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'Law & Order' Star Out of Order Long Ago

D'Onofrio vs. Modine | DreamWorks/Universal | Sire-ing Some Hits

Vincent D'Onofrio, star of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," is so, shall we say, eccentric that this year he's alternating episodes with Chris Noth.

Stories of his, shall we say, eccentricity are regular features in the New York tabloids.

But it turns out D'Onofrio was always like this, according to the much, shall we say, less eccentric and more focused Matthew Modine.

The latter actor recommended the former for a role in Stanley Kubrick's now classic Vietnam film "Full Metal Jacket" some 20 years ago and lived to regret it.

Modine recounts his upsetting experiences with D'Onofrio in his wonderful new coffee-table book, "Full Metal Diary," published today by Rugged Land.

You've got to see this thing: It's got a full metal book jacket! Modine and Rugged Land have put together what I would call the ultimate holiday gift for fans of Modine and Kubrick and movie lovers in general.

It's the best production of this kind since Ringo Starr's "Postcards." (Shockingly, "FMD" is for sale on amazon.com for less than $20, too. Hurry, because it's a limited edition.)

Luckily, Modine kept a great journal all during this early, fertile period in his career. He also took lots of pictures.

I think because Matthew is soft-spoken and never in the tabloids (he's been with his gorgeous, smart, funny wife Cari for 25 years), people don't realize how talented and cool he is. But he's a natural writer, and it shows.

Unfortunately, D'Onofrio was unable to enjoy Modine the actor while they shot Kubrick's movie.

The first sign of real trouble came when extras witnessed them having an argument. D'Onofrio, who liked to stay in character, accused Modine of "joking around" too much. Modine agreed and said, "What are you going to do if I keep joking around?"

D'Onofrio replied: "I'm going to kick your a--."

Modine wrote that Kubrick's daughter Vivian was running messages between them.

"I don't like to use hate," Modine wrote. "Hate is powerful. Hate should be reserved for truly hateful things. But I'm almost there..."

From a diary entry on Jan. 24, 1986: "I am having to deal with [Vince] a lot since this started ... There is such anger and tension between us both. He looks at me with that moronic look and I want [to] slap him."

Things did not get better. To blow off steam, Modine had a punching bag installed in his trailer. D'Onofrio began lifting weights, making a big show of his new physique.

"Vince and I are ready to come to blows," Modine wrote. "We don't talk anymore about anything. Not even professionally. We are preparing for the fight that seems inevitable."

Want more? Buy the book.

P.S.: Guests at Modine's book party last night at the Vietnam Gallery on Greenwich St. in New York City included Elizabeth Berkley and artist husband Greg Lauren (nephew of Ralph Lauren), and former "ER" star/one time Tina Turner back-up singer Gloria Reuben.

Berkley wowed the crowd Monday night at the "24 Hour Plays" on Broadway (more on that tomorrow). Reuben has three new movies coming out in the next few months!

Studio Deal: Don't Dream, It's Almost Over

I'm told the deal to bring DreamWorks into Universal Pictures is less than two weeks away.

As you know, it looked like Universal had walked away from the table a couple of weeks ago, letting its exclusivity period lapse. There was a brief flurry of excitement about Paramount possibly buying DreamWorks, but it passed.

Originally, DreamWorks' partner and master negotiator David Geffen wanted a billion dollars for the company. Other, higher numbers were bandied about. But I am told that Universal would only come up with $800 million in its offer — reasonable considering DreamWorks' failures — and that Geffen passed.

The fate of DreamWorks affects its spun-off, publicly traded animation company. What DreamWorks has to offer to Universal, besides its library, is distribution rights to DreamWorks Animation's projects. These include another "Shrek" movie, for example, and Jerry Seinfeld's 2007 release "Bee Movie." Both will be big.

Right now, though, DreamWorks Animation is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Still trading below expectations, the stock has been doing some weird things.

Yesterday around 2 p.m. EDT, someone was trading a couple of big blocks of it. The volume was considerably up for the day given its average. You can see the sharp rises in trading like an EKG. Someone out there was very excited about something.

Similarly, back on Oct. 6, the day after "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" had a two-theater, one-day opening, somebody else got really enthusiastic about DWA. Volume for the day in trading was up over a million shares, way higher than any day previous or since.

"W&G" took in $12,000 on Oct. 5th in those two theaters. Maybe it looked like it was going to be a bigger hit than it turned out to be.

Right after that promising opening, "W&G" nose-dived and hit a plateau. It will do $70 million domestically, which isn't bad, but it's not enough to help DreamWorks Animation's bottom line at all.

(Interestingly, W&G's overseas take is much higher. Europeans appreciate Nick Park's genius more than we do, apparently.)

But still, hopeful stockholders are thinking that another company, like Disney, might take over DWA. That's unlikely, since the live-action DreamWorks is so tied to the animation side.

It's more plausible that some insiders are anticipating the sale to Universal, and that can only be good for the animation side.

With the sale of DreamWorks, a major independent force in filmmaking will be subsumed into a large studio.

Universal makes a lot of quality pictures, but it will nevertheless be a blow to the film industry to have lost DreamWorks as its own entity. Many of the people there are already sending out resumes, knowing that most jobs will be considered redundant by Universal.

Ironically, one DreamWorks/Universal film already in the works may be the linchpin in this year's Oscar race. Steven Spielberg's "Munich," which no one has seen or knows much about at this point, could figure big when it's released.

It could be another "Schindler's List," which is what DreamWorks is hoping for. Or it could be "Amistad," in which case all bets are off.

Sire-ing Some Hits

I've already loaded a new CD boxed set into all my Zen Sleek/Zen Micro players (you can put it in your iPod, too).

It's called "Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story."

Of course, you know that Sire was founded by the gifted Seymour Stein. He discovered, recorded and/or released albums by — are you ready? — Madonna, the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Pretenders, the Cure, Erasure, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Flamin' Groovies, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Jonathan Richman, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Alison Moyet and Yaz, the Undertones, Madness, Tom Tom Club, the Replacements, Modern English, the Smiths, the Mighty Lemon Drops and on and on and on.

They are all on this much-too-short collection, as well as maybe Seymour's two greatest one-off singles: "Pop Muzik" by M, and "Ça Plane Pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand.

I've asked him about the second one, a startling three-minute piece of pop magic. What does it mean, Seymour, I said?

"It means nothing," he replied.

Nothing, that is, except, goofy, intelligent, urbane slices of New Wave and punk that still rock today!