That report that came out Thursday — that TNT had failed to come to financial terms with Larry Hagman to join the cast of its Dallas reboot and was proceeding with a revised script that featured the Ewings without their patriarch? Don't take that to the bank just yet, darlins'.
I just got off the phone with Larry who said all this comes as news to him. I read him the report, which left the 79-year-old TV legend stunned and nearly speechless. "I hadn't heard about that, huh!" said Larry. "That's really interesting. We were talking about money, but I didn't know it was going to come to a crashing halt like that. You got a scoop for whatever that's worth: Larry Hagman doesn't know what's going on!"
What this sounds like to me is a scare tactic — not unlike what Lorimar pulled back in the summer of 1980 after J.R. Ewing's infamous shooting when the production company threatened to replace Larry with actor Robert Culp if he didn't return from Europe, where the savvy businessman had escaped while his team negotiated a new contract.
"I had a good team then," said Larry, who this week shoots the first of two Desperate Housewives episodes as the wealthy fiancé of Lynette's mother (Polly Bergen). The actor is currently represented by Joel Dean and Harry Gold, two seasoned veterans accustomed to landing good deals for their clients. And my hope is they will succeed in getting Larry his just desserts.
In November, Larry's co-stars, Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), told me they were on board for the new Dallas pilot, which was to begin shooting in early February in Texas, Louisiana or New Mexico.
Larry tells me he read the pilot, written by Cynthia Cidre, the creator of CBS's short-lived soap Cane, and found it "pretty good. J.R.'s single and still his usual self. I thought I wanted to do it, but I didn't know it had come to this. We were so close to (a deal), I didn't know there was an issue. I thought more or less we had it down, unless this is a scare tactic. But I don't need to be scared at my age."
While Larry claims he'd be far from devastated if the series attempted to launch without him, he acknowledges he would be deeply disappointed not to reunite with his old co-stars. "I'd miss playing with Patrick and Linda, that's for sure, because we're all buddies," he says.
I personally hope TNT pays the star whatever he wants, because Dallas without 'ole J.R. just ain't Dallas. And on a personal note, Saturday, December 18 marks Larry and his wife Maj's 56th wedding anniversary, which sadly will be celebrated at the Santa Monica facility where his Alzheimer's-stricken wife has been living for the past nine months. Hopefully TNT will end this foolishness and award Larry the anniversary gift he so richly deserves.
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