GOOD MORNING: “But what I really want to do is — act.” Early Wednesday morning on Hollywood’s Melrose Ave., when many of the stores were still shuttered, the street was crowded with the caricatured characters you might find later in the day. They were micro mini-skirted, color-conically coifed and spiked, with stiletto shoes. Their faces and who-knows-what-other-body-parts were pierced with who-knows-what. Many looked like they’d just been to Tattoos R Us. “They may be freaky-looking but they are very kind,” said Christine Lahti, who was directing these atmosphere players in a scene starring Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski for Paramount Classics’ “My First Mister.” Lahti, an Oscar winner for directing the live-action short “Lieberman in Love,” is directing “My First Mister” as her first feature. But, she admits, she’d like to return to acting next. Lahti has three small children and is married to director Thomas Schlamme (he is nominated this year for two TV shows, one dramatic, the other comedy). Brooks, who last directed (and starred in) “The Muse,” says he too wants to devote the next two years to acting before taking on another directing assignment: Film directing distances him from roles of which he wants to take advantage — now. Meanwhile, young (17) Sobieski, who has worked with directors like Stanley Kubrick (“Eyes Wide Shut”), is now equally impressed by Lahti, who, she says “is a strong director who shows me the fine points of this character. And it’s a pleasure to work with Mr. Brooks.” Leelee says she hopes “one day” to also direct. Meanwhile, she is facing nonstop offers for acting, the next film to be “The Glass House” … Lahti has 29 days in which to shoot “Mister” — on a budget under $5 million! Brooks said he had 39 to direct “The Muse,” shot at $15 million. On “My First Mister,” everyone’s working below usual salaries; they are in love with the project written by Jill Franklyn, who also has “The Story of Dory” at Par and a Fox pilot, “Madison’s List” … The cast of “Mister” also includes Carol Kane, Michael McKean, Desmond Harington, Mary Kay Place, Lisa Jane Persky — and John Goodman. The feature’s called a dramedy — a story in which a street-tough Sobieski and a loner played by Brooks solve each other’s life dilemmas … Sobieski, with purple streaks in her blackened hair and piercing additions to her nose and lip, walked alongside Brooks down Melrose between Poinsettia and Fuller. Stores on the block include the Retail Slut, CondoMania, Pussycat Cosmetics, etc. Director of photography Jeff Jur captured Brooks and Leelee with long-range camera filming in a 2.35 ratio, and the players were individually miked to drown out noise of the Melrose Ave. foot and motor traffic. Said Jur, “I’d like this to have the look of a ‘Midnight Cowboy’ ” — the John Schlesinger classic starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman And Lahti smilingly broke into singing “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” … Producers Carol Baum and Jane Golden — it’s a Total Film Group production with Film Roman — will pull no punches, with Leelee unleashing streams of four-letter words during her self-inflicting wound scenes. The producers have no idea what the rating will be for the film — but, you’ll be relieved to know, it will have a happy ending.
WITH THE CALIFORNIA PRIMARY a few days away, another billboard went up on the Sunset Strip (across the street from Le Dome), stating: “Pryce for President — America is not for sale.” In the left-hand bottom corner, a picture of Demo presidential candidate Pryce — played by Tom Selleck in TNT’s “Washington Slept Here” — which airs on the eve of the Demo convention in L.A. … Hillary Clinton and Melissa Etheridge guest on the initial “Lifetime Live” daily one-hour info program for women preeming Monday, noon-1 p.m. … Michael Douglas and fiancee Catherine Zeta-Jones have gotten away from it all — and how — on the Galapagos Islands. March 14, he heads to SanFran to present former Sen. Alan Cranston with the Lawyers’ Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award at the St. Francis. Douglas and Cranston work together on nuclear issues. March 18, Douglas heads his pro-celeb golf tourney at Ocean Trails to benefit the MPTV Fund, then heads to Majorca to bow his Costa Nord Cultural Center/Museum, opening March 25 … Cuba Gooding Jr. presents the American Cinema Foundation’s Carl Foreman Prize to Frank Price today at the BevHilton. Gooding starred for Price in “Boyz N the Hood” and “The Tuskegee Airmen.” Carl Foreman’s widow Eve will be on hand … After 20 years of togetherness, John Hyde, CEO of Film Roman, married Kate Morris, president of Crownstar, in Las Vegas on Wednesday … Edward Asner joined grandparents ranks thanks to son Matthew A. and wife Joyce, who welcomed Jakob Ryan Asner, Sunday. Matthew is a producer at Moriah Films for the Simon Wiesenthal Center … Tom Hatten will be the Lifetime Achievement honoree at the Pacific Pioneer B’casters’ lunch March 17 at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. The well-liked Hatten, entertainment editor at KNX radio, launched his career hosting “The Adventures of Popeye” on KTLA 50 years ago.