H'w'd has mixed history for thesps as tuners become pix

The Broadway stars of “The Producers” and “Rent” will repeat their roles on film, so the original cast of “Hairspray” may be wondering if they’re in line for New Line’s pic version.

New Line says it won’t make any casting decisions until it gets a script, which is being worked on by original book writers Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, along with directors Jack O’Brien and Jerry Mitchell, composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The first draft is expected in early ’05.

The “Hairspray” actors will be fine either way: They’ll star or else they’ll be in excellent company.

After all, having your iconic perf snatched away is tradition, as Zero Mostel might say — or as he didn’t get to say — in the “Fiddler on the Roof” film, which went to Topol.

Julie Andrews lost “My Fair Lady” to the more famous Audrey Hepburn, but then snatched “The Sound of Music” from the 51-year-old Mary Martin, who also lost “South Pacific” to Mitzi Gaynor. Ethel Merman lost “Gypsy” to Rosalind Russell and Carol Channing said goodbye to “Hello, Dolly!” when Barbara Streisand, 20 years her junior, hopped aboard.

More recently, Madonna replaced Patti LuPone in “Evita,” and Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum subbed for Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in what Joel Schumacher says is a younger, sexier “Phantom of the Opera” adaptation (see review, page 37).

Frequently, the Broadway star is considered, essentially, not ready for her closeup: too old, too unknown, too brassy, too untelegenic or some combination thereof, to carry a costly pic.

In fact, while Daphne Rubin-Vega, Broadway’s original Tony-nommed Mimi in “Rent,” won’t be in Revolution’s film version — Mimi is a wild child, and Rubin-Vega, who declined comment, is 35 — the real shocker is that the rest of the thirtysomething principals were asked back.

But while Taye Diggs and Jesse L. Martin are TV stars, has anyone West of the Hudson heard of Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Idina Menzel?

Lucky for them, traditions can be broken.

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