September 17, 1984 12:00 PM

Filming of Truman Capote’s 1979 novella, Hand-carved Coffins, based on the story (Capote said it was nonfiction) of 10 unsolved deaths in an unnamed Western state in the early 1970s, begins next winter despite some legal wrangling. Capote speculated that the murderer, who sent some of his victims miniature hand-carved coffins before he killed them, was a local rancher he called Robert Hawley Quinn. MGM, which is making the movie, was queasy about the legal aspects of depicting the mystery killer. But since the story uses pseudonyms for all the characters, executive producer Lester Persky doesn’t foresee any problems with the script, written by James (Downhill Racer) Salter with Capote’s approval. Persky is considering Jack Nicholson and Paul Newman for a lead role but is having trouble casting the female lead, who’s betrothed to a detective on the case. Says Persky, “I’m looking for a younger Diane Keaton or Jane Fonda or an older Debra Winger.” Does that mean actresses over 38 and under 28 need not apply? The plot line of NBC’s V promises to be stranger than science fiction. Consider this love triangle: Blair Tefkin, who as 19-year-old Robin got impregnated by a reptilian alien during the initial V mini-series, falls in love with Jeff Yagher, who plays nonalien Kyle Bates. Robin enlists Kyle in the search for her missing daughter, Elizabeth, who should be a baby but whose mix of alien and human genes causes her to age about a year per television hour (when last seen she already was 8). Later Kyle falls for a mysterious 18-year-old beauty who—surprise!—turns out to be not your ordinary snake in the grass. She’s really Elizabeth (played by former Guiding Light actress Jennifer Cooke), and just episodes after her birth she is already bedding Mom’s beau. Kids these days!

David (Knight Rider) Hasselhoff, 32, recently taped a cameo appearance (to air Sept. 11) on NBC’s new daytime soap Santa Barbara, and he was all thumbs during a photo session with the show’s matriarch, Dame Judith Anderson, 86. Hasselhoff suggested that they give the thumbs-up sign. Anderson retorted, “Young man, I do not do vulgar gestures.” After he explained it wasn’t the gesture she had in mind, Dame Judith gamely stuck her thumb in the air.

With their careers in high gear, Lea (Red Dawn) Thompson and her fiancé, Dennis (Dreamscape) Quaid, are planning on a long engagement, partly for logistical reasons. Lea, 23, whose film The Wild Life, with Chris Penn (Sean’s brother), comes out this month, is now filming in Copenhagen in a comic detective film called Yellow Pages. Quaid, 30, begins a five-month shoot in West Germany later this year for a feature film called Enemy Mine. The separation is unwelcome but Lea is in no rush to get to the altar. “Being engaged is like going to grammar school,” she says. “Someday we’ll graduate and go on to high school.”

Inveterate storyteller Ronald Reagan regaled the crew between takes recently while shooting the film on his Presidency that played at the Republican Convention. However, Reagan’s daughter Maureen may not be amused at one of Dad’s tales. The President reminisced that when Maureen was a child, one of her two kittens died. Following a family memorial service for the pet, Reagan recalled, “I thought Maureen might break down. Instead she suggested, ‘Let’s kill the other cat.’ ”

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