'Swept Away' by Worries

Italian auteur Lina Wertmuller -- whose movie "Swept Away" received critical plaudits when it opened in 1974 -- says she now regrets allowing director Guy Ritchie and his pop star wife Madonna to produce the much-reviled remake.

The 74-year-old Wertmuller -- who arrives here today to participate in "Washington, Italia," a film festival at Visions Cinema-Bistro-Lounge that includes a screening today of the original "Swept Away" -- is scheduled to announce tomorrow at Cafe Milano her plans for a sequel to the movie about a spoiled rich lady's romance with a rough-hewn sailor. But Wertmuller told us from Rome that now she might have trouble raising the money.

"I am very, very worried, because that's a problem for me," she said in her deep, raspy voice. "I have written a very funny story for the sequel, and I am very worried that maybe this is a disaster for me."

Wertmuller (whose command of English is spotty but, in any case, better than ours of Italian) said she hasn't seen the "Swept Away" remake -- "I am very coor-ious to see it" -- and seems not to have read the savage reviews. She burst out laughing when we read her portions of a recent account by MSNBC gossip Jeannette Walls, who noted that the lead character played by Madonna -- named Raffaella Pavone Lanzetti in the original -- is named Amber Leighton in the remake. "Why, you may ask, is it so weird that the shrewish Amber Leighton gets smacked and humiliated and nearly raped in Guy Ritchie's little vanity project?" Walls wrote. "Well, it just so happens that Guy Ritchie's mother is named Amber Leighton."

At this Wertmuller gasped: "Why? Why? Why does he do that?" When we told her the movie grossed less than $400,000 on its first weekend, she exclaimed: "Oh! Terrible!" Wertmuller added she'd given the rights to Ritchie in exchange for the Italian receipts -- a deal that doesn't look too hot right now. "I don't understand why the picture is so awful," she said. "Why did Madonna and her husband let it out? It's very crazy. They saw the picture. So why open like that? I don't understand. They lost money. For Madonna, it's the name and the face. This is terrible for her."

George W. Bush, Bookworm

* Our former Post colleague Walt Harrington, for the past six years a journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana, has just received a fan letter from President Bush for his new book, "The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friends, and Family." The book contains some friendly references to the Bushes.

Bush -- who met and went fishing with Harrington in 1986 when Harrington was preparing a Washington Post Magazine profile of his father, then-Vice President George Bush -- sent the handwritten letter on White House stationery. "Dear Walt, I just finished 'The Everlasting Stream' and I liked it a lot. The old boy can still write. You understand what it means to be a friend, an outdoorsman, a husband and a dad. . . . I really enjoy my job. The only problem with this place is there aren't enough rabbit hunters up here."

Yesterday the 52-year-old Harrington told us: "I haven't seen him in 10 years. But I know he has fine taste in literature."

THIS JUST IN ...

* Providing a huge and possibly welcome distraction to denizens of the D.C. power grid -- including staffers of the Treasury and Commerce departments, representatives of big business and aides to key members of Congress -- the enraged wife of a prominent Washington lobbyist has sent a soap-operatic e-mail alleging her husband's infidelity to a blue-chip list of hundreds. What's more the red-faced husband has e-mailed back to the same list of movers and shakers. The wife's e-mail, titled "How Long?," reads: "So how long have you known that my husband [deleted] was having an affair with [deleted]? If you didn't know I'm telling you now that the bitch is an adulter [sic] and the worst kinda of [sic] female there is. Sincerely, ... soon to be the ex-Mrs. [deleted]" The husband's missive, addressed "to clients and friends," reads: "Over the weekend, many of you received an email sent by my wife regarding a very personal and very private matter....I deeply regret that this personal and private matter has intruded on your professional life...." We don't. It sure beats working!

* Call it a noble experiment in branding, like the disastrous "New Coke" back in the last century, but the owners of the so-called Swisshotel Washington Watergate are now in the process of reclaiming the original name: The Watergate Hotel. Swisshotel stopped managing the facility in May, when all the stationery was changed, but the Swisshotel logo with its distinctive red cross remains on the Blackstone Group-owned hotel. "The sign will come down eventually, but it will take time, because there are actually a lot of signs and canvasses to take down," Watergate executive Hartmut Stauss told us yesterday. "Swisshotel was trying to grow its brand here. But the Watergate brand is so deep-rooted and has such deep recognition." Indeed.