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Actor Charles Durning's Out, But Not Down

RODERICK MANN

February 21, 1987|RODERICK MANN

"Woody asked me not to talk about it," Charles Durning said. "But it's true. I'm out of the movie."

For three months, Durning--together with Sam Shepard, Maureen O'Sullivan and others--worked on Woody Allen's new, as yet untitled movie, shot on Long Island.

Now, although he had completed his lead role, Durning finds he is no longer in the film. Shepard and O'Sullivan also reportedly have had their work scrapped.

"We knew Woody was having trouble," Durning said this week. "It was a very difficult shoot for everybody. But we never expected this."

Unhappy with his assembled footage when the movie was completed, Allen decided that a great deal of reshooting was required, according to Durning. So he asked his stars--Durning, Shepard and O'Sullivan--to give him another three months. None could oblige. Durning was set to make another picture. So was Shepard. And O'Sullivan was laid low with pneumonia.

All this suggests that a major rewrite may be involved.

"After I'd completed my role," Durning said, "Woody called me and said, 'It just isn't working. I do hope you'll understand. Please don't talk about this.' He's such a sweet, gentle man. Now I feel rather like a man who's done a painting and can't show it to anybody."

A spokesperson for Orion, which releases Allen's movies, said Friday, "I don't know anything about this. All I can tell you is, with Woody Allen pictures, when we get it, that's it."

To have worked for the illustrious Woody Allen and then not to see his work on the screen is clearly a major disappointment for Durning.

However, he is looking forward to his next project: the true story of Robert Elliott Burns, the convict who wrote "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang," which was turned into a 1932 movie starring Paul Muni.

Titled "The Man Who Broke a Thousand Chains," the movie rolls next month here and in Texas under the direction of Daniel Mann ("I'll Cry Tomorrow").

"It's a fascinating story," Durning said. "This man escaped from a Georgia chain gang, was recaptured in Illinois and extradited back, and then escaped again."

So there's some solace after the bad news from New York.

"Yes," Durning said. "But it's the first time something like this has happened to me and it's a very strange feeling. . . ."

NOT SERIOUS: People could be excused for doing a double take while reading the last sentence of Monty Python film maker Terry Jones' credits.

"Although working on another film script," it reads, "he is available for odd jobs, party catering and lunchtime recitals. He also sells ladies underwear in his spare time. . . ."

How's that again?

"A joke," Jones said the other day, slightly sheepish. "I wrote that a long time ago. It shouldn't have been in the up-to-date credits."

Jones has now directed his first non-Python feature: "Personal Services," which will be released at the end of next month.

The movie is based on the life and times of a woman named Cynthia Payne, who used to run a brothel in the London suburbs until her arrest nine years ago. She's played by Julie Walters ("Educating Rita").

Jones did his research for the movie diligently. He and the film's writer, David Leland (co-writer of "Mona Lisa"), even went to a couple of parties at Cynthia Payne's house "to absorb atmosphere."

"They were sex parties," Jones admitted on a brief visit here this week. "I was a bit nervous about going because I don't make a habit of attending sex parties. But we did need to get material for the picture.

"Cynthia promised us she'd give another party for the end of filming. But as we were still shooting on that day, we couldn't go. Ironically, the last scene we shot--of her house being raided by the police--was filmed at the exact moment she was being raided again for real."

Jones said that he hopes people won't go to "Personal Services" expecting it to be another Monty Python picture.

"It's funny, all right," he said. "But it's not a comedy. . . . "

QUOTE--from Anthony Hopkins, who is getting rave reviews for his work in the new movie "The Good Father":

"Most actors are damaged goods, you know."

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