Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, April 9, 1999

File photo
Rossano Brazzi, left, appeared in a "Five-0"
episode with star Jack Lord.

‘Five-0’ heads
for big screen

''Hawaii Five-0', the movie,
finally, will be made'

By Tim Ryan


"Lenny is smiling," said Rose Freeman, widow of "Hawaii Five-0" creator and original producer Leonard Freeman, talking about a ruling by the The Writers Guild of America confirming that she, not CBS, owns the movie rights to the show.

"' Hawaii Five-0', the movie, finally, will be made," she said.

Leonard Freeman, who died nearly 26 years ago, "helped me through this," said his widow, of the 21 months of arbitration with the network. "I talk to him every day. I look up and say thank you. I look out onto the ocean and know he's with me now and always will be."

"Hawaii Five-0," the longest-running police show in the history of television -- on CBS from 1968 to 1980 -- was the subject of a rights dispute between the network and Freeman's estate. But producer George Litto, Leonard Freeman's agent, and Rose Freeman prevailed.

Litto "kept his word to Lenny to watch over the kids and me," an emotional Freeman said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles Wednesday.

Litto said, "The contract was clear; only (CBS) was confused."

The as-yet-unnamed "5-0" film will be produced by Freeman and Litto's company: L/F Prods., LLC. Rose Freeman will serve as consultant on the film.

Three drafts of the "Hawaii Five-0" movie script have been written by writer Avery Duff from Litto's idea, the producer said. The script establishes Hawaii as the gateway to the Pacific. There will be characters from various Pacific Rim countries coming to Hawaii.

Steve McGarrett, the character made TV famous by Jack Lord, will be on assignment in some of these countries but virtually all of the $75 million to $100 million film will be shot in Hawaii, Litto said.

"Certainly one of the things that was appealing in the television show were the multi-ethnic characters and that will be continued in the film," he said. But "the characters will be broadened and deeper, and the themes will have a bigger point of view, a bigger perspective."

And unlike the television show where McGarrett was pretty much a loner, the film will have Hawaii's top cop involved romantically.

But the first step, Litto said, is to decide on a studio to co-produce the film. Part of that selection will include discussing the actor to play McGarrett.

"Take the top 10 male stars in the business and I think eight are right to play Steve McGarrett," Litto said. "I just hope those $20-million-a-film fees don't climb any higher."

According to Variety, Litto has a $250 million line of credit from Chase Manhattan Bank to produce and finance five pictures within two years. "Hawaii Five-0" is one of those, he said.

Depending on actor and director availability -- these days they often come as a package -- Litto hopes to start filming as early as this fall, but no later than next spring. The production will film here 75 to 80 days, Litto said.

McGarret headed a fictional police unit that reported directly to Hawaii's governor. McGarrett's squad included his devoted No. 2, Danny Williams, played by James MacArthur.

No decision has been made whether any of the original cast members will be in the film, Litto said. But "name" actors will be cast as the "Five-0" team, he said.

The Writer's Guild arbitration decision was made last September, but just recently took effect after a mandatory waiting period, Litto said.

CBS, in a statement said: "We believe it would have been better for the project if we had prevailed in the arbitration, but obviously we did not. We wish Mr. Litto all the best with his project."

Litto has a long history as a highly successful film producer, talent agent and film executive in the motion picture industry, which began at the William Morris Agency in 1954. His production credits include "Blow Out" with John Travolta and "Dressed to Kill" with Michael Caine.

"George and I have traveled a long road to this point," Rose Freeman said. "But I never felt hopeless because I can read and I knew what the basic agreement said. I truly believed what I was doing was right."

CBS filmed a "Hawaii Five-0" pilot on Oahu in 1997 starring Russell Wong and Gary Busey but the episode was never broadcast.

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