September 23, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Broadcast News: Something funny happened to the life and tragic times of NBC news anchor Jessica Savitch on the way to the Hollywood screen. In development for more than four years, Up Close and Personal began as a bio of Savitch, who died in a freak car accident in 1983. She was also the subject of two sensational 1988 biographies that revealed alleged affairs with well-known newsmen and women, cocaine abuse, and the sordid details of her husband’s suicide, as well as her terrifying last moments. But the downbeat tone of Savitch’s life was anathema to Hollywood. So the script was reworked-23 times—and is now the tale of a fictitious plucky TV newscaster who has a troubled love affair with a news producer. Robin Wright and Michelle Pfeiffer are among the actresses up for the role.

Up Close executive producer Ed Hookstratten, a lawyer and former Savitch agent, admits: ”Her life was very, very sad. Do you want to go see that? We’re going to try and lighten it up a little bit.” -Jeffrey Wells

Under Fire: Talk about a hot property. Dark Territory, Steven Seagal‘s train- hijack sequel to Under Siege, has been setting its Colorado location ablaze. For real. According to a Warner Bros. spokeswoman, while the crew was test-running a locomotive to see if it would fit through tunnels, a malfunctioning ”spark arrester” sent cinders spewing out, igniting several large brushfires. Nine teams of volunteer firefighters, along with a water- carrying helicopter and a small plane armed with fire retardant, spent hours extinguishing the 20-acre fire. ”There could have been bad consequences, but thank goodness there were none,” says the Warner spokeswoman. Although a nearly $40,000 bill for containing the fires is being sent to Dark Territory producers, one set source wryly noted the good news: ”The train fits through the tunnels.” -JW

Book Bind: Meryl Streep would like to revise her opinion. She didn’t hate The Bridges of Madison County. ”What I said was that I wasn’t shattered by the book,” says The River Wild star, who is set to play the female lead when Bridges goes to film. ”I didn’t regard it as a religious experience.” Streep admits she had a change of heart after director and costar Clint Eastwood persuaded her to read the script: ”I realized that what I had not responded to in the book was the descriptions of how the couple looked. In the script, all you get is what they’re saying.” Will Streep remain a blond to play the Italian farm wife? ”I’m not really a blond, so I’ll probably be my own hair color,” she says, ”which we will have to rediscover through a bunch of strip tests!” -Cindy Pearlman

Etc.: When pop singer k.d. lang walked into the ladies’ room of the Palace theater in Hollywood after the premiere of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, she encountered a voluptuous woman stripping off a tight pink dress. Lang suddenly realized the woman was none other than male drag performer Karen Dior. ”Oops, I think I’ve got the wrong bathroom,” said a smiling lang, who then made a quick exit. Says Dior: ”She was a bit red-faced.” Following his first role opposite an animated character in the big-budget Casper, Bill Pullman (Malice) has nabbed the male lead opposite female-action star Sandra Bullock (Speed) in the romance While You Were Sleeping. Pullman beat out James Spader and Dylan McDermott for the part. After John Turturro finished his role as Herbert Stempel in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show, he quickly switched gears to play Det. Larry Mazilli in Spike Lee’s upcoming Clockers, based on the Richard Price novel. So, what’s the difference between directors Redford and Lee? Says Turturro: ”Spike doesn’t fly-fish much.”

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