Plus, ''Mulholland Drive'' tries for a cinematic release, and more

By Lynette Rice
Updated June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

CELEBRITY MULTITASKING Tim Matheson will be holding two public offices this fall: In addition to being vice president on ”The West Wing,” he’ll be town sheriff on the new CBS drama ”Wolf Lake” (think ”Files” meets ”An American Werewolf in London”). ”The people on ‘Wolf Lake’ were kind enough to allow me to continue to serve the Bartlet administration and keep up that Machiavellian intrigue,” he says. That is, whenever he’s allowed to keep up said intrigue. ”There were so many times in the past two seasons when they’d call me and alert me that I’d be working in the next episode, only to be recalled the next day to hear ‘Oh, Aaron [Sorkin] changed his mind.”’ (In fact, Matheson was set to appear in the season finale before Sorkin did an about-face.) Matheson takes it in stride. ”I’m ready to serve my country and my president.” And you can add God to that list as well: He’ll play Pontius Pilate next season in the ABC movie ”Judas and Jesus.”

‘DRIVE’ BUY? Good news for David Lynch fans: His ill-fated ABC pilot ”Mulholland Drive” is inching ever closer to a theater near you! Developed for the 1999?2000 TV season, the $8 million thriller underwent an additional $7 million worth of changes before resurfacing last month at the Cannes Film Festival, where Lynch earned a prize for best director. Now four studios — but not Disney, which dropped its claim to ”Drive” after funding the pilot for sister net ABC — are fighting for U.S. distribution rights. ”Ultimately we got a giant payoff,” says the film’s ingenue star Naomi Watts, who’s still disappointed by ABC’s lack of faith in the project. ”It would have been fun to carry on with David Lynch over years and years and continue with those characters.” Actually, it may take years to untangle ”Drive”’s convoluted plot, which follows a wannabe actress trying to help an amnesia-stricken brunet find her true identity. Critics have been pleased by the film but perplexed by its disorienting ending (one distributor projected grosses of only $5 to 10 million). Yet producer Neal Edelstein remains bullish: ”There are so many mysterious elements that are left beautifully unsolved, but it still has that beautiful David Lynch closure.”

AND SO ON… Don’t accuse ”Felicity” cocreator J.J. Abrams of slacking on his new ABC spy drama, ”Alias.” Not only did he write, produce, and direct the pilot, he also penned the show’s theme music and designed the opening title sequence using his Titanium PowerBook. Says Abrams: ”It blows my mind how much you can do now with a handful of programs and a laptop computer.” –Dan Snierson, with additional reporting by Jeff Jensen and Steve Daly