GOIN’ TO THE ABBEY: Unsinkable movie queen Shirley MacLaine, still star-bright at 77, is packing to leave for the U.K. and filming for the next season of Downton Abbey. She ‘s looking forward to playing the American mother of
Lady Cora Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern,) she says, because “there is sure to be a variance of opinions when you mix the staidBritish upper crust with brash American views of the 1920s.” She’s also taking her one-woman show, An Evening With Shirley MacLaine, on the road in March, with test runs in Arizona, Connecticut and New York state. But she’ll be back in Hollywood on June 7 to pick up an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award – the 40th in American Film Institute history. “2012 is off to an amazing beginning for me!” Shirley
exclaims … Larry King will get his Lifetime Achievement Award the same month, from the 2012 Banff World Media Festival … comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, whose light touch brightened 23 of the last 25 Oscar shows, won’t be typing backstage this year because he’s busy writing for Broadway. Also MIA this year: A performance of Oscar-nominated songs. Producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer have voted to scrap ‘em (there are only two.) But in the nostalgic spirit of Best Picture nominees The Artist, Hugo and Midnight In Paris, the Kodak Theater on Hollywood
Boulevard will be decorated to resemble a timeless movie theatre like the University and the Imperial and other picture palaces of old … Liz Smith says the producers of Smash are wooing Broadway baby Lesley Ann Warren to join the cast as a Broadway diva on the comeback trail. Liz says Smash star Debra Messing would love having Warren on board, because they worked so well together on Will & Grace when Warren played Will’s father’s dizzy mistress … and friendly fire-breathers Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson are teaming up to do a Dragons’ Den spin-off. In each episode of Big Decision, Treliving and Dickinson assess two struggling businesses and decide to save one company. Or both. Or neither.
OUR TOWN: Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage launches this weekend with the world premiere of Everything Under the Moon, a collaboration by innovative performance artist Shary Boyle and songwriter Christine
Fellows. A year and a half in the making, Everything Under the Moon is reportedly their most ambitious creation to date, pairing hand-animated projected image with narrative song. An extra show has already been added next week due to bubbling ticket demand … Dave Bidini and the BidiniBand are giving a free concert as part of the SK8 festival at Harbourfront this Sunday from 2-4 pm. “Bring skates,” says the renaissance musician & writer. “The gig is just off the Natrel skating rink, and there’ll be lotsa stuff for kids and non-kids alike!” … and Second Harvest’s grassroots fundraising campaign Lunch Money Day wraps up today. Volunteers will be shaking their cans at subway stations across the city during the
morning and evening rush hours, so ”peas give” the equivalent of what you usually spend on lunch to Second Harvest. Remember, with only $10 they can provide 20 meals! So show them that you “give a shiitake” and reward those valiant volunteers with more than just a smile.
THE WRITE STUFF: Award-winning director Patricia Rozema will take participants through her transformation of the classic Maysles Brothers documentary Grey Gardens into the hit HBO feature with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore at the 3rd annual Toronto Screenwriting Conference on March 30-April 1. It was Rozema’s shooting script that got the green light for the movie and the Emmyv and Golden Globe
awards that followed … screenwriter and novelist Ron Base, author of those wildly entertaining Sanibel Detective yarns, shares trade secrets in his equally amusing tell-almost-all blog Writing Sanibel: Or How An Old Dog Used A Unique Island and Technology to Learn New Tricks … and Hollywood-based writer-producer Kathy Slevin has launched a new blog focused on disseminating successful actions – her own and those of other writers and producers from whom she has learned. “Its purpose,” she explains, “is to help writers bring their work closer to the kind of product a producer needs and wants and will hopefully be the kind of resource that both find useful.” Her current posts include Secrets Of Series Creations and How To Hook An Audience, and would-be series writers can check ‘em out right here.
STARS IN OUR EYES: Indefatigable ReelWorld filmfest founder and director Tonya Lee Williams, who most recently received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award in Montreal, has been nominated for a
2012 NAACP Image Award for her role in the long-running CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless. The awards will be telecast live from Hollywood tomorrow night on NBC … American Horror Story heroine Kate Mara has joined Kevin Spacey in producer David Fincher’s original Netflix series House of Cards … Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) is set to join Kate Winslet, Nicolas Cage, Steve Carrell, Catherine Keener and Kevin Kline in Charlie Kaufman’s new flight of fantasy, Frank or Francis … and Rainn Wilson is in talks to continue with his character Dwight Schrute in a spinoff of The Office.