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Ramping up the Oscar-season stakes following the exploitation of Abigail Breslin's dimples in 2006 and Diablo Cody's clothes-allergic antics in 2007, Fox Searchlight appears to have gone the way of using low-cost (read: free) young acting hopefuls in its early push on behalf of the Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious. Today's New York Times suggests that Brooklyn rapper and brave ass-shooting survivor Jamal Woolard was essentially already cast as the slain hip-hop star when Searchlight welcomed more than 100 would-be Biggies to its time-wasting, dream-devouring publicity stunt open casting call last fall:

Not part of the open call in New York in October, Mr. Woolard had been under consideration since November, and was quietly being groomed by the film's director, George Tillman Jr., before being officially selected.

"We set up a boot camp for three months just for him," Mr. Tillman said from New York, where he is preparing to begin production with Robert Teitel, his partner in State Street Pictures.

With the sizable share of lip-syncing planned for Notorious, Tillman didn't even necessarily require a seasoned rapper to fill Biggie's shoes. More glaringly, Searchlight's marketing and publicity overlords, who could sell snow to Eskimos (alas, there aren't enough Eskimos in the Academy to secure a Best Picture win), have clearly outdone themselves by positioning Notorious as both the early favorite for Juno-esque quasi-underdog glory and cheaply trivializing a share of the audience whose appeal it will primarily court. "We want the movie to be an anthem for a generation," studio boss Peter Rice told NYT reporter Michael Cieply. Terrific, Pete, but keep it short — at least 100 members of that generation already want their three or four hours back.