In the new movie, Simpson wears her Daisy Dukes with pride. The popular blonde singer, and Gracie Allenesque wife of boy band vocalist Nick Lachey, is working on shifting her career priorities from reality television to movies. The Dukes Of Hazzard is her debut film. Lachey’s not in it, but Simpson told members of the media that he was a visitor on the set in Louisiana for a large portion of the shooting schedule. Along with her co-stars Johnny Knoxville (as cousin Luke Duke) and Seann William Scott (as cousin Bo Duke), she’s in a sweltering New York City at the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue discussing the movie to gathered journalists. The famed orange Dodge Charger automobile, the General Lee, that was as much a character in the film as it was on the TV show is parked outside the Drake on E. 56th Street, a popular draw for tourists and even jaded Manhattan passersby. Of course, this is a souped-up 21st-century version of the muscle car that seemed to fly through the air more than it stayed on the road in rural Hazzard County.

Simpson comes across as open and eager. She is clearly excited by this turn in her career, and she isn’t entering the golden movie door blindly. She has a role model. I asked her whose career she was excited by. Her answer was quick and firm: “Dolly Parton. I admire her as a woman, as an entertainer, and as a personality,” she said.

The movie is pretty much a souped-up version of the series and doesn’t stray too far from the standard teleplay storylines. Bo and Luke are good-lookin,’ fun-lovin’ good ol’ boys, and Daisy’s their sexy cousin. Their uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) still makes moonshine, which the boys deliver around the countryside in the General Lee. Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) is the crooked county commissioner, and assorted familiar names pop up such as Cooter, Roscoe, and Enos. Rounding out the cast is Joe Don Baker as the state’s Governor and Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter, as the good-natured Pauline, the object of Uncle Jesse’s affection. The plot turns on a plan by Boss Hogg to strip mine most of the acreage of Hazzard County and turn it into a toxic nightmare, although making himself a wealthy man in the process.

The movie has a real retro feel to it. Its sensibilities are rooted in the original show, and it has a playful respect for the more colorful and quotable aspects of southern manners and mores Director Jay Chandrasekhar said that he had always wanted to “make a movie that had a Seventies feel to it, with lots of car tires screeching and a jaundiced take on law enforcement.” He noted that he was “a big fan of Smokey And The Bandit and had a poster of Daisy Duke on his wall when I was a kid.”

For Seann William Scott, acting, as he put it, is a way of living out his fantasies. Noted for zany, over-the-top characters in such films as Road Trip, Evolution, the American Pie movies, and Dude, Where’s My Car?, the lanky and gym-toned Minnesota native is anything but a wild and crazy guy. Famed for living a disciplined and quiet life, he rarely makes the bar and party scene. Scott said that he “moved out to L.A. to act. I really don’t have time to waste. I’m a private guy. I’d rather stay home and watch movies. I also like to try and work out. I grew up as an athlete. It’s kind of good therapy.”

On the other hand, Knoxville, Scott’s male co-star, is relishing every moment of the fame he garnered from the ground-breaking MTV series Jackass and from Jackass: The Movie, both of which featured outrageous and often painful stunts participated in by a group of guys that seemed to have watched Popeye cartoons and Three Stooges movies in the womb. Knoxville’s take on his character and that of Scott’s is clear. “Luke and Bo are basically good guys. They’re reckless as hell and they can be mean as snakes, but in a good way. After all, family is vital to them. And you don’t want to go against the family. They are respectful of women and enjoy the chance to deck somebody who isn’t, especially if the rudeness revolves around cousin Daisy. The only real trouble they get into, and it’s in the context of the life of Hazzard County, is if they get caught selling moonshine or outrunning the law.” “Family” was also key for producer Bill Gerber. He believes that at “the heart of The Dukes Of Hazzard is family and protecting them because family is what you love. Bo and Duke are endearing characters, and they’re a little bit like Robin Hood.”

Director Chandrasekhar couldn’t have found two actors better-suited to their roles. On screen, Scott is always a funny bundle of energy and Knoxville is an ex-stunt man who’s a good comedic actor. They are the perfect combination of being a little bit crazy and a little bit country. Southern charm blended with Southern rebellion. “Johnny and I had a great time making the movie,” says Scott, and I think it comes across on the screen. He’s crazy and likes to have a good time, so I knew we’d definitely get along. I don’t think I would have done it without him.”

For Knoxville, the feeling is mutual. “I love Seann. He’s a complete nutter, but in the best possible way. He’s brilliant and funny as all hell to work with. That’s why it was a terrific movie to shoot and I think that’ll come across to the audience.”

For movie newcomer Simpson, being surrounded by experience was a blessing. “My first day on the set was the hardest to get through, “she says.” But she stresses that with the director and producer aiding her behind the scenes and Knoxville and Scott helping her in front of the camera, things went well and she slowly warmed to the fascinating world of filmmaking with its 4 a.m. wake-up calls, long periods of down-time, and hugely collaborative process.

But one thing she couldn’t do with anyone else was fit into the Daisy Dukes. What was the first thing she did after she was told she got the part? “I went straight to the gym. I had to look good in a bikini. I watched the episodes; they were reruns because I’m young. I always looked up to Daisy, and I always thought she was an amazing, strong, smart woman. I thought this would be a dream role for me. I thought what a great transition from my career now and starting an acting career. I want people to know that I’m a strong woman. I went after this role as far as I could, and I got it.

As for those famous cut-off denims? The secret to parading around in them according to Simpson was to “walk confidently.” She is, after all, a woman who, as she puts it, “ doesn’t even walk around in her bathing suit at the beach. It was definitely acting for me. Drop the coat. Be in a bikini. Try to get my cousins out of trouble by using my body. That was acting.” There’s no denying that Daisy’s purpose on screen is to provide the sex appeal, although for plenty of female audience members Seann William Scott and Knoxville will also fill the bill. But as Simpson puts it, Daisy “definitely knows how to make a man melt.” There’s no question that a lot of attention is going to be paid to what Jessica Simpson is wearing, or perhaps better put – what she isn’t wearing in The Dukes Of Hazzard, the big screen interpretation of the popular television series that ran from 1979 through 1985.

The TV show, about a group of wise-crackin’ Georgia layabouts who spend most of their time spinnin’ goofy yarns and comically runnin’ from the law spawned the now famous short pants worn by the main female character Daisy Duke (played by Catherine Bach). The denim cut-offs, snipped ever so close to Bach’s magic time, became an iconographic fashion staple known as “Daisy Dukes.”