Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones | Jason Alexander  | Rep. Gary Condit's Mom   

Bridget Jones and Zeta-Jones Together?

One of the most long-aborning projects in movie history is at last near the birthing stage.

Chicago, the hit musical by Fred Ebb and John Kander, is finally headed into a possible pre-production. Catherine Zeta-Jones already has an offer on the table to play one of the leads. And now I am told on good authority that Miramax is preparing a similar offer for Renee Zellweger.

Zellweger is the newest Miramax darling, having made their Bridget Jones's Diary into one of the few bright spots of the 2001 releases thus far. Renee is almost certainly assured a Golden Globe nomination, and if the balance of the year doesn't produce some big dramatic roles for women, she might very well be up for an Oscar.

Zellweger looks the part for Chicago. Whether or not she can sing or dance remains to be seen. But ultimately choreograper Bob Fosse's protégé and ex-wife Ann Reinking, must make that decision. Without Reinking there is no Chicago. So she must be satisfied with these choices.

Chicago has a long and bumpy movie development history. First it was going to be directed and/or produced by Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, etc.). Then Madonna and Goldie Hawn were supposed to star in it. Madonna probably exited after her tense situation with Miramax on what turned out to be Music of the Heart. Hawn, while always a looker, is now a tad too old for either Roxie or Velma.

The movie drifted for a while with important writers like Larry Gelbart and Wendy Wasserstein trying to fashion scripts. Mitchell Fink reported in April that a new writer, Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) came on board. Add to him director Rob Marshall, who made ABC/Disney's Annie such a pleasure last year for TV. Marshall has been trying to get a first feature film accomplished. This could be it.

All that remains of course is the part James Naughton played on stage to such great acclaim, Billy Flynn. Naughton himself would be such a great choice, but I guess a movie star is required. (Pray now that John Travolta will not stick his thumb in this pie.) Antonio Banderas, Kevin Kline — there's a list, but there's also time, and those Jones girls still have to sign on the dotted line.

Jason Alexander Needs Serenity — Now 

The word from Hollywood is that Jason Alexander's new sitcom, Bob Patterson, is in trouble.

How ironic though that the honcho at ABC TV who must defend the show is none other than Lloyd Braun. You may recall Lloyd from the famous "Serenity Now" episode of Seinfeld, in which George's father pitted his son and Lloyd against each other selling computers. George won by lying, and selling the computers to himself.

The character of course was named for the real-life Braun, as many Seinfeld characters were named for people in the TV business. (Frasier and Lilith Sternin Crane, as well, were a combination of names of TV writers.)

The last thing you hear the fictional Braun mutter on his way out of the Costanza garage is "Serenity now."

The real guy must need it now.

Bob Patterson sounds like an idea for one show, not a series. It's a gimmick, a one-off, about a motivational speaker who can't motivate himself or others. Just from the commercial tease the thing looks as tired and worn as something from the '80s.

TV critics are comparing the current trouble to Michael Richards' problems with his own show last year. Next up will come Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her own new series, which sounds like another crap shoot.

It's nearly impossible for series superstars to recapture their glory. What's worse is that everyone is gunning for them. You can sense the TV press waiting to stomp all over poor Jason Alexander — this at the same time they're quoting his dialogue from Seinfeld and cracking each other up over the water cooler.

My advice: Serenity now. Leave the poor guy alone.

Mrs. Condit Censors Local Supermarket

The word from Modesto is that Rep. Gary Condit's mom went into the local Save Mart and insisted they take away all the tabloid papers featuring her congressman son's tawdry affair with a 24-year-old intern (among others, I suppose).

But if Mrs. Condit is depending on the Modesto Bee for her news, this is what she got yesterday.

Gary Condit's hometown paper was very concerned about hunting for low gas prices in town. There was also something about senior citizens settling into their new retirement home, and someone out there likes to ride horses.

Buried way down on the Web site was an Associated Press wire story about their congressman deciding to help the FBI with a profile of missing federal intern Chandra Levy 13 weeks after her disappearance.

I did love the story called "Ill-fated affairs are 'old as time.'" I particularly liked the reference to "Father Time." (I thought he died in Judge Hardy's arms.) Anyway. I'm sure the Levy's are appreciating the reverence and serious intent their paper is devoting to their daughter's disappearance. Makes me want to pack up and move to a small town. (Not.)

I am told that The National Enquirer, not always reliable, but currently dug in deep on the Condit case, is planning something explosive for the end of this week regarding Carolyn Condit. It may shed some light on what happened to Levy. There should be quite a line Friday morning at the Save Mart, whether Mrs. Condit likes it or not.

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