By Scott Brown
Updated February 07, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

TELEVISION The Deal Report adores Still Standing‘s Jami Gertz, so normally we’d be heartbroken to see her behind bars. Happily, she’s there to star in Lifetime’s Fighting the Odds, inspired by the true story of Marilyn Gambrell, a former parole officer who has devoted her life to helping the children of prisoners break the cycle of crime and punishment (filming begins in May). The story may revolve around the slammer, but Gertz, an ’80s queen who put her career on hold to start a family 16 years ago, is feeling pretty liberated these days. ”Being a movie star takes tremendous commitment, and I don’t have it. I’ll be honest with you,” says the avowed homebody, laughing. ”Not many movies are shot in L.A. But four weeks in Winnipeg, that’s doable.”

MOVIES Speaking of ninth-century Spain, that’s where Edward Zwick, director of The Last Samurai, may set his next epic, an adaptation of The Lions of Al-Rassan. But don’t call it historical. The author, Guy Gavriel Kay, helped edit The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously published history of Middle-earth. ”So this is a complete world unto itself, which draws its inspiration from that particular point in European history, with the various religions poised in the balance, but it’s an imagined universe of this author’s devising.” Hey, is Zwick implying that the events depicted in The Lord of the Rings never actually happened?… Raise a glass of pinot noir to Sideways‘ Oscar-nominated Virginia Madsen! The lovely gal just signed to costar with Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany in Warner Bros.’ action thriller The Wrong Element, in which she’ll play a security expert’s wife who is kidnapped. Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon) directs…. The DR begged Toy Story 3 screenwriter James Herzfeld (Meet the Fockers) for some plot points, but he wasn’t giving anything up — possibly because the Disney-Pixar split has made this picture (the first Buzz-‘n’-Woody film the Mouse House will produce without its former partner) a flash point. So we invited him to just make something up: ”I guess you could say WASPy Jesse meets Buzz’s Jewish parents. They’re intergalactic Jews,” he says. ”Make sure everyone understands that’s a joke.”