- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DALLAS

Television’s “Dallas,” one of the most pervasive series ever connected to a city and its lifestyle, is headed to the big screen with an expected all-star cast to boot, but many folks here aren’t all that happy about it.

It’s not because the movie undoubtedly will stick closely to the original story line of the Ewing clan — utilizing a cast of beautiful, rich, oversexed opportunists, who connive, cheat and often kill to keep the upper hand.

It’s about money, and that’s something the legendary villain J.R. Ewing would fully appreciate.

20th Century Fox-Regency Enterprises, which is producing the movie, is talking with film proponents in several states about shooting there, which could leave the city of Dallas a bit short-changed by its namesake. To add insult to injury, there’s also been talk of the film shooting in Canada.

Louisiana and Florida are said to have made generous offers to host much of the filming, but word that Canada is in the running causes downright anger here.

“That’s just un-Texan,” said one customer at Louie’s, a popular bar in east Dallas. “I just won’t go see it.”

Dallas Film Commission director Janis Burkland knows the city has a tough job ahead in convincing producers that filming here would be a distinct advantage to them, as well as the city.

“It’s not that they won’t shoot here at all,” she said recently. “They just might not shoot much here — and that would be horrible.”

Mrs. Burkland said the production could inject as much as $30 million into the local economy if the entire movie shoots here.

The problem facing Dallas: In a nutshell, several states have built-in financial incentives, a sort of rebate to entice the movie-makers. Texas isn’t one of them, although legislation is in the wings.

Mayor Laura Miller and Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau President Philip Jones held a press conference with Mrs. Burkland a few days ago to bring awareness to the project and develop a presentation for the producers.

The city welcomed the “Dallas” cast and crew here in the late 1970s, when the pilot was filmed. The series was partly shot here throughout most of its 13-year run.

It was a sweet deal for everyone — bringing money to the city and authenticity to the show

At first, though, some local leaders didn’t like the anything-for-power message it sent about Texans, but the dastardly J.R., played by Larry Hagman, soon became the oil man you loved to hate.

Regardless of the Ewing saga’s authenticity, that was how others, particularly foreigners, who came to be fans through syndication, viewed the city.

During the show’s heyday, Southfork Ranch, the series’ setting in the northern suburban town of Parker, became a popular tourist attraction. Although the show was put out to pasture in 1991, thousands still flock there.

For several years, the Hollywood outfit that owns the “Dallas” rights has talked about putting together an all-star cast to make an “important” movie by the same name, and, in the last week, gossip columns have been rife with speculations of big stars being courted for the cast.

John Travolta, or so it’s been reported, was offered the role of J.R. Mentioned as shoo-ins for the roles of his brother Bobby and sister-in-law Pam are Texas native Matthew McConaughey and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Other reports have the Bobby and Pam roles going to Luke Wilson and Marcia Cross, with Jessica Simpson up for the role of the youngest Ewing, Lucy.

And what about J.R.’s boozy wife, Sue Ellen? Jennifer Lopez could be the next Mrs. Ewing.

Series creator David Jacobs mentioned the possibility of a big screen version in an interview with Dallas Morning News television critic Ed Bark back in 2002.

“[Dallas] was fun, but it was never a send up,” Mr. Jacobs told Mr. Bark. “And I don’t think the movie can be a send up. It’s not going to be ‘The Godfather,’ but I don’t think it’s going to be ‘Charlie’s Angels’ either.”

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