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The latest on the casting for ''Dirty Dancing 2''

EW Online says who should get the leads if Ricky Martin and Natalie Portman don’t sign

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Ricky Martin

Miramax Films and Artisan Entertainment are teaming to produce ”Dirty Dancing 2,” the sequel to 1987’s $64 million box office smash about class-climbing summer love in the Catskills. Studio chiefs Harvey Weinstein and Amir Malin announced at the Cannes Film Festival that this time around the vacation spot is Miami’s trendy South Beach, and the dancing style will be sexy Latin moves. But who will fill Johnny (Patrick Swayze) and Baby’s (Jennifer Grey) sashaying shoes?

An Artisan rep tells EW Online that although the script hasn’t been written, Natalie Portman and Ricky Martin are in talks for the leads. But just in case the ”Star Wars” Queen and the Salsa King end up saying no, we consulted VP of Talent at Warner Bros. Lora Kennedy, who cast 1998’s samba-filled ”Dance With Me,” for help in making these alternate choices.

DIRTY DANCERS Aaliyah and Taye Diggs
FOR A musical-theater vet, Diggs can dance (he helped Stella get her groove, remember?). And Aaliyah ”can really move,” says Kennedy, who cast the R&B singer in ”Romeo Must Die.”
AGAINST Aaliyah, 21, probably needs a couple more roles before she can carry a movie. Diggs, 28, could be too beautiful to pass for ”the wrong side of the tracks.”
GRADE B

DIRTY DANCERS Neve Campbell and Antonio Banderas
FOR The 39 year old Spanish heartthrob strutted his stuff in ”Evita,” and Campbell, 26, has extensive ballet training. ”She has those all-American looks that are a great contrast to a Latin leading man,” Kennedy says.
AGAINST Forty-year-old dance instructors are more pathetic than sexy.
GRADE B+

DIRTY DANCERS Keri Russell and Marc Anthony
FOR Russell, 24, does sweet and chaste like a pro (”Felicity”); Anthony, 30, can act (”Bringing Out the Dead”) and is a natural born salsa dancer. ”His charisma could make it work,” Kennedy says.
AGAINST Small-screen vet Russell has yet to prove herself at the multiplex. And Anthony’s former-Miss Universe wife may disagree, but let’s face it, Anthony is no hunk à la Patrick Swayze.
GRADE B

DIRTY DANCERS Britney Spears and Mark Wahlberg
FOR The teen sensation WAS a Mouseketeer, and Wahlberg, 28, WAS ”funky” as Marky Mark (not to mention his ’70s moves in ”Boogie Nights”). Plus, they could always team for a remake of ”I’ve Had the Time of My Life.”
AGAINST Spears, 18, is on a year-long tour, and, well, can she really act? Do YOU want to hear a Spears-Wahlberg duet?
GRADE B-

DIRTY DANCERS Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Lopez
FOR If the screenwriters let the woman be the dance teacher this time around, there’s no better choice than the 29-year-old former Fly Girl. Prinze, 24, showed he can shimmy in ”She’s All That.”
AGAINST Kennedy thinks it’s harder to teach untrained guys choreography. ”He’s sexy, but he probably doesn’t have years of experience.” Well, Baby didn’t know how to dance at first, either.
GRADE A

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