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‘Planet’ survives meteor shower of problems

GOOD MORNING: Despite a broken ankle and the intrusion of a possible court appearance by his leading man, Mike Nichols brought in Col’s “What Planet Are You From?” a week under sked and under budget. Garry Shandling — who produces and scripted and who costars with Annette Bening, John Goodman, Greg Kinnear, Linda Fiorentino and Ben Kingsley — says of the nearly disrupting suit with Brad Grey, “Fortunately it all worked out. I’m so excited about the movie. I’m usually anxious for something to be over, but I wish this one was going longer. I can’t wait to see it.” As for working with Nichols, he said, “I’m trying to convince him to go back into clubs — with me in Elaine May’s place!” Seriously, folks, Shandling says he’s into writing another script, hopefully for Nichols to direct again. And to continue the working (and friendly) relationship with Bening and Warren Beatty, with whom he costars in “Town & Country.” He says Beatty is funnier in “T&C” than he was in their previous teaming: “Love Affair,” also starring Bening … While Shandling said the legal battle with Grey “Fortunately worked out,” my check with Columbia on credits for the pic revealed that Grey’s name is not listed as one of the producers — as contracted and for which he is getting paid. The producers listed were only Nichols and Shandling, plus exec producer Neil Mackler and co-producer Michele Imperato Stabile. Grey set up “What Planet” six years ago with then Col head Mark Canton. And the Brillstein-Grey company is contractually to get a banner credit. Grey and Bernie Brillstein are now readying projects with their new, first-look deal at Miramax, where they have five pix in development — the first two are “Medal of Honor” from the novel by Stephen Hunter and “View From the Top,” a comedy scripted by Eric Wald.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL,” Miramax’s triple-Oscar winner, goes out in an English language-dubbed version Aug. 27 in N.Y. & L.A., with broader markets anticipated to follow. The English-speaking thesps (with slight Italian accents) are Jonathan Nichols as the voice of Guido (played by Roberto Benigni); Ilaria Borrelli, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni’s wife); and 6-year-old James Falzone, their son Giosue (played by Giorgio Cantarini). John Rogers exec produced the English-lingo version; Scott Elliott and Rod Dean directed the dub written by Steve Kramer … HBO preemed its “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” Tuesday in N.Y. at the Chelsea West, with party at the Metronome. Star-exec producer Halle Berry told me the pic “was the hardest work I’d ever done — and the most enlightening.” I visited Berry on the “Dandridge” set last Oct. 21. There was no question on that set that Berry was Dandridge. She insisted everyone on the set, including yours truly, address her as “Dorothy.” She also told me at that time, “But, what I really want to do is produce.” She confirmed it again this week, saying, “I am looking for a producing partner after this experience.” She is bidding on a couple of books. Berry said she’d been unable to find a role to follow Dandridge but finally decided to play Storm in “X Men” for Fox. “The only thing I could do to follow ‘Dorothy’ was science-fiction.” She’ll have a new look, wearing long white hair as she controls the world’s weather in the film version of the comic book. The L.A. preem of “Dandridge” will be Aug. 9 at the Academy, with a party at the original Chasen’s, where the Bill Elliott Swing Band plays tunes from the film sung by Wendi Williams (the singing voice of Dandridge in the pic). Halle follows with preem appearances in Chi, Cleveland (her hometown as well as Dandridge’s), Detroit and Oakland prior to the Aug. 21 debut on HBO.

DAVID WOLPER DISCOVERED LeVar Burton, then a USC drama student, and cast him in “Roots.” Tonight, Burton presents Wolper with the Intl. Documentary Assn. Mentorship Award. It’s part of the Hollywood Film Fest; the screening is Wolper’s docu, “Wattstax,” filmed in 1972. The docu features a concert of Isaac Hayes, the Staples and other Stax stars in concert at the Coliseum in memory of the riots of 1965. The screening’s at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater. A young Richard Pryor appears in the pic, as does Jesse Jackson. “Instead of a festival, I made it a commentary,” says Wolper. As for the millennium, Wolper produced the 10-hour “Celebrate the Century” and the 10-hour “Legends, Icons and Superstars,” adding, “I’ve done my spectacles.” He may add the JFK Jr. tragedy seg in a revised edition of the shows. As for the millennium night, Wolper says he’ll celebrate at home … Since Tom Hanks’ involvement with the National World War II Memorial, donations have exceeded an additional $19 million and as many as 15,500 calls have been received … Martin Short taped his first test show (for his King World Syndication talker) Tuesday at CBS, Studio 46, to hefty reception. Guests included Jenny McCarthy, Bronson Pinchot and Vonda Shepard of “Ally McBeal,” plus Short sketches, songs, dancing in the aisles. He bows Sept. 13 … Proud papa dept.: Sam Arkoff’s daughter Donna (Mrs. Joe) Roth is producer of “The Haunting” and son Louis is a co-producer on “Inspector Gadget,” both box office winners. Meanwhile, Sam, 81, is readying a remake of “X — The Man With X-Ray Eyes,” which he made at AIP in 1963. Although Sam’s made 500 pix, he says, “I’m proudest of what Donna and Louis have done.”

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