Plus: Sally Field tapped for Spielberg's Lincoln movie, Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary starring in HBO Films' ''Recount,'' Dominic West joins Marvel's ''Punisher,'' and more...

By Mike Bruno
September 26, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Michael Caulfield/

Eastwood may direct Mandela film
Clint Eastwood is considering the upcoming Nelson Mandela movie The Human Factor as a possible directing vehicle. Morgan Freeman has already signed on to play Mandela in the film, which is about how the 1995 Rugby World Cup helped heal post-apartheid race relations in South Africa. Set immediately after the fall of apartheid, when Mandela was released from prison and became president, the film is an adaptation of the John Carlin book The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed the World. Warner Bros. is in talks to finance the project, and Matt Damon is considering a role as the team’s captain. Freeman, who is also producing with his Revelations partner Lori McCreary, reportedly brought Eastwood to the project. The two worked together previously on the Eastwood-directed Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Freeman and McCreary traveled to South Africa last spring to get Mandela’s blessing on the project. Eastwood next directs The Changeling, which stars Angelina Jolie. (Variety)

Field tapped for Spielberg’s Lincoln
Sally Field will play Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s long-gestating movie Lincoln, based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Liam Neeson will play Abe Lincoln. Marcia Gay Harden was previously reported as being considered for the role as Mary Todd. Spielberg’s biopic is expected to focus on the 16th president’s role in leading the North in the Civil War. The director will dig into the project once he wraps Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Field just took home an Emmy for her performance in ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, and is also a two-time Oscar winner for her roles in Places in the Heart and Norma Rae. (Hollywood Reporter)

Spacey, Dern, Leary starring in HBO’s Recount
Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Ed Begley Jr., and Bob Balaban will star in HBO Films’ Recount, a drama about the 2000 presidential election and the legal and political maneuvering from the point of view of both the Bush and Gore camps. The film starts shooting next month in Florida and is scheduled to air on HBO during the home stretch of next fall’s presidential election. Spacey stars as the former chief of staff to vice president Al Gore and one of the lead attorneys who challenged the voting results in Florida. Dern will play Katherine Harris, the secretary of state of Florida who certified that George W. Bush had won the state. Begley plays the lawyer who appealed the results and argued for the Democrats in court. Leary plays a pollster on the Democrat side, and Hurt plays Warren Christopher, a key player in the Gore camp. Wilkinson will portray James Baker, brought in by the Republicans to see that the disputed results held up. Balaban plays the lead attorney for Bush and Dick Cheney. Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) is directing a script written by Danny Strong (Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). (Variety)

The Wire‘s West tapped for Marvel’s Punisher
Dominic West, who plays Jimmy McNulty on HBO’s The Wire, is in negotiations to play the Punisher’s archenemy Jigsaw, a mob assassin whose face was ripped apart and sewn back together like a jigsaw puzzle, in Lionsgate and Marvel Studios’ Punisher: War Zone, which is being directed by Lexi Alexander (Hooligans). Ray Stevenson (Rome) is already on board to portray the vigilante title character. Also joining the cast is Doug Hutchison (Kidnapped, Guiding Light), who has taken on the role of LBJ aka Looney Bin Jim, a chemically unbalanced lunatic who considers the world his own private killing field and goes on a maniacal rampage. Wayne Knight, who played Newman on Seinfeld, is in talks to play Microchip, the Punisher?s armorer and confidant. (Hollywood Reporter)

Paulson tapped for Miller’s Spirit
Sarah Paulson (Studio 60) has joined the cast of director Frank Miller’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit, a movie based on the comicbook character. Paulson will appear alongside Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson in the film noir about a rookie cop who returns from the dead to fight crime as the Spirit. Mendes and Johansson are playing femme fatales, and Paulson is playing the hero’s true love interest, Dr. Ellen Dolan, the police commissioner’s daughter. Gabriel Macht (The Good Shepherd) will play Denny Colt/the Spirit, and Samuel L. Jackson will play the villainous Octopus. Also joining the cast are Dan Lauria (ABC’s mini The Path to 9/11), who is playing the police commissioner; Stana Katic (Feast of Love), who plays a rookie cop; Johnny Simmons (Evan Almighty), who plays a young Denny Colt; and Louis Lombardi (24), who will play Phobos, a henchman for the Octopus. Production starts next month. (Hollywood Reporter)

Die Hard director sentenced to prison for lying to FBI
Director John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Hunt for the Red October) has been sentenced to four months in federal prison for lying to the FBI about hiring a private eye to illegally wiretap producer Charles Roven. Prosecutors say McTiernan lied to the FBI when said he had no knowledge of the private investigator’s activities. The FBI claims McTiernan hired and paid Anthony Pellicano to conduct an illegal wiretap of Roven in the summer of 2000. Roven and McTiernan had worked together on the movie Rollerball. Pellicano is awaiting trial on charges of masterminding an illegal wiretapping service on behalf of stars, studio executives, and others in the entertainment industry. McTiernan is the highest-profile Hollywood player to be charged thus far in connection with Pellicano. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer admonished McTiernan in court on Monday (Sept. 24) for suggesting that his crime did not justify prison time. (Variety)

TMZ, Wilkos still lead syndication show ratings
After two weeks in first-run syndication, TMZ still leads in the ratings, while The Steve Wilkos Show remains the only new syndicated show to improve on its lead-in average. TMZ drew a 1.7 household rating/3 share during its first two weeks on the air, but is down 19 percent from its lead-in average and off 23 percent from its year-ago (September 2006) time-period average. Wilkos averaged a 1.1/4 in its first two weeks, up 10 percent compared with the lead-in average and even with its year-ago time-period average. (Hollywood Reporter)

Hutton tapped for TNT pilot
Timothy Hutton will star in the TNT drama pilot Leverage as Nate Ford, an investigator for big insurance companies whose son died after the same companies for which he had been recovering million-dollar stolen goods refused to pay for the boy’s medical treatment. He teams with the world?s best thieves and experts in Internet and computer fraud, item retrieval, and other nefarious skills — the people he used to track down — and goes after the richest and greediest. Dean Devlin wrote and will direct the pilot. Hutton recently starred on NBC?s drama Kidnapped. (Hollywood Reporter)

CELEBRITY NEWS Former Family Ties child star Tina Yothers, 34, gave birth to a baby boy Monday (Sept. 24) morning. Jake Kaiser is the fourth child for Yothers and husband Robert Kaiser.

Ben Widdicombe: Lindsay Lohan is set to leave rehab this week. She has been staying at the Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah, since she was arrested for drunk driving and cocaine possession in the first weekend in August.