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NICOLAS CAGE Most of his dramatic, post-Leaving Las Vegas roles have made us yawn in 60 seconds, and the box office results, for the most part, have been equally lackluster (for every Con Air, there’s an 8mm or Bringing Out the Dead). A return to the more likable — and respectable — oddball roles of his past (Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona) would be welcome. Good thing one of his next projects is Adaptation, directed by oddball-meister Spike Jonze.

DARREN STAR His two heavily hyped series The $treet and Grosse Pointe got $acked in the ratings last season, and despite a development deal with ATG (see ”Falling,” p. 72), Sex and the City’s creator has landed nothing on the 2001-2002 schedule. There’s hope courtesy of the big screen: Star picked up the rights to photographer Deborah Copaken Kogan’s memoir Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War. Then again, his last film foray resulted in the 1991 Richard Grieco ”comedy” If Looks Could Kill.

ARTISAN The Blair Witch studio has had some bad scares of its own: A long-promised IPO never surfaced; they’ve only released a handful of pictures this year, with the $5.3 million Vince Vaughn art-house comedy Made their highest grosser. A recent merger with Landscape Entertainment provides them with a solid in-house production team, and keeps them out of the ”Falling” column — for now.

JUDE LAW The British thesp’s acting chops have never been in doubt, but neither Enemy at the Gates nor the disappointing A.I. solidified the A-list stature his 1999 Oscar nod for The Talented Mr. Ripley predicted. Tom Hanks to the rescue: Law costars with America’s favorite son in the upcoming The Road to Perdition. If that doesn’t make him a bona fide Yankee star, nothing will.

DIXIE CHICKS In July the country trio countersued Sony Music Entertainment to nullify their contract, claiming they were owed more than $4 million worth of royalties. Sony claims the group still owes them five more albums. The protracted court battle means that, other than their recent ”Star Spangled Banner” Web download, there’ll be no new songs from these birds for quite some time.

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