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December 24, 1989|KIRK HONEYCUTT

Willem Dafoe tackles his first romantic comedy opposite Joan Cusack in Paramount's "Arrive Alive." Jeremiah S. Chechik, enjoying the current success of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," will direct this tale about a detective and a stripper written by Michael O'Donahue and Mitch Glazer. Filming will get underway in Florida the end of March.

Despite rewrites by William Goldman, Warren Beatty wouldn't commit to "Misery," Rob Reiner's film for Castle Rock and Columbia. So James Caan is now signed to star opposite Broadway actress Kathy Bates. Filming of the psychological cat-and-mouse tale, based on the novel by Stephen King about a best-selling author held capture by a fan, begins Feb. 5 in Genoa, Nev., and Los Angeles . . . Meanwhile, Julia Roberts takes over the role Kim Basinger turned down in Fox's thriller "Sleeping With the Enemy," directed by Joseph Ruben and produced by Leonard Goldberg. Shooting begins in February, possibly in Northern California. . . .

Dr. Haing S. Ngor, Oscar winner for "The Killing Fields," is one of the "Knights of War," a $7 million production from American First Run Studios, based on "Phu Nham," a novel written 10 years ago by the late songwriter-soldier Barry Sadler. Elliot Silverstein ("Cat Ballou") will direct Charles Hairston's script which, like the book, is based on a true story about a challenge duel during the Vietnam war between an American and Viet Cong soldier. Max and Micheline Keller will produce. Shooting is tentatively scheduled to begin in April. . . .

John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi have agreed to cameo appearances in "Masters of Menace," as a salute to their old Second City pal, Tino Insana, the film's writer. The biker comedy from CineTel Films, directed by Dan Raskov, also stars Catherine Bach, David Rasche, Lee "Ving" James and Insana. . . .

Dom DeLuise heads down under to star with Austen Tayshus--reputed to be the most banned comic in Australia--in "Cop-Outs," a comedy for producer-writer Lance Peters about the two worst cops in the world. Philippe Mora ("Communion") directs for Underworld Prods. Pty. Ltd. in Sydney in April . . . Then, in November, Mora will reteam with "Communion" author Whitley Strieber for the screen adaptation of Strieber's best-seller "Majestic," concerning an alleged UFO landing in New Mexico in 1947. . . .

San Francisco film maker Rob Nilsson ("Northern Light," "On the Edge") has signed to direct Gibraltar Releasing's "Crime Lords," an action-adventure set in the Far East, filming early next year. . . .

Directions International has purchased film rights to Ron Arias' recently published book, "Five Against the Sea: A True Story of Courage and Survival." The company plans to film this true story of Costa Rican fishermen lost at sea for 142 days in 1988 under the title "Miracle at Sea."

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