Shepard, Davis in ‘Dash’

Thesps to topline A&E made-for

Sam Shepard and Judy Davis have signed to star as Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman in cable web A&E’s original film “Dash and Lilly.”

The film, which marks Kathy Bates’ feature-length directorial debut, traces the passionate and tragic love affair between two of America’s literary greats, Hellman (“The Little Foxes,” “The Children’s Hour”) and Hammett (“The Maltese Falcon,” “The Thin Man”).

A&E plans to premiere the movie in early 1999. Shooting will commence in late October in Toronto.

The telefilm is an A&E/Granada Media Group co-production.

The movie, penned by Jerry Ludwig, will tell the story of the tumultuous 30-year relationship between the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Hammett and Hellman, who serve up witty bon mots as they battle personal demons, literary triumphs, numerous infidelities and the bittersweet price of Broadway and Hollywood success.

The story spans from Prohibition era Hollywood through World War II and McCarthyism.

Jerry Ludwig (“Roots,” “The Thorn Birds”) will serve as executive producer.

Playwright/actor Shepard received an Oscar nomination for his role as Chuck Yeager in 1983’s “The Right Stuff” and has appeared in “Safe Passage,” “The Pelican Brief,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Days of Heaven.”

Davis has received Oscar nominations for “Husbands and Wives” in 1993 and “A Passage to India” in 1985. Her film credits include “Naked Lunch,” “Barton Fink” and “My Brilliant Career.”

Davis is represented by Tracey Jacobs and Martha Luttrell at ICM, and Shepard is repped by Luttrell. Bates is repped by Susan Smith at Susan Smith & Associates.

A&E’s other original films slated for 1999 include the miniseries “P.T. Barnum,” based on the life of the circus showman, and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Edgar Allan Poe’s gruesome detective story. Both of these projects are Robert Halmi Sr./Hallmark Entertainment co-productions.

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