GOOD MORNING: “This is a film the French should have made years ago,” Roman Polanski said to Norman Jewison as they dined in Paris, where Jewison has just started shooting “The Statement.” Pic boasts an all-star cast, including Michael Caine, Alan Bates, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Northam, Tilda Swinton and Matt Craven. Script is by Ronald Harwood, who won the Oscar for the screenplay of “The Pianist.” It’s the story of a WWII French collaborator (Caine) who sentenced seven French Jews to be killed by a Nazi firing squad. He escaped capture, and the film picks up in 1992, when he was chased throughout France in an attempt to bring him to trial. “He was protected by certain factions in the Catholic Church and the French government,” Jewison tells me. “The film packs a wallop.” Jewison has been working for years to get the film made. “Studios won’t make a movie like this today.” The Canada/U.K./France pic will get a Sony Classics release in the U.S. and Jewison will bring it in for “less than $10 million” … Seventeen thousand French Jews were exterminated in the Nazi death camps. Two were my cousins.
ANOTHER FRIGHTENING REMINDER of WWII, Showtime’s “Out of the Ashes,” preems tonight at the Equitable in N.Y., following its standing-ovation reception April 3 at the Writers Guild Theater in L.A. It’s the story of Dr. Gisella Peri, the Jewish gynecologist (played by Christine Lahti) who performed secret abortions at Auschwitz under the tortureship of Dr. Josef Mengele. Joe Sargent, who directed, tells me that residents panicked when his film company put up swastikas and Nazi-uniformed extras on the streets of the Vilnius, Lithuania, location, believing local SS groups had marched into town. “Ashes,” which airs Sunday, will get an airing on Germany’s RTL network … Regis Philbin celebrates his 20th anni with his ABC’er this week and gets his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame today, with Michael Eisner and Don Rickles among those leading the cheers. Reege and Eisner had lunch last week and talked the possibility of Philbin’s return to host primetime “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” — on a once-a-week sked … Tony Curtis, now in Baltimore, winds his yearlong “Some Like It Hot” tour next month, having never missed a performance (257) in the $12 million grosser. (He has an “important salary and overages.”) There’s talk of a N.Y. stand and he’s interested. “I’m very happy — and still active in my profession,” says Curtis, who will be 78 on June 3 and is talking with Peter Bogdanovich about appearing in the Natalie Wood project … Montel Williams winged from snowboarding in Utah to tape three radio shows in N.Y. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and wings to Houston today to star — with Mia Farrow and Aidan Quinn — in an abbreviated version of the Off B’way “The Exonerated” before 900 lawyers in an American Bar Assn. meeting. He’s in love with theater and may next tackle Shakespeare, while also readying to star in a feature (for his banner) about Bass Reeves, U.S. marshal in post-Civil War Indian territory. He’s feeling fine, thank you. “I have MS — but MS doesn’t have me,” he says.
KIRK AND ANNE DOUGLAS PLAN to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary April 29, 2004. Anne says, “We will need a year to plan for the party.” “When we were first married,” Kirk recalls, “I was in the middle of shooting ‘20,000 Leagues’ and on Saturday night we just flew up to Las Vegas, got married, saw Frank Sinatra at the Sands and came home.” This was part of the all-family conversations following the preem of the MGM/Buena Vista Intl. “It Runs in the Family” at the Bruin and lavish party following at Jamie and Chris McGurk’s magnificent home, which was decorated with real-life photos of all the principals in the film. Kirk, Michael (sans wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, in N.Y. awaiting the arrival of their second child April 25), Kirk’s ex and Michael’s mom Diana Douglas, Cameron (Michael’s 24-year-old son) and Rory Culkin, who plays Kirk’s grandson and Michael’s son in the pic. Cameron told me he’s quitting his latenight disc-jockeying to seriously study acting … The Hollywood hometown reaction to the film was terrific — and Kirk is already at work writing a sequel. This first was made for $6 million — less than what Michael gets for a starring film like his upcoming “In-Laws” for WB, “Sentinal” and “Monkey Face” co-starring wife Catherine … Among those at the “Family” preem was Caesars Palace exec VP Joseph Jimenez, who is working with Michael on the fifth annual Michael Douglas & Friends Golf Tourney at Caesars’ Cascata Golf Course May 17-18, televised by ABC and benefiting the MPTFund. Sixteen celebs will tee off. A show starring Celine Dion also will be a feature of the weekend activities. … For the Project ALS gala Monday at the BevWilshire honoring Brad Grey, “The Sopranos” cast is filming a special tribute, Paul Simon performs, Ben Stiller hosts, Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Bernie Brillstein, Gary Sinise and Bob Costas are among those toasting. The evening’s producer, Don Mischer, promises that everyone will be out the door by 10 p.m. … Also Monday, at the ArcLight in Hollywood, the launching of Warner Home Video’s DVD of “The Great American Song Book,” hosted by Michael Feinstein and co-produced by Mike Shapiro, who produced the memorable 75th-anni Oscar show’s opening number with clips of 75 Oscar-winning pix.