GOOD MORNING: “I was not playing Bob Evans,” a mellow Dustin Hoffman smiled at the post-preem party at (the old) Chasen’s after the screening of “Wag the Dog” at the Cineplex Odeon in Century City. “I was playing my father,” he claimed. So howcum Billy Crystal, referring to the pic, asked me after the screening, “How did you like Bob Evans?” Never mind — the movie is hilarious. With “Dog” gone, Levinson is now pressured to get “Sphere,” also starring Hoffman, ready for Feb. He hoped to get a summer date, but he’s got to get this “thinking man’s sci-fi’er” (Hoffman’s description) out sooner. Meanwhile, Dustin’s delighted they “Wagged” out in 28 days. And with the cost at $15 million (the stars have gross percentages, natch), they agree there’s a good possibility to make money for everyone. And the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCLA received $50,000 from the preem’s proceeds. Bob Shaye, New Line’s CEO, made the introduction of Dr. Judith Gasson of the Foundation pre-screening … Hoffman is thoroughly enjoying the pix he’s making, ranging from “Outbreak” to “Sphere,” with the hot “Dog” sandwiched in between — but what he’d really like to do is direct. Hoffman’s pleased he’s nominated for a Golden Globe for “Dog,” but he was upset that director Barry Levinson didn’t … At the (Along Came Mary-Chasen’s) party, Hoffman met up with director Arthur Hiller who gave him his first film break, “The Tiger Makes Out” starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. (It got Hoffman “The Graduate.”) And this week, Dustin told me he was delighted to read Wallach’s rave review on “Visiting Mr. Green” at N.Y.’s Union Square Theatre. Wallach is celebrating his 50th anni in the theater. And he was on hand the previous week to applaud Tony Randall and Jack Klugman in “The Sunshine Boys,” where Wallach told me he and Randall had co-starred on B’way in “Antony and Cleopatra” 50 years ago. At the “Sunshine” bow, I met up with Michael Ovitz, and again saw him at the “Wag” preem here, where he was reminiscing about showbiz (which he assures he’s departed) with CAA’s Kevin Huvane, who represents Robert De Niro, another brilliant star of “Wag.” Co-star Anne Heche was unable to attend the preem: she’s in N.Y. working in “Force Majeure.” Ellen DeGeneres was also absent: she was taping her TV show, but Ellen’s mom was on hand to applaud Anne.
BURT REYNOLDS is understandably happier than he’s been in years. His Golden Globe nomination for “Boogie Nights” follows his wins by the N.Y. and L.A. Film Crix, but Burt says he’s most pleased because pal Jon Voight also received a supporting Globe nomination (for “The Rainmaker”). Reynolds wants to reteam with Voight and Ned Beatty in “Deliverance II,” which Reynolds also hopes to direct. He laughingly looks forward to their return to the location where he says the heavies will greet ’em with, “We’ve been waiting for you!” While Burt has been working in one independent film after another (winding “Waterproof” and “Scanners” since “Boogie Nights”), he admits, “I want to make a major studio movie — and direct it.” He will also make a contemporary bounty-hunter trilogy for Larry Levinson at Turner. “I love to work,” Reynolds admits. “And I also appreciate it.” He happily allows he is now getting offers, with big dough once again attached. And he’s getting respect! “I look around my shoulder, looking for Jimmy Stewart, but I find they are talking to me!”
JACK NICHOLSON SAYS, “I still can’t believe it — the front page of the Daily News!” All because he stopped, en route to the airport to meet Rebecca Broussard (“She’s the greatest,” sezze), at a liquor store and shared bottles of bourbon with guys hanging around — plus some photogs for whom he smiled (as only he can!). Nicholson is winner of the National Board of Review’s best actor nod and is a Golden Globe nominee for “As Good As It Gets.” Also nominated is director Jim Brooks. Nicholson’s agreed to head out to p.a. the pic in Australia as well as Europe. Jack admits it’s the first time he’s done this kind of promoting since “Terms of Endearment,” explaining, “Jim (Brooks) worked his ass off on this one!” … The sad news of Chris Farley’s death was compounded by the carelessly rumored demise of Scott Baio. Happily, the latter was untrue. Baio’s longtime agent Harry Gold (who had broken down in tears when erroneously informed) put Scott on the phone with me to assure his well-being. Baio had been Xmas shopping in the Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks when the rumor spread like wildfire. The talented Baio, who is busy directing and acting, next guests in “The Nanny,” playing a proctologist! … The Sid Basses hosted the Michael Eisners at L’Orangerie … Lee Masters, E!’s prez-CEO, hosted over 1,000 E! Entertainment staffers and guests at its holiday bash at the Hollywood Athletic Club … Mike Moroff (“The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”) plays himself in Lorenzo Doumani’s DMG feature, “Knockout,” for which Moroff also writes the musical score.