LONDON (AP) _ Charlie Chaplin's family has given director Sir Richard Attenborough permission to make a movie about the silent comedy star's life, the producer's film company said Sunday.

Chaplin's widow, Oona, and his nine surviving children, who had rejected all previous bids to film his life, gave Attenborough the go-ahead in September, the company said.

''We have nobody in mind as yet to play Chaplin,'' said Diana Hawkins, the company's marketing director. ''For the actor who is eventually cast it is a plum role.''

Attenborough, 65, who knew Chaplin at the end of his life, is expected to fly to Hollywood early next year to discuss the Chaplin film with Universal Studios, where he has a three-picture deal.

His previous movie successes include ''Gandhi,'' ''Cry Freedom,'' about the life of the black South African activist Steve Biko, and ''A Bridge Too Far.''

''Lady Chaplin and certainly two of the daughters he spoke to liked his film about Gandhi very much. They thought Sir Richard would give a fair shake of the stick to their dad,'' Ms. Hawkins said.

Chaplin, the little man with the moustache, bowler hat and walking cane, was a hugely popular figure who acted in or made more than 100 films. He was born in London 100 years ago next April and died on Christmas Day 1977, aged 86, two years after he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Filming probably will not begin for at least a year, Ms. Hawkins said.

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, in town for the world premiere of a musical adaptation of his ''Fahrenheit 451,'' canceled several appearances and returned home after coming down with the flu.

The score and lyrics of the musical version, performed by the Civic Theatre of Fort Wayen, were developed by Bradbury, composer David Mettee and lyricist Georgia Bogardus Holof.

The author attended the opening night performance Thursday, which starred guest artists-in-residence Paul Binotto of New York and David Landis of Lincoln, Neb.

Bradbury said Saturday he was leaving three days days sooner than planned and was flying back to his Los Angeles home. He canceled a visit to an elementary school, a lecture to the Friends of the Allen County Public Library, and an address to Civic Theatre members.

Bradbury said he didn't blame the city for his illness.

''I stayed up late too many nights in a row,'' he said. ''You can't do that.''

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NEW YORK (AP) - A trio of top authors and an editor have won New York University's 1988 Elmer Holmes Bobst Awards in Arts and Letters.

Toni Morrison, who won a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for her powerful and haunting novel ''Beloved,'' was honored by the university, as was Southern writer Reynolds Price, playwright Edward Albee and editor Robert Giroux of the publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Medals and $2,000 cash prizes are to be awarded Monday. The winners were announced Saturday.

Albee established himself as a major force in the American theater in 1962 with the Broadway opening of ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'' He has won a pair of Pulitzer Prizes, for ''A Delicate Balance'' and ''Seascape,'' and an Obie Award for an early work, ''The Zoo Story.''

Ms. Morrison, who draws on the black oral tradition in the creation of her characters, is the author of ''The Bluest Eye'' and ''Song of Solomon,'' which won the National Book Critics Circle award.

Price, a native of Macon, N.C., published his first novel in 1962, ''A Long and Happy Life.'' His 1986 work ''Kate Vaiden'' won the National Book Critics Circle award as the best novel of the year.

Giroux's publishing career has spanned some 50 years. He has edited some of this century's top writers, including E.M. Forster, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, George Orwell, Randall Jarrell, Hannah Arendt and Flannery O'Connor.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Country music singer Patty Loveless says her favorite activity when she's not on the road performing is housecleaning.

''A lot of women will probably think I'm crazy, but I enjoy just cleaning up around the house and getting my hands into things,'' she said in a recent interview.

''It's work for some, but I don't look at it as work,'' she said. ''I look at it as something that's helping me to ease my mind.''

Loveless, a cousin of country queen Loretta Lynn, was nominated this year as top new female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. She also was nominated for a similar award by the Country Music Association.

Her hit songs include ''A Little Bit in Love'' and ''If My Heart Had Windows.''

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - A 20-year-old Chinese-American university student was crowned Sunday as the 1988 Miss Asian World, a beauty pageant limited to descendants of Asians living outside of Asia.

Deborah Lin, an art student at the University of Hawaii, was chosen the winner over 41 contestants at the pageant held at the Chinese Sports and Culture Center.

Lin collected $30,000 in cash and other prizes worth $100,000.

Maria Zangaro, a Uruguayan of Indian descent, was the first runner-up.

Second runner-up was Katerina Ciscato, a Russian-Argentinian, and third runner-up was Rebecca Alba Dias, a Japanese-Mexican.

Miss Zangaro is a 19-year-old model. Miss Ciscato, 18, is a student; Miss Dias, 24, is an actress.

The Miss Asian World Beauty Pageant was founded in the United States in 1984 by the Asian Center of the U.S. Republican Party. The 1988 pageant was the first held outside the United States.