Dennis Hopper, “The O.C.’s” Chris Carmack and a bunch of Pontiac cars will star in a movie about to begin production for the USA Network.

The film, called “The Last Ride,” focuses on the conflict between three generations of men in a family of gearheads. USA is producing the film in partnership with General Motors. The movie will prominently feature new and classic versions of the Pontiac GTO.

Executive producer Rob Cohen, the director of “The Fast and the Furious” and “XXX,” says he conceived the idea while directing commercials for the new GTO. He pitched it to USA, which quickly snapped it up.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Rob Cohen, a terrific filmmaker whose passion for cars and penchant for action come together beautifully in this project,” says Laurette Hayden, who oversees movies and miniseries for the network.

“The Last Ride” is set in motion when Ronnie (Hopper) gets out of prison after serving a 30-year sentence. He hits the streets seeking vengeance against Darryl (Fred Ward, “The Right Stuff”), the cop who arrested him. Complicating matters is the fact that Darryl adopted Ronnie’s son Aaron (Will Patton, “Remember the Titans”), who’s now a cop as well.

‘West Wing’ taps Close for bench

Five-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close will don a judge’s robes for a guest appearance on “The West Wing” later this month.

Close will play a potential Supreme Court nominee in the episode, scheduled for March 24.

The role will be a relatively rare episodic-TV appearance for Close, whose last work on a series was a voice cameo on “The Simpsons” earlier this season and a “Will & Grace” guest appearance in May 2002.

In the episode, close will play a federal judge whom President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) considers appointing to the high court after one of the sitting justices unexpectedly dies. Her left-of-center politics, however, make her a tough sell to replace the dead justice, a staunch conservative.

Close collected five Academy Award nominations in the 1980s, beginning with her feature-film debut, “The World According to Garp.” She’s also been nominated for several Emmys, including for her “Will & Grace” guest shot.

She won the award for best actress in a miniseries or special in 1995 for “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story.” She also counts three Tony Awards to her credit.

She’ll next be seen opposite Patrick Stewart in Showtime’s remake of “The Lion in Winter,” scheduled for later this spring.

-Zap2it.com

She also co-stars with Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler in “The Stepford Wives,” set for release in June.



JACKMAN JACKS IN TO TONY HOSTING DUTIES

You don’t need a crystal ball to prognosticate that Hugh Jackman is going to have a big night on June 6. Ever since the first curtain went up on Jackman’s musical “The Boy from Oz,” the reviews for the show were tepid, but the buzz for the “X-Men” star was rapturous.

The nominations haven’t even been announced, but Jackman is a safe bet to go home with a shiny bauble. And even if there’s an upset of epic proportions, the Aussie actor will still have cause to smile – Jackman will host the Tonys on CBS.

This will be Jackman’s second consecutive year hosting the ceremony.

If all goes according to plan, Jackman won’t only be arriving at the Tonys on a wave of theatrical momentum. His vampire-hunter feature “Van Helsing” opens in May and is expected to be one of the summer’s blockbuster hits.

Jackman’s performance has been considered so integral to the success of “Oz” that the show goes dark when he needs time off. While many critics called his performance as Peter Allen a revelation, Jackman earned raves for his work in London’s National Theatre production of “Oklahoma!” and had leads abroad in “Sunset Boulevard” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

The actor, Wolverine in both “X-Men” films, has also appeared in “Swordfish,” “Kate & Leopold” and “Someone Like You.”



“ED,’ “FASTLANE’ STARS FIND NEW PILOT HOMES

Although NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker refuses to officially declare “Ed” dead, one of the show’s main stars, Julie Bowen, has her sights set on a new NBC comedy pilot for next season. Bowen leads the latest round of casting news, which also includes fresh pilot homes for Peter Facinelli, Monica Potter and Michael Rooker.

Bowen (“Happy Gilmore”) will join “Saturday Night Live” alum Ana Gasteyer in “The Friendlys.” Bowen, who played Carol Vessey for four seasons on “Ed,” will play the spoiled daughter of a deceased mogul fighting his wife (Gasteyer) for control of his business.

“Fastlane’s” Facinelli will return to Fox to take one of the leads in the network’s untitled undercover cop drama from Kathryn Bigelow and the Kessler brothers. Facinelli, who was most recently seen on an episode of Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” will play the boss of a team of agents working undercover at a Hollywood high school.

Over on CBS, Potter (“Patch Adams”) will co-star in “The Amazing Westerbergs.” Chris O’Donnell and Jay Harrington play brothers who were raised to believe they could do anything only to discovery difficulties in the real world. Potter will play their attractive neighbor.

Last development season, Potter starred opposite Andy Richter in the pilot for “The Lunchbox Chronicles,” which has been reconceived this pilot season with Ricki Lake as the lead.

Also at CBS, Michael Rooker (“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”) has been cast in the drama “Numbers” opposite David Krumholtz. Rooker, last seen on the small screen in “Saving Jessica Lynch” and in an episode of “CSI: Miami,” will play a gruff FBI agent working with Krumholtz’ MIT-trained math whiz to solve crimes.

In CBS creative development, “Nice Guys,” from Joel Silver, Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi has been pushed to midseason. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show is still trying to find the right leads. Shaun Cassidy was recently recruited to help reshape the pilot script.

In other casting news, Willie Garson (“Taken,” “Sex and the City”) will appear in ABC’s “Plan B” playing Caroline Rhea’s neighbor, while Maggie Grace (“Oliver Beene”) has been added to the J.J. Abrams castaway drama “Lost.”

Kate Levering will appear in UPN’s Taye Diggs drama “Kevin Hill” and Jon Tenney (“Kristin”) and Kevin Wheatly will co-star in The WB’s comedy “Joint Custody.”



“SOPRANOS,’ “JORDAN’ BOUNCE BACK AFTER LONG ABSENCES

“The Sopranos” didn’t break records in its return to HBO, but fans seem pretty happy to have the show back.

The series began its fifth season Sunday before about 12.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen figures. That’s about 2 million more people than watched the series finale of “Sex and the City” on HBO last month.

This season’s premiere was off some from the fourth-season debut in September 2002, which drew 13.4 million people, a record for HBO. Considering it’s been 15 months since the last original episode aired, that’s a pretty good retention rate.

The show also stacks up well against its network competition for the evening. Only NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” with close to 15 million viewers, attracted a bigger audience than “The Sopranos” at 9 p.m. EST Sunday. CBS’ Sunday movie “The Survivors Club,” came closest, with about 9.3 million viewers for the hour.

HBO reaches fewer than 40 million subscribers, while the networks broadcast to nearly all the 108 million-plus homes with television in the United States.

NBC’s “Crossing Jordan,” another show returning from an extended hiatus, also performed fairly well Sunday night. The third-season premiere – delayed from fall because of star Jill Hennessy’s pregnancy – averaged just under 12.8 million viewers in the 10 p.m. slot. That’s about 2 million more viewers than the show averaged last season, when it aired on Mondays, and 3 million better than the short-lived “Lyon’s Den,” which occupied the 10 p.m. Sunday spot in the fall.



(c) 2004, Zap2it.com.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-03-09-04 1759EST



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