GOOD MORNING: I visited an old friend making a final appearance before the cameras this week. The “old friend,” at 4101 Wilshire Blvd., is Perino’s restaurant where Ray Romano, Kevin James, Burt Reynolds, Juliette Lewis, Kim Coates, Barry Newman and Sofia Vergara are starring in New Line’s action comedy “Grilled.” They are all working for scale to bring in the film at $10 million. (Back-end deals are also involved, of course). It winds filming in the pink palace landmark Friday. The demolition crew then comes in to start work on a planned 67-unit apartment complex that will retain some of the eatery’s museum-quality décor in its public rooms, promises Tom Carey whose company is the new owner-developer. P.S. He has a (two-day) role in the film as head chef. Perino’s was the setting for many movie locations including ‘Scarface,” “Bugsy” and “Mulholland Falls,” but over the years was the site for the crème de la crème of upper L.A. society — and the Southland’s underworld … “Grilled” is directed by Jason Ensler making his feature bow. He boasts hefty TV credits including NBC’s “Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart.” He never met her but believes, “I know in her heart of hearts she liked it. It was kind to her.” New pic’s a Jon Klane Production — agent Klane has been shepherding the William Tepper script and story on a “heroic journey” for more than 10 years and he’s joined by producers Brad Jenkel, Rory Rosegarten, Jeff Sussman and Andrew Sugerman … The scene at Perino’s is a Bar Mitzvah party and Burt Reynolds, the celebrant’s father, is an arms dealer confronting meat salesmen James and Romano … The start of James’ series is delayed one week so he can wind the film and start the first of 24 segs — and, he hopes, more seasons to come, he says. Romano will return to his series for a final 16 shows to wind in January. Reynolds winds on a Friday and Monday starts “The Longest Yard” remake in which he’ll play a 14-year con who coaches the team. “And I get to play in the game and score a touchdown,” he laughingly adds. It has been a busy year for Reynolds, who also wound “Nine,” coaching a femme volleyball team and “Without A Paddle” in New Zealand. He’s permanently back in L.A. and happily so, he says — with Kate Edelman.
THE LEAD IN “HERCULES” goes to Paul Telfer. The 6-foot, 2-inch English thesp is en route to New Zealand to start the four-hour NBC mini for Robert Halmi with Roger Young directing and a cast including Sean Astin, Leelee Sobieski, and offers out to Marisa Tomei and Timothy Dalton. More than 200 thesps read for the “Hercules” role, says Halmi, who was “looking for an actor, not a muscle-man — his strength comes from within” … You ain’t seen nothin’ yet — until you’ve seen “Spider-Man 2” in Imax. We caught a screening by the Visual Effects Society and Sony Image Works at the Imax at the Bridge in the Howard Hughes Complex of West L.A. in advance of its Friday bow in 45 Imax locations ($10-$14.75). The showing was followed by the behind the scenes footage created by the visual effects team of John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Lydia Bottegoni, Anthoy LaMolinar and Dan Abrams. Visual Effects Society director Eric Roth accurately noted that “Spidey” is the perfect movie to be seen in the Imax (five-stories tall) environment.” And I agreed, having shifted seats from theater center to extreme edge — with perfect clarity, no distortion and equal excitement … The post-feature footage illustrated how a thesp learns how he did what he did in a movie. Movie magic moves on … With a race on between Renee Zellweger and Pink to film Janis Joplin pics, THINKFilm’s’ “Festival Express” hits NY and LA screens July 30 in advance of summer dates. Director Bob Smeaton, who created the pic from discovered footage of the 1970 traveling extravaganza, said he wanted to show Joplin “full of life.” “Most people think of her as sad — a druggie. But I wanted to show her the way she was when not taking heroin, three months before she died.” (He allows, “heavy drugs caused her death”) … He was first involved with the re-creation of the “Express” five years ago , having been a fan of Woodstock and U.S. music, having also played in a rock ‘n’ roll band. He won a Grammy for “The Beatles Anthology” and says he’s working on he DVD version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
ELTON JOHN DONATED $100,000 for the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s mission in Guatemala to restore children’s hearing. The event, Tuesday in Minnesota at the St. Paul River Centre Grand Ballroom, honored John, Sharon Osborne and Leslie Nielsen at the Foundation’s So the World May Hear awards gala. Norm Crosby m.c’d. Elton also performed an 11-song set, singing a special version of “Happy Birthday” to Bill Austin’s wife Tani. The foundation raised $2 million for its global hearing efforts … Meanwhile, at the BevHilton, the City of Hope wound its three-day tributes-fundraiser where support groups from around the country turned in $140 million (!) for the major cancer center in Duarte. Rhonda Fleming was honored for her 55 years of service. Carol Channing made the presentation. And Crosby was also there as the Medical Center’s national ambassador of goodwill for 20 years. … Tonight William H. Macy is honored at a dinner supporting the United Cerebral Palsy Association. Audi and Conde Nast host. Macy says he’s happy to be the ambassador for the association. He credits his film “Door To Door” for his appreciation of the needs for the organization. He’s also proud of the progress in housing projects, such as one in Santa Monica, for independent living for those with cerebral palsy. “It’s a measure of our society,” he says, “of how we can take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.” This weekend, Macy wings to Paris for the bow of his Oscar-nominated “The Cooler” … Joseph and Jo Champa Farrell welcomed son Sean Joseph F. July 16 at Cedars-Sinai … Jane Withers kicks off her cross-country doll collection trek this afternoon at the St. Regis Hotel in Century City with the tour winding with an auction Aug. 1 in Kansas City, Mo. … Eric Braeden of “The Young and Restless” wings to Chicago to join Sean Connery at the All-Star Soccer game Sunday between Manchester and Bayern Munich. Braeden’s a former pro-soccer player, having played for the Israeli pro team, the Maccebees … Producer-director-writer Steven Sawalich and producing partner Brett Donovan have set up offices on The Lot in Hollywood to cast their feature “The Music Within,” which they describe as “Forrest Gump” meets “A Beautiful Mind.”