Dunaway may ditch ‘Class’

GOOD MORNING: Faye Dunaway, touring in the play “Master Class,” will not show up for her opening in Portland, Ore., Tuesday. Nor will she continue with the remaining dates, she notified the producers, unless a settlement is made on the film rights. Dunaway had signed for the tour believing her contract with the producers and playwright Terrence McNally included the movie rights, for her to star. But producer Lester Persky sued all of them, producing a contract he’d made for those film rights via the William Morris Agency. Late Wednesday night, Dunaway’s agent Sam Cohn notified Persky’s attorney, Adam Streisand of Loeb & Loeb, of Dunaway’s plan to pull out unless the legal matter is settled to her satisfaction. Robert Whitehead, one of the play’s producers, said he received a letter from Dunaway notifying him and partners of her demands that they settle, plus her plans to walk out on the tour. Whitehead replied, “She would be totally in breach of her contract. I’ve notified the theater she’s to be there. I still expect her to be on that stage in Portland. It’s insane! Her desire to get the film (rights) is another matter” In the past, Persky had said he didn’t want to make the movie with Dunaway starring. But, he now allows, “It does not mean I would shut the door completely — on what terms?” As of late Thursday, there was no agreement between the lawyer for the stage producers and the attorney for Persky, who holds “Exhibit A” — the contract showing his ownership of the film rights. The dispute about the rights, Persky maintained, turned off prospective filmmakers from becoming involved: director Milos Forman, for one, wouldn’t touch it while it was in litigation. Persky had originally sued for $ 3 million-plus against Dunaway, playwright McNally, and producers Whitehead, Spring Sirkin, Lewis Allen and promoter Jon B. Platt’s American Artists Inc. to retain his (Persky’s) film rights. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars” are now also involved in costs before any settlement is considered. “But,” Persky’s attorney Streisand told me, “We won’t refuse calls.” When I spoke with Dunaway after one of her magnificent performances in “Master Class” at the Doolittle in Hollywood, she enthused about expanding into the film version, hoped McNally would write the screenplay; she had visions of Al Pacino co-starring as Onassis. The “Class” tour reteamed Dunaway with producer Whitehead, who had produced the B’way “A Man for All Seasons,” her last major stage role before starring in the 1967 “Bonnie and Clyde” with Warren Beatty. And would you believe: Beatty stepped in as an arbitrator and had lunch with Lester Persky last week, trying to work out this matter for his onetime costar and longtime pal.

WILL BARNEY BOAST A YARMULKE? A Hebrew version of “Barney & Friends” will be produced entirely in Israel in a co-production between Texas-based Lyric Studios and Tel/Ad Jerusalem Studios. It’s the first time the show has been produced in a country outside the U.S., though it/he is seen in 50 countries on six continents. Itzhak Kol, in charge of the Israel co-production, says Israeli children and Israeli songs will be used. “But Barney’s appeal is universal.” I asked “Barney” creator Sheryl Leach if maybe “Barney” is Jewish — since many stars, including Cary Grant, are always rumored to be Jewish. “No,” he’s not,” laughed Leach, “but his heart is.” Leach now in Montreal producing the Polygram feature, “Barney’s Great Adventure,” with George Hearn (“La Cage Aux Folles” on B’way) and Shirley Douglas (Keifer Sutherland’s mother) playing grandparents. Thursday, they were shooting a giant parade sequence outside Montreal. The movie is directed by Steve Gomer (Sundance winner “Fly By Night”) and choreographed by Debra Brown (Bob Fosse Award winner). Brown, also the choreographer of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, set many Soleil stars in the parade sequence — which, of course boasts Barney, who, by now, no doubt also speaks French.

SAM FULLER, WHO CELEBRATES his 85th birthday Aug. 12, will attend Saturday’s kickoff tribute to him by the American Cinematheque at Raleigh Studios. Wife Christa, who is writing his bio, and daughter Samantha will bring Sam to the launch of the 21-film salute boasting many who worked with/for him “12 Angry Men ,” Showtime MGM-TV’s all-star modern revision directed by Billy Friedkin, will be shown at the American Bar Assn.’s SanFran convention Sunday, followed Monday with appearances by costars Edward James Olmos and Courtney B. Vance; they will participate in a panel discussion on the film, which again spotlights a jury’s dilemma of “reasonable doubt” Sidney Sheldon’s “The Best Laid Plans” hits the bookstalls next month with a start-off printing of a million copies by William Morrow Amy Ephron’s “A Cup of Tea,” to be a movie directed by and starring Anjelica Huston, costarring Sharon Stone, gets a second printing order from Morrow two weeks before publication. Ephron does a reading — and book signing — at the Sunset Strip’s Book Soup, Monday Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna toast their 32nd wedding anni Aug. 11 in N.Y.’s Comedy Nation Restaurant “with all the funny people they know” Tim Swift senior VP of Merv Griffin Prods., weds Joan Carry, publicity head of USA Network, Dec. 6 CBS’ “Promised Land’s” spunky grandmother Celeste Holm, is named Grandparent of the Year by the National Grandparents Day Committee. Oscar winner Holm (“Gentleman’s Agreement”) has three grandchildren of her own The real mother-daughter team Phylldia Law and Emma Thompson, who co-star in Ed Pressman’s “The Winter Guest,” attend the preem together at the Venice Film Fest Aug. 28. Pressman’s “Two Girls and a Guy” preems at the Telluride fest, also in August Rod Steiger’s wrapped “Ravenant” and will receive the Stony Brook, N.Y. Film Fest’s first Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday.

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