Director Chris Columbus is refusing to give JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE special treatment in the forthcoming auditions for the big screen version of musical RENT - the pop star will have to prove he can act.

Columbus, who helmed the first two Harry Potter films, is currently writing the screenplay for the movie adaptation of Jonathan Larson's hit Broadway show about a group of artists, drag queens and rockers living in New York's East Village in 1989.

Pennsylvania-born Columbus is adamant all his stars will be able to sing and act - unlike movie beauty Natalie Wood, whose vocals were dubbed in WEST SIDE STORY.

Columbus says, "The days of a Natalie Wood are past.

"If Moulin Rouge! and Chicago taught us anything, it's you need actors who can sing. They also need to be able to act."

'N Sync heart-throb Timberlake has always been vocal about his desire to play nerdy filmmaker MARK and has just finished his big screen debut in the Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman movie EDISON.

Columbus explains, "Justin's dying to do it, but I'm making everybody take screen tests."

As well as penning the script and directing the film, Columbus is also producing Rent alongside Spike Lee and Robert De Niro.

27/05/2004 02:23