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Silverstone, the Star . . . but the Producer?

Compiled by Times Staff Writers and Contributors

It seems everybody in Hollywood wants to be a producer. In Demi Moore’s new film, “G.I. Jane,” which opens Aug. 22, no fewer than 11 people have taken producing credits, including Moore and director Ridley Scott. But compare that to “Excess Baggage,” the new romantic comedy starring Alicia Silverstone as a woman who stages her own kidnapping to get back at her father. The Columbia Pictures film, which has been screened recently in advance of its Aug. 29 release, was produced under Silverstone’s First Kiss Productions banner. But the 20-year-old actress won’t receive screen credit as producer, even though she helped select the cast, handpicked the director, chose the music and oversaw the entire post-production. Instead, the producer credits go to Bill Borden and Silverstone’s manager and producing partner, Carolyn Kessler. What gives? It all goes back to the deal Silverstone signed with Columbia in 1995, when Mark Canton, who then headed the studio, shocked Hollywood by signing the then-18-year-old Silverstone to a two-picture, $8-million production deal based on the actress’ box office appeal in Paramount Pictures’ hip teen comedy “Clueless.” Overnight, Silverstone became one of the highest-paid actresses around with the clout to produce and star in her own films. But by most accounts, her first production was rocky. Reports surfaced from the set of “Excess Baggage” that the actress repeatedly clashed with director Marco Brambilla, that producer David Valdes departed early on because the production was “out of control,” and that disputes arose over whether the film was a comedy or something much darker. Silverstone’s spokeswoman stressed that while the actress did indeed produce the movie, Sony Pictures Entertainment--the parent corporation of Columbia--tries to avoid overkill when it comes to screen credits. “Alicia has never contested it or complained about it,” her spokeswoman said. “I don’t think she cares. She’s just happy she’s producing the movie.” A Columbia spokesman explained: “The First Kiss Productions credit was part of Alicia’s contractual agreement in her overall deal with Sony and was signed well before production ever began on ‘Excess Baggage.’ ”

A Brooks Event, but No New Album

Now that Garth Brooks has put his new album on hold indefinitely because of his concerns about a corporate shake-up at his record label, the record industry is wondering how Capitol Nashville is going to try to capitalize on Brooks’ star-studded appearance Thursday night in New York’s Central Park. Not only is the show expected to draw a crowd of more than 500,000, but millions more are expected to watch on HBO. It was a remarkable setup for the new album, tentatively titled “Sevens,” but Brooks pulled the plug on the record after a massive shake-up in the EMI-Capitol North American corporate offices left two of his closest allies--chairman Charles Koppelman and executive vice president Terry Santisi--out of work. The question now is, how will the country star benefit from the huge exposure this week with no new music in the stores? “We hope that people who have not thought about Garth before, or don’t know much about him, will look at this special and go out and pick up the older albums because there is some great material on them,” says Scott Stem, Brooks’ Nashville-based spokesman. Meanwhile, Brooks’ tour continues to rack up impressive numbers. After Central Park, Brooks moves west for more than a dozen sold-out shows in Sacramento, Fresno and San Jose.

Dylan Back on Highway, With DiFranco

Bob Dylan opens a monthlong tour with Ani DiFranco tonight in Lenox, Maine, as part of his first series of concerts since he was hospitalized for a week last May because of histoplasmosis, a fungal infection that creates a swelling of the sac that surrounds the heart. The illness, which forced Dylan, 56, to cancel a 10-city European tour, has focused increased media attention on the legendary singer-songwriter as he prepares for the fall release of his 41st album, “Time Out of Mind,” the first collection of all-new Dylan songs since 1990’s “Under the Red Sky.” Tonight’s show follows a scheduled warmup performance without DiFranco on Sunday in Lincoln, N.H. Columbia Records is enthusiastic about the new album and is hoping the exposure generated by the tour with DiFranco, one of rock’s most promising and captivating young singer-songwriters, will result in the collection being Dylan’s first Top 20 release since 1983’s “Infidels.” “Every new album of Bob Dylan songs is an event,” says Don Ienner, president of Columbia Records, “but even by his remarkably high standards, this album is a stunning achievement. . . . Even as a generation of songwriters has grown up on Dylan, they still haven’t caught up with him.”

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