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CARREY FILM TO REVEAL SECRETS OF KAUFMAN'S MYSTIQUE.

Byline: Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith

``This is going to be the quintessential Andy Kaufman film - though we'll probably blow his mystique.'' So reports Bob Zmuda, who was Kaufman's best friend and is collaborator and co-exec producer of ``Man in the Moon,'' the Universal biopic in which Jim Carrey will star as the late comic.

``Most of Andy's secrets will be revealed. They're almost like magic tricks, illusions,'' says Zmuda of the outrageous, eccentric comedian who rose to fame as Latka Gravis on ``Taxi'' and died of cancer at age 33 in 1984.

Indeed, the boundaries between put-on and reality were so blurred during Kaufman's career that he left many people wondering: Was his tacky Las Vegas lounge-singer character, Tony Clifton, really Kaufman's alter ego or a totally separate person, as Kaufman maintained? Was his interest in wrestling an act or an obsession? Was he a comedic genius or just insane?

Says Zmuda of the production, which director Milos Forman expects to start in June or July, ``To really appreciate the full extent of what Kaufman did, you have to know all his secrets to see he wasn't just some crazy guy. He thought very deeply and long about what he did.''

Kaufman's most outlandish antics included the incident in which he appeared on ``Dinah and Friends'' as Tony Clifton, hurled insults at the band and Dinah Shore, and created such a scene that guards escorted him off the set. Then there was the time Kaufman sabotaged a sketch on ABC's live ``Fridays'' show, antagonized the other actors and wound up in a fistfight on camera with co-producer Jack Burns.

Zmuda says, ``The stunts he pulled in front of the American public were quite amazing, and they had to be worked out on every level. If Andy and I ever did something on `David Letterman' or `Saturday Night Live,' believe me, it had to have the approval of the network boss or we'd never be asked back. That in itself is an amazing story ... that the TV establishment was in cahoots with Andy. People didn't know that.''

Revised opinion

Amazing how the triumph of ``Titanic'' has altered the perception of director James Cameron. Last year, talk in the film industry was rampant about how the filmmaker pushed his cast and crew to the brink of human endurance, having them spend 12-, 14-, 18-hour days working in tough conditions, often immersed in dirty cold water. Cameron was openly described as mean, egomaniacal, a despot with a volcanic temper, whose crews sported shirts emblazoned ``You can't scare me - I work for Jim Cameron.''

A billion dollars in box-office returns and 14 Oscar nominations later, those shirts are looked upon as badges of honor, and Cameron is getting the hero treatment at every Hollywood event he attends. He received thunderous applause when he was introduced at this week's Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon. As Elizabeth Taylor once said, there's no deodorant like success.

Let's get ready to rumble

Sure, New Yorkers are always laughing at us Californians because we have landslides, wildfires and Pauly Shore - but now, we have a movie called ``Quake: NYC 8.2'' heading toward production. Actually, it'll be shot in Toronto. But anyway ... it's about a horrendous earthquake in New York and a detective who struggles to be reunited with his family after the big one hits the Big Apple.

From the inside looking out

Katey Sagal certainly isn't idle these days. She's developing her own sitcom for CBS, ``possibly for fall,'' she says. The one-time ``Married ... With Children'' star is also midway through writing a new album. And she has two TV movies on this month in which she plays characters that are nothing like her trashy Peg Bundy.

She says she relished her role in ``The Wonderful World of Disney's'' Sunday movie, ``Mr. Headmistress'' - ``because I got to play the bad guy. I'm the bad guy, but I didn't have to kill anybody or blow anything up,'' says Sagal, who portrays a prim and bitter assistant headmistress in the comedy, with comic Harland Williams in the title role. Come March 29, she plays the overweight editor with whom magazine scribe John Ritter shares a marriage of convenience in CBS' ``Chance of a Lifetime.''

Sagal wears padding to pouf out her frame in the romantic comedy and notes that one of the things she likes best about it is that she does NOT trim down and get glamorous at the end. ``That's what made it interesting for me. ... The character goes through changes on the inside, not the outside.''

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

PHOTO (1) James Cameron

Getting hero treatment

(2) Katey Sagal

Far from idle

(3) Jim Carrey

Starring as Andy Kaufman
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 12, 1998
Words:785
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