The paint-by-numbers tomfoolery of "Police Academy II" and "Moving Violations" may have resulted in the two biggest-grossing movies in the country this week, but that hasn't stopped some filmmakers from setting their sights on more thoughtful, serious literary properties. Steven Spielberg is ready to produce a film version of Alice Walker's acclaimed novel "The Color Purple." Robert Altman, who's no stranger to filming plays (that's what he did with "Welcome Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" and "Streamers"), is readying a production of Sam Shepard's violent, mysterious "Fool for Love" with what seems to be an ideal cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid, Kim Basinger and Shepard himself in the lead role.
And now producer Saul Zaentz and director Philip Kaufman have decided to tackle one of the most acclaimed, and seemingly unfilmable, novels of the past few years, Milan Kundera's multifaceted, philosophical "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." There's a lot more to the book than plot -- a lot of things, that is, that might get lost on the way to the screen -- among them the long reflective passages in which Kundera explains the title -- but both Zaentz and Kaufman are accustomed to grappling with daunting literary works. Zaentz's last film was his award-winning revamp of Peter Shaffer's highly theatrical play "Amadeus," and Kaufman put Tom Wolfe's mammoth "The Right Stuff" on screen. "Amadeus" was set mostly in Salzburg but was filmed in Czechoslovakia. This time the action takes place mostly in Czechoslovakia but will undoubtedly be shot somewhere else, since a central part concerns the 1968 Russian invasion and its devastating effects on a Czech doctor. Zaentz and Kaufman are currently looking for a screen writer with enough nerve to tackle Kundera's book . . .
What do Roman Polanski and Walt Disney have in common? Not much, to be sure, but Disney executives flew overseas to take a look at the hugely expensive 200-foot galleon built for Polanski's "Pirates," now near the end of its filming off Tunis. It seems the Disney folks might want to use the boat in a project of their own, although they haven't announced just what that might be . . .
Actor Joe Mantell, meanwhile, couldn't understand why he hadn't heard from director Robert Towne or any others involved with "Two Jakes," the sequel to Polanski's "Chinatown" -- after all, he costarred in the original as Jack Nicholson's sidekick. So his agent called to find out why Mantell wasn't asked aboard, only to find that the execs somehow thought his character had been killed off in "Chinatown." Now that they've learned otherwise, Mantell will indeed reprise his role.