GOOD MORNING: Francis Coppola’s got more satanic cases for Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing to solve beyond “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Coppola will produce “Van Helsing’s Chronicles” at Columbia. “He will go against new malevolent forces,” Francis smiled. “He will combat satanic forces from Hong Kong to San Francisco.” Coppola’s now readying the start of “Frankenstein.” And how does it differ from the past versions? “First of all, with the talent,” he reminds. “De Niro is the creature. It won’t be reminiscent of Boris Karloff. But it has the same origin as ‘Dracula’ — we’re doing the book (Mary Shelley’s). And in the book he learns to speak. It’s the story of the ‘unwanted child.’ But he’s still fabricated from the dead. People credit Mary Shelley as being the first writer of science fiction. It’s a real classic story and a good script. We go from the Arctic to England with tremendous scenes — and no super-digital filming.” The cast includes director-co-star Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Aidan Quinn, Helena Bonham-Carter. Coppola says the co-production with Dan Melnick’s IndieProd is “a plum”– and budgeted “in the mid 40’s”… Coppola’s also looking forward to directing again — with the live CBS Playhouse 90 “Top of the Ninth” baseball yarn, to be shot in a real baseball stadium at season’s end — probably in L.A. or San Diego, where they can count on the weather to shoot 90 minutes live. Coppola still claims he’s “taking it easy,” as promised early this year. Well, he’s readying the opening of his Blancameaux Lodge in Belize this fall. It boasts its own waterfall and hydroelectric plant and is close to Mayan ruins as well … The 50th Venice Film Fest got off to an enormous start last night at the Palais on the Lido with Martin Scorsese introducing his “The Age of Innocence” stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder. The movie got prolonged applause, much to the delight of Col’s Mark Canton, Sid Ganis and Gareth Wigan on hand.
NO WOMEN in the four-hour NBC “World War II” mini being readied by David Rintels, Ethel Winant and director Joe Sargent. The only players are: FDR, Churchill, Stalin, Harry Hopkins and Molotov. Kees Van Oostrum shoots it in high definition. So far cast is John Lithgow as Roosevelt. It’s some change from his role in Showtime’s “The Wrong Man,” in which he has steamy scenes with a semi-nude Rosanna Arquette with dialogue to match. Lithgow says, “This is as good as anything you’ll see on stage.” Lithgow also did a “couple of weeks” in “Pelican Brief” as a D.C. newspaper editor before starting his “Indian Summer” (new title) with Bruce Beresford … There’s no room at Paramount, so “Beverly Hills Cop III” headquarters at Universal — which looked like it was SRO as well when I visited the lot last week. “Cop’s” giant amusement park scene will be shot at Par’s theme park at Santa Rosa. Joining Eddie Murphy in the cast are Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo and Alan Young … Tom Arnold was so impressed by Jason Davis (9) at the Marvin Davis’ bar mitzvah party for older brother Brandon, Arnold asked the youngster to test as one of his five children in his “Tom” CBSeries. Arnold’s currently on a 5 1/2-month stint with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies” and gets December off to shoot one seg of his series, resuming in Feb. Laura Kightlinger and Colleen Camp are set for the series … Damon Wayans, scripted, produces (with Eric Gold) and stars in Col’s “Blank Man”– described as “Batman and Robin without money.” The budget’s $ 24 million. Mike Binder (“Indian Summer”) directs … Remember “Jasmine,” the python who disappeared during “Aladdin” dance rehearsals for the ’93 Oscars with belly dancer Veena Bidasha on the Sunset Gower lot? Well, she was just found on the stage where she apparently went into hibernation five months ago.
BARBARA WALTERS GETS the N.Y. Friars Club Special Tribute at its 90th anni dinner and show May 7 at the Waldorf-Astoria. David Tebet is, as usual, chairman/producer of the gala, whose dais will boast celebs in all fields of entertainment and news. Jack L. Green is Friars’ dean and Jean Pierre Trebot is the club’s exec director … Ted Turner tosses an early birthday party (77th) for George Sidney Sept. 23 (his real date’s Oct. 4) at the L.A. County Art Museum to launch the newly tuned and restored “Harvey Girls” (1946) … The success of “The Fugitive” has spread to the print world, where Ed Robertson’s “The Fugitive Recaptured” (Pomegranate Press) goes into its third printing after only two weeks in book stores … The Sept. 8 New York Times Bestseller List will include Sidney Sheldon’s “Stars Shine Down” (Wm. Morrow), his 10th book on that prized list. A teleplay’s been written by Richard Hack and Michael Viner for the NBC telepic version by Dove Audio … Georgette Mosbacher reunions with Hollywood pals Sept. 23 when she arrives to p.a. her book, “Feminine Force” (Simon & Schuster). She also did the audio version, admitting it was tough to vocally get through some of the highly emotional segs. The former Mrs. Robert Muir and Mrs. George Barrie now wed to Robert Mosbacher, former Secy. of Commerce, says “I’m really an ordinary person who lived an extraordinary life.” And she tells women how to ditto.