Who knew the Academy Award-winning "Gone With the Wind" was nearly gone with the wind.

Three weeks after filming began on the 1939 movie version of Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel, producer David O. Selznick screeched production to a halt, fired the great director George Cukor, then stopped production on "The Wizard of Oz" so that its director, Victor Fleming, could direct "Gone With the Wind." Then Selznick hired ace scriptwriter Ben Hecht (about the 13th to work on it), put him in a room with himself and Fleming, and set a deadline: Five days and a new script.

What happened in those five days is the subject of Ron Hutchinson's comedy "Moonlight and Magnolias," which Invisible Theatre opens next week.

You don't know "Gone With the Wind"? No worries.

"The play is about this situation and these guys," Kruse Craig said. "The play explains itself."

The production has Selznick and Fleming act out various parts, as Hecht, who has never read the 1,000-plus-page book, puts words in the characters' mouths.

The trio are fueled by cantankerous relationships, peanuts and bananas.

The bananas and peanuts, said Director Betsy Kruse Craig, were thought to be brain food. Selznick insists on the limited diet because, he says in the play, the digestive juices interfere with creative juices.

Selznick was a Hollywood giant who wielded strength when it came to actors, directors and making films. He also had his detractors, including, according to "Moonlight and Magnolias," Hecht and Fleming much of the time.

Dwayne Palmer is breathing life into Selznick, and he prepared for the role by reading up on the famed producer.

He found Hutchinson's portrayal of a crazed man with a driving passion pretty accurate.

Not in the script: Selznick was a womanizer, Palmer said, and his famous energy was fueled by amphetamines.

Still, said Palmer, "Look what kind of magic you can produce when everyone's against you."

And those five days produced something other than frayed nerves. The film, Palmer said, "became the greatest movie ever made."

If you go

"Moonlight and Magnolias"

• Presented by: The Invisible Theatre.

• Playwright: Ron Hutchinson.

• Director: Betsy Kruse Craig.

• When: The preview is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The opening is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 3.

• Where: The Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

• Tickets: Preview tickets are $18. All other shows are $25.

• Information, reservations: 882-9721.

• Running time: Two hours, with one intermission.

• Cast: Terry Erbe, Roberto Guajardo, Dwayne Palmer and Victoria McGee.

Kathleen Allen contributed to this report. Jackie Tran is a University of Arizona student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact him at 573-4128 or starapprentice@azstarnet.com