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Role Call: DreamWorks' man of the hour

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Dec 18, 2001 | 9:52am EST

Tom Hanks is turning into Jackie Chan. No, he isn't learning Chinese and studying to become a martial arts master--which I wouldn't put past him. Hanks is accepting everything being offered to him lately, like the hyper-busy Chan, with one exception: Hanks is only doing films with DreamWorks studio. At this moment, Hanks is either working or in negotiations on four films for the studio, having already made Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers for DreamWorks. Do you think Hanks owns stock in the company?

First up is Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, where Hanks will star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio as an FBI agent after the notorious Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio), the youngest man to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Then comes Sam Mendes' The Road to Perdition, as Hanks plays a Chicago hitman nicknamed "The Angel of Death." (It's about time Hanks plays a bad guy). The two newest films to hit the street: Terminal, with Hanks as a Balkan refugee stuck living in an airport terminal and Comrade Rockstar, based on the life of the late rocker Dean Reed. Hanks is in negotiations to star as Reed, a musician/actor who wasn't able to make it big in the States but was a megastar in the Soviet Union and who died tragically either from suicide or homicide; no one is quite sure.

Rita Wilson sure isn't going to be seeing much of her husband over the next year and a half.

Cindy's second chance

Supermodel Cindy Crawford feels like she didn't give it her all in her 1995 debut Fair Game. Remember that truly spectacular piece of filmmaking? Crawford plays a lawyer (stay with me) who becomes an unwitting target to ex-KGB operatives and Billy Baldwin plays the cop trying to protect her. Coming back to you? Yeah, it stunk up the joint, but that doesn't mean it was Crawford's fault...right?

Six years later, Cindy's older, wiser, and hopefully has taken a few more acting classes. Yup, Cindy will tackle a new role, this time in a romantic drama called The Simian Line. The story revolves around three close-knit couples who are told by a psychic that one of them will break up by New Year's Eve. Oh, goody. At least she'll be joining a stellar cast, including William Hurt, Lynn Redgrave, Eric Stoltz and Harry Connick Jr., and should feel a little more comfortable given the good company.

Lane plays "The Great One"

Broadway/film star Nathan Lane is going to take on the awesome responsibility of portraying the legendary Jackie Gleason in the biopic To the Moon. Many fans will scrutinize Lane's performance, to see if he can pull it off. The good thing is the talent behind the film is as strong as its star. It's being written by Rob Festinger (In the Bedroom) and will be produced by Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella.

Lane told Variety, "Jackie Gleason has been a huge influence on me since I was a child. The thing that gets to me about him is that despite the bravado of his public persona and the broad hilarity of some of his comedy, there remains a tremendous amount of sadness and vulnerability in his eyes. Hopefully we will explore that in the film." I hope so, too.

Cage gets behind the camera

Actor Nicolas Cage has picked a rather edgy topic for his directorial debut. Would you expect anything less? According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film Sonny, which Cage will direct and produce, centers around "a male hustler who joins the Army in an attempt to get out of his family's gigolo lifestyle and get a real job. When he's discharged, Sonny stops by to visit his family in New Orleans and look for work, only to find that his mother is determined to bring him back to the family business." Well, that's sounds uplifting.

James Franco, the young stud who admirably portrayed James Dean in the TNT biopic of the same name, will take on the title role. Cage joins a very long list of actor-turned-directors; as we all know all actors really want to do is direct, and it's only a matter of time before they get the clout to do it.

Murphy is a "Shrinking Man"

Eddie Murphy has decided to take a look at the world from a small person's point of view. A very, very small person. He's going to star in the Keenen Ivory Wayans remake of the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. Murphy will play Grant Williams, who begins to shrink after being exposed to a strange mist, and must battle for survival the smaller he becomes. The original wasn't a comedy. The poor guy had to battle cats, bugs and all kinds of awful things as he shrank to virtually nothing. Fun.

Lily Tomlin had enough sense to make a comedy about an incredible shrinking woman in 1981. Disney made the comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; a kid fell into bowl of Cheerios. That's just hysterical. I would think with Wayans and Murphy attached, this remake would be the mother of all comedies.

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