Van Sant goes good Williams hunting

THE LAST TIME ROBIN WILLIAMS and director Gus Van Sant worked together, Williams won the Supporting Actor Oscar for “Goodwill Hunting.” Momentum is building for another collaboration, this time on the Columbia project “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot.”

The script is by Andrew Eatman, Jack Gibson and Van Sant; Williams and his wife Marcia are actively developing it for their Blue Wolf Prods.

Van Sant would direct “Don’t Worry,” with Williams playing the Portland, Ore., cartoonist John Callahan, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident. Callahan continued drinking and fought suicidal thoughts after the crash and emerged from rehab with an outlandish outlook with his cartoons. The drawing helped him quit drinking and take control of his life.

The pic wouldn’t start until Van Sant finishes another Sony pic, “Brokeback Mountain,” the story of a romance between two cowboys. That’s being scripted by Larry McMurtrey and Diana Ossana.

William Morris reps Van Sant, CAA reps Williams.

HORSESHOE HITS MARK: Disney-based Gary Foster and Mark Steven Johnson’s Horseshoe Bay Prods., which did the Sept. 11 opener “Simon Birch,” has set up the comic pitch “In My Shoes” at Touchstone, with John Baldecchi joining them as producers.

To be written by Bob Hilgenberg and Rob Muir, the pitch is a comedy about a man’s journey back to one of the most important weeks of his childhood. But this time, he sees it from his father’s point of view. Horseshoe Bay’s already developing “Fanatics” with the writers, who are repped by Paradigm’s Sandy Weinberg.

MEL MULLS: Mel Gibson’s withdrawal from “A Tale of Two Cities” wasn’t quite due to a breakdown in talks, as Dish’s last dispatch reported. Turns out a deal was sealed, but skedding proved too tight for Gibson to do the pic and prep “Fahrenheit 451,” which he directs next year.

Gibson might star for producers Paula Weinstein and Barry Levinson in “Cities” later. If Gibson does act before “451,” it could be in “The Million Dollar Hotel,” the Wim Wenders-directed pic about a murder in a sleazy hotel, which stars Jeremy Davies and Milla Jovovich and is based on a story hatched by U2 lead singer Bono. Gibson hasn’t decided, but it doesn’t hurt that the “Hotel” proprietor is Gibson’s Icon Prods.

CLIFF NOTES: There have been no takers yet on “Mr. Hughes,” the big-budget script by David Koepp envisioned as a collaboration with his “Snake Eyes” cohorts Brian DePalma and Nicolas Cage.

The original buzz said that this was the life story of Howard Hughes, which clashed with several biopics being eyed about the mogul. But the Koepp script is actually the life story of Hughes as told by Clifford Irving, who went to jail for authoring the billionaire’s famed hoax autobiography.

If Cage — who’s near committing with Curtis Hanson in the Beacon/Universal pic “Family Man” — takes part, he’d play both Hughes and Irving, the latter as he imagines himself in the role of Hughes.

A Hughes biopic is being prepped by Allen and Albert Hughes, plus there’s another dream project of Warren Beatty on the subject, and yet another project with producers Charles Evans Jr. and Carroll Kemp based on the 1996 book “Howard Hughes: The Untold Story” by Pat Broeske and Peter Harry Brown, with a script by Jack Fincher (father of “Seven” director David).

Turns out Clifford Irving projects are almost as popular as Howard Hughes projects, as there are at least two others. One is “Hughes,” a script by former film critic turned writer/director Rod Lurie that’s set up with producer Doug Wick, another is based on “The Hoax,” Irving’s own account of his misdeed, with rights held by Mutual Film Corp.

Why the obsession with Hughes? “There’s an eternal fascination over all the facets of his life and when they compile those millennium lists of the most important people of the last century, he’ll be high up on all of them,” said Hughes author Broeske.

MORE ‘RAT’ BRICKBATS: Rob Cohen’s HBO telepic “The Rat Pack” continues to be a magnet for controversy. The Rat Pack kids are bashing the pic, but Cohen said he got thumbs up from other people who knew the guys.

HBO screened the pic at Vegas’s Desert Inn for an audience that included Paul Anka (who penned Frank Sinatra’s signature tune “My Way”), Angie Dickinson (who costarred with the Rat Pack in “Oceans 11”), Connie Stevens, Frankie Avalon, Jillie Rizzo Jr. and comic Buddy Greco. “Angie hugged me and said she didn’t expect to like it, but that we caught the essence of these people and Greco said he had his own robe in that steamroom, and that was just the way it was.”

As for complaints in the press from Pack family members, including stinging criticism from Peter Lawford’s actor son Chris, Cohen responded: “I understand how these kids feel. You can’t even comprehend your parents having sex, how can you comprehend them as people when to you they’re parents? But Chris Lawford, I don’t know how many damn calls I got from his agent trying to get him the part of his father. If he hated this so much, why was he lobbying so hard for the part?”

HBO said there were early discussions with Lawford, but probably before he’d seen the script.

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