Halmi talks tough in autobio

GOOD MORNING: Robert Halmi promises to pull no punches as he readies his autobio. “Five men control what the world sees and hears on television — and I wouldn’t hire one of them to be my p.a.,” said Halmi, who promises to name them. But he drew back from naming the five as he was greeted Tuesday night by one executive of a network (which airs Halmi pix) at the DGA preem of Halmi’s latest, “Animal Farm.” The telepic first airs Oct. 3 on TNT, and he thanked ’em for having the courage to join him on this $25 million movie “in a town known for playing it safe.” Julie Weitz, TNT exec VP, intro’d Halmi, who emotionally noted George Orwell’s book had been a dream of his for over 50 years. He reminded that he’d lived through the pains of a dictatorship when growing up in Hungary. This pic, like other Halmi film versions, will become a perennial player on the small and large screens internationally, as well as in the vidcassette markets. On hand for the preem was Patrick Stewart, star of Halmi’s earlier ‘Moby Dick” and the voice of “Napoleon,” the despotic lead pig in “Animal Farm.” His fiancee Wendy Nuss laughingly said she could have introduced Patrick as her “fascist pig” boyfriend! Patrick and Wendy will team to produce, with Halmi, an original film, “Boss Lear” based on “King Lear” but set in pre-Civil War Texas. Gregory Peck is to star as Boss Lear, with Stewart co-starring. Peck (who guestarred in “Moby Dick”) is waiting for the final script. Also on hand at the “Animal Farm” preem was director John Stephenson, who heads the Jim Henson Creature Shop in London where many of the characters for Halmi movies are made. Another upcoming epic by Halmi is “Dinotopia” which Simon Moore is scripting … Halmi’s “Christmas Carol,” starring Stewart, will get December preems in London, N.Y. and Kansas City. Howcum none in Hollywood? “There’s no heart for Christmas in Hollywood,” said Halmi. Or snow … When Marion Rosenberg came by to congratulate Halmi, he asked when her client Elizabeth Taylor would be ready to work. Rosenberg thought it’d be after the first of the year. Would Elizabeth be willing to work in a wheelchair? asked Halmi. Why? For “The Visit.” Yes. She’s always wanted to do it — and recently, with Rod Steiger.

STEVEN SPIELBERG WAS IN FRONT of the cameras for a change — for a film that will welcome visitors to the Universal theme park to open in Japan in a year. Spielberg, in a 20-minute film, will be the first attraction visitors will see in the park as he introduces them to what they will see inside. Of course, some the attractions will be from Spielberg pix such as “Jurassic Park.” Other attractions based on his pix that have been/continue to be featured in the Universal parks include “E.T.,” “Back to the Future” and “Jaws,” all smash hits in Japan. He is not skedded to start filming “Memoirs of a Geisha” until next year, on L.A. stages … Shirley MacLaine’s next Pocket Books tome is tentatively titled “The Camino.” It’s recollections of her 800 kilometer pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain. She tells (in 320 pages) of reflections, spiritual and physical, while walking along the 1,000-year-old pilgrims’ route. This is MacLaine’s fifth book; her first was “Out on a Limb,” the last “My Lucky Stars” on her Hollywood memoirs … Norman Lear has a busy sked lined up for Sept. 29: In the ayem at the White House, he receives the National Medal of the Arts from President and Mrs. Clinton; then Lear returns to L.A. in time for the evening’s Americans for Democratic Action event, when he presents (candidate?) Warren Beatty with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award. With the federal government’s latest suit (filed this week) against the tobacco companies, Lear’s classic comedy “Cold Turkey” couldn’t be celebrating its 30th anni at a more appropriate time. Lear, who wrote, produced and directed the comedy, is joined Saturday by stars Dick Van Dyke, Jean Stapleton, Tom Poston, Barnard Hughes, Graham Jarvis and Peggy Rea at the filming site, Greenfield, Iowa, for the celebration. Lear says his experiences there in 1969 “taught me a lot about how smart and sophisticated the so-called ‘silent majority’ really was and laid the foundation for the television shows that I created in the ’70s.”

EDIE AND LEW WASSERMAN continue to host evenings for Demos at their home: Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) Nov. 9; Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) Dec. 8, and mebbe one for Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) … Hometown girl Rosemary Clooney wings to Maysville, Ky., for Saturday’s music festival to save the Russell Theater, which opened Dec. 4, 1930, with the showing of “Whoopee,” starring Eddie Cantor. And it’s where Rosie’s first film, “The Stars Are Singing,” preemed in 1953. Time’s taken its toll on the house and Rosie hopes to help save it. She continues on to N.Y. to debut “Feinstein’s at the Regency” hotel’s cabaret Oct. 5 … Morgan Fairchild makes her L.A. stage debut in the Pulitzer-winning “Crimes of the Heart,” directed by Garry Marshall and costarring Faith Ford and Crystal Bernard at the Falcon theater in Burbank, Oct. 20 … Tracey Gold stars opposite Powers Boothe in CBS’ “Shattered Trust,” also costarring Tracey’s sister Jessie Gold in her TV debut. Tracey, who had taken time off to welcome second child, Bailey (grandparents are Harry and Bonnie Gold), is now able and working again.