James Gandolfini, last seen in Las Vegas shooting "The Sopranos" finale in 2007, is in town to research a role as a hotel owner in a comedy about rival magicians.
The big-time cast of "Burt Wonderstone" includes Gandolfini as a billionaire casino owner, along with Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi and Olivia Wilde.
Gandolfini has met with local headlining magicians Criss Angel and Nathan Burton and has a brunch meeting today with Felix Rappaport, president of The Mirage, and longtime casino executive Kenny Epstein.
Carrell plays Wonderstone, who is dethroned by a hot new illusionist (Carrey). Wonderstone reunites with his former magic partner (Buscemi) to meet the challenge.
Wilde plays Wonderstone's assistant and love interest who later jumps to the camp of Carrey's character. Wilde is one of the rising stars in Hollywood. She was ranked No. 5 earlier this year in FHM magazine's "100 Sexiest Women in the World."
Making his debut as director will be Don Scardino, whose résumé includes helming some classic episodes of the critically acclaimed TV series "30 Rock."
Gandolfini's former "Sopranos" castmate, Steve Schirripa, set up the Las Vegas meetings. Gandolfini wanted to pick the brains, I'm told, of some local casino execs with "style and panache." In addition to the sitdown with Rappaport and Epstein, Gandolfini met with local mover-and-shaker Larry Ruvo.
Rappaport said Gandolfini wanted to prepare for the role by "getting insights in Las Vegas, specifically in the entertainment world and the world of magic."
The film is due out in 2013.
In "The Sopranos" finale, Gandolfini's Tony Soprano came to Las Vegas to mourn the death of his second cousin Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), who was whacked by Tony himself.
THE MARIE OSMOND SHOW?
Marie Osmond's recent cosmetic surgery is raising the question: Why?
It's lending credence to a rumor that's been making the rounds for months.
According to the scuttlebutt, Osmond has been waiting in the wings if Joy Behar's rankings didn't move up on Headline News (HLN).
HLN last week confirmed Behar's 2-year-old show would not be renewed and would end in mid-December.
Osmond, 52, is no stranger to television. The "Donny and Marie" show ran from 1976 to 1979 on ABC and they reunited in 1998 for a two-year run in syndication.
They have been headlining at the Flamingo since the fall of 2008. Donny and Marie's strong showings on "Dancing With the Stars" provided newfound popularity.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
Los Angeles nightclub mogul Sam Nazarian shared some plans he has for the Sahara with Bloomberg Business Week. After converting the Sahara to a luxury hotel, SLS Las Vegas, he'll fill it with his own brands -- a Katsuya restaurant, an Umami Burger, and two SBE nightclubs to be named later. He's not a fan of velvet ropes or "a guy with a clipboard, any sign of an exclusionary product. You don't want that in a hotel. As soon as you put in a velvet rope, the clock is ticking." ...
Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer, which opened Thursday at Excalibur, will host the official American Country Awards After Party on Monday, starting at 9 p.m.
In front row seats at "Michael Jackson Immortal" on Saturday at Mandalay Bay: his children Paris, Prince and Blanket. ... Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, attending Friday's session of the National Finals Rodeo. ... At Marquee (Cosmopolitan) on Friday: Chris Tucker, "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul, "Dirty Soap" stars Nadia Bjorlin and boyfriend Brandon Beemer. ... Jason Kennedy of E! News, kicking off his birthday weekend with dinner at Tao (The Venetian) and Marquee. ... Tucker, dining at Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina at Crystals (CityCenter). ... Actor Edi Gathegi of "Twilight," with friends at Sugar Factory American Brasserie (Paris) on Friday.
THE PUNCH LINE
"His school lunches are comped." -- From David Letterman's Top Ten Signs Your Kid Is Addicted To Gambling.