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Art imitates life, sort of

GOOD MORNING: Is life imitating art or art imitating life? On the bigscreen, Universal’s “Spy Game” dramatizes CIActivities prior to 1991 — in Lebanon, Germany, Vietnam — via the fraternity of senior (about-to-retire) agent Robert Redford and his “student” Brad Pitt. And on the small screen, CBS’ “The Agency” (the CIA) tries to stay ahead of the headlines and not follow ’em with plausible stories. Amazingly, Michael Frost Beckner, who wrote “Spy Game” (with David Arata) and is an exec producer of “Agency,” tells me that in May he had written a seg in which Bin Laden had three U.S. planes hijacked. Needless to say, the script was never completed. And in an early version of “Spy Game,” a Marine barracks in the Middle East was destroyed by a terrorist. That, too never made it to final shooting script. However, there is much in the pic that carbons things that happened — and possibly indicating things to come … Doug Wick, who produced “Spy Game” with Marc Abraham, says “Universal was extremely brave” to OK the release of the Tony Scott-directed pic at this time. Coincidentally, “Black Hawk Down” is also getting a release at year’s end from Columbia. And it is directed by Ridley Scott. The brothers were shooting enormous, explosive scenes within miles of each other in Morocco! The Scotts were on hand for the preem in Westwood Monday night and talking about their experiences later at the party at the Napa Valley Grill along with the pic’s execs, and stars Brad Pitt and Catherine McCormack. Redford, not known for preem participations, did however host a benefit screening at Sundance for the North Fork Preservation Alliance, Nov. 16.

HE NEVER SLEEPS; he works around the clock,” Doug Wick said of director Tony Scott. “And his warm kindness sets the tone for the entire company.” It is an amazing accomplishment when you see (and hear) the non-stop action of the pic. Wick also admits that Redford “agonized for six months prior to the start of the film, on every line of the film. It’s no wonder he has remained on top for 40 years.” Meanwhile, Brad Pitt, at the Westwood preem with wife Jennifer Aniston and his parents, didn’t disappoint the enormous crowd of young fans: When the back rows couldn’t get a glimpse of the star, he repeatedly jumped up in the air to wave to ’em and when the Pitts spotted one young girl crying because she couldn’t get an autograph on the pix she’d brought, she was pulled out of the crowd to pose for pix with them. Pitt’s invitees included Edward Norton (“Red Dragon”) and Salma Hayek, Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener. The film includes a (screen) dedication to Elizabeth Scott, the late mother of the very devoted Tony and Ridley … Both the film and TV creators claim the CIA is happy with their products. As for the future on “Agency,” Breckner promises, “We will not do a show based on last year’s headlines. But I do admit the campaign in Afghanistan went a little more quickly than we expected! We do hope the public will say of future episodes, ‘This show is on the ball.’ ” The Nov. 29 seg is about a terrorist threat at the Yemni embassy. CBS apparently thinks the show’s on the ball: The web has picked it up for the full season. And has been very supportive, he emphasizes. As for the CIA, he says “They’re comfortable with the fact I get the people right. It’s not about the CIA per se, but about the people working there. I have the access (to the CIA) because at the end of the day my goal is to portray the human element honestly.” But when he started talking with them, he notes, “I think I was being looked at — when I thought I wasn’t being looked at.” Sounds like an early scene between Redford and Pitt in “Spy Game.” Wick next segues to “Peter Pan.” Breckner stays in the spy game with “Official Assassins” set in 1946 Berlin’s cold war capture of Nazi scientists.

GOOD MORNING, WORLD: Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng welcomed daughter Grace, Monday in N.Y. … Also on Monday in Gotham, Daily Variety‘s N.Y. editor Jill Goldsmith and husband Marco Valsania welcomed twins Nathaniel Goldsmith Valsania and Francesca Sarah V. at Mt. Sinai hospital … Barbara and Don Rickles are grandparents a second time as daughter Mindy and husband Ed Mann welcomed son Harrison Matthew Mann at Cedars-Sinai, Monday afternoon … Madelein and Tom Sherak’s daughter Melissa Sherak Resnick is chosen by the State of California to be one of those carrying the torch in the L.A. seg to the Salt Lake City Olympics, Jan. 15. She was chosen for her spirit in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis … Jack Carter, who has undergone five surgeries in the past two weeks, is due to go home Friday from Cedars-Sinai. He sounded feisty as ever on the phone! … The one-night (Nov. 19) performance at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center of Ernest Hemingway’s “Nick Adams,” as dramatized by A.E. Hotchner, raised over one million-$ for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. Among those performing: Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Danny Aiello, Kevin Kline, Brian Dennehy, Morgan Freeman, James Naughton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Joanne Woodward and Paul … Sally Kellerman is the celeb spokesperson for Angel Harvest, bringing overages of food from a myriad of events and suppliers to the hungry … And a Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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