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How often has Marlon Brando apologized publicly? Well, he's done so again.

Brando, who said a few weeks ago that his upcoming comedy "The Freshman" is "horrible" and predicted "It's going to be a flop," has recanted in a written statement. He even volunteered to appear in a potential sequel."Clearly I was wrong about the quality of the picture," Brando now says of the movie, in which he co-stars with Matthew Broderick ("Biloxi Blues," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off.")

Brando said trying personal times led him to express a dim view of his latest effort. He recalled that when he saw first cuts of "On the Waterfront" in the 1950s, he was "convinced I had failed."

Of "The Freshman" he said, "Now that I have seen most of (the film), it is clear to me that the movie contains moments of high comedy that will be remembered for decades to come."

- The next movie with a world-class hype campaign looks to be Universal's "Back to the Future II."

The studio has unveiled three giant clocks counting down to the Nov. 22 premiere of the time-travel sequel starring Michael J. Fox. The digital clocks are in New York's Times Square, on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard and in Los Angeles' Universal City complex.

All will strike zero the midnight before picture's debut.

- Paul Hogan has doffed his "Crocodile Dundee" hat and character, making it clear he's through playing the Australian backwoodsman after two hit flicks.

Hogan's next project for Paramount will be a father-son story Hogan wrote himself. Filming starts in January in U.S. locations.

- Alex Rocco, who plays manic theatrical agent Al Floss in "The Famous Teddy Z" (Mondays on CBS) says he has a secret mission for his character: "I've been in the business for 25 years, and I think I'm getting even for all the agents I didn't like through Al Floss."

- Does Jack Scalia really love San Francisco, the scene of his new CBS-TV series "Wolf"? Only he knows for sure. But it's certain he loves the town's Italian restaurants. He's such a regular at two eateries that one has named a dish "pasta alla Scalia," another now features "scampi di Scalia."

- Daily Variety says Ned Beatty is Hollywood's busiest character actor, with M. Emmet Walsh, Randy Quaid and Fernando Rey just below Beatty in number of assignments.

The busiest show-biz family may be the Carradines. The children and grandchildren of John Carradine appeared in 39 films between summer '87 and summer '89.

- Real estate beat: British actress Stephanie Beacham ("Dynasty," "The Colbys") has purchased a beach-view house in Malibu. The hacienda-style home, with 3,000 square feet and two sun decks, went for just over $1 million. . . . Lana Turner is looking at investment possibilities in Beverly Hills. Her escort: daughter Cheryl Crane, who just joined a local real estate outfit. . . . Onetime Olympic champ Bob Seagren has vaulted out of his 5,000-square-foot Brentwood manse. Price: $1.6 million. Seagren says he'll build another house nearby. . . . Longtime Malibu ranch owner Olivia Newton-John has purchased a second home there. The one-story house - only 1,500 square feet on 2.3 acres - sold for $740,000. Some real estate sources say the home will be used by Newton-John's sister. . . . Cher has relocated from her Wilshire Boulevard apartment to the Malibu Colony. She also has a new apartment in the SoHo area of New York. . . . Elton John has backed out of a deal. He opened escrow on a Bel-Air fixer-upper (asking price: $7.5 million), but retreated when he discovered the deal would mean tax problems back home in Britain.

- Patti Davis, estranged daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, will go head-to-head with Mom this fall, when both publish books.

Davis' first book, "Home Front," hectored her parents so much it caused an ongoing family split. Her second novel, "Dead Fall," is due out soon.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Reagan has been promoting her own "My Turn," due out in late October. Both books are published by Random House divisions. Random House inherited the Davis effort when it took over Crown Publishing.

- Art Linkletter is about ready to return to the air.

Still recuperating from chest pains suffered in August, Linkletter is reported close to a deal with cable TV's Nostalgia Network. The series of specials, tentatively titled "Linkletter and Friends," would include at least four shows taped in locations with high senior-citizen activity.

- What's next for Donald Trump, oft-satirized real estate tycoon and airline operator? Looks like it'll be a game show. He plans a show called "Trump Card" to be produced with Warner Bros., shot at his hotel in Atlantic City.

- Casting call: Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons and Ron Silver have begun filming "Reversal of Fortune" in New York. . . . Tim Robbins and Elizabeth Pena will also head for Big Apple to start shooting "Jacob's Ladder". . . Michael Watson has a major role as Decker on ABC-TV's daytime soap "General Hospital". . . Harrison Ford has signed to star in "Presumed Innocent". . . Ex-ABC News producer Cherie Simon has signed to open a new bureau in Washington, D.C., for David Frost's syndicated "Inside Edition". . . Jimmy Stewart, Angela Lansbury, Lily Tomlin and Sam Marx have taped interviews for upcoming PBS tribute to Helen Hayes. . . . Lou Diamond Phillips ("Stand and Deliver," "La Bamba") is now working on "Show of Force" with Amy Irving and "Transit," billed as a supernatural thriller. . . . Winona Ryder and Jeff Daniels star in "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael," due for an early 1990 release. . . . Rick Schroder, Carrie Snodgress and Brad Pitt star in "Nowhere to Run," now filming in Los Angeles. . . . Christine Lahti has taken the lead in Broadway's "The Heidi Chronicles" and also stars in an upcoming CBS-TV movie, "No Place Like Home" (formerly called "Homeless"). . . . Anthony Hopkins stars opposite Jodie Foster in the upcoming suspense thriller, "Silence of the Lambs."