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`FAHRENHEIT 451' OFF THE RADAR SCREEN OF BUSY GIBSON.

Byline: Marilyn Beck & Stacy Jenel Smith

The new version of ``Fahrenheit 451'' - which Mel Gibson planned to direct in '99 - is now off the radar screen.

This is the word that we get from Gibson's camp. Not only was there trouble trying to fit the Ray Bradbury sci-fi classic (adapted in a 1966 film by Francois Truffaut) into the schedule of Brad Pitt, whom Gibson wanted to star, it became a matter of Mel's schedule getting tighter and tighter. And tighter.

Mel will be busy until December making the Revolutionary War epic ``The Patriot.''

In February, he'll start the Nancy Meyers-directed romantic comedy ``What Women Want'' - in which his character can hear what women are thinking. And while he's shooting that, he'll be producing the TV biopic on the Three Stooges we mentioned the other day.

And then there are the projects he's developing - including ``The Professor and the Madman,'' based on the book that tells how the founding editor of the Oxford English Dictionary discovered that one of his major contributors was a paranoid schizophrenic institutionalized for having committed a murder.

One project definitely not on his to-do list - in spite of reports to the contrary - is ``Mad Max 4,'' based on the ``Road Warrior'' caper that made him an international star in 1981.

If a follow-up to its follow-up is in the works now, he hasn't heard about it, we're told.

Different Spice

Spice Girls fans can expect a different sound when the group's new album hits record stores next year.

Superhot producer Rodney Jerkins tips, ``I did three songs with them, and everybody I've been playing them for can't believe it's the Spice Girls.''

Jerkins, who's masterminded tunes for everybody from Whitney Houston, Brandy and Mary J. Blige to Will Smith, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, says he doesn't simply have a catalog of songs that he pulls from when an artist calls.

``I like to create for the artist on the spot. I knew I had to do the Spice Girls 10 months beforehand, but I didn't write one single lyric, or do one track until I got to London.

We started working on the songs the day I met them, because I wanted to get a vibe from them. We did the three songs in five days.''

Jerkins says the Spice Girls' new CD should be out ``next year in the second quarter.''

Insight from hindsight

Despite never having played a blind person before, Della Reese found she didn't have to do much research for such a portrayal in CBS' ``Anya's Bell,'' which airs Sunday.

``I was very good friends with Al Hibler, who used to sing with Duke Ellington, and we toured together a lot,'' recalls Reese.

``I was delegated to be around him during the day - he didn't need anybody to help him - but just to keep him company, go to the store for him, things like that. . . . And I was always fascinated with how he could fill a glass of water just by the sound, and how he knew where the flame was to light his cigarette and never burned himself.

I was young enough to be receptive to those things at that time, and they just came up out of my subconscious tape recorder.''

Reese, who stars with Mason Gamble in the touching telepic about a blind woman who befriends a troubled youth in the '40s, says she did go to the Braille Institute to be sure her character was reading Braille correctly.

But the greatest thing she learned there was ``the attitude'' for her character.

``I met a lady who was partially sighted, and a lady who was born blind, and their attitude was, `I'm alive, and this is just something I've got. Life goes on, and don't bug me about it,' which was wonderful.

I didn't go into playing my character feeling like `poor me.' ''

The Stern story

More uplifting entertainment is on the way from Howard Stern - that's sarcasm, folks.

The self-proclaimed King of All Media, recently separated from wife Allison, is an executive producer of a TV pilot for F/X called ``Son of the Beach,'' which begins shooting Dec. 1 in Ventura.

It'll have Tim Stack, who's also an executive producer, playing a lifeguard whose skills include speaking fluent Cambodian - which he puts to good use when ``rescuing'' an Asian girl who happens to be heading for a life of prostitution. (Now it's sounding like Stern, eh?)

Before our waterlogged hero is through, he'll storm a house of prostitution, intent on shutting it down, only to be captured and held hostage in a bondage room. (Oh, yeah. That's Stern, all right.)

The title of the pilot episode is ``With Sex You Get Egg Roll.''

With reports by Stephanie DuBois.

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

PHOTO (1) GIBSON

(2) REESE

(3) STERN

(4) GAMBLE
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 26, 1999
Words:806
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