· Robert Downey Jr.! Is! Iron Man! The actor will play Tony Stark, billionaire playboy industrialist and inventor of a metallurgical super-suit that he uses to escape capture in the Middle East and, you know, save the world. ''First of all, [Robert] is a great actor,'' says director Jon Favreau (Zathura, Elf), helming the first film from newly independent Marvel Entertainment. ''Second of all, he's got a certain unpredictability that will make the experience of going to see Iron Man a little bit unexpected. I think with him on the screen, there's going to be surprises. The goal in casting Robert was to make it just as exciting when you're watching Tony Stark as it is when you're watching Iron Man.'' And we can now settle that Seinfeld-ian burning question: ''No, he's not naked under the suit.''
· Speaking of suits, in Rendition, Jake Gyllenhaal will play a CIA analyst stationed in the Middle East who witnesses an interrogation by a foreign government that goes too far. Reese Witherspoon is on board to play the pregnant wife of the interrogated man (who isn't a U.S. citizen), in the next movie from Gavin Hood, director of the Oscar-winning Tsotsi. Explains producer Steve Golin (Babel): ''It's like Munich, about breaking the cycle of revenge and retribution where do you stop? What do we stand for? Can we just do anything and rationalize that we're protecting our people? Or are there certain principles that we won't violate irrespective of what happens?''
· In talks to join the cast of Paramount's adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles: Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Martin Short, and Joan Plowright. Parker would play the mother of twin boys (both played by Finding Neverland's Freddie Highmore) and their sister (Sarah Bolger, In America) as they discover a magical world of fairies and such. Nolte and Short would voice two of the stories' fantastical creatures, and Plowright will play the aunt who can see them all. Director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) is currently in production in Montreal. (Hollywood Reporter, 10/4)
· Hugh Jackman will star and produce The Tourist, a thriller that dives deep into the New York City sex-club demimonde. Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams will costar in the film, about an accountant who meets a promiscuous lawyer who's everything the accountant isn't and wants to be. Initially in turnaround at Fox, Jackman and his producing partner John Palermo got the studio to let his production company Seed Productions finance the project independently. (Variety, 10/3)
· Continuing his string of films about music from the South, director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, next year's Black Snake Moan) has teamed up again with actor Terrence Howard for a biopic about country singer Charley Pride, a Negro League baseball player who became the first African-American country-music star in the 1960s but was largely ignored by the civil rights movement. Howard who scored an Oscar nod for his performance in Hustle & Flow will sing and play the guitar in the film, which Brewer will direct for Paramount once he's completed another country music-themed film, Maggie Lynn, for the studio. (Variety, 10/3)
· James Marsters has played a platinum-haired vampire (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) and a mechanical genius from the planet Krypton (Smallville), so it should be cinch for him to slip into...a touching romantic drama? Marsters just joined Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler in the cast of PS, I Love You, about a widow (Swank) whose late husband (Butler) leaves her a series of missions to help her through her grief. But not before the husband's grieving best friend (Marsters) goes through a tortured series or trials to win back his sou…no? Just a regular, human, ensouled best friend? Where's the challenge in that?! (Hollywood Reporter, 9/28)
· Lovers of Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken can rejoice: Its creators, Seth Green (look! another Buffy alum!) and Matthew Senreich, have inked a two-picture deal with genre-soaked mini-studio Dimension Films through their production company, Stoopid Monkey Productions. First up: A stop-motion pic à la Robot Chicken about Christmas called Naughty or Nice, with Senreich writing and co-directing with Green, who will provide one of the voices. (Hollywood Reporter, 9/29)
· Uh-oh. Guess who just joined the cast of CBS' Criminal Minds? Show killer Paget Brewster! The actress (late of Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Huff) will join Mandy Patinkin's crack squad of FBI profilers on the highly rated show. Shame, really. It was doing so well. (Hollywood Reporter, 9/29)
· Ready for your quarterly check-in on David Spade's career? Comedy Central renewed his snarkfest The Showbiz Show With David Spade for a third season, and he has joined the cast of Rules of Engagement, a mid-season comedy from CBS also starring Patrick Warburton. You may now go back to your regularly scheduled lives. (Hollywood Reporter, 9/28)