Michael Fleming - Dish

DIXON, PHILLIPS PLOT “O SISTER” ACT: Dimension Films has enlisted screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Todd Phillips for “O Sister Where Art Thou,” a music-themed film based on a Texas Monthly article about eight female prison inmates who formed a singing act in the 1940s.

The studio will pay a seven-figure sum to Dixon. Phillips, who follows “Old School” with “Starsky & Hutch,” has aligned himself as director. He had previously been attached to produce when Dimension’s Bob Weinstein stepped up to buy the article for Phillips’ Dimension-based company, Gentlemen Pictures, beating out a chorus of bidders in April.

The 8,000-word Skip Hollandsworth-penned tale revealed the whereabouts of the Texas-based Goree All Girl String Band, which became a sensation as the ladies serenaded national radio audiences. The women, some of whom had been sent up the river for robbery and murder, formed the band, hoping to shorten their sentences. The shame of being incarcerated caused them to spurn the fame that awaited them.

“To realize the life dream of becoming a professional singer and then spend the rest of your life living it down is true irony,” said Dixon, who most recently did production rewrites on “Bringing Down the House” and “Freaky Friday.” “This is a hardboiled drama where you can sneak music in around the edges, more like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ or ‘The Commitments’ than some fluff where they break out in song.”

Dixon has her own secret past as a rhythm guitarist in a bluegrass band.

“I’d consider it the height of tackiness to show up to a meeting with a guitar as a prop,” Dixon said. “But I did have a tape of me doing some pretty credible playing and I popped it in for them.”

Both Dixon and Phillips are doing a little genre switching for the project, since both are best known for comedies. Phillips, who expects to next direct the Dimension remake of the 1960s British comedy “School for Scoundrels,” will be taking on his first drama, while Dixon recently completed an adaptation of the Alan Glynn thriller novel “Dark Fields.” Dixon controls the rights, and WMA and Michael Gendler will take the project to the marketplace after she secures a director. Dimension co-presidents Andrew Rona and Brad Weston will steer “O Sister,” along with Gentlemen Pictures veep Scott Budnick.

‘LAW’ MAN: “Sleepers” author Lorenzo Carcaterra has been sequestered for two seasons of Dick Wolf’s venerable NBC series “Law & Order.” Carcaterra has signed to be a producer this season and a supervising producer in 2004-2005 for showrunner Michael Chernuchin. The deal came about after Carcaterra scripted an episode that aired last season. He’s already begun writing episodes for the new season.

Before he hit the bestseller lists with “Sleepers,” Carcaterra began as a TV writer on “Top Cop.” He’s finishing up his latest novel “Paradise City” for Ballantine. His novel “Apaches” is being scripted by Walon Green for producer Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney, and Levinson is developing “Street Boys” at Warner Bros. Carcaterra wrote the script.

SMITH’S EPISTLE: Though Kevin Smith will helm the controversy-free “Fletch Won” as his next film, the director’s epiphany with the religious comedy “Dogma” has him irked over the way Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion” is taking lumps before Gibson has even locked his edit or gotten near a release date.

“Having been down that road myself, my first piece of advice to Mel is to never make a religious picture,” Smith said. “Since we’re past that, I must say that the notion of boycotting a film in advance over a religious argument is ridiculous. We took it on the chin for ‘Dogma’ and then it came out and people realized it was reverent.

“Mel has said he’s sticking close to the Bible to make an accurate depiction of Christ’s Crucifixion, so perhaps the problem is not Mel. Maybe it’s a Bible that throws around a term like ‘Jew.’ Perhaps it is time to clean up that book. As for Mel, the best thing he can do is find a distributor like Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who will really commit to the picture.”

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