on! … Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter was named editor of the year by Adweek/Mediaweek. A Vanity Fair billboard of the Hollywood portfolio, with a pic (by Annie Leibovitz) of Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams doing the rumba, is going up at Sunset and Laurel today. A second billboard, the April cover goes up March 12 … Artie Shaw was toasted by Kay Pick, Geoff Miller and Kathyrn Leigh Scott on publication of Shaw’s “I Love You, I Hate You … Drop Dead!” (Barricade Books) at Picks’s house, with musicmakers Corky Hale and Mike Stoller, Bobbi Elliot, Bob Florence and Edgar Winter among those on hand. Also longtime Shaw pals, Alicia and Red Buttons and Elliott Kastner.