''Hercules'' is turned into an epic miniseries -- The heroic subject of the NBC saga will have less testosterone and more spirituality

By EW Staff
Updated January 17, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

If Robert Halmi Sr. has his way, you won’t mistake NBC’s four-hour miniseries for that cheesy, testosterone-fueled Kevin Sorbo series of the late ’90s. ”I was determined to do literature as it deserves to be done,” explains executive producer Halmi (Gulliver’s Travels) of his $20 million-plus epic. ”Television has always treated him as this Arnold Schwarzenegger type of caricature…. Nobody quite understood that Hercules was more about spirituality and inner strength than he was the muscles.” (Sorry, Sorbo.)

Still, Halmi was determined to pump Hercules up. ”Most of the Hollywood guys are wimps,” says Halmi. ”Finding an actor with a strong body like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold was extremely difficult.” Turns out, Scotland has produced at least one such buff brainiac: Paul Telfer, a onetime bouncer who will slay multiheaded dragons alongside Timothy Dalton (Amphitryon, the stepfather), join forces with sidekick Sean Astin (Linus, the poet bard), and woo Leelee Sobieski (Deianeira, the lover). ”I’ve always been a big mythology and classical history geek,” admits Telfer, last seen opposite Goran Visnjic in USA’s Spartacus. ”How else can you explain why I keep appearing in tunics and sandals?” We’re guessing the arms have something to do with it.