Harlin next to use ‘Titanic’ tank

GOOD MORNING: The “Titanic” is still afloat — at least the waterworld sets created for it at Rosarito Beach are very much alive, and the latest filmmaker of epics to head into those waters is Renny Harlin, readying a summer start for WB’s “Deep Blue Sea.” He wouldn’t admit the size of this budget, but smiled when I noted he didn’t fear to tread into filmic waters again after his Carolco “Cutthroat Island,” a $100 million swashbuckler, sank after being struck by iceberg-like reviews. “Deep Blue Sea” is a thriller involving sharks, and he won’t have to fish for the 20-foot-long man-eaters, as they’ll be radio-controlled/created by Walt Conte (“Free Willy,” “Flipper”). Allan Rich and Tony Ludwig produce for director Harlin, who just produced “Blast From the Past” for New Line, directed by Hugh Wilson — it was broght in a million-$under budget, Harlin said proudly — “And on time.” … Harlin is just back from Sao Paolo, Brazil, where he viewed fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen win the Formula One race there. Harlin was researching for the start of his New Line film “Formula One,” about the life of world champion driver Ayton Senna, who died in a race in May 1994 at 34 years old. His funeral, in Sao Paulo, equaled that of Princess Diana. I asked Harlin how he could make a movie whose tragic finale was that well-known. “What about ‘Titanic’?” he asked. He plans to open the movie with the crash scene then go into the personal, very romantic story plus the exciting international Formula One races. “No guns, no explosives,” he said. “I’m taking a step toward more characterizations, I’m trying to get out of my mold.”

THERE WAS ANOTHER NOTE hoped for in the tribute to Israel’s 50th anni, CBS’ two-hour “To Life” — which was tough to top on emotions. Barbra Streisand had wanted to join the finale choir of 600 children, led by 16-year-old Jessica Tivens and Dawn L. McArthur, 13, singing “At the Same Time,” on the Shrine stage and live from Jerusalem. But Barbra was ill and she watched the show at home. She has recorded “At The Same Time” for her album. … And talking children, Save the Children’s Bill Haber, in Jordan on a tour of the Near East, returned our call. Today, in Gaza, he meets with Yassir Arafat and then to the West Bank. In Aman, he says, you can see “Titanic” on video for $1.25 a night. He had been in Beirut earlier in the week and reports “Titanic” is showing there — as well as “Anastasia.” Haber, who has also become involved in four B’way shows since his departure from CAA, said of former partner Michael Ovitz’s entry into the legit world, “I’m very happy for him. It will be a fun experience. I hope he enjoys it as much as I do. And I hope I’ll get to see him more now.” … A Jewish President of the U.S. and a femme Secretary of Defense — those are two of the roles in the indie “Deference,” reports Sheryl Lee Ralph (on hiatus from “Moesha”), who will play the cabinet member and Timothy Hutton may play the Prez. Ralph also has a singing date upcoming at the Cinegrill. … While Texas Gov. George W. Bush heads to Hollywood to address Hollywood’s Wednesday Morning Club on Thursday, his daughter, Barbara Bush, is playing a high school student in the untitled Robert Rodriguez hip sci-fi thriller scripted by Kevin Williamson (“Scream”) for Dimension, which is shooting in Austin. The pic stars Elijah Wood, Salma Hayek, Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, etc. … Scripters Bill Finkelstein (“Brooklyn South”) and Barbara Hall (“Chicago Hope”) are presenters at Paulist Prods.’ Master Writers Workshops on the challenges of incorporating human values into entertainment writing, Saturday at the Adult Education Center in West L.A. Admission free to WGA members.

LIONEL HAMPTON, 90, CELEBRATES his birthday Monday playing his vibes at the Blue Note in Manhattan with his swinging 19-piece band. Bill Cosby m.c.’s. … Bette Midler receives the Matrix Award from N.Y. Women in Communications at the Waldorf Monday. Barbara Walters presents to her. Other award-winners include “PrimeTime Live’s” Phyllis McGrady and the NYTimes’ Janet Robinson. … Among those attending tonight’s 20th-anni screening of Francis Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” at the TV Acad: the highest-decorated Vietnam War veteran. The first 600 who buy $100 tickets receive a commemorative blanket designed by the film’s Doug Claybourne and Dennis Gassner (who designed the pic’s logo). … Jimmy Stewart’s children, Kelly, Judy and Michael (McLean), will be on hand for today’s ceremony rededicating Jimmy’s star at Hollywood & Vine. Bob Wagner will also be on hand, he hosts (with Cristina Ferrare) the Jimmy Stewart Marathon Sunday at Griffith Park, benefiting St. John’s Medical Center. … Quincy Jones receives SHARE’s “Shining Spirit” award at their 45th Boomtown party May 9 at CBS TV City. This year’s show is themed “100 Years of Gershwin.” To date, SHARE has distributed $31 millions to local charities. … Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller receive honorary doctorates of music from Boston’s Berklee College of Music for “Their historic professional achievements and contributions to popular music.”