Crystal chats about ‘Uncle Berns’

GOOD MORNING: Academy Award show producer Joe Roth and the show’s m.c., Billy Crystal sat down at 3 p.m. Wednesday for their first meeting post-nominee announcements. I spoke to both before they went into that meeting. Billy had just returned from the Sarasota Film Festival in Florida where daughter Lindsay premiered her film, “My Uncle Berns,” an 88-minute docu that airs on HBO in August. It’s really about Billy’s 89-year-old uncle, Bernhardt Crystal, “Who was a father to me after my father died. He made me want to go into showbiz.” The film received such a resounding reception, it’s been booked for two extra screenings. Billy and wife Janice are exec producers, but took a back seat while their daughter handled the press following the screening. “It was thrilling to watch another Crystal host something,” Billy told me… The Wednesday Oscar meeting between Roth and Crystal and further progress on the Oscar show will be taped by/for Oprah Winfrey. Crystal said Oprah will air the Oscar show progress on her daytimer, finale-ing on her Friday (Feb. 27) show preceding the Sunday Oscarcast. What better preview! Oprah had recently donned a video camera in her own hand to chronicle her preparation for, appearance on, win and post-appearance on the “People’s Choice Awards” which she aired on her own show Jan.12… For himself, Billy said he will have six writers working on the 23-24 appearances he plans to make during the three-and-a-half hour Oscar show. His reaction to the Oscar nominees: “I’m so pumped up about them.” While it’s obvious he could have fun with the biggies — “Return of the King,” “Master and Commander” and “Seabiscuit” — but Crystal told me he liked “City of God” and “Whale Rider” best. He said he hopes “the industry will make this event a big party.”

JOE ROTH SAID the choices made by the Acad voters make it “exhilarating” for him to create a show that will provide for many “unexpected moments –memorable ones, poignant ones, a show whose results could prove that anything goes. It will be classy, up-to-date, almost like an opening on the Broadway stage. It will be young and fresh but will honor the past history of movies and embrace the future. The nominations have provided us with an opportunity for many stirring visual moments onstage as well as onscreen.” He promises pairings of presenters — many “you haven’t seen on TV before, it will be laden with superstars –real Hollywood royalty (like Tom Hanks, f’rinstance).” The list starts to unfurl next week. As for the music, the songs will be performed by the likes of Elvis Costello (“Scarlet Tide”) and Sting (“You Will Be My Ain True Love”); both songs from “Cold Mountain”)… Roth segues from Oscar to direct Revolution’s “Skipping Christmas” with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis starring. Roth says the entire film will be shot in L.A…. I also talked to Louis J. Horvitz who will direct the Oscarcast and asked how he thinks the nominees will fill his dozens of TV lenses. “They present the potential for a new guard,” he noted happily. “Instead of only five big studios involved we have as many as 10 production companies and excitement of many different personalities — many newcomers as well as those who are established”… I spoke again with one of these “newcomers,” Sofia Coppola. I had last talked to her just before Christmas when she was to join her family at the Coppolas’ Napa vineyard. At that time she was “awed” by the company she was sharing in the various award outlets. And now, she remains more “awed” as she’s the first American woman to be nominated in the directing category. I asked her who had influenced her directing career and she said they included: Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Antonioni, Goddard “and of course my dad. I grew up being exposed to so much of his moviemaking. Francis said “this beautiful slip of a girl is holding up the family name in the company of such wonderful people.” Sofia told me she will now get back to writing. I asked if she would now tackle something in the scale of the other nominees — in other words, “a big picture.” Coppola, 32, answered, “I like to do intimate things, personal things, something I can relate to.” So I asked about something personal — her divorce from Spike Jonze. Her answer. “It (the divorce) is in the process. I’m doing fine.”… Sean Penn tells me he definitely will attend the Academy Awards. As for not showing up at the Globes, he said “I just got used to not being up there.” He thanked Clint Eastwood personally when he came back to L.A. Tuesday.

ANN MILLER received a rousing, standing ovation when A.C. Lyles wound his eulogy to her Wednesday morning at the Mass held at St. Mel’s Church in Woodland Hills. Lyles, a longtime friend, and Morgan Woodward delivered the warm, often humorous recollections of the so-well loved Miller. Lyles reminded that Annie always filled in the “Occupation” blank on all forms with the word “STAR!!” Her many friends, stars of the halcyon days who were on hand included: Connie Stevens, Jayne Meadows, June Haver, Anne Jeffreys, Ann Rutherford, Margaret O’Brien, Jane Withers, Marsha Hunt, Rosemarie Stack, Kathryn Grayson, Joan Leslie, plus Renee Taylor, Francesca Hilton, Peter Mark Richman, Fred Travalena, etc… Jeanne Cooper, the only original cast member of “The Young and the Restless” celebrated her 30th anni on the show (as grande dame Katherine Chancellor) with an on-the-set party Wednesday at CBS TV City. In attendance were all cast members including former members plus her children, Corbin Bernsen, Colin Bernsen and Caren Bernsen and eight grandchildren… Eric Braeden, who has starred as Victor Newman on “Y&R” for 24 years, continues to be a staunch John Kerry supporter. He hosted a fund-raiser for Kerry at his home in the early days of the campaign, and attended a second in Hollywood and tells me he continues to talk to him and support him.” I applaud his foreign policy” says world-traveler Braeden who will be traveling to Paris Feb. 10 for a “Y&R” publicity tour. Braeden’s also been invited by Israel to attend a Feb. 22 State dinner in Jerusalem where he’ll meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon… Lalo Schifrin will score “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” starring Robert De Niro, Kathy Bates, Harvey Keitel and Gabriel Byrne. Schifrin will score in England. Lalo receives the “Golden Score Award” March 25 at the BevHills Hotel from the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers and picks up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Film Music Festival June 20 in Bonn, Germany in recognition of his huge body of work… Photog Phil Stern’s “A Life’s Work” goes on exhibition starting tonight at the Fahey/Klein Gallery at 148 North La Brea. Don’t miss it!