''Idol''-atrous NBC series hunts for new action stars. ''Matrix'' producer Joel Silver will offer the winning man and woman in this reality contest a part in a made-for-TV action movie

Sure, Kelly Clarkson can sing, but can she kick ass like Sigourney Weaver or Zhang Ziyi? Can Justin Guarini crack skulls like Vin Diesel or Jet Li? Action-film producer Joel Silver (the ”Matrix” and ”Lethal Weapon” series) is looking for future stars who can make a different kind of hit, via a new 10-episode reality contest on NBC called ”The Next Action Star.” The two winners in the series, one man and one woman, will be cast in Silver’s made-for-TV action movie, ”Hit Me,” to air on NBC in summer 2003, Variety reports.

As on ”American Idol,” the search for an action superstar with what the show’s producers call ”that indefinable ‘it’ factor” will begin with nationwide open tryouts and narrow the competitors down to a few finalists. Those 12 people will go to Hollywood and receive training in acting and combat, as well as in how to act like an action star off-screen (riding in limos, dressing fashionably, maybe even learning how to shop for a Humvee). Contestants will move forward or be eliminated each week based on their performance in action stunt sequences. ”When you write the handbook for reality TV, this show has all the elements,” NBC reality VP Jeff Gaspin told Variety. ”It has the vote-off, the contestant search, the close living quarters.”

The show may also include an ”Idol”-type viewer-voting component. No word on whether it will also feature industry-insider judges. Maybe they can get Dolph Lundgren for the Paula Abdul job.