O.J. trial returns to TV

GOOD MORNING: The O.J. Simpson criminal trial, which aired daily from start to finish in 1995, will be back for another four TV hours. CBS has agreed to a miniseries version of Larry Schiller’s book “American Tragedy,” with Schiller directing a script by Norman Mailer and exec produced by Schiller, Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana. Les Moonves picked up the script when ABC passed. … Schiller had also directed his “Perfect Murder” about the JonBenet Ramsey case as a top ratings-getter for CBS. Schiller says he’s through with that case: “I’ve had my experience with it” … The unique presentation of the O.J. trial boasts no appearance by a Simpson character, although his voice will be heard. Schiller says this is “about the legal system, about the ‘dream team’ of lawyers, Bob Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Barry Scheck and Gerald S. Uelmen. They are all heroes of their own agenda — how they figured out what to do. Barry Levinson has brought a lot of creative ideas to the telling.” A “dream team” of actors will be sought to play the lawyers; among names mentioned are Samuel Jackson and Albert Finney. Schiller is in Maine, huddling with Mailer on the script. They teamed previously on “Executioner’s Song,” which Larry directed Schiller’s association with O.J. began pre-trial, taping 31 hours of O.J. in jail for “I Want To Tell You.” But, he says, “Not one word of that book will be in this television miniseries.” Has Schiller talked to O.J. recently? Not since the civil trial, which Schiller covered for ABC.

ELVIS IS ALIVE — OR IS HE? That’s for you to decide after you’ve seen “Elvis Is Alive.” The novel’s author, Mickey Maughon, will exec produce; Don Murray will adapt the script and direct. Murray was to have played an older Elvis, but in his new version the setting is 1979 and Murray will play Colonel Tom Barker — that’s with a “B” — and Murray’s son Mick (31) will play Elvis. Murray says, “Although I have a musical-comedy background from Broadway, I can’t do Elvis’ moves.” (Besides, Murray is 70). Mick, who does a great Presley carbon, was coincidentally born Jan. 8, Presley’s birthday. He also starred in Steven Bochco’s “Cop Rock” series and Sydney Pollack’s “Bronx Country.” Murray pere says the film’s theme is whether Elvis’s death was a ruse he used to hide in Europe — as an Elvis impersonator! “And it’s up to the audience to decide if it’s true, since there are so many who still claim he did not die.” They will film in Kodak, Tenn., Memphis, Chattanooga, New Orleans and Paris. Murray and Elvis were on the Fox lot at the same time, Elvis starring in “Love Me Tender” and Murray in “Bus Stop.” About that pic, he said, “It was a shame Marilyn Monroe wasn’t nominated for that film (he was); she was so pathetic, so funny, so fabulous. Of course,” he also recalled, “she was always late; she was very insecure, but she was always so kind.” Murray gives credit for his nomination-winning performance to director Josh Logan Add reality filmmaking: Roger Corman will produce “The Ho Chi Minh Story” through his film banner, New Concorde. Alan Trustman, who wrote the Steve McQueen starrer “The Thomas Crown Affair,” scripted the North Vietnam leader biopic.

FAMILIES OF HATE-CRIME VICTIMS will be honored at the “Equality Rocks” gala at RFK Stadium in D.C. Saturday. Among the performing stars is Garth Brooks, whose interest in being a part was to look out for not only gay youth dealing with hate crimes but all children. Among those to be there: the Dennis Shepards of Wyoming, whose son, college student Matthew, was slain; the James Byrds, whose son James Jr. was dragged to his death in Texas; as well as Ismael Ileto, brother of Joseph Ileto, the Filipino postal worker shot in L.A. by the hate-crime killer who earlier terrorized children at the Jewish Child Care Center in the Valley. Laurette Healey, on the board of the Human Rights Campaign, exec produces with Lisa Sanderson. Brooks will duet with George Michael, who is bringing in Corky Hale from L.A. to accompany him on harp with “I Remember You,” the Johnny Mercer/Victor Schertzinger 1942 heart-tugger. (Michael and Hale also duetted at Royal Albert Hall). Also appearing: Melissa Etheridge, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Chaka Khan, Michael Feinstein, Kathy Najimy, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Kristen Johnson and Nathan Lane. … Giorgio Armani — who has had a 25-year relationship with films in projects ranging from “The Untouchables” and “Goodfellas” to the upcoming “Bounce” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck and “Shaft” — received a special David di Donatello award (Italian equivalent of the Oscar) for his film contributions. … Johnny Grant, Hollywood’s honorary mayor, is honored today as the Millennium Mayorthon arrives in Hollywood on its trek across 21 states encouraging organ and tissue donation. … Second-generation relatives of Hollywood great comedians (Chaplin, Costello, Keaton, Fields) help launch Rx Laughter at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s hospital. UCLA alum and network exec Sherry Dunay Hilbur created Rx Laughter. … Pierce Brosnan thanks the staff at UCLA’s Trauma Center for saving the life of son Sean (15) following Saturday’s auto crash. … Forty-seven years ago today, I wrote my first Just for Variety column. My, how time flies when you’re having fun.

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