HOLLYWOOD — ''If I'd had my druthers, it wouldn't have been made at all.''
Those words come from Richard Carpenter, who spent most of his professional life as half of that 1970s pop music phenomenon known as The Carpenters. He is talking about The Karen Carpenter Story, a CBS made-for-TV movie for next season based on the short life of his sister Karen, who died at 32 after a seven-year battle with anorexia nervosa.
''Look, I've been ambivalent on this from the word go,'' Carpenter said tersely, watching Cynthia Gibb as Karen and Mitchell Anderson as Richard re- enact a Carpenters' concert rehearsal during filming at the stately Los Angeles Embassy Theater.
It comes as no surprise that Richard -- or any member of the Carpenter family -- might have reservations about such a movie, particularly in light of the ghoulish tabloid reports that followed Karen's death. What does come as a surprise is that Carpenter is co-executive producer of the film.
So why is The Karen Carpenter Story being made -- with Carpenter at the helm, no less?
''If it has to be made, we're the people who should be making it,'' Carpenter said. ''When Jerry Weintraub (the other co-executive producer of the movie) proposed the idea to me, his reasoning was that for all celebrities, there are parts of our private lives that are matters of public record. And somebody else could do this without our blessing. It Karen's story wouldn't have been as well told by someone else; it just wouldn't.''
And though five years have passed since Karen's well-publicized death in 1983, Carpenter said he believes someone else would have made her life into a film eventually, without the family's permission.
The CBS movie, filmed at the Carpenter family home and at other Los Angeles-area locations, was written by Barry Morrow and Cynthia A. Cherback and was directed by Joseph Sargent. Peter Michael Goetz and Louise Fletcher portray Karen and Richard's parents, Harold and Agnes Carpenter.
Carpenter, 42, said he is producing the movie for the same reason he wrote about about his sister's death for People magazine in 1983: to set the record straight.
''There were certain things in 1983 that I was reading that really weren't true, and I wanted it to be stated as accurately as it could be, but without being able to button-up exactly what happened,'' he said.
So too with the movie. ''I'm not for a second going to say this is exactly the way it happened,'' he said, ''because it's not. But I think that, considering the genre we're dealing with, it came off as well as it can.''
Carpenter wrote in his People article (accompanied by a cover photo of a skeletal Karen smiling) that his sister's collapse from heart failure at the family home came as a shock. She had recently returned to California after hospitalization and months of therapy in New York and had seemed in good spirits. Her weight, which had dropped to as low as 80 pounds, had risen to about 110, not much below normal for her 5-foot-4-inch frame.
Carpenter denied in the article that any of the factors suggested by some journalists were the cause of Karen's illness, such as her brief and unhappy marriage, career pressures or her family.
And he feels the script succeeds in not pointing an accusatory finger at anyone in particular, even though family disagreements figure into the story.