HOLLYWOOD – The bigger they are, the harder they are to cast.

First it was James Brolin as Ronald Reagan. Now get set for Tom Selleck as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, and one of history’s most prominent bald guys.

Day 1 of the Television Critics Association’s winter meetings here brought Selleck face to face with reporters, who generally danced around the question of whether Selleck – famously not bald – would be shaving his head to star in A&E’s “Ike: Thunder in June.”

“These are the final days of my mustache,” he admitted at one point.

What he’s committed to so far: “I will try to physically get in the ballpark,” he said. “But I probably won’t be wearing appliances” in order to look as much as possible like Eisenhower, he added.

“Great men aren’t great because of what they look like,” Selleck said.

Shooting on the two-hour movie, slated to air this spring in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of D-Day, will begin next month in New Zealand, a country that’s not all that much more identified with World War II Europe than Selleck is with Eisenhower.

But as writer/co-executive producer Lionel Chetwynd explained, it’s spring there now. Which is more than you can say for Normandy.

Asked about Brolin’s performance in CBS’ banished-to-Showtime project, “The Reagans,” Selleck gave the answer nearly all actors give when asked to critique a colleague’s work: He didn’t see it.

“Jim and I started in the business at Fox,” he quickly added. “I’m sure he tried.”

Some things may have changed since HBO first unleashed Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau’s irreverent political miniseries “Tanner “88” 16 years ago, but politicians remain politicians.

Altman, here to promote the Sundance Channel’s revival of the 11-episode series, which followed fictional presidential candidate Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy) through the 1988 Democratic primary process, where Tanner rubbed elbows with the likes of Gary Hart, Pat Robertson and Bob Dole, didn’t get to see much of HBO’s recent “K Street” – naturally – but like “K Street” producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, he found it wasn’t all that difficult to persuade real-life politicos to interact with fictional ones.

“Any time they saw a camera, they got in front of it,” he said.

A&E has picked up a third season of the British secret agent series “MI-5,” which will begin shooting later this month in and around London … A&E’s “Biography” will spotlight “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell Jan. 15, cashing in on the return of the Fox hit the following week.

(c) 2004, Philadelphia Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-07-04 0851EST

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