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Jerry O’Connell Not Playing Joe Francis, Exactly

"What am I supposed to do — follow around Joe Francis for a couple of weeks? I am a married guy and a father of two. It's never gonna happen. Can you imagine me telling my family I'm going to go hang out with Joe Francis?" he asks He also stresses, "For legal reasons, I have to say that my character is loosely based on Joe Francis, but he is not Joe Francis."

O'Connell concedes, "I met him once at a party he threw, and he seemed like an OK guy, but you know, as far as my girls — you can't come in contact with these people. You just can't." He says he plans to have a computer centrally located in his home from which to monitor his and wife Rebecca Romijn's twin daughters when they get a little older. Presently, they're 2 years old.

In an interview during which O'Connell gets every bit as tongue-in-cheek as anything in the creature feature that is being unveiled Friday (8/20), he notes, "There are characters you want to see die, and characters you don't want to see die. In the case of a character who is trying to get Jessica Szohr on a boat and get her drunk to make a video that he can then distribute, that's someone you want to see die."

O'Connell made "Piranha 3D" before embarking on the pilot for his forthcoming "The Defenders" series with Jim Belushi. He recalls that Szohr caused quite a stir in the small town of Lake Havasu, Ariz., where the movie was made. The "Gossip Girl" star had her then- (and perhaps again) boyfriend and cast mate, Ed Westwick, with her, and "even I almost cried when I met Chuck Bass," O'Connell says, referring to Westwick's character. "I have to say, rolling into Chili's with Chuck Bass, Elisabeth Shue and I felt like we were there more for security than anything else."

Besides Shue and Szohr, Richard Dreyfuss is in the cast of the bloody fright flick O'Connell makes clear is not for kids. "To see him coming on set, paying homage to this character he played 32, 33 years ago in 'Jaws' — man, he was so game for it — I knew it would be fun when I saw him there laughing and having fun."

MAGIC MAKERS: Selena Gomez just got her driver's license last week, joining "Wizards of Waverly Place" cast mates David Henrie and Jennifer Stone as legal behind the wheel of a car. Her TV younger brother, Jake T. Austin, meanwhile, has applied for his learner's permit — and has undergone a dramatic growth spurt since last season.

That's the word from "Wizards" creator-producer Todd J. Greenwald, who is back into production of the popular Disney Channel series — for what will be its fourth and final season.

"It's definitely bittersweet," admits Greenwald. He says he's set up the number-being-served sign on the show's deli set so that "it's counting down the episodes we have left to shoot. When we get down to zero, it's going to be pretty emotional."

On the sweet side, both the series and its 2009 telepic spinoff are up for Emmy honors. Last year, "Wizards of Waverly Place" was named Outstanding Children's Program. The awards will be a family affair for Greenwald, whose mom is coming from New York to be on hand — and whose real-life son and daughter, Jordan and Julia, served as the models for Henrie's and Gomez's characters on the show.

As "Wizards" fans are well aware, the series is moving toward a day of reckoning when one of the three siblings will become a full-fledged wizard and the other two will go on to lives as mere mortals.

"Alex is going to have a wave of not wanting to be a wizard and then really wanting to be a wizard. Max is definitely getting a little wiser, beginning to look like someone who could win. And Justin, who has graduated from high school, is becoming more prominent in the wizarding world," he notes of Gomez's, Austin's and Henrie's characters, respectively. "With their maturity, anyone could win (the) competition. What I'm really looking forward is doing that episode. It's where we'll go for broke. We're getting so many ideas, from classic games shows to shows like 'Survivor,' to high-tech productions like 'Avatar.'"

As for the already greenlit next "Wizards" TV movie, he says, "I think it's a great idea to explore what the family is like after one of the kids becomes a wizard — what happens after the big event."

COMPETING INTERESTS: Even though Adrianne Palicki and Eloise Mumford are playing two women unwittingly attached to the same man — James Wolk's character's fiancee and wife in Fox's forthcoming "Lone Star" — the actresses like each other. "In fact, she's become one of my dearest friends, doing the show," says Palicki of Mumford. "I'm so happy that we're both in Dallas for shooting." Palicki will be in Dallas when the Emmys are handed out later this month, but she says she'll be cheering on her former "Friday Night Lights" cast mates Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton from afar.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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