Vaughn bites Bates role; Fox gets ‘Wicked’

VINCE VAUGHN IS TEMPORARILY trading his image as the swaggering “Swingers” star for that of a motel proprietor with some serious mother-son issues. Vaughn has signed to play the Norman Bates role in “Psycho,” the remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic being directed by Gus Van Sant and produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. That means the famed shower scene will feature Vaughn in the Anthony Perkins role and Anne Heche in the Janet Leigh role.

Vaughn, who followed “Swingers” with a co-starring role in “Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World,” is currently starring alongside Heche in “Return to Paradise,” directed by Joe Ruben for Polygram. Then he moves on to run the Bates Motel, joining Heche and Vaughn’s “Lost World” co-star Julianne Moore, who as Heche’s sister retraces her missing sibling’s steps.

He was the first choice for the role, back when the Leigh role was offered to Nicole Kidman, who eventually passed. Imagine, which would not comment, is still casting. It’s believed that William Macy, the Oscar-nominated “Fargo” star, will be playing the role of the police detective, with one other major role yet to be cast for the film, which starts shooting in June. Vaughn is repped by UTA.

SORVINO TURNS IN NEW DIRECTION: Paul Sorvino, who portrayed a former basketball player in the Broadway run and MGM film version of “That Championship Season,” will take two new roles in a Showtime redo of the Jason Miller play. Sorvino will play the coach and make his directing debut in Showtime’s version of the play about former members of a high school basketball team who reunite with their coach each year to commemorate their championship season.

The film will be produced by Steven Greener, who manages Sorvino, with Josh Mills adapting the material. Sorvino — who played the title character in “Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way,” Showtime’s chronicle of the 1996 championship season of the New York Yankees — is also in talks with the payweb to topline another biopic, “The Jackie Gleason Story.”

Sorvino’s agented by Gersh’s Larry Taube.

REALISTIC CASTING: After ending his long run on the NBC sitcom “Wings,” Tony Shalhoub has played ethnically diverse roles that span from the Italian risotto specialist chef in “Big Night” to a shape-shifting alien in “Men in Black.” But Shalhoub is now getting to play a character he never imagined he would. He’s co-starring as Denzel Washington’s partner in “Martial Law,” the Ed Zwick-directed terrorism drama that also stars Annette Bening and Bruce Willis for Fox 2000.

“I play a Lebanese American, which is the first time I’ve gotten to play what I really am,” Shalhoub said. “It’s a global terrorism story set in New York, and Denzel is my partner in the FBI, and we find ourselves at cross-purposes with the military and the CIA, all getting in each other’s way as we try to figure out which country we’re even dealing with.” At the same time, Shaloub’s fed gets fed up with racism against anyone of Arabic descent when, after a distinguished career of terrorist-fighting, he sees his teen son get rounded up like a common criminal because of his appearance.

Shalhoub will next be seen in Touchstone’s “A Civil Action” with John Travolta and Robert Duvall, and Fox Searchlight’s “The Imposters,” which was directed by Stanley Tucci and marks a “Big Night” reteam. That follows roles in “Paulie” and “Primary Colors.” Shalhoub relishes the variety of work, though there are drawbacks going from series to screen duty. “In some ways I miss it, because I have a couple of kids, and that schedule is so conducive to family life, but movies are a whole different game and I’m glad to be able to do so many parts and work with so many directors and actors,” said Shalhoub, who’s married to actress Brooke Adams.

PROACTIVE EXEC: When Anya Kochoff, senior vice president of Davis Entertainment, couldn’t find the project she had in mind, she took matters — and pen and paper — into her own hands. The result is a spec script sale at Fox that brought her $400,000 against $800,000, and an attachment of Jennifer Aniston to star. The script is “Something Wicked,” in which a calculating and ruthless female exec gets killed by a bus, pushed by a co-worker she was blackmailing. The hell-bound woman charms her way into a second chance on the planet to right her life. She comes back in the form of Aniston. Originally bent on revenge against the co-worker, she instead discovers the downside of her bitchy past.

“My favorite movie has always been ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and I was looking for a certain kind of script as an executive that I wasn’t finding,” said Kochoff. “I worked out an outline and thought, why not give it a shot. I figured it would be terrible and no one would see it.” She showed it to producer Adam Gibgot, who worked to develop it with her. They enlisted Endeavor, which responded when the script was sent out under the pseudonym Francine Kelly. Then Gibgot and Davis, who’ll produce, took it to Fox.

The studio was looking for an Aniston vehicle following the hit “The Object of My Affection,” and closed a deal quickly. Aniston will exec produce, and it could be her next film. Kochoff will keep her day job, but the next time she doesn’t get the kind of project that tickles her fancy, who knows? CAA and 3 Arts’ Molly Madden rep Aniston.

WAGNER A COMEBACKER: Robert Wagner continues a screen resurgence. After showy roles in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” and “Wild Things,” he’s made a deal to play an agent in “Crazy for Alabama,” the Columbia film that will be directed by Antonio Banderas and star Melanie Griffith. Wagner might also be tapped for return evil duty for the “Austin Powers” sequel rumored to be in the works for later in the year. Wagner’s managed by Chuck Binder.

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