Diamond goes ‘Big’ time; Carey eyes Line

FROM B’WAY HIT TO ‘BIG HIT’: Lou Diamond Phillips, who is abdicating his Tony-nominated role as King of Siam in “The King and I,” has agreed to take a starring role as a hitman in “The Big Hit,” the TriStar actioner for which Lela Rochon and Mark Wahlberg are negotiating, to be directed by Kirk Wong (“Crime Story”). Wesley Snipes’ Amen-Ra produces with Terence Chang, John Woo and Chris Godsick. Snipes might make a cameo in the film. Phillips, whose last screen stint was as a trigger-happy serviceman in “Courage Under Fire,” leaves the Broadway show on Sunday after his 500th performance. Phillips is repped by Rigberg/Roberts Management and Innovative Artists.

OUT OF THE WOODS, SHORTLY: Months after exiting Miramax, where he produced such films as “Cop Land” and “Scream,” Cary Woods is getting close to setting up his Independent Pictures, with indie financing and a distributor. Dish hears he’s deciding between two biz plans. The first, and most likely, is that he’ll have secured about $100 million in private financing, and will align with Fine Line, which has the inside track of several companies looking at the deal.

As part of that deal, New Line would distribute larger Woods fare, though sources at the company said this is premature. Fine Line is already releasing “Gummo,” produced by Woods and marking the directing debut of Harmony Korine, who scripted “Kids” for Woods at Miramax.

In the alternate plan, Woods will form a distribution company to rival Fine Line, October and Miramax, distributing his own Independent fare as well as acquisitions. Stay tuned.

DAVE’S NOT HERE: In what’s being called a contemporized Cheech & Chong, Universal has given a greenlight to “Half Baked,” which will topline comic Dave Chappelle from a script he wrote with Neal Brennan. Robert Simonds, who specializes in comedies with moderate budgets and high concepts, will produce. His credits include “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore.”

It was set up as a pitch, which limned three unambitious guys who struggle to raise bail for a friend in jail. They’ve just finished the script, and the studio’s set a July 9 start date and hope to make a star out of Chappelle, who’s in the current “Con Air” and is best known as the standup comic who battled Eddie Murphy in “The Nutty Professor.” Chappelle is repped by UTA’s Martin Lesak and Sharon Sheinwold; Brennan by UTA’s Marty Bowen.

FROM ‘FIRED’ TO BOSS: Sharon Lawrence has gone from underused in “NYPD Blue” to overworked as the star of “Fired Up.” She returns to the series in July, and is now producing and starring in “Five Desperate Hours,” an NBC telepic based on a “20/20” segment about a kidnapped shrink who convinces her captor (Giancarlo Esposito) to let her go and turn himself in. She also just co-starred with Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard in “The Only Thrill.” Lawrence is repped by ICM’s Joel Shire and Hyler Management.

SOMETHING TO CROWE ABOUT: Post-Cannes, there has been a convergence of offers to Russell Crowe, after his new film, “L.A. Confidential,” bowed on the Croisette. He’s got offers for five lead roles, including the Sean Mathias-directed “Quadrille,” Castle Rock’s “Ground Zero,” Lumiere’s “Without Apparent Motive” and the Michael Apted-directed “Fortune’s Fools” at Fox 2000. He’s repped by ICM’s George Freeman.

DISHINGS: MGM held a reading Monday of “Julip,” a Kevin Falls-scripted project that the studio hopes Jon Amiel will decide to direct. It’s about a young woman who goes to Florida to get three former lovers whom her brother tried to kill to agree to put the brother in a mental hospital instead of a prison. Reese Witherspoon, Oliver Platt, John Ritter and Alfred Molina did the reading … Matthew Chapman (“Consenting Adults”) has been hired to adapt Donald Westlake’s “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” which United Artists and Turman-Morrissey bought last week.

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