GOOD MORNING: Richard Zanuck and wife Lili spent “a lovely afternoon and dinner” with Roman Polanski in Paris. Richard was in town for the final scenes of his “Big Fish,” which locationed for months in Montgomery, Ala., with Tim Burton directing. Richard reports, “Roman is in great shape — but still hasn’t found something to follow ‘The Pianist.’ I told him, ‘Don’t try to match it — just move on to another film.'” Lili Zanuck, you recall, was to produce “The Double” with Polanski directing, John Travolta starring in 1996. Polanski bowed out, it fell apart, lawsuits followed. . . . L.A. Opera’s “Placido Domingo & Friends” Tuesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was one for the books, and $1 million was raised for the L.A. Opera. As Baitzel noted to me, “Placido is like a magnet.” Billy Friedkin introduced Denyce Graves, who had the lead in Bela Bartok’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle,” in which Friedkin directed her. “I regard her as the highlight of all the people I’ve ever worked with” Friedkin said. He also reined “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini for L.A. Opera — and Friedkin will direct a movie based on an incident in Puccini’s life — the pic to star Placido, who will be needed (he’ll also sing) for three months on the pic! How to work out the time? Friedkin’s also readying to direct “Tannheuser” for the L.A. Opera in 2004 . . . Friedkin delivered the commencement address at Loyola Marymount, where he received a Doctorate of Humane Letters. Wife Sherry Lansing delivers the commencement address at the U. of California, Santa Barbara, June 15 . . . Garry Marshall, who introduced Renee Fleming, said he’ll be making his opera directing bow. He kiddingly said it would be Marilyn Horne and Beverly Sills in “The Odd Couple — The Opera.” Seriously, he’ll debut with “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein” by Offenbach . . . Sidney Poitier, another gracious presenter of the operatic talent, attends the annual UNESCO meeting in Paris and, again, the Emperor of Japan’s birthday in December — he’s ambassador from the Bahamas to Japan . . . Salma Hayek, another presenter, gets her love for opera from her mom, who was a singer. And presenters Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Kelly Hu and Hugh Jackson were “X-Men” reps as well as opera lovers. Zooey Deschanel was there with her parents, the Caleb Deschanels — he’s Friedkin’s cinematographer.. . . Sting’s non-operatic contribution (“Fragile”) was thanks to his friendship with Placido’s son Pepe.
THE TONY NOMINEES reception Wednesday at the Marriott Marquis hotel brought out more press in one room than seen in an entire B’way season. One favorite shot for fotos — nominees Harvey Fierstein (“Hairspray”) and Antonio Banderas (“Nine”) squared off. “Long Day’s Journey’s” Brian Dennehy was there, but not Vanessa Redgrave. Bernadette Peters, who has been skipping most of the awards-season events trying to save her strength for “Gypsy,” was on hand, looking beautiful in an antique dress. Her competition, Marissa Jaret Winokur (“Hairspray”), also was there working the room. Others there: Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chita Rivera and Jane Krakowski, being lensed by Gary Smith for possible use in the June 8 CBS telecast. Gary tells me the diversity of the nominations will make for an exceptionally visual show. And he’s got an show-opening idea — which could rival the one in which he launched with the “42nd Street” cast boarding a subway to arrive onstage at Radio City. Remember? Smith takes time off from the Tonys to wing to L.A. and ready Saturday’s SHARE show (their 50th) at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It’s also A.C. Lyles’ 85th birthday and his 75th working for Paramount — he started at age 10 as a page in the Jacksonville, Fla., Paramount theater… As of today, more than 300 AMC Theaters will salute Bob Hope next week. His 100th birthday’s Thursday and so far 28 states will honor him with “Bob Hope Day”… Kirk and Anne Douglas dedicated their 209th (!) children’s playground Wednesday — this one at West L.A.’s Magnet School. The entire Douglas family reunions (again!) Monday for the Hollywood preem of WB’s “The In-Laws.” First, Michael heads the weekend doings at Caesar’s with his fifth annual Michael Douglas & Friends Golf Tourney, benefiting the Motions Picture & Television Fund, May 17-18 with players including Alice Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Kenny G, Andy Garcia, Matthew McConaughey, Dennis Miller, Haley Joel Osment, Joe Pesci, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone and James Woods … Dan Aykroyd hosts “SNL’s” season finale Saturday — it’s his first hostint — although he’s appeared many times, he’s always nixed this job. The season-finale party will be held at Rockefeller Plaza’s skating rink site … Carl Reiner’s toasted by the Pacific Pioneers Friday at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. Among those who’ll salute him: Sid Caesar, Louis Nye, Nanette Fabray, Dick Martin, Howard Morris, Rose Marie, Hal Kanter and Dick Van Dyke, who starred in the show bearing his name that was written, produced and co-starred Carl … Joe Smith is A-OK after undergoing angioplasty. He doffs his fedora to the BevHills paramedics … Michele Lee hosts the annual Prism Awards screening today in the Dirksen Senate Building — the show airs May 25 on the FX network praising accurate representations of drug, alcohol and tobacco use in films, TV, music and comicbooks. … “Sleeping With the Ambassador” (Hotel, that is) bows tonight in that landmark L.A. hotel with Heidi Duckler’s “talking performance” of the hotel’s history-filled sites — the Cocoanut Grove, of course, among ’em. The audience (150) tours the hotel to “see” and hear its history. The show runs weekends through June 15. The site, owned by the L.A. School District, is a favorite movie location site — currently for David Mamet’s “Spartan”