Astin ‘Caught’ by President’s Council

A correction was made to this article on May 18, 2004.

GOOD MORNING: Sean Astin was recently at the White House where he was sworn in as one of the 26 members of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. And Monday in Portland, Ore., Astin participated in John Kerry’s campaign. Astin happened to be in town working on the feature “Caught in the Act” — in which his mom Patty Duke also has a role. Astin has lost 40 pounds since last seen before the cameras in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kings.” How? “By running. And also working in several smaller movies such as “Smile,” which locationed in China, “Slip Stream” in South Africa and “Thanks to Gravity” in Florida. And he’ll also appear in Randall Miller’s “Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School.” He and wife Christine met with Miller and wife Jody on their idea of reinventing their film of 15 years ago — with the idea of ditto’ing their 1995 Oscar-nominated live action short “Kangaroo Court.” Asked about whether he’d again be part of an epic, he said, “My goal is, in the fall, to find a great studio film.” His agents at Writers & Artists have several of those scripts awaiting his decision… For the first time since this year’s Oscar win appearance, Astin was back onstage at the Kodak Theatre — this time to introduce the orchestral suite of the “Lord of the Rings” as performed by the Junior Philharmonic Orch of California. Astin was so impressed by the evening, he told me he’ll be back next ytear — to compete in the celebrity “Battle of the Batons.”

KELSEY GRAMMER, Jason Alexander, Jane Krakowski, Geraldine Chaplin, Jesse L. Martin and Jennifer Love Hewitt join director Arthur Allen Seidelman in Budapest this week for the start of Robert Halmi Sr.’s two-hour film for NBC, “A Christmas Carol.” The Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens music version will also boast a 100-member dance troupe from London, Budapest and Kiev for B’way choregrapher Dan Siretta… Seidelman just wound “The Sisters” feature in Eugene, Ore., for producer Caroline Chambers, filmed in Chambers’ studio and he returns to the stage on the boards of London’s Theatre Royal with Richard Alfieri’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” starring Shirley Maclaine in the Marc Platt/Larry Mark production to bow in 2005… Diana Douglas (Michael’s mom) has written a play (her first), “Veldemosa,” bowing at the Court on La Cienega June 2. Joyce Johnson produces, Michael Pavlic directs Spencer Beglarian and Marcia Rodd as Fredric Chopin and George Sand and the title is the town where the duo romanced one winter. It’s also the name of the town where Michael and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones have their home in Majorca… Applicants for the reality version of “Gilligan’s Island,” which I revealed here Feb. 3, are already pouring in for the TBS show skedded for a fall start. Creator Sherwood Schwartz who exec produces with son Lloyd (and Mike Fleiss) tells me a real professor has pitched to play the role of “the Professor” — “and his name is Gilligan,” laughs Schwartz… Anna Lee, 91, who died at home May 14, had played the role of Lila Quartermaine for 25 years on “General Hospital.” Last Oct. 30, she sadly told me she had not received a renewal of her role. “They have been like my second family,” she told me, “the show has been a reason for me to go on. I don’t really know what I’ll do.” She also told me one of the execs told her, “You’ll be on the show for the rest of your life.” Lee who has received three Soap Opera Digest awards was due to receive a Daytime Emmy Award Friday. This remarkable lady’s lifetime contributions on all showbiz stages also include performing during WWII with Jack Benny in North Africa for which she received a citation from General Patton. She leaves a remarkable legacy. Lee modestly wanted no funeral but her family will ready a memorial for her in a month. She leaves four children, seven children and two great grandchildren — and millions of fans and admirers.

THAT WAS NO ACTING — by Sharon Stone at SHARE’s 51st Boomtown Party, Saturday at the Century Plaza Hotel as she dramatically credited sister Kelly for the success of their “Planet Hope.” The duo received the “Shining Spirit” award from the org, which raised $1 million from that evening. A check for $250,000 was given to “Planet Hope.” This year’s party boasted only one dance number by the femmes as the show shifted to a hotel site. The show was hosted by Byron Allen, featured comedian Bobby Collins and the Three Mo’ Tenors. Amber Tamblyn, who made the presentatin to the Stone sisters, sported multi-colored hair — for the role she soon starts in “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” The previous night she celebrated her 21st birthday dinner — partied by parents Bonnie and Russ Tamblyn followed by a bash at Beyond Baroque for fellow “Joan of Arcadia” cast members. Among celebs at the SHARE show, Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett, together again. The SHARE ladies’ chairman of the board Joni Berry and president Esther Rosenfield presented the member of the year award to Patricia (Mrs.Tom) Bosley…Barbara (Mrs.Marvin) Davis tells me the 16th Carousel Ball, Oct. 23 at the BevHilton, will honor Halle Berry who receives the Brass Ring (from Oprah Winfrey) for her courage as a diabetic and to give high hopes to all others. The Davis’, daughter Dana has been a diabetic since the age of 7. The Davises’ daughter Nancy and husband Ken Rickel expect twin girls in October…The Carousel Ball this year will boast Jay Leno as m.c. and perfomers including Josh Groban. Mercedes Benz is the presenting sponsor…David Foster is music director and George Schlatter prduces. …The Lee Solters/Jerry Digney praisery celebrates its 50tg anni Wednesday with lunch at the BevHilton. The list of clients, past and present would fill 50 of my columns — and it has. Congrats… agent Frank Cooper celebrares his 92nd birthday Friday — and his 67th wedding anni with wife Sylvia May 30. He’s writing his memoirs and prepping a two-hour MOW… Mickey Rooney is toasted by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Friday at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. The dais looks like an MGM roster of Rooney’s halcyon days: Ann Rutherford, Jane Withers, Margaret O’Brien, Kathryn Grayson, Fayard Nicholas — plus younger toasters includng Terry Moore, Pat Boone, Hal Kanter and org. prexy Gil Stratton.