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Gere gears up for ‘Zehnder,’ ‘Dance’

GOOD MORNING: Richard Gere and director Gregory Hoblit headed to Antarctica to ready for Disney’s “The Emperor Zehnder,” the true story set in the land of the emperor penguins. But first Gere films here for the remake of Japanese hit “Shall We Dance” co-starring Jennifer Lopez, with Susan Sarandon playing Gere’s wife. These two pix add to Gere’s busy film sked of 2002, with “Unfaithful” and “Chicago” … And talking busy — Richard Zanuck will produce Bruce Willis starrer “Hostage” for Revolution-Columbia, with Paul McGuigan directing, Robert Crais, scripting the Willis-Arnold Rifkin-Cheyenne Enterprises pic. Zanuck just wound “Big Fish” with Tim Burton directing … Bob Wagner, no stranger to mysteries, will play a mystery writer in Hallmark’s “Mystery Woman,” with Kelly Martin and Michele Phillips, for director Walter Kelmard. It’s based a on a true story … The more things change — the more they remain the same: Yesterday’s L.A. Times front-paged a story headlined: “Some Astronauts Want Shuttle Escape Systems,” about the ability of astronaut-pilots to have more control over their ships’ controls, which are mostly computer-controlled. “That was one of the bases of our movie, ‘The Right Stuff,’ ” filmed 20 years ago, director Philip Kaufman told me, “Men are not monkeys!” The film celebrates its anniversary with a cast-and-astronaut reunion and screening Monday at the Egyptian, coinciding with the release of the DVD version of the Ladd Co.-Irwin Winkler-Bob Chartoff-produced film from WB. In his original review of the film in Variety, “Cart” (Todd McCarthy) called the pic “a humdinger, and although the telling takes over three hours, it goes by lickety-split under Philip Kaufman’s direction and is probably the shortest-seeming film of its length ever made.” The DVD, with its additional 13 edited scenes, plus interviews with the real and thesp astronauts, is produced by New Wave’s Jeffrey Lerner and Chandra Pinto. All members of the cast will wing out for the preem — except Sam Shepard, who played Chuck Yeager. He lives in Minnesota — and does not fly.

THE SONGS ARE ENDED but the malady lingers on. Bing Crosby’s estate and the trust of his first wife, Dixie Lee (Wilma Wyatt), first filed suits against MCA Music in July 2000. A final hearing was due May 23, but it was postponed by a request for an emergency hearing in the court of appeals. That decision is due today and, if granted, will mean another delay of months. Otherwise, the case finally will be heard Monday in Judge Terry B. Friedman’s Santa Monica Superior Court, Case SC-062601. Many million$ are involved dating back to contracts of 1943, 1949, 1956 and 1986. A similar cast led by Peggy Lee vs. Universal Music Group (MCA Records) resulted in a $4.75 million settlement to a group of 161 musicians (as reported in Daily Variety last June 26) … Meanwhile, Der Bingle’s voice goes on as Michael Feinstein readies Crosby radio material never released before, plus three CDs of Crosby-Rosemary Clooney teamings dating back to 1932. Feinstein’s also prepping a centennial tribute to Crosby to be held at the Academy. Hard to believe, Hope and Crosby were both born in 1903. (Bing died Oct. 14, 1977).

FROM BAGHDAD, ON SAVE THE CHILDREN BUSINESS, Bill Haber reports first-hand: “Satellite dishes, previously forbidden, now selling on every street corner for $150. Baghdad going from one TV channel to 415 channels overnight. Entire culture will change. Our driver Omar, was imprisoned by Hussein for six months. Someone claimed he owned a satellite dish; he didn’t own one, but in order to get him out of prison, his mother had to buy a satellite dish and give it to the government. This is a wild and woolly place — 110 degrees in the shade.” But lots of love from Save the Children … The first Dubai Film Festival will be held in March, when the Arab Emirate hosts its first seven-day multilingual cultural event. Dubai’s the site of the world’s richest horse race, the annual Dubai Cup, plus international golf tourneys. Tiger Woods was to participate this year, but bowed out because of the Iraq war — but he’s said to be committed for next year’s. The film fest is partnered by the government, Dubai Media City and Premiere Event Management, headed by Mahmud Sipra, executive producer of the Terence Young-directed Michael Caine-Laurence Olivier thriller “The Jigsaw Man” in 1985. Jerry Pam, Joel Coler and Dennis Michael handle the fest’s marketing and publicity … Press agent Joe Sutton signs his book “The Heart of Hollywood — From Hollywood to Hell and Back” (Creative Arts) Wednesday at the MPTF Screen Smart Set’s luncheon at the Four Seasons … James Arness signs his autobiog (McFarland & Co.) Saturday at the Gene Autry Museum at 10 ayem. Arness says this is his very last public appearance … Oscar-winning producer Arthur Cohn had a sizzling article in the June 4 Jerusalem Post calling both the U.S. and Israel to task for the current proposed agreements and declaring them “an enormous victory for terror and for Yasser Arafat personally” … Gil Cates reunions Friday with his Syracuse class of 1953, which presented “White Bucks and Tails” on its stage with a cast including Cates’ roommate, Bob Dishy. On Saturday, Cates receives Syracuse’s Ahrents Alumni Achievement Medal … At L.A.’s Tony Awards party Sunday at the Skirball Center, “Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees,” the last recorded production of the BBC-World Radio Network, starring the late Wendy Hiller and John Gielgud, will be auctioned off — with a signed copy of the play — to benefit the Actors Fund of America. It’s donated by James Prideaux, who was a good friend of Hiller’s.

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