More than 20 years after collaborating on "Five Easy Pieces" - which was nominated for four Oscars including best picture - Jack Nicholson, director Bob Rafelson and screenwriter Carole Eastman are together again.

They are re-teamed for "Man Trouble," co-produced by Eastman and Bruce Gilbert for Penta Films. To begin shooting here in late April, the film is a romance between a trainer of attack dogs (Nicholson) and a member of a master chorale (Ellen Barkin).Eastman, who writes under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce, says the film has comedy, as well as "dark elements," and that she wrote the project with Nicholson in mind. "Though I had no idea if he'd want to do it."

"Man Trouble" was originally written for producer David Geffen in the '70s, a decade in which Eastman had her last produced screenplay: "The Fortune" (1975), which also starred Nicholson.

Then came a self-imposed hiatus of more than five years ("maybe even longer - I don't keep track of time").

"It was an enriching period," she says. "I explored other forms of writing."

She declines to discuss that work "because I'm tremendously superstitious," but says that her "comeback" script was the romantic comedy "Running Mates," written for Paramount Pictures and now in turnaround.

Why did she leave the business?

"I was discouraged - and very disappointed with the situation of screenwriters." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Revisiting Dallas:

HOLLYWOOD - Oliver Stone wants to use historic Dallas locations - including the famed book depository building - in "JFK," his upcoming film examining conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. And he is getting lots of local cooperation in restaging the city's darkest moment.

Nancy Cunningham, production coordinator for the North Texas Film Commission, acknowledges that the city's participation in re-creating the event may seem strange.

"But we haven't had any negative reaction," she says. "The only concerns have involved historic preservation."

Negotiations are underway for Stone to use the sixth story of what was formerly the Texas School Book Depository Building. The room from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired his fatal shots is now a county-run museum-exhibit.

Stone also wants to close off certain streets leading into Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was hit. The film maker may also shoot in the Oak Cliff suburb - the actual houses - where Oswald lived, and the movie theater where he was arrested.

Stone shot two other films in the area - "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) and "Talk Radio" (1988) - which brought Dallas some $7 million-$8 million.

"We're pleased to have Oliver back," Cunningham says. "And we would like to assume that his good experiences here influenced him in his choice of subject matter." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Enter the Offspring:

HOLLYWOOD - The stream of gangster pictures continues - this time, yakuza style.

Director Mark Lester is currently shooting "Showdown in Little Tokyo," on location in Los Angeles, with Brandon Lee - son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee - making his starring debut in an American film.

Lee and Dolph Lundgren play cops - one Caucasian, the other Japanese-American - who team up to close down a drug operation that Japanese gangsters have established in Southern California.

Can Lester avoid the criticism that greeted "Black Rain" (1989) for its alleged racial stereotyping?

He points out that the movie was inspired by a Los Angeles Times article about yakuza involved in the hard-drug trade here. Interviews with a detective on the Los Angeles Police Department's Asian Task Force "verified" that yakuza are busy in Los Angeles with illegal drug and gambling operations, Lester said.

"We're showing good Japanese as well as Japanese criminals," Lester says, "just as there are good and bad in every race."

Lee, who is half-Chinese, was born in the United States, raised in Hong Kong and now makes his home here. He says he has not given "more than a passing thought" to a possible Asian backlash.

"I don't know much about the Asian community because I'm not really a part of it," he says. "I don't even consider myself part of the American community, honestly speaking."

If his portrayal helps the Asian community gain "a better standing in America, that's great," he adds. "But it's not why I became an actor . . . "

Lee, 26, has appeared previously in two low-budget foreign features, as well as a couple of American TV roles. He's recently signed multi-picture contracts with 20th Century Fox and Carolco Pictures, and begins shooting "Moving Target" for Fox in May.

As for working in his late father's shadow: "I think that any person who goes to see a martial-arts film compares whoever's in it to my father, because he's the standard. Are they going to compare me? Sure. Even more than somebody else? Sure.

"Do I worry about it? No." - KYLE COUNTS

- Coach Gets a Shot:

HOLLYWOOD - When acting coach Roy London cast the feature film that marks his directorial debut, casting was not much of a problem.

"It seemed only natural - and right - to use my students," London says.

The film is "Hit Man," a thriller currently shooting for Vision International, which London co-wrote with Kenneth Pressman from Pressman's off-Broadway play, "Insider's Price." It revolves around a hit man (Forest Whitaker) who has a change of heart when he's hired to kill a young mother (Sherilyn Fenn).

Fenn (Audrey on "Twin Peaks") is a student of London's. So are Sharon Stone, Jim Belushi, Louie Anderson and Lois Chiles, all of whom appear in cameos.

A former actor, London began teaching full time a dozen years ago, and says he has coached some 300 students. He's also directed episodes of "It's Garry Shandling's Show" (Shandling is yet another student).

As for how London prepped to direct a feature film, he says, seriously: "One of the things I did was hire a (directing) coach." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Quibbles & Bits:

- Perhaps Jim Morrison was a visionary. In "The Doors," set in 1968, he talks about Dennis Hopper and "Easy Rider" - which was not released until the fall of 1969.

- In the air: Fox Broadcasting's talking about a series based on the film "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure."

- Cinefile:

HOLLYWOOD - Dudley Moore and Richard Griffiths will star in Hollywood Pictures' "Blame It on the Bellboy," which will be filmed in Venice, Italy, this spring. In the script by British writer-director Mark Herman, a bellboy mixes up the hotel rooms for six guests with similar sounding names to everyone's comic confusion.

Marlee Matlin will star in Eagle Entertainment's "Fox," a contemporary romantic fantasy which shoots in Ireland this fall. The screenplay, written and directed by Terry Kahn and produced by Lawrence Vanger and Ed Elbert, is adapted from a French novel, "Sylva" by Vercors, about a fox that escapes death by turning into a young woman.

Peter Boyle, Brent Jennings, Paxton Whitehead, James Le Gros and Kim Walker join Bill Pullman and Julie Brown in Grandview Avenue Pictures' comedy "Nervous Ticks," which is going into production here. Rocky Lang directs David Frankel's script for producer Arthur Goldblatt.

Paramount's "Frankie & Johnny," which began as a two-character play by Terrence McNally, is being expanded by McNally and director Garry Marshall into a film with 40 speaking roles. Recent additions to the Al Pacino-Michelle Pfeiffer film include Hector Elizondo, Kate Nelligan, Laurie Metcalf, Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle's younger sister) and Nathan Lane.

Cindy Herron of the rock group In Vogue and rapper Queen Latifah will make cameo performances in Island World Productions' "Juice." The coming-of-age story set in Harlem marks the feature directorial debut of Ernest Dickerson, cinematographer on Spike Lee's last three films. Dickerson wrote the script with Gerard Brown. Producers are Neal Moritz and David Heyman; shooting starts March 13 in New York.

Cliff Robertson and Ned Vaughn of "China Beach" join Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey in the yacht racing drama "Wind." Director Carroll Ballard is currently hoisting sails in Australia for Filmlink International and Zoetrope.

Christian Bale, the young star of Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," and David Moscow, the boy who grew into Tom Hanks in "Big," have landed roles in the Disney musical "Newsies," which Kenny Ortega will direct and choreograph this April. Max Casella and Trey Parker have already been cast. -KIRK HONEYCUTT

- The Movie Chart

Films going into production:

MISTRESS (Mistress Productions). Shooting in Los Angeles. Robert De Niro executive-produces and cameos in this darkish tale of a group of former Hollywood stars who try desperately to get a movie made. When their meddlesome mistresses vie to get cast in the film, comedy is generated. Producers Meir Teper and Ruth Charny. Director Barry Primus. Screenwriters Primus and J.F. Lawton.