News, April 14: “Passion” Looking for TV Exposure, Ewan McGregor Takes Motorcycle Trip, Affleck Goes on the “Road,” More…

Top Story: Passion To Go Primetime?

Apparently Mel Gibson‘s Icon Prods. has quietly started the process of shopping for TV licensing deals for The Passion of the Christ, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It would be the first hugely successful film to come down the pike as a true free agent for pay TV and broadcast/basic cable licensing in more than five years, since Fox scooped up the rights to George LucasStar Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace. But sources told the Reporter Icon has made it clear to prospective buyers that the film must run in its entirety and that even some of the more graphic scenes of beatings cannot be edited down, which would make it tough for the four broadcast networks to line up advertisers for the controversial film, even if cuts were made. Others on the list include HBO, Showtime and other major cable outlets.

McGregor Turns Easy Rider

Ewan McGregor, who recently starred in Big Fish, takes to the road on his motorcycle for his next project. Reuters reports the 33-year-old Scottish actor will embark on a three-month journey around the world starting in Eastern Europe, through the hostile terrain of Mongolia, Siberia and Alaska and ending in New York. He’ll be joined by friend filmmaker Charley Boorman, son of director John Boorman, who will film their adventures as a documentary. Since January, Reuters reports the pair have trained with ex-soldiers and learned how to perform emergency medical procedures to ensure they can survive any encounters with unfriendly weather, wildlife or serious accidents.

Walters Could Net Hefty Book Deal

Star interviewer Barbara Walters is close to signing a contract with Miramax Books to write her memoirs, Reuters reports, while a report in New York’s Daily News speculated the deal could be worth as much as $6 million. “They were very closed mouth over at Hyperion,” Publisher Weekly‘s editor John Baker told Reuters about Miramax’s parent publisher. “But an editor there told me they expected to be able to confirm something in about 24 hours.” But Baker said he was surprised at the $6 million figure. “I expected it to be a lot lower than this. It sounds phenomenally high. You’d have to sell a couple of millions of copies to get the money back. I’d be surprised if it comes down at that level.”

More on Writing Books…

Billy Crystal has joined the league of celebrities who write children’s books. As a “love poem” to his first grandchild, the 57-year-old actor penned I Already Know I Love You, published by HarperCollins, which details things Crystal hopes to do with his grandchild, including eating spaghetti and going to a baseball game, Reuters reports. “It’s profoundly moving when your baby has a baby,” Crystal said about his daughter having a child, after reading his new book to 5-year-olds at the Children’s Museum in Manhattan Tuesday.

Simpson, Jackson Rate Well Over Weekend

The ABC Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey variety special, which took in 11.5 million viewers Sunday, as well as Janet Jackson‘s appearance on Saturday Night Live helped bolster the ratings over the Easter weekend, The Associated Press reports. CBS won the week overall with 11 million viewers, while NBC came in second with 10.2 million viewers. Fox had 8.6 million viewers followed by ABC with 7.7 million and the WB and UPN with 2.7 million each. For the week of April 5-11, the top 10 shows were: American Idol (Tuesday), Fox; The Apprentice, NBC; Survivor: All-Stars, CBS; American Idol (Wednesday), Fox; ER, NBC; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Georgia Tech vs. Connecticut, CBS; The Swan, Fox; Friends, NBC; Without a Trace, CBS.

Parton Receives “Living Legend” Award

Dolly Parton will receive “The Living Legend” award from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the AP reports. The 58-year-old singer and songwriter, whose hits include “Jolene” and “9 to 5,” will perform at the ceremony for a taped special set to air in May on the cable channel Great American Country. Past recipients include musicians Johnny Cash and Ray Charles; filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese; comedian Bob Hope; and baseball player Cal Ripkin Jr.

Role Call: Affleck Joins Glory; Plummer in Our Fathers; and Beauty Shop

Ben Affleck is set to star in Jerry Bruckheimer‘s Glory Road, which aims to start production this summer. In the project, Affleck will play college basketball coach Don Haskins who led the first all-black lineup of players from Texas Western to the NCAA championship in 1966 … Christopher Plummer will star in Showtime’s adaptation of David France’s Our Fathers, about the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. Plummer will portray Boston’s controversial Cardinal Bernard Law, whose repeated failure to remove abusive priests from ministry lead to his resignation in December 2002 … Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard and Bryce Wilson have joined the ever-growing cast of MGM’s Queen Latifah comedy Beauty Shop. MacDowell will play a conservative Southern socialite, while Woodard is set to play Miss Josephine, the shop’s Afrocentric stylist. Wilson will play a con/truck driver turned hairstylist.