By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated March 19, 2004 10:00 AM

Kevin Smith, the director behind Ben Affleck’s upcoming “Jersey Girl,” spills the beans in the new issue of Playboy magazine that he once entertained an offer to direct Michael Jackson in a movie about a man who turns into a car that gets ridden around by a boy.

“Jackson was behind it, and he wanted it to be this story about a guy, played by himself, who hangs out with a little boy, and this little boy gets into the car and drives him around,” Smith said of the proposed film called — no lie, says Smith — “Hot Rod.”

Smith, 33, tells the publication that it was the “weirdest” script he ever was asked to direct, adding, “In retrospect, I’d love to make that movie. But it wouldn’t be anything like the version Jackson or the studio wanted to see.”

In 1993, just as Jackson starting making headlines for being accused of child molestation (he settled that case out of court with a boy’s family, reportedly for millions), the singer was trying to set up a movie production of “Peter Pan,” to star himself as the boy who never grows up and to be directed by movie musical veteran Stanley Donen (“Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face”).

But once the scandal erupted, the project disappeared somewhere into Neverland, say those who were attached to the movie.

Currently, Jackson, 45, stands accused in Santa Barbara County, Calif., of seven counts of performing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, reportedly wine. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains free on $3 million bail pending trial.