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A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : NOTHING’S SACRED : Jumping Over the Moon Is Way Too Simple These Days?

The explicit sex scenes in screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ “Basic Instinct,” which is due in theaters this April, are sure to raise eyebrows. But that reaction may pale when the public gets a gander at Eszterhas’ script, “Sacred Cows.”

If the film is ever produced.

The wickedly humorous satire re-creates the environment of Washington, D.C., in the heat of a presidential election campaign. The key plot point is a photo secretly taken of the incumbent President of the United States during a campaign visit to his brother’s farm in Nebraska. The photo shows the chief executive in the family barn having sex with a cow.

The opposition candidate, who has possession of the photo, tries to use it privately to get the President to quit the race. Then a copy of the photo finds its way into a tabloid called the National Snitch, and the last few days of the election turn topsy-turvy.

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Last week, a copy of Eszterhas’ script found its way to Calendar. Attached to the script was an unsigned note: “MGM is about to make this movie. Could this possibly have any connection to Bill Clinton’s situation?” A report from a woman who claimed to have had a 12-year, extramarital affair with Clinton surfaced recently in the Star, a national gossip tabloid.

Eszterhas, reached at his home in Tiburon, Calif., said, “It has nothing to do with Clinton.

“Right now this is a very precarious thing, if the screenplay gets out,” he said. “It’s going to get all wound into the Clinton thing, and the sick thing is ultimately that it (the movie) would not get made.”

Eszterhas, who was paid a record $3 million for his “Basic Instinct” script, said he already has been paid $500,000 for the script under his six-picture deal with MGM. But if the movie is made, he will get an additional $250,000 under the deal.

Agent Guy McElwaine, the vice chairman of International Creative Management, said publicity on the picture now “could spook the studio.” MGM/Pathe Communications Co. gave no indication of the project’s future. The studio issued a statement through a spokeswoman saying it “is not committed to the project.”

Sources close to the project say that MGM Chairman Alan Ladd, Jr. has wanted to make the film since the script was first delivered in 1989. Paul Newman and Lloyd Bridges are two of the actors said to be the studio’s choice to play the President.

Eszterhas said he wrote the script after the scandal involving former presidential candidate Gary Hart and Donna Rice. The married Hart was forced to withdraw as a candidate in 1988 in the wake of the publication of a photo showing Hart and Rice together. The script has been “up in the air” since then, Eszterhas said, with such directors as Steven Spielberg and Milos Forman considering it.

There is now talk that Jim Abrahams, the director of “Hot Shots” and “Airplane!,” may take on the film, or possibly Robert Mulligan, the director of 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

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The hope, said one source, was to release the film in the fall, during the presidential campaign. But the window for making the film and being able to release it in the current election year is diminishing. Hollywood faces an impending actors union contract deadline at the end of June, production is beginning to slow down and projects not begun before April are unlikely to be started until after the new contract is negotiated.


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