"Anybody who had an o or a at the end of their name was up for these roles," says Esposito (''Spin City''), who had the part of a cheated-on wife until scheduling snafus bumped her to another role and Sorvino put on the ring. Leo DiCaprio even considered playing a Mohawked punk-rocker targeted as a suspect. But the part went to Brody, who'll get more screen time here than he did in ''The Thin Red Line.'' For Berkowitz, Lee had envisioned Badalucco, mild-mannered Jimmy on ABC's ''The Practice.'' Why? ''There's a resemblance,'' Lee says. The actor's calming way with litigants might come in handy: The family of one of Berkowitz's victims has already protested.
Meanwhile, Lee is angry over a Los Angeles Times story detailing raunchy passages in a rough cut of ''Sam,'' including a grope session at defunct Manhattan swingers' club Plato's Retreat. ''That article was a serious breach of trust,'' Lee fumes. The MPAA reportedly rejected this early cut for an R rating, which Lee is contractually obligated to secure. All he'll say is ''We're still editing and mixing.''