Woods helms from, and for, the heart

GOOD MORNING: What do Sharon Stone, Don Rickles, Michael Clarke Duncan, Penny Marshall and Patrick Dempsey have in common? They all say, “I am stroke” in James Woods’ thought-provoking, heart-warning (that’s warNing, not warMing) public service spots for the American Stroke Assn. Stone suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage and, having acted in time, perhaps saved her life. Woods who acted in two films with her and has now directed, says she is even more beautiful and creative than ever. She received an ovation from the crew after the taping. Woods says “I was in tears.” I have seen all five spots and can confirm the powerful contribution made by all the players and director. Oliver Stone, who had twice directed Woods, took time from “Alexander the Great” preparations to look in at the TV filming and added only his compliments. Woods next plans to direct a feature, but after this experience, notes, “Only something that will touch people.” He again plays a real-life character in “Rudy” (Giuliani), directed by Richard Dornhelm, and airing on USA Sunday. Woods spent three hours in makeup daily for the physical transformation and says he hopes hizzoner likes it. “It was very emotional for me to do it,” admits Woods, whose list of real life performances includes: Roy Cohn (“Citizen Cohn”), H.R. Haldeman (“Nixon”), Byron De La Beckwith (“Ghosts of Mississippi”), Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson in “My Name is Bill W” among many others.

MARTIN SCORSESE HAS TAKEN ON a different role — voicing the animated figure of Sykes, a “Godfather”-like role in DreamWorks’ “Sharkslayer.” He even sings for the role and when Jeffrey Katzenberg watched Scorsese’s performance he laughed so hard he called in Steven Spielberg to watch Scorsese performing. “I though I’d never see this!” Katzenberg admitted . . . Wednesday evening at the Mondrian on the Sunset Strip was the kickoff for “The Duel in the Pool” — U.S. vs. Australia Olympic swimmers — to air April 12-13 on NBC from Indianapolis. Producer Frank Marshall, who is also treasurer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, presides over the reception starring gold medalists who will compete in the Olympics in Athens. Marshall is winding producing chores on “Seabiscuit” with high praise for Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper and Jeff Richards as the three principals. And yes, Tobey definitely had to learn to ride as Red Pollard, Seabiscuit’s jockey. Marshall and wife Kathleen Kennedy became so enamored with the sport of kings, they’ve bought a piece of two-year-old ‘At’s What I’m About, who races in the Santa Anita Handicap. Partners include Kate Capshaw, Spielberg and “Seabiscuit’s” director Gary Ross. Major owner is Wayne Hughes. The Marshalls hope to continue in the sports world and are trying to get rights to film the life of Tour de France multiple winner, Lance Armstrong . . . Also upcoming for them is “a labor of love, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with script by Eric Roth . . . NBC has cleared “Las Vegas” as the title for the hour-long pilot now shooting all over the city. Gary Scott Thompson (“Fast & Furious”) is exec producer and scripter and says they’ve received blessings from everyone in town for the show starring James Caan as the surveillance chief, Cheryl Ladd as his wife, model Molly Sims as their daughter and Josh Duhamel as Caan’s assistant. The pilot budget is a whopping $5 million, sez Thompson.

A REUNION IN L.A. was called off for the “Thorn Birds” cast due to sympathies for the war. Richard Chamberlain had flown in from Hawaii for the event and told me he was sorry not to have seen Rachel Ward — they’d not seen one another since the filming 20 years ago. (The mini starts airing again Sunday-Wednesday on the Hallmark Channel. But while here he taped the intro for the mini-series seg on ABC’s 50th anni show (to air in May). Chamberlain (68) continues to live in the Oahu home he bought 26 years ago “when it was very affordable,” he laughs. He’s winding his autobiog for Reagan Books (Harper, Collins), and will head back to the stage at the Berkshire Festival theater this summer in “Stillborn Lover” by Timothy Findley. He last appeared there in Gary Socol’s “The Shadow of Greatness.” Meanwhile, Socol’s “Bicoastal Woman” bows May 2 at the Pasadena Playhouse with Susan Clark and Chloe Webb with Jenny Sullivan directing.

NATHAN LANE AND PATTI LUPONE will be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame on June 27. The evening benefits Music Matters, Keeping Music Education Alive in L.A. . . . Jimmy Murphy returns to the L.A. restaurant scene as he opens his Jimmy’s Tavern in Westwood. On hand to wish him well, Eddie Kerkhofs, who will re-open his Le Dome in September. It’s now undergoing a $2 million rebirth. Also at Jimmy’s pre-opening party: the Sidney Poitiers, Don Rickles, Bob Newharts, Leslie Bricusses, Jerry Perenchios, Rod Taylor, Bob Loggia . . . “A Night of Comedy” Saturday at the Henry Fonda Theater will benefit the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation. Performers will include Ray Romano, Wayne Brady, Kathy Griffin, Kevin James; Doris Roberts hosts . . . Mike Nichols’ “The Play That I Wrote” bows Sunday at the Lyceum with more guestar appearances. Roger Moore, Liam Neeson, Nathan Lane and Zoe Caldwell have surprised audiences in the previews.