Northam, chemistry are found after detailed search

Brit thesp Jeremy Northam (“Gosford Park”) will play Dean Martin opposite Sean Hayes’ Jerry Lewis in the upcoming CBS telepic about the legendary comedy team.

Northam snagged the role following an exhaustive talent hunt that saw Storyline Entertainment toppers and pic exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron travel to New York, Toronto and Los Angeles in their quest to find the right thesp for the role.

“We went everywhere and looked at people who were complete unknowns, and what we discovered was that Dean Martin has this incredible air about him that’s so hard to duplicate,” Zadan said. “He’s cool and detached, yet very passionate. He had all these qualities that were very hard to find in one person.”

When Zadan and Meron learned of Northam’s interest in the project, they immediately scheduled a working session with Hayes and Northam to make sure the two had the right chemistry. Hayes was the first to be cast in the pic (Daily Variety, April 29).

“It was just electrifying,” Zadan said of Northam’s perf. “He became Dean Martin. It was touching, hilarious and amazing. We just said, ‘Wow. We’ve found our Dean Martin.’ ”

Based on the working session, Zadan also thinks the Lewis role “is such a breakthrough” for Hayes.

“He’s nailed all the comedy routines already, but I think the dramatic scenes he’s doing will make people perk up and see what a fine dramatic actor he is,” Zadan said.

Upcoming for Northam on the feature side is the Mel Gibson-produced adaptation of “The Singing Detective,” in which he co-stars with Robert Downey Jr. Other credits include the upcoming “Company Man,” as well as “Enigma,” “The Golden Bowl,” “An Ideal Husband,” “Amistad” and “Emma.”

Zadan and Meron are exec producing “Martin & Lewis” with John Stamos; pic comes from Storyline and Columbia TriStar Domestic Television in association with St. Amos Prods.

John Gray (“Brian’s Song”) wrote the script and will direct the pic, which is slated to start production later this month in time for a potential November sweeps broadcast on CBS.

Northam is repped by ICM.

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