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The Deal Report: August 19, 2005

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MOVIES Q: What’s the opposite of a superhero? A: A network exec. We assume that’s the reasoning behind the change-of-pace role taken by Ioan Gruffudd (about whom we’ll try to stop saying ”It’s pronounced ‘Yo-an Grif-fith”’). The Fantastic Four star has just been cast in The TV Set, a satire about the making of a television pilot, with David Duchovny starring as a beleaguered show runner. ”I play Richard McAllister, who is a high-level network executive — basically [costar] Sigourney Weaver’s right-hand man,” says the ex-superhero. ”He’s been brought in especially from the U.K. because he’s a TV wunderkind.”. . .

Francis Ford Coppola is On the Road once again. The longtime owner of big-screen rights to Jack Kerouac’s semiautobiographical 1957 novel has set the Motorcycle Diaries team of director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera to adapt it. No word yet on casting. . . .

Vin Diesel’s upcoming flick The Retriever is neither a Pacifier sequel nor a talking-dog movie. It’s about nuke-mad Russian terrorists. . . .Who’s got a date with the Antichrist in next summer’s Omen 666? The unlucky twosome will be recent Tony winner Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles.

TV Battle of the Network Popes! ABC and CBS are beginning production on rival John Paul II biopics, set to unspool next year. Thomas Kretschmann and Ian Holm will play the title roles. Round 1, however, goes to neither: The winner is the underdog Hallmark Channel, which will air the four-hour Italian drama A Man Who Became Pope Aug. 15.