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Pearl Harbor Song Had to Have Faith; Michele Lee Out of Knots

 Diane Warren | Michele Lee | Michael Jackson | Hollywood Execs Change Places

 Songwriter Churns 'Em Out for Bruckheimer

At the end of the interminably long, mostly insufferable three-hour extravaganza called Pearl Harbor you will hear a song. It's played over the end credits. That is, if you bother to stay: Many in the press-screening audience on Tuesday were skipping out before the movie was over.

The song is "There You'll Be," sung by Faith Hill and written by Diane Warren. For Warren, the song marks the latest in a series of movies produced by Jerry Bruckheimer for which she's supplied gushy romantic theme songs. The most successful of these, I suppose, was Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," for Armageddon in 1999. Inarguably, it was the record that brought Aerosmith back from the dead.

Warren more recently penned songs for Bruckheimer's gruesomely awful Coyote Ugly, which were sung by Lee Ann Rimes. As with Hill and Bruckheimer, Warren also has a relationship with Rimes. I am told by sources that after Trisha Yearwood recorded the Warren song "How Do I Live," for the soundtrack to another Bruckheimer movie, Con Air, Warren didn't care for her version and convinced Lee Ann to record it as well. Rimes wound up having the hit single, but Yearwood's version was on the movie. The result was both singers appearing on the Oscar show in 1998. Warren lost anyway to the song from The Prince of Egypt.

Warren, according to sources, likes to make sure her songs are covered in all genres of music. After Aerosmith recorded "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Warren went to Nashville and got country singer Mark Chestnutt to record the song too. The result was a hit on the country charts.

Now, I'm told by sources knowledgeable about the Warren song factory that "There You'll Be," is a song that was written and submitted to Faith Hill before, but rejected. This is a key piece of news because if it were true, the song would not be eligible for an Oscar. All Oscar songs must be written, according to Academy rules, for their scripts.

But Warren's rep, when I called, answered without hesitation. "No, I know 'There You'll Be' was written for Pearl Harbor." An assistant in her office named Heather said: "I heard her writing it. And my office is right next to hers."

Warren, who obviously has an archive of never-before-published ballads, is said to have offered a song to the producers of the soundtrack of Brokedown Palace a year earlier. The song may have been "Please Remember," which wound up on the soundtrack to Coyote Ugly after the Brokedown producers either rejected the song or couldn't make a deal for it. A source close to Warren said: "The song was pulled back by Diane when she didn't like the deal. Then she gave it to Coyote Ugly."

Adam Fields, a producer of Brokedown Palace, said he remembers Warren coming in and watching bits of the film on VCR and possibly making a demo for it. "In the end, though, it didn't work out," Fields told me.

Luckily, the songs from Coyote Ugly did not get any Oscar nominations, so the issue of their eligibility was moot.

Despite this tempest in a teapot, Warren will be honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York on June 14. 

The Tale of the Knots Landing Star

Tony Award voters are mulling over their ballots right now. The deadline is June 1, and the show — which will be hosted by Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane — is set for Sunday, June 3, at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.

That said, I must throw my hat in the ring for a nominated supporting actress. Michele Lee is the lynchpin in a dynamic trio including Linda Lavin and Tony Roberts, who sell out the Ethel Barrymore Theatre every night for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. The show has been a huge hit since it reopened on Broadway last winter.

Michele is best known to everyone in the free world as Karen MacKenzie from the very long-running nighttime soap, Knots Landing. She was the moral center of the show, the main character, and more often than not a tad boring while everyone else in the cul-de-sac plotted and schemed around her.

Now Michele, whose background was in Broadway musicals like How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and SeeSaw, is back in town. In Allergist she plays Lee, a very different character than Karen MacKenzie. One day Lee knocks on the door of an upper-class, well-educated older Manhattan couple (Roberts and Lavin) and turns out to be the wife's childhood friend. By coincidence.

For the next two hours, Lee turns the lives of this couple upside down and inside out. She is sexy, predatory and completely ingratiating. You don't know if she's a compulsive, pathological liar or a misunderstood free spirit. What you do know is that she's dangerous in a way Karen MacKenzie could never have been. If Lee had come into Karen's kitchen, the police would have been called.

Michele Lee is the motor in Allergist's Wife. She's in it from beginning to end, which is not the case with the other fine actresses nominated in her Tony category. What a brave move she made, leaving that awful movie-of-the-week/disease-of-the-week world, and coming home to New York to give such a fine performance. I hope on June 3 that the Tony voters remember her. And if they don't, at least Broadway audiences get to see what happens when we rescue one of our own from big, bad Hollywood.

Michael Jackson Wants to Be Starting Something

Billboard.com reported Wednesday that Michael Jackson is shopping his MJJ Records label around for distribution. I don't know what exactly he's shopping: Sony dropped the label, and the head of the label, Jerry Greenberg, recently left MJJ to get back into producing Broadway plays. MJJ only has acts 3T (Jackson's nephews) and Tatyana Ali. There are no executives left and not much of a catalogue. Jackson, meantime, is under pressure to get his own album ready for an early fall release.

Hollywood Execs Change Places: Duck, Duck, Goose

See if you can follow this: Russell Schwarz, the head of USA Films and the guy who marketed Traffic to us, is moving over to New Line Cinema. He's replacing Mike DeLuca, who's probably going to DreamWorks, where he'll be No. 2 even though he presided over a series of disasters like Town & Country at New Line. At Miramax, marketing director Dennis Rice is gone, but he's sure to turn up soon at another studio. Does it matter? Not really. But it's very difficult to maintain a Palm Pilot. Better stick with Rolodex on paper, I say.

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