'Bonfire' Still Burning

As Warner Bros.' "Bonfire of the Vanities" enters its final weeks of shooting in Burbank, the book's author, Tom Wolfe, still hasn't read the film adaptation--and doesn't plan to.

Recall that Wolfe became involved in a much-publicized discussion with filmmaker Spike Lee over the script's ending during a public forum on race relations in New York City last May.

Wolfe's novel tells of a Wall Street financier who accidentally runs over a black teen-ager in the Bronx, with the subsequent trial turning into a media carnival and racial tensions running high. The victim eventually lapses into a coma and dies.

During the forum, Lee stunned Wolfe and the audience by informing them that he had read a copy of the "Bonfire" script--and discovered that Wolfe's ending had been radically altered. In the script, Lee said, the teen-ager wakes up in the hospital, removes medical equipment and walks out--suggesting the incident had all been a hoax.

(That was the ending to a shooting script subsequently obtained by Calendar.)

Wolfe indicated at the forum that he might read the script. But he tells us now that he hasn't, choosing to remain "uninvolved."

He "would be very surprised," he adds, if the studio would "leave the ending as a 'scam.' . . . I'll have to suspend judgment until I see the movie."

"Bonfire," starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Melanie Griffith, is scheduled for December release.

A studio spokesman says that Michael Cristofer's script has gone through a number of revisions and "there are several possible endings."

"The book is the important thing," insists Wolfe. "Unless you get totally involved (in the film) and even if you do, it's not going to be your book up there on the screen."

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