A FEW BIG BUCKS

It's common knowledge in Hollywood that the major film studios have begun slashing actors' salaries wherever possible as a way of keeping a lid on escalating movie costs.

The key phrase, of course, is "wherever possible," because in some cases it's not possible. Consider the present salary levels of such A-list actors as Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.

Both actors will next appear in director Rob Reiner's $40 million court-martial drama, A Few Good Men, based on the Broadway play by Aaron Sorkin. A number of sources tell us that for starring in the film as a military lawyer Cruise will receive a $12.5 million paycheck. These same sources have told us that Nicholson's salary, for playing a base commander and working all of two weeks on the project, will be $5 million.

BABOON BUSINESS

It's doubtful that financially troubled MGM-Pathe studios will pay anything near those multimillion-dollar levels to the actress producer-director Tony Rill chooses to play the female lead in his movie The Baboon Heart. Set to begin production in early 1992, it's about a woman who falls for a social misfit who is living with a baboon's heart in his body and is terminally ill because of it.

Money aside, Bill tells us that reps for "virtually every top actress in the business" have called inquiring about the part.

One such actress, Bill says, is Madonna. "I've talked to her agent and manager," he says, "and both expressed interest in Madonna doing it."

Madonna's rep, Liz Rosenberg, confirms that Madonna is aware of the project but says, "She hasn't read the script yet."

KNOCKIN' ON DYLAN'S DOOR

As a musician and songwriter, Bob Dylan has given the world an astounding body of work. Dylan's oeuvre as an actor is another matter.

Outside of D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 documentary, Don't Look Back, a small role in Sam Peckinpah's 1973 Pal Garrett and Billy the Kid, the lead in the 1978 Renaldo & Clara (which he directed) and a costarring role in 1987's Hearts of Fire (released in the U.S. on video only), there is little of the dramatic Dylan on celluloid.

But that may be a-change-in'. Dylan's rep, Elliot Mintz, says that though there is no truth to reports that Dylan has accepted a small role in an upcoming political satire, Times Are Changing Back, he is considering a part in another film.

What film? Mintz is mum, saying only that if agreement is reached, Dylan would do the film "after Thanksgiving, when he has a break in touring."