Offer expected shortly for '24' thesp

Exclusive: TV thesp Chris Diamantopoulos is the frontrunner to play Moe Howard in 20th Century Fox’s modern update of “The Three Stooges.”

The “24” star recently screen-tested for the coveted comic role, and though the studio hasn’t signed off on his casting, he is expected to be offered the part shortly, with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly gearing up to start shooting soon in Atlanta. Fox declined to comment Monday.

While Diamantopoulos is best known for numerous TV appearances, and in fact it was his portrayal of Robin Williams in the 2005 telepic “Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork and Mindy'” that got him on the Farrellys’ shortlist, which has also included Johnny Knoxville and Hank Azaria.

Sean Hayes and Will Sasso are set to star as Larry Fine and Curly Howard, respectively, while Sofia Vergara is in talks for a female lead, as Variety first reported (Daily Variety, April 7).

The Farrellys are producing with their Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas and Charles B. Wessler, while Earl Benjamin, the gatekeeper of the Stooges’ estate, will exec produce. “Stooges” was originally developed at MGM before it landed at Fox, where current plan calls for the Farrellys to deliver a PG-rated pic divided into three, 27-minute segments driven by physical comedy.

“The Three Stooges” is scheduled for release sometime in 2012.

Diamantopoulos was last seen playing Rob Weiss, President Taylor’s chief of staff, on the final season of Fox’s “24.” He previously starred opposite Hayes’ “Will & Grace” co-star Debra Messing on USA’s “The Starter Wife,” and recently appeared as Frank Sinatra in an episode of “The Kennedys.”

Diamantopoulos is repped by Gersh and Untitled Entertainment.

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