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Snipes in talks with HBO; scripter Salerno hot

Wesley Snipes is looking to become the next movie star to turn his talents to an HBO film. Snipes is in negotiations to star in “Disappearing Acts,” an adaptation of the Terry McMillan novel about a female musician who becomes involved with a soon-to-be-divorced construction worker.

Snipes expects to play the male lead in the tale, and will produced with Amen Ra partner Kimiko Jackson. Snipes has been interested in the book since he met the author while playing a supporting role in Fox’s hit adaptation of McMillan’s “Waiting to Exhale.” The book was optioned by HBO NYC, and Snipes expects to act in the film next April. The script is by Lisa Jones.

The project was put together by HBO Original Movies president Colin Callender and HBO NYC veep Keri Putnam. Snipes, who’s repped by William Morris, will next star in the Christian Duguay-directed drama “The Art of War.”

FROM SHAFT TO MANN: Shane Salerno has just completed an untitled contempo drama he scripted for director Michael Mann at Disney, which takes its place among several other possibles that the “Heat” helmer might do next. That comes on the heels of the scripts Salerno wrote for “Shaft,” which goes into production at Paramount with Samuel L. Jackson starring and John Singleton directing, and “Night Train,” the Sonny Liston biopic which stars Ving Rhames and will be directed by William Friedkin for Paramount in November.

Salerno has only one screen credit — shared position in last year’s “Armageddon.” His current run is due mostly to his Liston script, which numerous studios ducked the way opponents did the fighter while Liston was considered unbeatable. “When I wanted to do that project three years ago, nobody would talk to me, nobody would work with me,” said Salerno, who added that the situation changed when Rhames vowed to play the brawler in the pic.

Salerno commuted each day from San Diego to L.A. to apprentice during the early run of “NYPD Blue.” He sold a script for a TV series called “Color Lines,” and got a three-year deal to write on that show and develop others.

He chucked that after a season to work on features, and his future changed when Walter Parkes and Steven Spielberg helped him adapt a book, “Thunder Below,” about a WWII sub commander. “I basically went to writing school under Walter and Steven; they taught me how to write movies,” said Salerno. DreamWorks is still developing that project, and Salerno went on to write for producer Dino De Laurentiis “A Season in Hell,” about a serial arsonist, and a script at Touchstone Pictures, “Zodiac,” the story of the San Francisco-based serial killer.

His calling card has been “Night Train,” the Liston pic about an ex-con who fought a losing battle to be accepted as a champion. Liston died of a heroin overdose, but the script says that he was murdered by a mobster. Rhames has lost 30 pounds training in a ring with Sugar Ray Leonard, has trainers with him on the “Mission: Impossible II” set as he readies for the film, which Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner are producing. Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champ who’s a throwback to Liston in that he could never escape his mean street origins, is expected to appear in the film as himself if he’s out of jail by then. Salerno’s repped by CAA and attorney Robert Offer.

SOCCER TO SCREEN: Vinnie Jones, the British soccer tough guy who became an actor in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” has just been cast in a showy role in the Nicolas Cage-starrer “Gone in 60 Seconds,” which Jerry Bruckheimer is producing for Disney. Jones is one of Europe’s biggest athletes, and sold a ton of videos highlighting what some would call dirty play. Jones will follow by starring in the next film by “Lock” director Guy Ritchie. He’s repped by ICM’s Nick Styne, Steve Chasman and Duncan Heath.

LIFE IN FAST LANE: After playing the oversized prison cook in “Life,” Anthony Anderson is learning quickly what it’s like to be in demand. Anderson has been in talks to play the supporting role of one of Jim Carrey’s three black sons in “Me, Myself and Irene.” When producer Joel Silver saw “Life,” suddenly Anderson was being courted to play the main bodyguard Delroy Lindo who gets repeatedly beaten up by Jet Li in “Romeo Must Die,” the actioner that Silver’s putting together at Warner Bros. Perhaps the prospect of playing Carrey’s son was just too great, because Anderson took the Fox film, which will be directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Silver rearranged scheduling on “Romeo” so that the 280-pound, 28-year old Anderson can play the bodyguard as well. Anderson, who’ll also be seen in Barry Levinson’s “Liberty Heights,” is agented by Craig Wycoff of Epstein Wycoff and managed by Paul Young and E. Brian Dobbins of Polestar Managment.

FILM INDUSTRY HELPS: While there’s widespread frustration over the Kosovo refugees forced from their homes, Gotham-based film producer Caroline Baron hatched an idea to help that is gaining steam in the Gotham film biz. Aside from food and shelter, Baron heard that one of the biggest problems in the refugee camps is the widespread boredom of thousands of displaced children. Baron formed FilmAid, and with the help of people like Tribeca partners Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, Julia Ormond, Susan Sarandon, and Jeff Silver of Outlaw Prods., has begun mobilizing a fundraising effort to secure projectors, screens, TVs, VCRs and other supplies to show movies, cartoons and educational programs. Miramax was the first studio to step up with a $25,000 donation, and Baron is hoping that others follow suit with money. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which runs the camps, is standing by to distribute the equipment when it’s secured — hopefully within the next two weeks.

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