Bette Midler

By Tony Rizzo
Bette Midler, “The Divine Miss M,” has a major role in the HBO Films bio picture “Phil Spector,” which will star Al Pacino in the title role. Bette will play Linda Kenney Bader, a member of Spector’s defense team, along with Jeffrey Tambor. Spector, a famous 1960s record producer, was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson.

The film will be executive produced by Barry Levinson, who also did “Tootsie,” “Bugsy” and “Rainman,” to name a few, as well as the upcoming “Gotti: 3 Generations” with John Travolta, Lindsey Lohan and his “You Don’t Know Jack” star … Al Pacino!

And if that didn’t get your attention, David Mamet, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play “Glengarry Glen Ross” and who directed the films “The Verdict” with Paul Newman and “Hannibal,” among others, is directing.

Bette, Oscar-nominated for “The Rose” (’79) and “For the Boys” (’91), has been filming the comedy “Sweet Baby Jesus,” in which a pregnant woman named Mary goes back to Bethlehem, Md., at Christmas time. Rumors fly that the child will be the second coming of Jesus. Also in the cast are Robbie Coltrane and Sean Brosnan, son of former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. Bette also is currently represented on Broadway as one of the producers of the new hit musical, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
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It seems that all things “Oz” are in great demand. The Broadway musical prequel, “Wicked,” is the most successful show out of New York in 20 years. Since Universal Studios backed the musical, it gets to make the movie version. Warner Brothers acquired “The Wizard of Oz” when it hooked up with Ted Turner, who bought the “Oz” rights from MGM along with most of its great classics for his Turner Classic Movie channel. It has no less than three “Oz” projects in development.

Now comes word that Disney, which all but destroyed the “Oz” franchise with a terrible sequel, “Return to Oz,” has signed 11-year-old actress Joey King to play China Girl in “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” which stars James Franco in the title role. King, best known for her breakout role in “Ramona & Beezus,” will play a porcelain child taken in by Oz after her family is killed by an evil witch, played by Rachel Weisz. Sam Raimi, who gave us “Hercules,” “Zena” and “Spiderman,” will direct it in 3D for a March 2013 opening. Sounds like the only thing this has in common with the original “Wizard of Oz” is Oz himself. Dorothy would be wringing her hands and shaking her head — and Toto, too!

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© 2011 King Features Synd., Inc.