GOOD MORNING: With John McCain recently visiting Vietnam and announcing he was not ready to forget or forgive the Vietnamese captors who tortured him and his comrades in the Hoa Lo (“Hanoi Hilton”) prison, I wondered what the reaction will be when new wounds are opened with the release of “To End All Wars.” The film, based on Ernest Gordon’s bestseller, “Through the Valley of the Kwai,” tells the story of 4,000 prisoners and the nine who survived the Japanese prison camp, building the railway in Thailand. All prisoners, except one American, were British. Kiefer Sutherland plays the American. He tells me in one torture scene he was tied to a stake and his legs bent in such a painful way he had to train three weeks to be able to endure. His character is beaten so badly he is crippled. They are shooting the indie film in jungles of Kauai. He says three actors from Akira Kurosawa’s troupe in Japan are playing the camp commandant and guards. “We were concerned scenes would offend them,” admitted Sutherland, “but we have respect for each other as actors and understood.” He added 500 actors were found to play emaciated prisoners. So far, Sutherland has lost 11 pounds. Of course he’d seen “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 classic by David Lean starring Bill Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa that won seven Oscars. “It was one of the greatest films ever made,” admits Sutherland. (And it remains my favorite film of all time.) But “To End All Wars” is different, assures Sutherland. The pic is directed by David Cunningham, with Penelope Foster as line producer. The final sequence was filmed six months ago, before principal photography, at a WWII POW burial grounds site, with an 83-year-old British survivor of the 1942-45 prison and with one of the Japanese soldiers. Sutherland says, “It was a profound moment. Out of this immense suffering came an amazing feeling of hope and forgiveness” … This film marks the latest in an amazing series of roles for Sutherland, including director Xavier Koller’s “Ring Of Fire” in which Sutherland plays a rodeo clown, and Alfonso Arau’s “Picking Up the Pieces” with Woody Allen and Sharon Stone.
THERE’LL BE A NEW LOOK on HBO’s “Oz” next season. The prison warden, played by Ernie Hudson, is going into politics (he’ll run for lieutenant governor). Another attraction for Hudson on the series’ fourth year: He is getting a girlfriend, and may be getting married. Hudson himself will have a new look — he’s lost 35 pounds and has shaved off his moustache (no correlation between the two!) Hudson says he and producer-creator Tom Fontana have re-created his role in the ultra-tough series, which pulls no punches in its depiction of life behind bars. “He (Fontana) has written a lot of involvement for my character, rather than having me just sit behind a desk,” says the much-in-demand Hudson. He just completed “Miss Congeniality” starring Sandra Bullock (who also produces) as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a contestant in the Miss USA contest to trap a serial killer. Hudson is her FBI boss. The pic costars Benjamin Bratt as Bullock’s b.f., Candice Bergen as the contest manager, and Michael Caine as the tournament contestant supervisor. Hudson also works for the FBI in “The Watcher,” which he completed earlier co-starring Keanu Reeves, James Spader and Marisa Tomei. Hudson was so busy last year, he was commuting from Vancouver to N.Y. each week between features and the series. He even had to ask for his “Miss Congeniality” role to be shortened so he could wing to N.Y. to start the series season Monday. The versatile Hudson says there’s still talk of a possible “Ghostbusters III.” “There isn’t a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask about it,” he admits. Harold Ramis, are you listening?
THERE WASN’T AN EMPTY SEAT as over 6,000 packed the Shrine Auditorium Wednesday night for the 63rd anniversary Concert Spectacular by California’s famous Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra — 135 strong, founded-conducted by Dr. Ernst Katz. Once again, the Al Malaika Shrine donated the hall — and all tickets were free. The evening marked a 50th anni of the presentation of the “South Pacific” symphonic arrangement’s bow by the orch. Betty Garrett, who was on hand for the April 25, 1950, concert, returned for the occasion and the playing of the medley of tunes from the show … Hawaiian Airlines winged in leis for the entire orch plus the cast of celebrity “Battle of the Batons” (hosted by yours truly): Billy Barty, Danny Woodburn, Renee Taylor, Joe Bologna, Dennis Weaver and Pat Boone. (Woodburn was the winner.) The evening also marked the introduction of the first CD by the Jr. Philharmonic, “In a Symphonic Mood, ” totally underwritten by the generous Boone. During intermission, the entire stock of 1,000 copies was sold, and orders taken for more; they will also go out for sale on Boone’s Patsgold.com Web site, with profits going to the Shrine and other charities. Dr. Katz is the sole supporter of the orch itself! It is an amazing story of love for music, children and the community. Connie Stevens emceed the event, with Lori Gordon and Gary S. Greene as producers. The show finale’d with the arrival of 1,400 band members from 30 So. Calif. schools joining the symphony on “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Whatta night!