Halmi, Coppola on ‘Odyssey’

GOOD MORNING: Robert Halmi and Francis Ford Coppola are teaming to bring Homer’s “Odyssey” to TV via a four-part (or more) miniseries. “We dreamed it up together — years ago,” Halmi said enthusiastically. He added, “I am now also taking over his (Coppola’s) TV entertainment arm — we dream together.” If you thought Halmi’s Gulliver traveled to exotic places and interesting people, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In the upcoming “Odyssey,” Halmi says Troy and the Trojan horse will be rebuilt by the Turkish government according to Homer’s description, circa the ninth century B.C. (The text was discovered three centuries later!) The mini will follow Homer’s poem, and begins on the island of Ogygia where the sea nymph Calypso releases Odysseus for his odyssey. Other “locations” will include the land of the Lotus Eaters and those other exotic places you remember from your school days. Halmi said he, too, first read it in school –“in Hungarian.” Casting will be star quality, he promises, for the lead roles of Odysseus, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, plus other celeb cameos. “We will cast the hell out of it,” says Halmi. “And shoot in Turkey, Greece, Malta — wherever Homer set it. It will be a huge cultural epic. As a European, I am completely amazed that I can do this kind of film to be carried by a U.S. network.” What’s the budget? “I’m keeping it a secret from my son (Halmi Jr.),” he said. But it will be more than the $25 million “Gulliver’s Travels.” “We’ve already gotten even on that one,” he said. How? “European sales. Everybody bitches that they can’t get even — you have to come up with a ‘Gulliver’ or ‘Odyssey,’ ” he said … When Halmi called NBC’s Don Ohlmeyer to tell him his hopes to film “The Odyssey,” Ohlmeyer surprised him –“He started to quote the ‘Odyssey’ for me. There’s hope yet!” What’s next, “The Iliad”?

ALTHOUGH KIRK DOUGLAS suffered a slight stroke last month, he phoned me Friday to assure me his speech will be fine March 25 when he accepts his so well-deserved honorary Oscar, and he sounded OK. We joked a bit, and he reassured me that he is progressing well with the help of a speech therapist. Kirk suffered no other problems from the very slight stroke, which followed successful back surgery Jan. 15 to correct a disc that was broken — but undiagnosed — from the helicopter crash Feb. 13, 1991 … Cliff Robertson, playing a futuristic president of the U.S. in “John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A.,” describes his president as “an extension of Patrick Buchanan — an isolationist, to the nth degree a super-Christian.” In the Paramount pic, Robertson says L.A. has already been hit by a tidal wave and earthquake –“It’s weird. But Carpenter is a great director — and Kurt Russell comes to the rescue!”… After 21 years in N.Y., Brenda Feigen has opened her literary agency office in L.A. Her first coup came with client Joanne Parrent, whose book “You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again” (Dove) has made the bestseller lists. Feigen’s now talking a three-book deal with Michael Viner here … At the Feb. 27 screening of Lifetime’s “Hidden in Silence” Feb. 27, screenwriter Stephanie Liss sez a special reunion’s planned of eight of the original 13 survivors who were smuggled out of the Polish ghetto during WWII under the noses of the Gestapo. One scene was filmed on the exact Czech location where the rescue took place 50 years ago … The Simon Wiesenthal Center was the site Sunday for the screening of “Never Give Up,” filmmaker Terry Sanders’ Oscar-nominated docu about Herbert Zipper, who has been bringing professional orchs to inner-city children. Zipper organized secret concerts when in Dachau using makeshift instruments … Celebs and film execs launch the Hollywood Internship Program for inner-city youth to break into the biz at a cocktail’er at Eclipse tonight … A reunion of the cast and crew of “Animal House” will be hosted by Jon Peters and Mark Canton March 2 at Peters’ ranch for HBO’s second U.S. Comedy Arts Fest.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: A first in the Skerritt family: Tom S. directs and stars in his regular role as Sheriff Jim Brock in an upcoming seg of “Picket Fences.” His son Matt S. plays a heavy, a rapist, in the episode … And vet TV director Bruce Bilson completed his 379th (!) seg, directing an episode of the new UPN series “The Sentinel,” which was created and exec produced by his son Danny Bilson and Danny’s partner Paul De Meo. The duo is also in pre-production on a second series, “Viper,” for Par syndie … The Sherry Hinderstein Meditation Garden will be dedicated at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital at noon March 26. Hinderstein, the daughter of Howard Hinderstein, was a victim of cancer. Howard is also readying sculptures for the garden of his wife Beverly and their granddaughter Alyce, who died at the age of 16 … The Assn. of Celebrity Personal Assistants, four years young in L.A., now launches its N.Y. branch Wednesday with a cocktail’er. Its president is Donna Lee, Morgan Freeman’s assistant. The L.A. group holds a meeting on the frightening subject of celebrity stalking Thursday … Merv Griffin takes up his baton again — this time to conduct/accompany the New Mexico Symphony Orch benefit in Albuquerque (where he owns the Doubletree Hotel). Merv will also accompany Johnny Mathis on the program. They duo’d at the Ronnie Reagan birthday party at Chasen’s … Johnny Crawford brings back music of the great bands at the Biltmore, starting March 1 and through most weekends until May.