Chris Willman
February 06, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

FAMILY MAN When you think of Bob Dylan, you don’t necessarily think of martinis and meatballs — but that could change if his latest studio recording sees the light of day. The rock bard recently cut a very traditional sounding cover of the Dean Martin oldie ”Return to Me” expressly for ”The Sopranos,” complete with accordion and verses sung in Italian. Columbia has been reticent to announce the track because series creator David Chase hasn’t yet confirmed he’ll be using Dylan’s song in the third season (beginning in March), or on the second ”Sopranos” soundtrack album, which should come out before the season is up. Maybe Bob needs to make Chase an offer he can’t refuse…like threatening to give it to Martin Scorsese’s upcoming gangland picture instead.

DUSTY MIGHT You might think of ’60s pop thrush Dusty Springfield as the anti- Madonna: notoriously shy, reclusive, and guarded?particularly about her sexuality. But Madonna’s Maverick Films will make a VH1 movie about Springfield as the first of several planned biopics that may be edgier than the network’s recent Monkees and Meat Loaf fare. ”There’s some obvious identification [for Madonna] as a woman under the microscope,” says Michael Larkin, VH1’s VP of original movies. The tone will be celebratory and will not dwell on Springfield’s drug addled wilderness years: ”Her ascent is unique; her descent, you’ve heard it a million times,” says producer Ned Kandel.

But the biggest question is how much it will touch on her lesbianism, which was well known but rarely mentioned before her 1999 death. ”It’s not going to be about a lesbian in the closet,” insists Maverick senior production exec Gary Ventimiglia. But Larkin believes ”it’s a central part of the story. We didn’t want to move forward unless we could really deal with her being a lesbian and hiding that.” The script for the $3 million production is being written by indie filmmaker Nancy Savoca (”True Love,” ”If These Walls Could Talk”), who may also direct; it’s a chance for Savoca to return to the rock realm after her much touted Janis Joplin feature got put into turnaround last year. VH1 and Maverick are also in talks to produce a film about Madonna’s pal Deborah Harry.

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