Van Der Beek, McDermott Saddle Up For 'Rangers'

By Michael Fleming

NEW YORK (Variety) - James Van Der Beek (''Dawson's Creek'') and Dylan McDermott (''The Practice'') are saddling up to star in ``Texas Rangers,'' a long-delayed project that was expected to be the last film directed by Sam Peckinpah.

The drama is about how a ragtag group of youngsters banded together after the Civil War to form the Texas Rangers, a group charged with the dangerous and ruthless duty of cleaning up the West.

The Dimension Films project has a lot of history in its own right. It was originally set up at Columbia, but stalled when Peckinpah died in 1984. It moved to upstart studio Savoy Pictures, which eventually collapsed, and ended up at Dimension.

The film's resurrection has a lot to do with Van Der Beek, who plays the title character in the WB's hit teen show ''Dawson's Creek.'' He made his feature starring debut earlier this year in ``Varsity Blues'' for which he was paid a paltry $200,000. The low-budget teen drama has earned a remarkable $52 million domestically.

In recognition of that bankability, Van Der Beek will be paid a low-seven-figure salary for ``Texas Rangers,'' a project he chose after turning down numerous teen-themed dramas and comedies for his hiatus slot. Steve Miner will direct ``Texas Rangers'' from a script by John Milius.