Billy Bob Thornton teams with the Coen brothers |


Billy Bob Thornton teams with the Coen brothers

Plus, Keanu Reeves, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Tobey Maguire, the Ruff Ryders/Cash Money tour, and more

Billy Bob Thornton

NOIR STAR Thornton will undoubtedly scare up some business for the Coen brothers' next film (Jim Cooper/AP)

CASTING Billy Bob Thornton will join Frances McDormand and her ”Fargo” writer/directors, the Coen brothers, in an untitled noir project about a barber having an affair with a suspicious woman who may or may not have killed her boyfriend…. Keanu Reeves will star as a slacker who learns the obligatory life lessons after coaching an inner-city Little League team in ”Hardball.” Reeves as a slacker? Who will buy it?… In a remake of ”The Sweet Smell of Success,” John Cusack may take the role of a desperate publicist, played in the original by Tony Curtis…. Tobey Maguire is considering playing a WWII POW who must defend a black soldier in his camp from murder charges in ”Hart’s War”…. Meanwhile, his fellow ”Cider House Rules” prince of Maine, Kieran Culkin, will be one of the Catholic school students plotting against a super-strict nun (Jodie Foster) in ”The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.” Orphans make good!

LAWSUIT JR. Mama Kathie Lee isn’t just teaching her son Cody Gifford how to be a ham, she’s also teaching him how to sue, sue, sue! Lawyers for the litigious tot filed a multimillion-dollar libel lawsuit against the National Examiner tabloid for printing an article that claimed that he was a ”monster” on the set of his TV movie, ”Model Behavior,” and that he was seen throwing multiple temper tantrums in stores and restaurants. ”The entire family thought it was pretty shocking they would go after a 10-year-old boy,” Gifford’s lawyer, Barry Langberg, told E! Online. ”Young children are far more emotionally vulnerable, and libels that target them are particularly reprehensible.” All this talk of ”young children” is begging for a sweatshop quip, but the last thing we need is lawyers on our butts.

CANCELED The show must go on… unless the show had six stabbings backstage. The Ruff Ryders/Cash Money tour canceled concerts Thursday night in Tampa and Friday night in Miami, although neither the supporting record label, Interscope, nor the tour manager would comment on whether these nixed gigs had anything to do with Monday night’s violence in Boston, according to MTV News. There are eight upcoming concerts still slated to go on, so we’ll have to wait to see if the tour takes a stab at them. Viva assault humor!

BACKING HER UP Dr. Laura Schlessinger has received a rare show of support. The association of National Religious Broadcasters (which has more than 1,250 Christian members) has released a statement saying that she has been unjustly criticized for her anti-homosexual views, and that her new talk show should not be axed because of them. ”The logic these protesters are using clearly doesn’t make sense,” the group wrote. ”To say Paramount should silence Dr. Laura for her lack of ‘tolerance’ is on its face intolerant. Such twisted logic should be rejected as laughable and the issue put to rest.” The NRB just loves Dr. Laura, having given her a chairman’s award earlier this year for her morality and respect for the Ten Commandments.

RECOVERING Burt Bacharach broke his left shoulder on Wednesday after missing a step during a rehearsal, and now he’s had to cancel this weekend’s concerts in Milwaukee. What the world needs now is bed rest, sweet bed rest.