Tennant marvels over Ellis Island restoration

GOOD MORNING: “You really appreciate what it means to be an American — and God knows we can use it these days!” That was Columbia’s “The Last First Kiss” director Andy Tennant talking — he’d just filmed a scene on Ellis Island with Will Smith and Eva Mendes. Tennant marveled at the restoration of the Island giving any and all the newfound opportunity to discover (via computer) their heritage. In the pic, “date doctor” Smith and gossip columnist Mendes have their first date on the unique setting. Ironically, the site for the scene was suggested to Tennant by his wife, photographer Sharon, who had been taken there on a date 15 years ago, in her pre-Tennant days (they now have four children). The pic is lensed throughout the city — and with no CGI assists, sez Tennant, who thanks the city for its complete cooperation on all sites. Tennant says “For the first time, I’m going to have a guy (Will Smith) on my film’s poster.” His three previous, “Ever After,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Anna and the King” starred, Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon and Jodie Foster, respectively. He expects a PG rating for the film and will follow with a romantic fantasy, “Being Booey” with Working Title… “Working five months in Africa gave me a sense of aliveness,” says Patrick Swayze of the experience filming the four-hour (June 12) Hallmark Channel “King Solomon’s Mines.” While there, he also shot his own footage, which he and brother Don will assemble for possible use in a conservation docu series. Patrick buddied with of one of the elephants, Harry, with whom he worked, “When it was time to leave, he (Harry) didn’t want me to go and wrapped his trunk around me,” said Swayze who admits, “King Solomon’s Mines” “refocused my career.” He has five other projects in development. He and wife Lisa Niemi are also in the final stretch of global release of their feature, “One Last Dance,” which she also directed. They sold 21 territories and will show it at the Venice fest at the same time “King Solomon’s Mines” hits Italian TV. And “Donnie Darko,” in which he starred for producer Drew Barrymore (originally released in 2001), gets a new viewing with 21 added minutes of footage at the Seattle film fest May 29 for revised re-release in July. He also says the experience of returning to the stage in “Chicago” “got my chops up again. This is the fifth time I’ve re-invented myself,” laughed Swayze, “I’m finally no longer a man in a boy’s suit.”

THE GERSH AGENCY offices in L.A. and N.Y. are closed today in honor of founder Phil Gersh whose services are held today with Rabbi John Rosove officiating. His Temple Israel was the site of the bar mitzvahs and weddings of both David and Robert Gersh. Also speaking are longtime friends: business manager Henry Bamberger; Sandy Bresler, president of the Assn. of Talent Agents; grandchildren Jessie and Steven; and Susan (Mrs. David) Gersh. Richard Benjamin, who with wife Paul Prentiss had been represented by Gersh 25 and 44 years respectively, winged in from Vancouver to speak. Also recalling Gersh today is Leonard Nimoy, a client of almost 20 years, who recalls, “Phil loved the talent passionately. It was his love.” Nimoy who has decided he’s had “enough” had left it to Gersh of late to reject offers. But he did accept the opportunity to reteam with Bill Shatner in two more “Priceline” commercials, to shoot this weekend. Another longtime client-friend Arthur Hiller, unable to attend as he’s directing “The Trouble With Frank” on location, sent his words of appreciation to be read — and heard… I personally will miss him. His open honesty was a breath of fresh air in a biz of bluster and bull.

A REVISIT IS NOW SKEDDED for “The Dick Van Dyke Show — Revisited,” which aired on CBS Tuesday to repeat May 22 at 9 p.m and also Tuesday on TVLand. The computer-generated cartoon images of Dick Van Dyke dancing — then and now — on the show were created by Dick who is a “computer nut.” Carl Reiner returned from the “Ocean’s Twelve” location in Chicago to view the show at home and departs next month for locations in Rome, where exteriors will be filmed, the interiors in L.A. Reiner says director Steven Soderbergh “is a genius — he never sits down, mans the cameras, does everything. And Jerry Weintraub is a hands-on producer.” Reiner who also completed his (animated) “Father of the Pride” is now also talking about an animated film version of his book, “Tell Me A Scary Story — But Not Too Scary”… A gala fund-raiser for the Johh Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee on June 7 at Disney Hall will boast Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond and Billy Crystal for starters. The ducats range from $2,000-$25,000 a couple… A Radio City Music Hall fund-raiser is skedded for June 10… Walter C. Miller produces and daughter Deborah directs the National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol, to air on PBS. Appearances by: Tom Hanks, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Charles Durning, Joe Mantegna, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley and Joshua Bell, with Ossie Davis hosting. Over 300,000 are expected to attend… Shirley MacLaine receives a Doctor of Humanities Honoris Causa degree Sunday from N. College of Health Professions where she’s commencement speaker. The school is a leader in holistic education and care… Tony Martin who stars at Feinstein’s Cinegrill, tonight and Saturday, celebrated his 90th birthday Christmas and reminds, “If your mind’s young, the body goes along with it.” His romantic repertoire includes, “There’s No Tomorrow,” “All the Things You Are,” “You Stepped Out of a Dream”… Cynthia Sikes, who has been absent from the nitery scene while raising two children, returns May 21 and 22 at Feinstein’s with an act whose musical director Randy Waldman also worked with Carol Bayer Sager on her successful stand there and in N.Y… Jan and Mickey Rooney play Feinstein’s June 9-12… Sally Kellerman, playing once-a-month stands at the Roxy returns May 24… Diana Douglas (Michael’s mom) has written a play (her first), “Valldemosa” bowing at the Court on La Cienega, June 2. Joyce Johnson produces, Michael Pavlic directs Spencer Beglarian and Marcia Rodd as Frederic Chopin and George Sand and the setting’s 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.