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DR PEPPER BUBBLES UP TO GODZILLA

Times Staff Writer

Here’s an introduction that could only be made in Hollywood, even though the subjects are from Tokyo and Dallas:

Godzilla, meet Dr Pepper.

Starting next week, the monster and the soft drink (now there’s a title) will be paired in the launching of a $10-million advertising campaign leading up to the Aug. 23 release of “Godzilla 1985,” a Japanese-made, American-modified horror film in which Dr Pepper will make a cameo appearance.

“This is the perfect marriage of product placement and promotion,” says Rusty Citron, director of national promotion and merchandising for New World Pictures. “We think everyone’s going to have a lot of fun with it.”

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“Godzilla 1985" marks the comeback of Godzilla, the prehistoric monster who rose from the fallout of nuclear blasts to crush cities in a series of clumsy Japanese movies made in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It also brings back bulky Steven Martin (Raymond Burr), the American reporter whose scenes were shot in Hollywood and inserted in the 1956 “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.”

New World, which picked up “Godzilla 1985" from Toho Film, repeated the post-production gimmick, getting Burr to reprise his role in a two-day shooting at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios, on the same set where (is nothing sacred?) “Citizen Kane” was filmed.

Those scenes, set in the Pentagon, will also include a Dr Pepper vending machine and cans of the product being consumed by the cast.

“It is done in the same good taste that Diet Pepsi did in ‘Back to the Future,’ ” Citron says, with an almost straight face.

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Actually, Dr Pepper had already negotiated the use of Godzilla for a fall campaign when New World decided to pick the film up for U.S. theatrical distribution and video sales. TV commercials have already appeared linking Godzilla with Dr Pepper.

When Citron learned of the soft drink tie-in from Toho, he rushed to Dallas and offered to put the product in the movie for a piggyback ride on its ad campaign.

Citron says Dr Pepper approved the deal in three hours and starting next week copy promoting the movie will be included in all Dr Pepper/Godzilla spots on TV and radio.

Godzilla, the unfriendly Pepper, is going to be hard to ignore. Besides Dr Pepper’s $10-million campaign, New World will be spending $3 million to $4 million of its own money.

There’s even an MTV video on its way, featuring the love theme from “Godzilla 1985": “I Was Afraid to Love You.”

Who would have believed fallout would be this much fun?

ID, EGO, ET AL.: Usually, someone writes a script. Then a producer options the script and looks for a director. Then they find a star. Then they look for financing.

“Over the Top,” Sylvester Stallone’s next movie, reverses the formula.

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Two years ago, with only a title, a concept and Stallone’s signature as a product, Cannon Films began selling territorial and ancillary (non-theatrical) rights to “Over the Top” in Cannes. Meanwhile, Stallone was off doing “Rhinestone,” “Rambo” and “Rocky IV.”

Last May, Cannon’s Menahem Golan said his collections on “Over the Top” were coming along fine. In fact, he said, the film’s estimated $20-million budget would be covered before a frame of film was exposed.

Now, we learn he was also planning to have his script costs covered before a page of paper was written on.

Cannon recently hired veteran screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, an Oscar winner for “In the Heat of the Night,” to write “Over the Top,” from a story concept that sounds like an arm-wrestling version of “The Champ.”

“It’s an action love story with the emphasis on action,” Silliphant says. “It’s the story of a man trying to win back the love of his son and win the world arm-wrestling championship in Las Vegas.”

Golan, a film director in Israel before emigrating to Hollywood, will direct “Over the Top,” but Stallone--reportedly being paid more than $10 million to star--has final cut.

That means he can do anything he wants to the script, a privilege previous Stallone collaborators have accused him of abusing.

Silliphant says he isn’t worried.

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“I don’t anticipate any problem whatsoever,” Silliphant says. “I’m a very difficult person to abuse.”

In fact, Silliphant says Stallone would be foolish not to mold the script to suit himself.

“He doesn’t have to do anything at this point,” Silliphant says. “He has been very smart about what he can do. He has to protect that. If I were him, I’d do the same thing.”

As for many of the writers who cry “abuse,” Silliphant says it’s a matter of protesting too much.

“There are a lot of writers with abusive egos,” he says. “They think they’re going to make Stallone famous when Stallone is infinitely more famous than they are.”

NOTES ‘N’ QUOTES: The sticker price on first-run movies at Mann Theaters in Westwood and Hollywood is now up to $6. Considering the disappointing quality of this summer’s film fare, and the glut of it, moviegoers might have expected prices to go the other way . . . or at least be offered rebates. . . .

Jack Nicholson has replaced Mandy Patinkin in Mike Nichols’ “Heartburn,” a film adaptation of Nora Ephron’s bitter novel about her courtship, marriage and breakup with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein. Patinkin and Nichols split over the inevitable “artistic differences,” after one week of shooting and several weeks of rehearsal. . . .

Four-time Oscar winner Robert Wise will succeed Gene Allen as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Wise, director of “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story,” was one of the four producers of this year’s efficient if unspectacular Oscar telecast. . . .

Woody Allen issued a minor protest last week against South African racial policies by including a clause in his new contract with Orion Pictures that excludes South Africa from the list of international markets where his films can be distributed. Allen’s last three South African releases--"A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” “Zelig,” and “Broadway Danny Rose"--had combined net earnings of less than $20,000.

“Woody’s films don’t do too well outside the major American cities,” said a representative of one international distributor. “South Africa, South Dakota. They do about the same.”


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