Pamela Lansden
March 23, 1987 12:00 PM

After her frightening bout with breast cancer two years ago, Ann Jillian was set to star in an NBC movie about her ordeal. Four producers later, the film is still being rewritten. The first three producers were unhappy with the script’s sympathetic portrayal of Jillian’s husband and manager, Andy Murcia. “They didn’t think the story had enough friction unless I left Ann when she got sick,” says Murcia. “Look, I did one good thing in my life, and that’s when I stayed with her through everything.” Jillian refused to see Murcia cast as the heavy (“Hollywood doesn’t seem to think a bilateral mastectomy is dramatic enough,” she says), and has finally found a producer who agrees. The film should start shooting this fall. In January evangelist Oral Roberts caused a major stir when he told his TV congregation that God would “call him home” if he didn’t raise $4.5 million by the end of March. Roberts is now $1.3 million short with time running out. But the preacher won’t have to lay out his best suit anytime soon if the Southern California real estate boom holds up. The Los Angeles Times took note recently of a Roberts property that could cover his deficit. Brokers estimate that the four-bedroom, five-bath house is worth $4 million, up from the $2.5 million paid for it in 1982. Maybe Roberts got the message wrong: Could God be calling him home to Beverly Hills?

Sounds too good to be true, but director James Ivory plans to cast two formidable leading ladies, Maggie Smith, who played a supporting role in his A Room With a View, and Vanessa Redgrave, star of Ivory’s The Bostonians, in their first film together. The untitled comedy is being written by Terrence (The Ritz) McNally; it’s about the agents, hairdressers, makeup people and others who cater hand and foot to the stars of a movie. Smith will play a publicist, Redgrave a hairdresser.

TV’s treatment of alcoholism as a dramatic theme usually features a happy ending. But Cagney & Lacey is about to introduce some grim realism into the medium’s chronicling of its favorite disease. In a two-part episode that will close the show’s fifth season, Christine Cagney’s father will die an alcoholic death reminiscent of William Holden’s. The script has Charlie Cagney (played by Dick O’Neill) bleeding to death after a fall because he is too drunk to help himself. Although this might be construed as a stumble in the direction of frankness, the show stops short of showing the bloody truth: The elder Cagney will die off-camera.

Though she still has three more pictures to do under an exclusive contract with Disney, Bette Midler will be singing on film for the first time since 1980 in a Tri-Star project based on a forthcoming biography of Lotte Lenya. The deal, with producer Craig (Footloose) Zadan, calls for Miss M to play her first dramatic role since her Oscar-nominated debut performance in The Rose.

Orion’s Hoosiers is the sleeper hit of the season, and no one has watched it with more interest than the nitpicking sleuths of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It seems that one of the kids on the fictitious Hickory High basketball team actually plays for DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., not far from where the movie was filmed. When the NCAA found out that guard Steve Hollar had been paid $15,000 to play Rade Butcher, who is benched by coach Gene Hackman for shooting when he should have been passing, it decided he had broken NCAA rules by accepting money for playing his sport. With Solomonic wisdom, the NCAA agreed that 95 percent of Hollar’s work in the film was acting and 5 percent basketball. So it made him pay his school $632—about 5 percent of his pay—and suspended him for three DePauw games this past season. Another DePauw player, Griff Mills, who was paid $3.50 an hour as a walk-on and appeared briefly in only one scene, forfeited all he had earned—$42—and was also suspended for three games.

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