More than two years ago, Erik wrote a post titled "Joe Pesci Returns!" and we were all excited. Of course, that return -- Pesci's first film role since 1998's Lethal Weapon 4 -- was just a tease. Fortunately, for those of us who couldn't get enough of him with that bit part in The Good Shepherd, the Oscar-winning actor is finally back for a starring role. And it isn't even a bad comedy a la Gone Fishin' or 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. It's a new film from Taylor Hackford, whose last film, the biopic Ray, earned the director two Academy Award nominations. This one, titled Love Ranch, will also star Hackford's wife, Helen Mirren, who he last worked with on 1985's White Nights. The drama is about Joe and Sally Conforte, a couple who opened Nevada's first (and eventually largest) legal brothel, Mustang Ranch. Scripted by Mark Jacobson (The Believer), the movie will deal with the couple's problems with infidelity. Maybe we'll get to hear Pesci yell the line "You f***** my wife!" at whoever plays boxer Oscar Bonavena, who was shot dead by Mustang Ranch bodyguard Ross Brymer in 1976, allegedly because he was sleeping with Sally.

Hackford begins shooting Love Ranch in Albuquerque in late January and hopes to have the film ready for the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. He told Variety that he is mostly excited to direct his wife again, and that he had to beg her to make time for this. I bet she finally saw him fit to direct her after getting those Oscar noms (even though he has a statue for a 1979 short film he directed). Hackford also mentioned that Pesci was his first choice for Joe and seems fortunate to have convinced the actor, who apparently isn't too interested in doing movies much anymore. Certainly Pesci is a perfect choice to play this seedy "godfather of legalized prostitution," as Hackford calls him. Now, can Hackford please try to get DeNiro in for a cameo?