Zanucks urge Polanski to return to U.S.

GOOD MORNING: Lili and Richard Zanuck reunioned with Roman Polanski in Paris where Richard tried to convince Roman to return to the U.S. The Zanucks have remained close friends with Polanski who was to direct “The Double” starring John Travolta for producer Lili Z. in 1996. After Travolta pulled out, a series of legal moves finale’d with Mandalay ending its agreement with Polanski citing “force majeure.” Richard Z. told me, “I’d love to see him back (in the U.S.) to get it (the charges) behind him once and for all. He’s a wonderful guy and I love him.” Lili, while echoing her affection for Roman, whom they visit each time they’re in Paris, wondered about the reception he would get from certain quarters here — not the least, legally. She pointed out “Life is good for Roman (in Paris), additionally with the arrival of a little boy to his family.” As for the question of whether the Zanucks would produce another Oscar show, she said, “We were very happy with the reception” — but they wouldn’t do it again. She laughingly said, “We have a day job!” Dick Z. added, “Although it was one of my greatest experiences, I’ll never do it again.” … After the brief vacation in Paris and London, Lili directed a music video with Faith Hill and her husband, Tim McGraw, of their ” “Let’s Make Love.” This is Lili’s second with Hill, the first, “Breathe” won her one award and she’s also nominated for a Country Music Video of the Year. It was Lili’s friendship from the first video that gave her the courage to call Hill on Oscar’s d-day minus one, asking her to sub for Whitney Houston, removed from the Oscar show by Burt Bacharach (as first reported here). Burt was supported by the Zanucks in his decision. “That’s what you’re supposed to do (as producers) — back up your directors,” reminded Lili. Not only did Hill have practically no time to ready for the complicated music seg, “but she had nothing to wear,” Lili laughed. “That usually takes a month.” Hill looked spectacular in the Versace gown that was whipped up for her. P.S.: In the new music video, she appears in a trench coat — in scenes atop the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Brasseries Lipp on the Left Bank, and on the Champs Elysees next to the Arc de Triomphe. … Now back in L.A., Dick lunched Tuesday with Tim Burton who will direct the new “Planet of the Apes.” Zanuck admits, “This will be very emotional for me. I initiated the production when I was the head of Fox. (Producer) Arthur P. Jacobs brought the project to me (after WB had turned it down.) He said, ‘I have Roddy McDowall and Edward G. Robinson set (to play apes).’ But I said, ‘Let’s do tests (makeup).’ After all, we could be laughed off the screen. Edward G. Robinson said he couldn’t handle the five hours makeup and we recast with Maurice Evans.” And of course, the rest is history — in the making? Zanuck is currently celebrating the terrif biz of “Rules of Engagement” and has three more pix readying to start.

“I’M OUT OF THE GAMING BUSINESS,” sez Merv Griffin who sold the last of his (gambling) riverboats. At one point he had five plus his casinos and hotels in Atlantic City, and four in Paradise Island — all sold at great profits. “I wanted to remove myself from gaming,” he explained. “It’s (gaming) overdeveloped now, it’s just everywhere.” He even nixed getting involved in Palm Springs’ expanding gambling sites. Griffin, who will be 75 on his next birthday, said, “I just want to have fun projects.” He signed Rose Narva to be his vice president to scout for future hotel properties and to be in charge of quality control. He now has seven hotels with the BevHilton being one of the five most successful hotels in the country. Tuesday night, he hosted a night to remember at the hotel to honor French painter Claude Hemeret — with an exhibit of his paintings in the Versailles room followed by a gourmet dinner in the Stardust Room (formerly L’Escoffier). It was prepared by French master chef Gerard Boyer, who flew over from his chateau, Les Crayeres in Reims, bringing with him four assistants to prepare a dinner to be remembered. Boyer is a close friend of artist Hemeret. It was a French-American evening with guests including Griffin’s longtime friend Line Renaud — who is launching her own Champagne label. Griffin and Renaud first dined at Boyer’s Les Crayeres, Easter Sunday 10 years ago! … Among gift items each guest received, a Limoges service plate copy of one of Hemeret’s paintings. Also a miniature of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia’s fragrance, “E” (Merv also co-ventures). She was there, well as daughter Catherine Oxenberg. And also on hand, Christian Morelle, head of Havilland (Limoges). Also gifted, Merv’s first CD in 25 years, “It’s Like a Dream,” which, you could say, is Merv Griffin’s life!

IT’S REALLY ALL OVER for Chasen’s. The successor to the famed eatery, on Canon Drive, has shuttered. However, Chasen’s chili, meat and chicken varieties, is still available at select stores and on the Web. … Speaking of France, above, “Notre Dame de Paris,” at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas is celebrating its 100th performance. It opens in London next month. Wayne Baruch produces with Line Renaud in association with RZO Prods. Baruch will also produce, with Charles Gayton, the Hollywood Bowl opening gala concert, June 23, that inaugurates the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. … Patti Page receives the medal of honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution today at Constitution Hall. Her “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” album, out May 7, features duets with Trisha Yearwood, Kathy Mattea, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Suzy Boguss. Whatta tribute to Patti — who has no intention of retiring!