Marvelous Lee to unleash ‘Heroes’

GOOD MORNING: The Stan Lee legend continues at breakneck-pace. While his bigscreen hero “Spider-Man 2” continues to scale new boxoffice heights for Sony, the 82-years-young artist tells me of projects “Earth Walker” and “Heroes At Large” at MGM-TV and “Who Wants to be A Super Hero?” at MTV. He’s also readying six DVDs of “original movies” in “fantasy animation” for IDT, and a movie with Bob Evans at Paramount. “We have over 40 projects in the works. I come up with the outlines, the concept and get the best writers to do the scripts so I can come up with commercial ideas. They are original, franchise-able characters.” You can be sure he’ll have a stake in the future of these projects in his new company, POW! Entertainment. While he continues to be credited as exec producer of “Spidey 2,” he says he receives no salary–but he gets an annual fee from Marvel Comics “in the neighborhood of $1 million. Don’t make me sound bitter,” he laughed. “I’m enjoying life. I still continue to do hundreds of interviews for ‘Spider-Man’ and answer every piece of mail from kids (and grown kids) about it.” He also writes a “Spider-Man” newspaper strip. The global span of Stan Lee was again evident Monday morning when his mail included a letter from Paul McCartney. McCartney said he’d be interested in involvement in a Lee film “if the character could hook in with one of my pet charities — the Land Mine Clearances Survivor Assistance, Animal Rights –. So if you have any idea for ‘Landminer’ or ‘Anima Man’ (just joking), please get back to me with any marvelous ideas. P.S. How about ‘Composerman,’ ‘The Singer,’ Cluster Bomb’ or ‘The Brigade’?” Lee doesn’t look forward to having to testify, in September, in the government’s case vs. ex-Stan Lee Media partner Peter Paul. That association, Lee says, “cost me a half million $ and I almost lost my house.” Among things Paul told Lee: “He was trying to get Bill Clinton on our board. I guess I got carried away.” He even participated in a Peter Paul-created fundraiser for Al Gore at the BevHills Hotel (at which we were guests). No more politics for Lee this time out. He says, “I want to stay friends with everyone!”

SHOWBIZ AND POLITICS: Patrick Cassidy and several members of the cast of “42nd Street” were queried on singing the show’s finale at the Aug. 30 opening night of the GOP convention. He turned down the offer. Cassidy’s extended his pact with the show to Jan. 1, while mom Shirley Jones, who has Coast commitments, departs Aug. 8. But Patrick is taking time off “42nd Street” Aug. 28 to attend the wedding in L.A. of brother Shawn Cassidy and Tracy Turner … Ben Affleck plans to attend each night’s session of the Demo Convention … Sen. Edward Kennedy’s speech at the Demos’ doing July 27 in Boston will be b’cast live to Boston Symphony Hall at 8 p.m. and he’ll arrive there shortly after 9:15 to be honored on his 42 years of Public Service … Last night, Meryl Streep hied from the “Manchurian Candidate” preem in N.Y. to the Bleeker Street Theater, where she hosted Sarah Jones’ performance in “Bridge & Tunnel” as a fundraiser for the Kerry-Edwards’ campaign. Streep is producer of the legiter, which won an Obie … Angela Lansbury, costar (and multi-award winner for her supporting perf) in the 1962 “Manchurian Candidate,” tells me of Streep who reprises her character, “She is the best actress in America today.” Lansbury is nominated for the 17th time for an Emmy (and has never won); this one is for “The Blackwater Lightship” on “Hallmark Hall of Fame.” She’ll next be seen on the bigscreen in “Nanny McPhee,” which she recently completed with Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. She warns, “You won’t recognize me. I have a huge, false nose and weird grey hair. It’s a real departure for me,” she laughed. Lansbury, off on a vacation in Ireland has no plans for future “Murder She Wrote” TV’ers — unless, of course, a good script comes along.

BUDAPEST CALLING: It was producer Robert Halmi and director Arthur Allan Seidelman from the set of “A Christmas Carol,” a two-hour movie for NBC. Dickens’ 1870 London has been created on the backlot and within two stages of MaFilms studio for the $17 million TV’er. How do you get back that amount from a two-hour TV show? First, says Halmi, NBC has already promised to air it each holiday season (it airs first time Nov. 29). And Halmi will have it on DVD in time for Christmas as well. The day’s shoot involved Kelsey Grammer, Jason Alexander, Jesse L. Martin, Jane Krakowski, Geraldine Chaplin, Edward Gower, Brian Bedford, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jacob Maoriarty plus 60 dancers from the Ukraine, 40 from Hungary, 100 singers, 300 extras, and a live 120-piece orch playing the Alan Menken-Lynn Ahrens score (and who knows what computer-generated magic will be added?). Halmi, who has six Emmy nominations for “Lion in Winter,” jetted to London to dine with “Lion” costar Patrick Stewart who, he says, has moved to London to continue his career in theater there. Wednesday, Halmi arrives here to show his “Earthsea” Sci Fi Channel pic to TV editors. This one stars Danny Glover, Kristin Kreuk, Isabella Rossellini, Allan Scarfe, Chris Gauthier and Shawn Ashmore … One-man showman: Rip Torn opened his Sanctuary theater in Lakeville, Conn., over the weekend with a successful production of Joyce Johnson’s “Door Wide Open” starring John Ventimiglia (“Sopranos”)and Torn’s wife Amy Wright. Torn designed, financed and even built the 200-seater … U. of North Carolina alum Alan Bergman hosts Wednesday’s 10th annual UNC-Hollywood Media Internship reception at the Acad. He’s joined by fellow alums Jeffrey Hayden, Eva Marie Saint, Peyton Reed, Dave Krinsky, Kendall Morgan and Bo Hyde … UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television benefited ($115,000) from the preem of U’s “The Bourne Supremacy,” boasts producer Frank Marshall, who is also a member of the school’s newly established exec board. On hand and supporting UCLA was Stacey Snider, who was in UCLA dean Robert Rosen’s film history class at the U. of Pennsylvania and later an alumna of UCLA’s Law School (1985).

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