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Tea with Elaine, ‘An Original Woman’

GOOD MORNING: “I flipped over Rock Hudson — and we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be!” It was Elaine Stritch telling how she called off her two-year relationship with Ben Gazzara to instead date Hudson when all were filming in Italy. That was then and now, Stritch says, she and Gazzara are talking of teaming onstage in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” She and Gazzara — and his wife, Elke — have become friends over the years and she loves recounting his quote when he came backstage after seeing her on B’way in her Tony-winning one-woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty.” “I didn’t know you were this talented.” And she raved about his performance in “Nobody Don’t Like Yogi.” Here for the TCA promo tour — for her May-airing HBO feature docu — Elaine took time out to have tea with me at the Peninsula Hotel. She didn’t miss a beat — even while checking her blood sugar and giving herself a shot of insulin while asking the maitre’d to fill up a bottle of orange juice for her and to keep handy a few of the hotel’s special breakfast muffins. The HBO vidversion of her legiter bares all of Stritch — warts and all her talents and, as always, her great gams. In the HBO film, she admits, “It’s hard to open — and hard to close.” But, while that curtain’s down, Stritch continues on. She’ll also be seen in Showtime’s “Paradise” and is launching a lecture tour, “Elaine Stritch, An Original Woman.” She certainly is.

ANTHONY MINGHELLA SAYS HE and Sydney Pollack “are swapping hats” on the next project of their Working Title banner, “The Interpreter.” They were teamed as director and producer respectively on “Cold Mountain” and Pollack directs and Minghella is behind the scenes on “Interpreter,” which also stars Nicole Kidman. As reported Dec. 10 in Daily Variety, Sean Penn is being sought. Minghella, while already receiving many accolades (and nominations) for “Cold Mountain,” which he also scripted, is philosophical about not getting a nod from the Directors Guild. (Nominees are Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Peter Weir , Gary Ross and Sofia Coppola). Minghella pensively noted, “maybe because our film was released so late? But, I am mainly happy because it is doing so well.” He admits the one person he wanted to be happy with the film was author Charles Frazier on whose novel his script is based. And was he pleased? “I believe so. He was on the set and attended several of our openings.” Minghella is particularly happy these days because son, Max, 18, gets his first film role — and a big one — as Richard Gere’s son. Minghella wears yet another hat as he now hies back to London to work as chairman of the British Film Institute … Ireland’s Jim Sheridan joined us at lunch at Spago where the “In America” director made some revelations about that film — and about his next. F’instance: In the often autobiographical “In America,” he admitted he lost the family’s rent money in a carnival toss game — but couldn’t make the scene “that heartbreaking” in the film. And now, he’s heavily into research for his next pic, also Irish-American, “The Mark of Cain.” It’s about Joseph Kennedy and sons Bobby and John and the intrigue, from father to the sons and — the murders. Sheridan marked my note pad with his map of the Mafia areas of influence in America to illustrate.

I CAUGHT UP WITH TIM ALLEN between rehearsals for his first legit directing stint, “Ms. Fits!” bowing Jan. 15 at the Ivar Theater in Hollywood and starring Megan Cavanagh and Carolynne Warren. He got into this role via conversation with Megan at their respective children’s school. He’s directed many of his “Home Improvement” segs and as for the legit reining experience, he says, “I love it!” And would do more. And he also intends to direct a movie, “Crazy On the Outside” — “but not soon.” First, he’s busy writing, with Matt Carroll, the remake of Disney’s “Shaggy Dog” in which Allen will star with Brian Robbins directing. Allen also has two films at Revolution in which to star — “Skipping Christmas” which Joe Roth will direct, starting in three weeks and “In The Pink.” Then comes “Santa Claus 3”. He’s busy! … And talking about writing, “Big Fish” author Daniel Wallace tells me he’d never before read a movie script until he saw what John August had accomplished with his novel. And he admits he loves the conversion and as for his first experience with Hollywood and this film, he says, “I feel like the lucky. I haven’t met anyone in this film that I wouldn’t want to meet again.” He is now busy writing scripts on his own, has an agent, UTA, and the first script sold is “Timeless” and set at Universal with, it is hoped, Tom Shadyac to direct. It’s a far cry from “Big Fish” — a romantic comedy.

AWARD SHOW TOPPERS move on: Sunday night it was Walter C. Miller producing and Louis J. Horvitz directing “The People’s Choice Awards” at the Pasadena Civic Aud and Monday morning, Miller was at work on the Feb. 8 Grammys for the Staples Center and Horvitz was at Joe Roth’s Oscars office (at Revolution) readying the Feb. 29 Oscars for the Kodak. The Grammys will be the 34th for exec producer Pierre Cossette … At the People’s Choice Awards, Ted Danson told me he’s heading on the road to stomp for Wesley Clark’s Demo presidential bid … Eva Marie Saint and husband Jeffrey Hayden perform “Love Letters” for the first time in L.A., Feb. 15 at the BevHills Hotel to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation. The life of their 13-year-old grandson Eli has been affected by epilepsy. He developed a seizure disorder following surgery when he was seven years old. “He is an inspiration to our family,” Eva says of the youngster. Frank Gorshin will be toasted by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Friday at the Sportsmen’s Lode. Dais includes Adam West to whose “Batman” Gorshin played “The Riddler” in the 1960s TV series.

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