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TV stars stay busy on hiatus by shooting movies

EW brings you a roundup of small-screen actors and their summer projects

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Jennifer Love Hewitt
Lisa Rose/Globe

It’s tough being a tv star: Those relaxing four-month summer vacations can really get you down. As ”Just Shoot Me”’s David Spade says, ”I can only shop at the Gap for so many days in a row before it loses its luster.” Which is why your average small-screen actor tries to spend the hiatus shooting big-screen projects. EW presents its annual look at actors’ summer vocations.

* WHEN FOX STARS GO BAD Topher Grace, the wholesome hippie dude on ”That ’70s Show,” says he’ll use his downtime to become ”a hardcore weekend drug abuser.” He means, of course, in ”Traffic,” a drug-war drama starring fiancés Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. ”I’m scared because there’s a scene where I’m pretty flippant to Michael Douglas. That guy could beat me with his Oscar.” Meanwhile, ”Malcolm in the Middle”’s Frankie Muniz appears in ”Deuces Wild,” a violent gangland saga set in ’50s-era Brooklyn and exec-produced by Martin Scorsese. And there’s more! ”Time of Your Life” star Jennifer Love Hewitt partners with Sigourney Weaver in ”Breakers,” a con-artist comedy (think a mom-and-daughter ”Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”). ”She’s funny and sexy,” says producer John Davis, before clarifying: ”Not cute sexy, she’s SEXY sexy.”

* THOSE NAUGHTY DAVID E. KELLEY GIRLS Calista Flockhart, the sex-obsessed Ally McBeal herself, will star in New York’s stage production of ”The Vagina Monologues,” the paean to women’s private parts. Also joining the revolving cast (each does a two-week stint) are ”The Practice” vets Lisa Gay Hamilton and Holland Taylor. One ”Monologues” producer swears the overabundance of Kelley stars is a coincidence. Speaking of sex, ”The Practice”’s Lara Flynn Boyle plays a manipulative marriage therapist in the dark comic film ”Speaking of Sex.”

* THE WB’S CRIMSON TIDE Two of the netlet’s stars are heading to Harvard — at least on screen. ”Dawson’s Creek”’s Michelle Williams appears in ”Prozac Nation” — based on the 1994 memoir by sad sack Harvard grad Elizabeth Wurtzel — as the best friend to star Christina Ricci. ”The movie takes place in ’85, so I was 5,” says Williams, whose only memories of the era are ”big scrunchies and neon.” Meanwhile, ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”’s Sarah Michelle Gellar shoots ”Harvard Man,” directed by James Toback (”Black and White”). ”Her boyfriend is the point guard on the Harvard basketball team,” says Toback. ”She’s mischievous and criminally inclined. It’ll be interesting to see how [Gellar’s] devoted fans follow her out to something new.”

* FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES Some of the newly filthy rich Friends are getting movie paychecks as well. Jennifer Aniston joins a long-maned Mark Wahlberg in ”Metal God,” a tale of the headbanger music scene. Aniston reportedly kisses a woman in the film (no comment from her publicist). Courteney Cox Arquette and husband David are wrapping ”3000 Miles to Graceland,” a comedy about a Vegas casino heist amid an Elvis convention. Meanwhile, Matt LeBlanc will spend part of his hiatus doing reshoots for a small part in the oft-rewritten ”Charlie’s Angels” (details are as top secret as Charlie’s identity). Says his publicist: ”Drew [Barrymore] is a friend and she asked him to do this.”

* TWERPY NBC STARS The above-mentioned Spade will film ”The Adventures of Joe Dirt,” the story of a man searching for his parents who abandoned him in the Grand Canyon. Just how different is it from ”Just Shoot Me”? ”Joe Dirt is a dirty little white-trash dirtball from the South,” Spade says. ”And Finch is a finchy little finch fry from the East.” Fellow small fry David Hyde Pierce stars in the sleep-away camp comedy ”Wet Hot American Summer,” playing, in director David Wain’s words, ”a shlubby small-town college professor.”

* AND JUST BECAUSE WE LIKE HIM… ”The Sopranos”’ goodfella James Gandolfini will appear in the action comedy ”The Mexican” alongside Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Gandolfini plays (imagine this!) a hitman — but one with a heart. Says producer Lawrence Bender: ”He’s a very sensitive guy who’s had relationship problems and who helps [Roberts’ character] figure out what her issues are.”