Assante may not carve out his ‘Z’

GOOD MORNING: Armand Assante, who was to star in Amblin’s “Zorro” but then could not because of schedule conflicts, now tells me he hopes it can still be worked out. “Zorro’s” to be directed by Martin Campbell (“Goldeneye”). Assante, sensaysh as the Teflon Don “Gotti”– which bows on HBO Saturday — is now readying to suit up in more casual costumes as Odysseus in the four-hour NBC “Odyssey” for Robert Halmi and director Andre Konchalovsky. This four-five month stint, starting next month, will take Assante to Turkey, the Aegean, Malta and England. Halmi, now in Borneo, told me today (it was already Thursday there) his $30 million “Odyssey will also star Isabella Rossellini, Vanessa Williams and 15 other names. What’s Halmi doing in Borneo? He’s readying, with the National Geographic’s Hank Palmieri and Rossellini, the saga of the orangutans with Birute Galdikan. Halmi continues on to Singapore, then Zanzibar, to prep the remake of “Stanley & Livingston.” Can you believe Halmi’s zest for filmmaking! … Returning to L.A. and our conversation with Assante, after the Mann Plaza screening and reception at the Gardens in Westwood. Everyone has high praise for him, professionally and personally. He admitted, “I would have liked to meet Gotti before playing him — but it is impossible” to get into the Illinois prison where Gotti serves a life sentence sans possibility of parole. But Assante did meet with two of Gotti’s lawyers. “I made it clear this movie — or any other about him — would be made with or without me. And there are six books out about him as well.” They agreed Assante would not appear in any scenes that could possibly affect a possible chance for an appeal — and that Gotti would appear as a faithful husband and a mob member who was opposed to involvement with the drug scene. Among those at the preem praising Assante were Marvin Worth, for whom Asssante starred in “Unfaithfully Yours.” Also Myra and Abby Mann, readying the Chris Darden “In Contempt” feature for Steve Tisch at Par, and the HBO story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which Abby says “shows what can happen from government hysteria — which shouldn’t ever happen again.” Attending with the Manns was son Aaron, 18, who is leaving to join the Israeli Army. “He believes their values are important,” says Mann pere … Before the screening, Richard Waltzer, HBO senior VP, intro’d attending celebs — including Bob Cooper, former HBO Pres., as his “godfather.” Cooper’s now head of TriStar.

HOW ABOUT ANGELA BASSETT as the Lady Chablis in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” That’s the choice of Lady Chablis (Benjamin Edward Knox), her/himself. Producers Arnold Stiefel and Anita Zuckerman think it’s a great idea as well. “A woman playing a man playing a woman,” reminds Stiefel –“Victor/Victoria.” Of course it’s all up to Clint Eastwood, who will direct — as revealed here. Of course, Steifel would like Clint to play Jim Williams –“Dirty Harry’ collecting antiques!” Eastwood, as promised, wound “Absolute Power” Wednesday evening weeks ahead of sked — and scooted home to Carmel. By the way, the purchase of Chablis’ autobiog, “Hiding My Candy” was not “a defense purchase” the producers assure — not to keep someone else from utilizing a “Garden of Good and Evil” character. “Candy” will be a (second), separate pic, they promise. “Midnight” author John Berendt was another who asked the pic’s producers if it was a “defense purchase.” Chablis has also achieved international fame because of the book … Big doings on Shepperton Studios’ giant Stage H this week as John Heyman’s production of the classic “Snakes and Ladders” gameshow is being piloted for U.S., British and foreign TV markets. Stephen Mackall hosts for the American version. The enormous set (cost $1.5 million) designed by Tony Walton was shipped over from the U.S. in seven sea containers, reports director-producer Rupert Hitzig, who told me buyers were on hand Wednesday from Japan, France, Italy — and Disney. It’ll be a half-hour in the U.S., 45 minutes in the U.K., 90 in Italy. Heyman’s World Prods. self-financed the pilots.

THE L.A. GAY AND LESBIAN Community Services Center honors Elton John and MTV Nov. 23 at the Century Plaza with the the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award and Corporate Vision Award, respectively. Elton will be on hand, as will MTV president Judy McGrath to accept the latter award … A celebration for the late Henry Slate will be held from 1-5 p.m. Monday at Matteo’s. His daughter Michele suggests, in lieu of flowers, contributions to the Motion Picture & TV Fund’s Country House and Hospital … Barbara and Don Rickles’ daughter Mindy isengaged to wed Ed Mann of Premier Radio. He proposed to her in Paris. Said Don: “You see, there is a God!”… Audrey and Dodd Darin welcomed daughter Alexa Rose D. July 27. The happy grandmom is Sandra Dee. Young Dodd, who heads Summit Publishing, and his partners obtained rights to a bio of Enzo Ferrari and plan to produce it as a telefilm.