"Beware of falling coconuts!"

That was the no-kidding warning on the call sheet of "Return to the Blue Lagoon," which finished shooting in early September on Fiji's Taveuni Island, with its uncluttered beaches, untamed waterfalls - and tall palms."A coconut weighs eight pounds," producer Peter Bogart says, "and coconut trees are 90 feet tall."

"Lagoon" crew members, who prudently wore hardhats during filming, had to adapt in other ways: Twin-engine planes landed on a grass air strip. The washing machine was the nearest stream. A key beach location was accessible only by water or a 30-minute hike up and down a steep, muddy trail. Locals humped equipment overland; cast and crew shoved off in small boats.

There were no air conditioned trailers. At the beach base camp, cast and crew hung out in huts fashioned of palm fronds. Leading lady Milla Jovovich resigned herself to taking showers outdoors.

In the sequel to the 1980 hit film that launched the careers of young Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, Brian Krause, 18, plays their son (the Shields and Atkins characters are now deceased), with Jovovich, 14, as a traveler stranded at sea by a shipboard cholera outbreak. Like the original, most of the drama is set on or near water.

During the shooting of one scene, director William Graham lay in the bottom of a small boat, "staying close" to a shot. "We were sailing along about one-half mile from shore," recalls Graham, an experienced sailor. "Water started coming in, and suddenly it was up to my ears."

The boat - actors, director and all - swamped.

Graham, who has directed 57 films, mostly for TV, accepted this assignment, he says jokingly, "because I thought this would be a couple of loincloths and a vacation.

"If this is paradise, I'll go back to hell, where I belong." - NANCY MILLS

- Finis for Freddy?:

HOLLYWOOD - The producers of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, who caught some flak for having fun with a character who tortures and murders kids, have decided that young Freddy Krueger was himself . . . an abused child.

That is the twist in New Line Cinema's "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," now being written, which will delve into Freddy's miserable childhood.

"But we're not doing this to excuse Freddy for what he is. We're not saying that society turned him into a vicious child killer," says Rachel Talalay, who will make her directorial debut with this, the sixth Freddy installment.

Talalay, who was involved in the first four installments of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series (producing "III" and "IV"), came up with the storyline for "VI," which Michael DeLuca is writing.

To be depicted in flashbacks, Freddy's childhood will include abuse by his stepfather, as well as the cruelty of classmates. Robert Englund will again star as the adult Freddy - possibly his last appearance.

"As far as I'm concerned," Talalay says, "we will effectively kill Freddy in a way that will make it impossible to bring him back (as in the previous installments). We've got some real good tricks planned.

"We're going to take him out with a bang." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Touch of Reality:

HOLLYWOOD - If the producers of the film version of "The Fugitive" have their way, the villain known as "the one-armed man" will be played by . . . a one-armed actor.

Arnold Kopelson, co-producing with Keith Barish, believes that "having an actual one-armed person (play the role) could lend credence to the movie.

"The integrity of the movie" must come first, he adds, and "we may ultimately have to go with a non-handicapped actor . . . but we're doing everything we can to find the right handicapped actor."

For their search, casting directors Amanda Mackey and Cathy Sandrich have been working with such groups as the National Workshop for the Handicapped at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Access Theater in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the non-traditional casting department of Actors' Equity in New York. They have also put out casting notices encouraging disabled actors to contact them (non-actors are also being considered).

At this writing, only seven men have read for the role.

"I thought we'd get a lot more response than we have," Mackey says. "We're finding that many people who have lost a limb, particularly an arm, aren't comfortable being in the spotlight."

"The Fugitive," which Walter Hill will direct for Warner Bros., is inspired by the ABC series (1963-67) that starred the late David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble (played by Alec Baldwin in the film). Falsely accused and sentenced to die for murdering his wife, Kimble escapes and spends his life on the run - while searching for the real culprit, a sociopathic, one-armed man played by Bill Raisch.

(Raisch, who died in 1984 at age 79, was one-armed; he lost his right arm after a shipboard fire in World War II aggravated a boyhood injury.)

The character was rarely glimpsed in the TV series, and Kopelson says it's uncertain how big a part he'll play in the big-screen version - the script is currently being revised by the project's fourth writer, aiming for a late November start. - JOHN M. WILSON

- The Rise of Dawn:

HOLLYWOOD - Marlon Brando, move over: Dawn Steel, producer and former president of production at Columbia Pictures, is reportedly "very close" to a deal with Pocket Books to write her memoirs.

Kara Welsh, associate director of the Simon & Schuster division, would only say: "We don't have a contract signed yet, but we hope to very soon."

A well-placed source within Pocket Books says that the book would be printed first in hard cover. Working title: "Lessons From the Front."

"It will be an autobiography of her career as opposed to her life, the story of her rise in Hollywood," adds the source. "A particular bent is how she has managed to maintain a marriage and family life" along with a career - as well as her experiences as a female executive "in male-dominated Hollywood."

Steel's personal publicist, Paul Bloch, would only say that "a lot of companies have come to her" about writing her story and that "no deal is set."

It is "undetermined," according to the Pocket Books source, whether Steel will get help from a professional writer on the manuscript, or try it alone. -JOHN M. WILSON

- Fine, Feathered Fiends:

HOLLYWOOD - Feathers could fly when CBS attempts to follow in the legendary footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock with a TV sequel to "The Birds," the director's 1963 thriller about a small town besieged by flocks of winged killers.

"We're very well aware of what we're taking on," says Charmaine Balian, senior vice president of drama development for Universal Television, which is producing the TV movie, now in early pre-production. "We're trying to approach it very thoughtfully so that the movie will stand on its own. Obviously, our hats are off to Hitchcock in the process."

"The Birds II" (working title) will feature "a whole new storyline, with new characters," Balian adds. "The only continuing characters are the birds."

The plot will have "some relevancy" to environmental concerns, Balian hints, explaining that "birds are part of nature, and to some extent our story is about the misfiring of nature." Like the original film, which was based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, the sequel will emphasize suspense over carnage. "This is not a blood and gore picture at all."

No cast and director are set, but Balian hopes to bring back some cast and crew members from the original, which starred Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette. - KYLE COUNTS

- Eh, What's Up, Doc?:

HOLLYWOOD - Though production wrapped this summer on "Box Office Bunny," Bugs Bunny fans will have to keep waiting for the five-minute cartoon scheduled to coincide with Bugs' 50th anniversary. It still has no release date.

"It needs to be attached to the right movie," says a spokesman for Warner Bros. - meaning a family film.

Likely contenders: one of the studio's holiday pictures, which include the Dan Aykroyd-Chevy Chase-John Candy comedy, "Valkenvania," and the animated feature "The Nutcracker Prince."

"Box Office Bunny" has the kwazy wabbit going into action when a multiplex movie house is built over his hole. Co-starring Elmer Fudd as an usher, and Daffy Duck as an irascible duck, with voices by Jeff Bergman, it marks the first Bugs short to be released theatrically in 26 years. Or maybe it will be 27.

Meanwhile, another cottontail continues his big screen spree, as work is under way at Disney on Roger Rabbit's third cartoon short, "Hare in My Soup." It's due next year. - PAT H. BROESKE

- Cinefile:

HOLLYWOOD - Danny DeVito is Larry the Liquidator, a voracious buyer and seller of distressed companies, and Penelope Ann Miller an attorney trying to save her mom's boyfriend's company from his clutches in Warners' "Other People's Money." Norman Jewison will direct Alvin Sargent's script in New York and Los Angeles starting Nov. 12.

Lainie Kazan will play Danny Aiello's wife in Fox's "29th Street," which goes before the cameras Oct. 22 in North Carolina and New York. Writer-director George Gallo bases his script on the true story of Frank Pesce, aka Frank the Fish, an actor he met on the set of "Midnight Run." The film, produced by David Permut, focuses on Pesce's relationship with his father in a New York Italian neighborhood during the '70s. The film also stars Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Forester and, yes, Frank Pesce as his own older brother.

Oliver Reed has been cast as the Cardinal in Full Moon Entertainment's "The Pit and the Pendulum," which Stuart Gordon is directing in Rome. Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs and Grace Zabriskie also star for producer Albert Band. - KIRK HONEYCUTT

- Quibbles & Bits:

- Correction: Screenwriter David Rabe worked with director Phil Joanou on the late Dennis McIntyre's script for "State of Grace," not with McIntyre, as was reported in last week's column.

- The Movie Chart:

Films going into production:

ONLY THE LONELY (Hughes Entertainment-20th Century Fox). Shooting in Chicago. John Candy and Ally Sheedy join Maureen O'Hara in her return to the big screen. Chris Columbus directs and writes this bittersweet comedy of Chicago cop Candy who falls for mortician Sheedy but doesn't want to alienate his loving mother. Producers John Hughes and Hunt Lowry.

RUBIN & ED (Rubin & Ed, Inc.). Shooting in Salt Lake City. Crispin Glover and Peter Boyle are a pair of optimistic losers.