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Spacey’s Darin biopic nears completion

GOOD MORNING: The dream is a week away from fruition. I spoke with Kevin Spacey last night from the Babelsberg Studios in Berlin, where he had completed directing-starring in the day’s filming on “Beyond the Sea,” the Bobby Darin story, as well as looking at the previous day’s dailies and doing dance rehearsals for the final scenes upcoming. “I am having the time of my life,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming of doing this for 10 years.” And as he said in my June 26, 2003, column, “If I waited any more I might be too old.” He admitted the start of the film went through “rocky periods of financing — by no fault of its own. My attitude was that every obstacle was an opportunity. And everyone in the film has turned my dream into their dream.” The British-German production, with a Lions Gate (“They turned out to be a joy”) release, will bow in November … As for the content of the film, Spacey says, “I’m not making a typical plodding biopic. It’s the story of a man who overcame several things. The current generation — and others — who know his music don’t know what he overcame as a child with rheumatic fever. I try to illustrate what his childhood illness was like, and how music and literature gave him hope. But I’m not telling a linear story. And as a performer, as sick as he was, you couldn’t have a clue he had as much as a hangnail — but he’d come offstage and collapse. His drive was constant to reinvent himself — like from rock ‘n’ roll to pop, into social values, politics. This is a story of someone trying to find out who he isn’t.” Spacey says he was supported in the project by Darin’s son Dodd , ex-wife Sandra Dee and longtime manager Steve Blauner, plus Roger Kellaway and Phil Ramone. He put down 33 tracks at the Abbey Road recording studio in London, with John Wilson and 48 musicians. He doesn’t sing all of the Darin hits completely, but some are background. Of course, there will be a soundtrack album. The “Lord of the Rings” makeup and hair team have created Spacey’s “look” as Darin. But he says he’s not doing a singing imitation of him. And yes, he also plays drums and guitar a la Darin — and dances. He says he’s “fortunate” to have William Ulrich play Darin as a boy, Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee, John Goodman as Blauner, plus Bob Hoskins, Vanessa Redgrave, Peter Cincotti, and a production design team that helps make the $40 million production look like much more. He was concerned about shooting in Berlin — but says they found locations to duplicate Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, the Bronx and Italy. Of course, Spacey takes no money at all … When the film goes into the editing room, Spacey heads to Vancouver for an acting stint in “Edison” with Morgan Freeman, with whom he had “a great experience” on “Seven.” And then into his job as artistic director of the Old Vic, in which he will be in two shows a year with David Liddiment producing This weekend his TriggerStreet banner will be at Sundance with his Web site’s short-subject finalists. It’s also teamed with MGM on “Bringing Down the House.” And he’s partnered with Ross Martin at Fox with a series about a 14-year-old Wall Street whiz kid. Kevin Spacey’s a happy man.

NICOLE KIDMAN WILL PLAY ULLA, the hysterically sexy secretary to Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom (Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) in the movie version of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Brooks thinks it would be a terrific idea. Nicole isn’t shy about tackling any role — as evidenced by her Oscar win for “The Hours” — so why not Ulla? Everyone’s thrilled she’ll play the comic/musical role. (She also worked with Broderick in “The Stepford Wives.”) Susan Stroman, who’ll direct the film version, told me of the Kidman casting, “I’m so excited, she’s so versatile.” This is the first film for Stroman. But Brooks reminds me that legit director Rob Marshall made his movie bow with “Chicago” — and went on to win the Oscar along with many other accolades. Stroman reminds that the film, like the play, takes place mostly on stages — but there also will be exteriors — like on Shubert Alley, “with all the eccentric characters who really live in New York.” Brooks and Thomas Meehan are busy writing the film script to start shooting next February, with a release at Christmas 2005; Universal handles domestic, Columbia foreign … Lane and Broderick, who returned to the show Dec. 30, have agreed to stay in the legiter until April 25. Stroman says. “They’re better than ever!” If that’s possible?

KIM NOVAK, WHO WAS toasted Saturday by the American Cinematheque, revealed in the Q&A with Stephen Rebello that she had turned down “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Hustler,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Sandpiper” and “Bunny Lake Is Missing.” She admitted she was getting “so many scripts at that time — it was impossible! As soon as I saw ‘The Hustler,’ I regretted turning it down. Piper Laurie was so wonderful.” Is she ready to work again? “I love my life in Oregon the way it is” she said, “but never say never — if a script really calls to me, I may do it.” Her manager Sue Cameron and agent Norman Brokaw of William Morris are sending her scripts … Ginny and Bob Newhart celebrated their 41st wedding anni in the banquet room of Matteo’s. Newhart again heads out on the road — his 44th year and says he loves the personal showbiz, “can’t imagine not doing it” … Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin at this week’s staff meeting of New Millennium, where Viner said their marital split would not affect the partnership in the company … Mia Lillian Erlichman was born to J.J. and Ali Erlichman Jan. 4 at Cedars-Sinai. Marty and Miko Erlichman and Marilyn and Norman Lesser are the proud grandparents … Anne Nelson was toasted by fellow CBS staff members as she celebrated her 59th year with the Eye — from radio to TV and into HDTV … Aden Gillett and Jessica Brooks, co-stars of (producer) John and (director) Richard Burridge’s “Collusion,” wing in from London for the Feb. 8 screening at N.Y.’s Tribeca Grand Hotel …The 53rd Miss USA Pageant will broadcast from the Kodak Theater April 12 on NBC, following a special seg of “Fear Factor” featuring six Miss USA delegates. It’s the second year for the combo … Tom Sullivan receives the Will Rogers Memorial Award from the BevHills Chamber of Commerce, March 3 at the BevHilton … Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge and Ben Harper perform Friday at the Palladium to launch Rock for Choice events in the upcoming elections.

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