Last year Robert Redford, 53, gave assurances that he wanted to hire a Native American for the lead role of Navajo policeman Jim Chee in Dark Wind, a film Redford is producing and Errol (The Thin Blue Line) Morris, 42, is directing. Based on one of author Tony Hillerman’s popular mystery novels, Wind starts shooting this week in Tuba City. Ariz. Starring as Chee is Lou Diamond Phillips, 28, who claims to be part Cherokee, as well as Filipino, Scotch-Irish and Spanish.
Hot on the heels of Broadway’s Asian-casting dispute over Miss Saigon, the casting of Phillips has Native American performers miffed.
“Indians in general had put all their eggs in this one basket, really believing now an Indian is going to be cast in a top role in this film,” says Bonnie Paradise, executive director of the American Indian Registry for Performing Arts. “That was the biggest letdown. Lou Diamond Phillips is not an American Indian with documentation.”
The filmmakers contend that Phillips wasn’t cast until after an expensive and exhaustive yearlong search for a qualified Native American actor. Paradise disputes this: “We do have people who are qualified, but for whatever reason, they weren’t auditioned.”
A Redford rep replies, “He truly wanted to cast a Native American in the lead but never found anybody who had enough experience to carry the film. Much of the cast and crew is Indian. If anyone is sensitive to their plight, it’s Bob, but he also has a responsibility to the film.”
Indian representatives planned talks with Redford and Phillips last week. Says Paradise: “We’d be halfway satisfied if Phillips made a statement like ‘I’ve accepted this role in honor of the Navajo people. I will play it to the best of my ability to respect their tribal people and land.’ ”
The first Saddam Hussein look-alike has arrived. Ron Smith’s Celebrity Look-Alikes, an L.A.-based company, is peddling the services of Jerry Haleva, 44. A dead ringer for the Iraqi leader. Haleva, who in real life is a political lobbyist in Sacramento, knew an opportunity when he saw one looking back at him in the mirror and called Smith’s agency last month. Ironically, Haleva had met Smith in 1984, when, as an aide to a California state senator, Haleva helped to pass a bill that extended greater legal protection to celebrity look-alikes.
Although Jay Leno has been the permanent guest host on The Tonight Show for two years and is Johnny Carson’s heir apparent, Johnny still won’t let Jay use his colored curtain. Leno has to use the same dull, gray curtain for his monologue and skits that guests use.
Fans have told Leno, who is partial to dark suits, that he looks washed-out in front of the gray curtain and would look better in front of something a little brighter. But no colored curtain for Jay, says Fred de Cordova, the veteran Tonight Show producer. “The colored curtain has been part of the Carson look for many, many years,” says de Cordova. “So it didn’t look like somebody was stepping in for Johnny, we have the gray curtain. Jay calls it his Giorgio Armani curtain.”
You won’t see actress Kelly LeBrock pleading, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” on TV anymore, and it’s not just because her shampoo commercials for Pantene stopped airing last December. LeBrock, 30, has chopped off her shoulder-length brown mane. Her hair is now “two inches all the way around,” according to Beverly Hills’s Maurice Azoulay, her longtime hairstylist. The deed, reveals Azoulay, was performed at the Santa Barbara-area ranch that LeBrock shares with her husband and Hard to Kill co-star, martial arts expert Steven Seagal, 40, and their two children, Annaliza, 3, and infant son Dominic. “Since I’m now a mother of two,” says LeBrock, “I don’t have time to fuss with my hair.”
Editor’s Note: Mitchell Fink is on vacation.