Reeve: No to ‘Men’, yes to ‘Jeffrey’

GOOD MORNING: Christopher Reeve has been offered to star in a remake of the Marlon Brando 1950 classic “The Men” in which Brando played a paraplegic WWII veteran. The pic, which won Carl Foreman an Oscar nomination for story/screenplay and was directed by Fred Zinnemann, was produced by Stanley Kramer. But Reeve reminds me “It was a picture of despair. Brando’s character was so humiliated, he didn’t feel he was any longer a man. I don’t feel I’m no longer a man. I don’t feel that way.” Instead, Reeve is readying to direct (in May) ABC’s “Rescuing Jeffrey,” the true story of 17-year-old Jeffrey Galli who suffered a spinal injury “virtually the same as I,” noted Reeve, when he dove in a pool. The decision not to terminate (minor) Jeffrey’s life was made by his father Richard. “My family,” said Reeve, “had a debate amongst themselves about my life (after the horse jump accident, May 27,1995). But as (my wife) Dana pointed out it was my decision to make.” In the story of Jeffrey, his life actually turned around from a depressed teenager to a life of determination culminating in his entering the U. of Rhode Island this fall. Reeve’s determination is pointed out by Jeffrey’s father in his book. His father said they’d only sell the rights if Reeve did the film. “So now we have to get a really good script,” Chris says, “making awareness is so important.” He arrives in L.A. to work on the Dems’ plank for medical research. “We are getting a very positive response (from the DNC) that they will adopt and support a program for the National Institute of Health and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. And we are looking for a $40 billion (that’s with a “b”) funding for N.I.H. research. (In 1997 it was $18 billion). The reason I’ve been pushing it is because of the incredible progress that has been made thanks to better understanding of brain and other nervous system disease. In 1995 there was only a dim light at the end of the tunnel. The research is no longer speculation.” As for himself, Reeve says “I’m doing very well. It’s been discovered exercise improves your own condition. I work on a special treadmill and exercise bicycle with electrical stimulants. I’ve been developing more response in my upper body and in being able to breathe. My diaphragm works better and I can go for longer and longer periods without the ventilator. I hope to get off it in a year.” Reeve will not speak on the Demo Convention floor. “I’m working more behind the scenes on the platform,” he said, “and talking to media and being at the fundraiser.” The latter, the Creative Coalition/George magazine celeb-hefty event at the home of Lawrence Bender Wednesday from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Reeve will also participate in TCC’s Tuesday panel on “Art Works: The Benefits of Arts Education.”

POLITICO DETRACTORS OF HOLLYWOOD, take note of what showbiz can also do: In 1996, Emmy-winning director Jeffrey Hayden completed his PBS docu “Children in America’s Schools.” He illustrated (among many) one of the worst schools in southeastern Ohio (Appalachia). The school’s principal said to Hayden that he hoped “some day I’m going to get a new high school.” Hayden said, “If you do we’ll be there.” Well, Hayden’s docu continued to play repeatedly on PBS and 40,000 cassettes were sold (nonprofit)in Ohio. Then, the local Ohio county agreed to fund a new high school, “A move,” they admitted, “which will end generations of disgust and despair over an 84-year-old building that became a nationally publicized symbol (via Hayden’s docu) of the vast inequities between the state’s poor and rich schools.” The school superintendent noted, “A new high school, the focal point of the county, is more than bricks and mortar. For Vinton County, it’s business, it’s jobs, it’s opportunity, it’s pride!” Today, Hayden and his wife, Oscar-winning actress Eva Marie Saint, wing L.A.-Columbus (three planes), then drive two hours to Saturday’s parade and dedication of the new Vinton County High School in McArthur, Ohio. In the evening, Eva Marie and Jeff Hayden will read portions of Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers!” Add program note: “Punch and autographs will follow.” Take a bow, Haydens — and Hollywood.

THE DEMOS WILL BE YELLING “FORE!” Sunday as they take over Riviera Country Club where President Clinton loves to play when in L.A. … And talking golf, Robert Redford’s “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” filmed in Savannah, Ga., preems at the third annual Savannah Film and Video Festival Oct. 28-Nov. 3. The fest is sponsored by the Savannah College of Art and Design, whose film and video dept. boasts the most technologically advanced filming and editing gear … Les Moonves will be the recipient of the Career Achievement Award at the Artios Awards of the Casting Society Nov. 1 at Century Plaza. And casting director Mary Colquhoun receives the Hoyt Bowers Award … Barry Manilow stars for pal David Foster at Saturday’s Victoria, B.C., gala benefiting Foster’s Children’s Organ Transplant Foundation. Kevin Costner volunteered his plane to wing in Manilow. On Aug. 17, Foster is musical director for the Shrine Gala $aluting Demo presidential candidate Al Gore in a concert finaling with Barbra Streisand … Add musical note: John Mauceri, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl orch, celebrates California’s 150th anni Friday and Saturday nights with opera, cowboys, and fireworks — and a concert performance of “Carousel” with Faith Prince, Alice Ripley, Rodney Gilfrey, Tom Bosley and Dee Wallace … Catherine Zeta-Jones’ parents winged in from Wales — arriving just 15 minutes before baby Dylan Michael Douglas arrived at Cedars-Sinai … Elizabeth Taylor is out of Cedars-Sinai after a six-day stay.