JEAN-CLAUDE "Baby Doc" Duvalier's departure as Haiti's leader several weeks ago has breathed new life into Art Buchwald's spoof "King for a Day."
Los Angeles movie producer Alain Bernheim (Racing With the Moon) says that, although the story is actually about an African king who loses his crown while on an official visit to Washington, the middle-of-the-night exit by Haiti's "President for Life" has regenerated his interest in the script.
"I'll either do it as a French movie or do it here as soon as I can find a black actor to fill the part," says Bernheim. "I'll know more within the next week and will make the movie in '87."
Buchwald, a Washington-based nationally syndicated humor columnist, says he wrote the story about three years ago and screenwriter Francis Veber prepared the script for filming. (Veber is remembered for his work in La Cage aux Folles II). The script was originally in the hands of Paramount producers, who dropped the idea once Eddie Murphy's representatives concluded the title role wasn't for him.
Who does Buchwald like for the lead?
"That guy from 'Saturday Night Live' -- ah, what's his name? -- Garrett Morris. Or Richard Pryor . . . Even Clint Eastwood could play it!"
Despite his hopes for "King for a Day," Buchwald says he has no plans to write a comedy about the recent events in the Philippines:
"No one would believe it. A guy wins the election and then leaves the country by helicopter. And he's beaten by a woman! Who'd believe it?"
The American Film Institute continues its year-long tribute to the Directors Guild of America on Friday. A three-week salute to director Blake Edwards begins at 6:30 with his 1961 hit Breakfast at Tiffany's. Edwards' 1967 comedy What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? screens Saturday at 4 and Sunday at 8:30. Edwards is scheduled to introduce his much-talked-about 1981 S.O.B. on March 19 at 6:30.
Friday also marks the beginning of the AFI's two-month-long series of Billy Wilder films. The screenwriter and director has won the 14th AFI Life Achievement Award, and the series begins with Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, which Wilder co-wrote with Charlie Brackett. The 80-minute film, produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch in 1938, stars Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper and screens Friday at 8:45 and Sunday at 5. It's double billed with Midnight, made the following year with a star-studded cast of Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor, Hedda Hopper and Monty Woolley. Other Wilder scripts being screened during the coming week are Ball of Fire (1941) on Saturday at 6:45 and Sunday at 2; Hold Back the Dawn (1941), Tuesday at 6:30; Arise, My Love (1940), Wednesday at 8:45; Ninotchka (1939), Thursday at 6:30. The Major and the Minor, made in 1942, screens March 7, and will be the first in the series of Wilder films that was directed by him. Wilder is scheduled to introduce his 1960 winner of five Academy Awards, The Apartment, on April 23 at 6:30. For tickets and information call 785-4601; for a recorded daily schedule, 785-4600.
Washington's Paul Wagner will host a free screening of his Academy Award-winning The Stone Carvers on Friday at 7:30 at American University's Wechsler Theater in the Mary Graydon Center. After the screening, Wagner will take the film apart and discuss the reasons for certain scenes. The film last year captured an Oscar for Best Short Documentary. Wagner is currently working on The Grand Generation, a documentary about senior citizens. Call 885-2040.
David Huang's American Theater in L'Enfant Plaza offers Americans a rare look at Chinese cinema with The Last Emperor of China (Henry Pu Yi's Latter Life). Directed by Lee Han Sheon and shot on location in China last year, the 93-minute production is said to contain certain messages that slipped past the Chinese censors. The film screens Friday at 6:30 and midnight; Saturday and Sunday at 1, 6:30 and midnight; and on Monday through Thursday at 7:45. Call 554-2111.
The National Geographic Society will host the "1986 Earthwatch Film Awards" on Saturday in its Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium. The day-long showcase offers three prizewinning films beginning at 10 a.m. with the Washington premiere of Return of the Osprey. Filmmakers Judy Fieth and Michael Male will introduce the film. At 11:30, see Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton's portrait of a small Chinese village in All Under Heaven: Life in a Chinese Village. At 2:15, Linda Harrar offers her celluloid look at paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in Stephen Jay Gould: This View of Life. Tickets are $6 and may be purchased at tice, 1600 M Street NW, up to 45 minutes before the program starts. Call 857-7133 for more information.
The National Gallery of Art on Saturday begins a three-weekend offering of Jean Renoir films in conjunction with its exhibition "The New Painting: Impressionism." Filmmaker Renoir was the son of French impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renior and the father of cimematographer Claude Renoir.
The free series opens at 2:30 in the East Building auditorium with Renoir's 1926, 105- minute Nana and his 1928 29-minute The Little Match Girl. Ray Brubacher will provide piano accompaniment. Also scheduled are The Lower Depths (March 8 & 9) and La B.ete Humaine (March 16). Call 737-4215.
German director Edgar Reitz offers an in- depth look at a German family in Heimat, his 16-hour-long 1985 epic. The film centers around Maria Simon (played by Marita Breuer), beginning with her as a young girl in 1919 and following her to 1982. The film, now on a nationwide tour, is not scheduled to be released commercially in the United States. Some critics say this is the only reason the film is being kept off "best" lists.
The first of four, four-hour-long screenings begins Thursday at 7 in the 280-seat Hirshhorn Museum's auditorium. The next installments screen the following day, next Friday, at 7 and then March 8 at 9:30 and 2:30. Priority seating for the final three segments will be offered to first-night moviegoers who then arrive 15 minutes early for the subsequent segments. It's free. Call 357-2700 for details.
COURSES -- Washington television producer and director Eric Kulberg will offer an eight- part course on "Directorial Styles of Early Television" beginning on Tuesday evening at 7 in the American Film Institute's 38-seat screening room. The two-hour class will meet on Tuesdays; a second session will be added at 9 p.m. if warranted. Kulberg, who began his career in Washington television in 1965 at Channel 20, will incorporate rare programs from television's early days with such programs as Jackie Kennedy's "Tour of the White House," Phil Silvers as Sergeant Bilko in "You'll Never Get Rich," clips of Martin & Lewis and Eddie Cantor from the "Colgate Comedy Hour," an episode of "Queen for a Day" and more. Many of these seldom-seen television programs are being supplied by CBS and the UCLA Film, Television and Radio Archives. Tuesday's topic is "Local Programming in the Fifties," followed by "Live Network Comedy" on March 11. The course costs $60 for AFI members; $80 for nonmembers. No single-session seats are available. To register, call the AFI Box Office at 785-4601.
SHORT SUBJECTS -- The Smithsonian Resident Associate Program's Orson Welles retrospective continues Monday evening at 7:30 at the American History Museum's Carmichael Auditorium with The Lady from Shanghai. Director Welles also stars with Rita Hayworth in this 1948 black-and-white hit. University of Maryland film professor Robert Kolker will provide an introduction and notes. Tickets are $4.50 for members; $6 nonmembers. Call 357-3030.
Three-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler will introduce his controversial Latino at Georgetown's Key Theater on Thursday evening. The film, which challenges the American military role in Nicaragua, opens the following day at the Key. Tickets for Thursday's screening -- $10 in advance, $12 at the door -- benefit the CISPES, NISGUA and the Nicaragua Network, a collection of Central American solidarity groups. Call 393-3370.