The trouble-plagued Debra Winger film "Peggy Sue Got Married" has been hit yet again.
Winger is in traction with a herniated disc after aggravating a back injury suffered when she fell off a truck as a teen-ager. The latest diagnosis places her out of commission for "six weeks to six months," according to her publicist.
Francis Coppola was to begin shooting "Peggy Sue" in mid-March with an eye toward Christmas release. Tri-Star Pictures and Rastar Productions plan to wait for Winger, hoping that Coppola can be kept on hold.
"We're just starting to sort all of this out," Tri-Star production chief Jeff Sagansky said. "Right now, our intention is go to ahead with Francis and Debby."
Producer Paul Gurian has been in the midst of casting the film and was hard hit by the news. "I have an entire crew assembled and ready to begin principal photography," he said. "This is a picture designed for one star (Winger), and we've been through a lot of rocky roads."
Winger has played a key role in the development of the film, which follows a woman sent back in time to her '50s high school days. Creative differences with the actress prompted director Jonathan Demme to quit the film last fall. Winger was subsequently instrumental in the hiring of Penny Marshall to direct. When Marshall departed over creative differences with the producers, Winger quit out of loyalty to Marshall. The hiring of Coppola lured her back on board.
'COUNTRY' TO COUNTRY: Jessica Lange adjusted her cowboy hat, tugged at her fringed buckskin skirt and said in a soft Southern lilt, "Let's just keep doin' it." Seven barnyard musicians seated atop bales of hay began strumming for the ninth time as Lange, all sashaying hips and farm girl flutter, launched into her lip-sync: "Your cheatin' heart, will make you weep, you cry and cry, and try to sleep. . . ."
The scene was a mock TV show called "The Ozark Jubilee." The place was Hollywood Center Studios, where Lange is in her final week as country singer Patsy Cline in "Sweet Dreams" after two months of shooting in Nashville and West Virginia. The "emotionally charged love story" charts Cline's volatile romance with Charlie Dick, played by Ed Harris ("The Right Stuff").
"Sweet Dreams" grew out of "Coal Miner's Daughter," which featured Beverly D'Angelo as Cline in a supporting role to Sissy Spacek's Loretta Lynn. "Coal Miner" producer Bernard Schwartz researched and developed the Cline project for Universal Pictures, only to lose his key backer when studio chief Ned Tanen resigned in 1982. Home Box Office eventually took in the project with Silver Screen Partners; they'll release through Tri-Star Pictures around Thanksgiving.
The original recordings of Cline's melancholy standards--"Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces" and more--provide a musical backdrop for the drama. Lange does no singing but spent three weeks in Nashville learning to imitate Cline's vocal mannerisms with the singer's producer, Owen Bradley.
Director Karel Reisz, making his first film since "The French Lieutenant's Woman," watched mournfully as Lange finished lip-syncing "Your Cheatin' Heart" and prepared for yet another take. "This is our last number," he said. "I feel quite sentimental."
Looming behind Reisz in a corner of the sound stage was a blue twin-engine plane, much like the vintage Comanche in which Cline lost her life in 1963. The fatal crash sequence, the production's last, is due to film today through Friday.
GAY FLAP: The Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Artists in the Entertainment Industry, a local group best known for its annual awards honoring positive images of gays, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the Tri-Star release "Heaven Help Us" for its repeated use of the word faggots .
The "anti-gay slur" appears "again and again throughout the film" with "no justification artistically or otherwise," the group said. "We are especially concerned because the picture is bound to attract a young audience that must be made aware that faggot is every bit as offensive to gay people as nigger is to blacks."
"Heaven Help Us" producer Mark Carliner said in reply that the term is used by one character, Rooney (Kevin Dillon), who is "a bully and an idiot."
"If one considers the source, it's hard to take seriously what (Rooney) says because he has a very limited vocabulary," Carliner said. He added that the movie is set in 1965 and that Rooney's language is "consistent with the period."
BOX OFFICE: "Beverly Hills Cop" held the nation's top spot last weekend with receipts of $6 million at 1,666 theaters, but Harrison Ford and "Witness" debuted to a strong $4.5 million on 875 screens. "The Killing Fields" ($3.1 million) and "A Passage to India" ($2.6 million) also performed well in limited release.
"Mischief" debuted with a meek $2.6 million at 1,221 theaters. "The Falcon and the Snowman" ($2.5 million) and "Mrs. Soffel" ($1.6 million) both moved into wider release for the first time with disappointing results.