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`Dallas' movie stalled and minus John Travolta

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BY PHILIP POTEMPA ppotempa@nwitimes.com 219.852.4327 | Sunday, April 13, 2008 | No comments posted.

DATELINE - - Dallas - -Philip Potempa is reporting from Texas while on assignment.

Wells running dry

It's impossible to spend time here in Dallas (Motto: "Live Large. Think Big.") and not think of the hit night-time soap opera that helped put Texas' third largest city in the television series hall of fame.

"Dallas," which starred Larry Hagman as the ruthless snake-eyed J.R. Ewing, was a Friday night ratings amazement from 1978 to 1991.

And the finale "cliff-hanger" for the 1979-80 season had everyone guessing and asking the same question: "Who shot J.R.?"

If you're old enough to remember the buzz, audiences had to wait an entire summer to find out the answer.

When the fall episode finally premiered, a record 80 percent of every TV in the country turned on that night was tuned to CBS and "Dallas." It turned out that J.R.'s wife Sue Ellen's sister Kristin had done the deed.

In the works right now is a much-anticipated, big-screen version of "Dallas" and its faced awful challenges since the project was announced in 2002.

In 2005, along with "Daily Variety," I reported here that big names were in the running to be cast as the Ewing clan. John Travolta signed on and was confirmed as J.R. Ewing and either Catherine Zeta-Jones or Jennifer Lopez were to play long-suffering wife Sue Ellen. Then Tommy Lee Jones also was said to have expressed interest in being shot as J.R.

For good-guy brother Bobby Ewing, People magazine's "sexiest man of the year" Matthew McConaughey was the first choice with Drew Barrymore as Pamela Barnes Ewing and Jane Fonda's name was tossed around as a possible Miss Ellie.

Better yet, how about Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen as Lucy Ewing?

Well, scrap all of those names because that was back when the director for the 20th Century Fox film was Robert Luketic.

Now, the entire project has changed.

The director is now Gurinder Chadha, and I'm told not only has the budget been scaled back from $65 million, the latest idea is to rewrite the film as a comedy spoof with -- get this -- Ben Stiller as J.R..

Stay tuned ...

Texas welcome

Forever Resorts is celebrating the 23th anniversary of Southfork Ranch opening its gates to tourists and private entertaining.

According to publicist Melanie Frenkel, the 340-acre property is more popular than ever, even 17 years after "Dallas," which featured the estate, went off the air.

The interior rooms of the "Ewing" mansion are decorated to reflect each "Dallas" character's personality. An exhibit features the gun that shot J.R. (aka Larry Hagman) and Lucy Ewing's wedding dress (worn by actress Charlene Tilton). The Plano ranch hosts more than 1,400 private events and welcomes more than 400,000 visitors annually. For more info, visit www.foreverresorts.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or 219.852.4327.

celebBirthdays

Actor Lyle Waggoner ("The Carol Burnett Show") is 73. Actor Edward Fox is 71. Actor Paul Sorvino is 69. Musician Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane is 64. Actor Tony Dow ("Leave It To Beaver") is 63. Musician Al Green is 62. Actor Ron Perlman and actor William Sadler ("Wonderfalls," "Roswell") are 58. Singer Peabo Bryson and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" bandleader Max Weinberg are 57. Keyboardist Jimmy Destri of Blondie is 54. Singer-bassist Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson is 53. Actress Saundra Santiago ("Miami Vice") is 51. Guitarist Joey Mazzola of Sponge is 47. Actress Page Hannah (TV's "Fame") and actress-comedian Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "The Biggest Loser") are 44. Bassist Lisa Umbarger (The Toadies) is 43. Actor Ricky Schroder is 38. Singer Lou Bega is 33. Singer Nellie McKay is 26. Jet Travolta (daughter

of John and actress Kelly Preston) is 16.

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