Sorvino recruited for war effort

GOOD MORNING:Mira Sorvino’s the second Oscar winner to join the 140-speaking role’d Civil War extravaganza, “Gods and Generals” for director Ron Maxwell, plus Ted Turner, Bob Rehme and company. The pic is being negotiated with WB. Oscar winner Robert Duvall has already been set to play Gen. Robert E. Lee. Sorvino pays Fanny Chamberlain, wife of Col. Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) to whom Lee surrenders. Sorvino is also Maxwell’s choice to play Joan of Arc, whenever he gets that epic on screen … Oscar nominee (“Mr. Saturday Night”) David Paymer admits it was “eerie” filming “Joe and Max,” the story of Joe Louis and Max Schmelling in Berlin at the Babelsberg (UFA) studios where the Hitler propaganda pix were filmed during the same ’40s period as the pic. Paymer plays Schmelling’s (Jewish) manager Joe Jacobs. Paymer’s mother and Belgian family had escaped the Nazis in Antwerp. “When you think what happened to my family — and here was I now acting in that same era!” The players in Nazi uniforms were forbidden to go outside the studio in those costumes and when one took out a Nazi flag outside the sound stage, he was let go. Paymer says the pic shows how Hitler wanted Schmelling to fire his manager, but Schmelling appealed. Schmelling ended up in the German army. He was wounded but is still alive at 95, reports Paymer — who was not able to meet him. The film shows the Nazis’ historic Kristallnacht nightmare and it also depicts how the U.S. neglected its champion, Joe Louis, who died broke. Louis is played by Leonard Roberts, Til Schweiger is Schmelling. Coincidentally, Paymer also plays a Jewish merchant during WWII in which he’s targeted by bigots — in N.Y. The pic, “Focus,” for Paramount Classics, is financed by N.Y. mayoral hopeful Michael Bloomberg and also stars William H. Macy and Laura Dern. It is based on Arthur Miller’s 1947 novel. Miller writes in the Oct. Vanity Fair about his personal experiences with anti-Semitism when working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII. The cast of “Focus” posed for a cover photographed by Neal Slavin, who also directs the pic. And Paymer is now looking to direct — his first will be one of Showtime’s “Quick Flicks.” And, oh yes, the N.Y.-set “Focus” was filmed in Toronto. And all the N.Y. scenes for “Joe and Max” — including Yankee Stadium — were filmed in Berlin.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA,a “Young and Restless” fan dined Wednesday night at the home of the soap’s star Eric Braeden. Ventura also guested in a seg last year — he admitted his affection for the show he used to watch when touring as a wrestler. And Braeden guested at Ventura’s birthday party July 15 … At Monday’s Jack Lemmon “celebration,” his son Christopher told me he’s readying to produce a comedy feature, “Publicity Stunt.” He’d also star, with Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, etc … And Peter McCrea, wed to Courtney Lemmon, told me he’s writing the bio of his father, Joel McCrea. And his mother, Frances Dee, ever-beautiful at 91 (!), is writing her autobiog. She lives on the McCrea ranch in Thousand Oaks whose 300 acres will soon become the McCrea Ranch Park. Joel originally owned 2,600 acres in the Valley, selling off parcels over the years, but keeping the 300 for their home-ranch … Alan Bergman, who had produced the live tribute to Irving Berlin starring Jack Lemmon on the stage of the Acad’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, is now readying a similar live tribute to Richard Rodgers with Julie Andrews to topline … Among those at the Lemmon tribute was Walter Matthau’s son Charlie, who is also developing screen properties. His mother, Carole, sold the Matthau Pacific Palisades and Malibu houses and has moved back to New York to be near her girlhood friends — like Gloria Vanderbilt.

APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX” BOWS Friday on the Imax screen at Universal’s CityWalk for a limited, exclusive L.A. run. Ducats are $10 for the single (8 p.m.) weekday showings, 6:10 and 10:30, weekends … I noted on Tuesday that “The Bradys” will go inter-racial on their next outing and now the Schwartz family’s also prepping an interracial cast (seven) for the next “Gilligan’s Island” … Kim Masters segues from Vanity Fair to write “The Industry” column for Esquire , bowing in the September issue with “The Best Little Movie Studio in Hollywood — Nobody seems to like the swaggering DreamWorks boys, and that’s what’s wrong with the movie business.” Izzat so? … A giant birthday cake (by pastry chef Sherry Yard) with an image of Wolfgang Puck as Neptune and Barbara Lazaroff as a mermaid was the coup de grace at Granita’s 10th birthday party in Malibu Monday. And there on Tuesday night, a triple birthday party toasted Mike Connors, Sharkey (Mrs. Tim) Conway and Eydie Gorme. There was much singing in this group which included, of course, MaryLou Connors, Tim Conway and Steve Lawrence plus Dick and Dolly Martin, Bob Wagner and Jill St. John, Richard and Penni Crenna, Pat and Larry Gelbart, Angie Dickinson, Bob and Ginny Newhart, Michele and Dick Van Dyke, Thea and Merv Adelson, Grant Tinker, Tom and Marla Rowan, Judy Tannen and George Ferrick on piano … The Peninsula Hotel’s chef extraordinaire Bill Bracken guests — as himself — in the opening seg of CBS’ “Family Law,” which re-created the hotel general manager Ali Kasikci’s Belvedere Restaurant and Bar for future shows as well.

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