NBC will be playing a sort of Maximilian Schell game when its $26 million miniseries Peter the Great airs in February. With three weeks of filming left, Schell, who plays the Russian Tsar, called in sick. Faced with the classic showbiz crisis—a huge project, an impossible deadline and an ailing star—the producers opted for the proper show-must-go-on solution: They hired a little-known actor, Denis De Marne, 50, to play Schell playing Peter. De Marne underwent a five-hour makeup session daily to impersonate the actor. The experience may prove pivotal: If De Marne hits the big time, he can title his autobiography A Tsar Is Born.
The announcement that Michael Jackson will release an album this spring came not from Michael’s manager, Frank Dileo, but from CBS Records honcho Walter Yetnikoff, who broke the news at a meeting with Wall Street analysts. (CBS Records’ profits are off 46 percent from 1983, and the company badly needs another Thriller.) Quincy Jones will produce the LP, which CBS hopes to bring out in April.
Tom Selleck onstage? According to producer Douglas Urbanski, the Magnum, P.I. star wants to appear in a show in London sometime next summer. Urbanski says Selleck is interested in doing a comedy, possibly Mister Roberts.
Two biographies of Steve McQueen will hit the stands in January—one by the star’s wife of 14 years, Neile McQueen Toffel, and the other by New York writer Penina Spiegel. The Spiegel McQueen will probably be more risqué than Toffel’s memoir, My Husband, My Friend. According to Spiegel, who says she spent two years interviewing more than 120 people who knew McQueen, “Ordinary sex became mechanical for him…one on one was not enough.” As for other permutations, she says, “McQueen had a fear of homosexuality that friends noted throughout his life. Once, when a friend asked him if he’d ever had a homosexual experience, McQueen said no—then he offered to ‘beat up a couple of fags’ to make his feelings on the subject crystal clear.” Spiegel’s book will be published by Doubleday, Neile’s by Atheneum.
Franc Luz, who played Ben on CBS’ now defunct Hometown series, will appear as Jane Curtin’s love interest in an episode of Kate & Allie and will star in Classified Love, a CBS TV movie in which he meets a sweetheart through a personal ad. Luz is still miffed about the way he was told of his series demise. “We were having lunch on the set,” he says, “and someone came over and said, ‘Well, you can go home after you eat.’ ”
David Carradine, 49, whose Kung Fu: The Movie is due next spring, says that “just appearing in a picture now and then is not enough.” So he’s been keeping busy for the last few years directing his daughter, Calista, 22, in a trilogy of films based on the life of Mata Hari. The Carradines, who began the project in 1979, expect to finish in 1992.
Moon Zappa, the 18-year-old Val Gal, is serving as a consultant on the CBS midseason pilot Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Her function: making sure the jargon in the scripts is au courant. For example, the producers needed to know how kids today describe exceptionally overweight people. “Wideload, heifer, lardass,” Moon answered.