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‘Mad Men's' Jared Harris Savored Role in Spielberg's ‘Lincoln'/Will ‘Bad Girls' Usher in New Wave of Women-in-Prison Flicks?

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Jared Harris is practically a one-man rep company of late, with his "Mad Men" character, Lane Pryce, his recent turn as Moriarty in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," and his forthcoming role — as Ulysses S. Grant — in Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

"What a great character, what an amazing character," he says of the Union Army general and 18th president of the United States. "The number of failures the man endured! When you consider that when the Civil War broke out, he was a store clerk in his father's canning business, and then, eight years later, he was president of the United States, it's fantastic. What a great 10-part series on cable that would make," Harris muses. As far as Harris is concerned, "He's been kind of maligned in terms of his military success, even his success as a president."

Of Grant's notorious drinking, Harris says, "He liked a tipple. Apparently, he couldn't handle his liquor. When there were lulls in the campaign, he would commandeer a steamboat, go up the river for a day and get absolutely legless, and then come back. But he was never drunk or under the influence while the enemy was anywhere near.

"One of the things that endeared him to his soldiers was that he lived the life they lived. They were used to seeing commanding officers with 27 wagons of personal belongings following them. Grant came with one clean shirt and slept on the ground."

Harris credits "Mad Men" — and the fact that Spielberg is a "Mad Men" watcher — for his landing in Grant's saddle. In fact, he gives the 15 Emmy-winning AMC drama (freshly returned for its fifth season) credit for the heat in his career. Having grown up in the industry, the 50-year-old son of the late Richard Harris is all too aware of its vicissitudes. "You've got to make hay while the sun shines. I remember watching Jack Lemmon accept a lifetime achievement award.

He stopped in the middle of his speech and said, 'I don't know if I'm crying because I'm so happy to receive this award, or because I haven't worked in two years.'"

LOCKED UP: With John Wells and John Dahl pooling their talents for the forthcoming American version of the British hit "Bad Girls" (about inmates in a women's prison), we can't help but wonder whether the show will usher in a new generation of series and movies about females behind bars. Such fare as "Caged Heat," "Reform School Girls" and "The Big Doll House" kept WIP movies a hot genre in decades past. However, "Bad Girls" will be up to date. We understand that one of the inmates will be a rap superstar (shades of Lil' Kim, eh?), and there is also a jewelry store clerk involved (hearkening back to one of Lindsay Lohan's exploits?). Maybe there could be a beautiful movie star who hurts her career by shoplifting designer duds from a Beverly Hills store? Or how about a domestic diva TV personality sent up the river on an insider-trading rap? Just ideas.

Jaime Pressly ("My Name is Earl") and Jurnee Smollett ("Friday Night Lights" and "The Defenders") are cast so far.

BUMPS IN THE NIGHT: You just know that when you have a movie with five teenage friends in the forest at night playing a game, something is going to go wrong. And such is the case with Michael London's "Nightlight," a feature now in preproduction. According to casting notices, the woods themselves are a character in this thriller, a magnet for youth contemplating suicide. They're casting for the human characters now: 17-year-olds, including a cheerleader, a jock and a guy who joined the cheer squad to meet girls.

The malevolent spirit is in an abandoned medical facility rather than the woods in another chiller currently in preproduction: "Orbs." A paranormal research team has been looking into the strange goings-on in this facility in L.A.'s inner city Boyle Heights area. It's about to be torn down as part of a plan to beautify the neighborhood — until the aforementioned spirit gets hold of one of the planners. Mwahaaaahaa.

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.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

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