The stockings may have been hung by the chimneys with care at 20th Century-Fox this year, but Santa didn't leave much for the employes of that studio. Fox has been struggling all year at the box office, posting a loss of nearly $90 million in the fiscal year ending Aug. 25, and pinning lots of hopes on the success of the new "Johnny Dangerously" (a hard-to-translate title that's being rendered as "Johnny Dynamite," "Johnny Dynamit" and "Johnny Peligroso" in France, Germany and Sweden, respectively). Things finally got so bad that Fox chairman Barry Diller pulled the plug on the planned Christmas party -- a move that didn't help morale within the company, where 25-hour days are commonplace; it also prompted speculation throughout Hollywood that massive firings were either imminent or had already taken place. Diller says there haven't been mass layoffs -- though he admits to a few firings over the past few months. He sent a memo around the Fox lot, a copy of which was unearthed by the L.A. Herald Examiner. In the memo, Diller wished everyone well for the holidays and gave a general update on Fox's condition: "All divisions are going well with the exception of the motion picture division . . ." Which led to Diller's "general review and tightening of the company" -- i.e., no party, no Christmas bonuses, no raises until at least spring. And so far, no massive firings . . .
Here's an odd chain of events: Joe Sweat, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League, writes a review of the Peter Maas book "Marie" for Nashville! magazine. In the review he's critical of the book, which deals with a scandal within the Tennessee prison system. Later -- just a couple of weeks ago, in fact -- he checks into a Nashville hotel and is given a room that turns out to be already occupied. When he leaves to move to an empty room, Sweat gathers up his belongings, along with some personal papers that belong to the room's rightful occupant -- actress Sissy Spacek, who is in town to star in "Marie," the film version of Maas' book. Among those papers were scripts and notes on "Marie." Sweat says he must have picked them up by accident, and didn't even know about the mistake until a policeman knocked on his door in the middle of the night. Nobody filed charges, and everything's back to normal on the "Marie" set . . .
"The movie of the decade" is how producer Ralph Andrews describes "Lech," the film biography of Poland's Lech Walesa. Of course, Andrews is prejudiced: It's his movie. And he has a ways to go before he can learn if that prediction is accurate: "Lech" is still in the planning stages, Andrews and coproducer Tom Voiss having met with and taped Walesa four times this year after obtaining film rights from him (his entire share goes to Solidarity). Writing the script is Lionel Chetwind, who also wrote the script for TV's "Sadat" -- a job that gained him a warrant for his arrest in Egypt. Nobody's signed to play the title role, though the producers have held repeated meetings with Michael Douglas. Andrews says the key to the movie's success will be the love story between Walesa and his wife, a story that, he claims, will make it more than just another "Gandhi"-style movie. Still, Andrews admits that he had been looking to make a movie about a real-life hero, and Walesa wasn't even his first choice. He wanted to make a film about Chuck Yeager, but had to settle for Walesa when he couldn't secure those rights . . .
Everybody's received one of those tempting mail-in sweepstakes offers headlined "You May Already Be a Winner." And now a similar offer is making the rounds in Hollywood. The letters, which have gone out to an undisclosed number of actors and actresses, come from the offices of Chuck McNeil Productions, and they begin, "Congratulations, you have been recommended for a part in our new movie." That movie, it turns out, is called "Smack" and is an action adventure tale about "bad Mexican heroin" dealers. To learn more about this movie -- and about the part he or she has been recommended for -- all an aspiring performer has to do is send $12.99 to McNeil, who will then supply an unfinished copy of the screenplay and set up an appointment with casting director David Sellars. But McNeil is hardly playing Santa Claus to the dozens of actors who have reportedly sent in their money, says the Screen Actors Guild; under union rules, producers are required to furnish free scripts to actors under consideration for parts. McNeil's company is not a signatory to the SAG contract and not bound by those rules, but any union member who responds is subject to disciplinary action. McNeil says his is a small company that needs the $12.99 to cover the "secretarial and Xeroxing costs" of duplicating the 77-page script.