Wheels turning on Spheeris’ Joplin bio

Deschanel takes 'Janis' role

Janis Joplin is ready for her close-up … again.

Zooey Deschanel will replace Pink in “The Gospel According to Janis,” the Penelope Spheeris-directed drama set to start lensing Nov. 13 in Philadelphia. Spheeris wrote the script with David Dalton.

Producer Peter Newman said the script was overhauled considerably from past versions, and the turning point was co-writer Dalton. Once assigned by Rolling Stone to write a cover story that was going to compare the troubled Joplin to Judy Garland, Dalton accompanied the singer on a long tour. His adventure has become the central plot of the film, and an actor soon will be cast to play him.

Newman is producing with his “The Squid and the Whale” partner Greg Johnson, William Haney and Tim Disney.

The start date, set after Deschanel committed and the producers secured three backers to put up a $10 million budget, puts Spheeris’ Janis project into production before its Lakeshore-based rival. Though that project has been put into turnaround by Paramount, it is by no means dead. Renee Zellweger is still eager to play Joplin, per her reps, and Lakeshore is talking with other studios and plans to set “Nixon” scribes Stephen Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson to rewrite the script.

Deschanel (“Elf”) spent the past four months working with a vocal coach to hone her pipes to approximate Joplin’s gritty vocals.

Newman said Deschanel will sing all of Joplin’s tunes in “The Gospel According to Janis.”

Newman said the producers’ dilemma over the years was finding an actress who could sing or a singer who could act.

“Zooey is the first person we found who excels at both,” Newman said.

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