By Mitchell Fink
October 14, 1991 12:00 PM

OUT OF AFRICA

Where has Debra Winger been since wandering into the Sahara in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1990 box office bomb, The Sheltering Sky? It’s been almost a year since she appeared in a movie, and it’s been a year full of professional frustrations: Two promising movie projects failed to pan out, and Winger was left in limbo. One was Touchstone’s Significant Other, an original drama about a relationship between alcoholics in which she was to have costarred with Tom Hanks. Penned first by Ron Bass and Al Franken and then rewritten by Alan J. Pakula (Klute), who was also slated to direct, this project collapsed amid conflicting reports about that Hollywood plague, preproduction “creative differences” (PEOPLE, Insider, March 18, 1991). Then the 36-year-old actress was replaced by Geena Davis in director Penny Marshall’s movie about a 1940s all-female baseball team, A League of Their Own.

Wingerphiles, however, need not despair. She’ll be before the cameras in November. At press time, she was set to play the female lead in Tri Star’s Wilder Napalm, a movie Glenn (Moonlighting) Caron will direct about two brothers who have the ability to start fires by using their telekinetic powers.

A source also tells us that Winger is mulling another offer to appear post-Napalm opposite Robert De Niro in This Boy’s Life, for Warner Bros., about a Seattle woman who falls in love with a man who abuses her child.

CINDERELLA GETS HER MAN

Their meeting sounded like something from a movie, and the ending is pure fairy tale. Three years ago, chanteuse Brenda K. Starr, who had a backup singer called Mariah Carey, asked CBS Records (now Sony Music) President Tommy Mottola to listen to one of Carey’s dynamite demo tapes. Mottola listened, liked what he heard and signed the talented unknown to a recording contract.

As the world now knows, Carey’s debut album, Mariah Carey, went on to sell 7 million copies worldwide and earned Carey two Grammy Awards, including one for Best New Artist in 1991. In the process, the rising star not only found a place on Mottola’s label, but also in his heart. Sources tell us that Carey and Mottola, long rumored to be a couple, have now become engaged.

SPARKS FLY ON FIRES WITHIN

In other affairs of the heart, we have a romance to report that, like so many in Hollywood, began on a movie set. This one, it seems, is also headed straight for the delivery room.

Numerous sources are telling us that Greta (Presumed Innocent) Scacchi and Vincent (Full Metal Jacket) D’Onofrio became involved during production of MGM-Pathe’s Fires Within. Released regionally (Florida and Texas) in August, the movie, which also stars Jimmy Smits, is a thriller set among Cuban refugees in Miami and directed by Gillian (My Brilliant Career) Armstrong.

“[Scacchi and D’Onofrio] met on the set, and their lives were changed,” says one source. The two played lovers, and the romance soon moved offscreen. Later, Scacchi and D’Onofrio took the act on the road when they shot Robert Altman’s The Player in Los Angeles. Last week in London, reports about a pregnancy began to surface. Now Scacchi’s rep confirms that the baby is due in the spring, and she adds that the two have no plans to marry.