Here's what we know about the upcoming, just-now-going-into-production fifth season of ''The Sopranos,'' besides the fact that James Gandolfini is getting a big raise. First, Steve Buscemi, who's made a career out of playing weasels and low-level hoods, is in negotiations to join the cast for a recurring role, and he'll also direct some episodes. Second, HBO is signing Oscar-nominated actor Robert Loggia to play a Jersey mob boss and rival to Tony.
''Fargo'' actor Buscemi's no stranger to ''The Sopranos,'' having earned an Emmy nomination for directing the third season's classic ''Pine Barrens'' episode, where Paulie and Christopher got lost in a frozen forest. (Does Buscemi's return mean we'll finally learn what happened to the escaped Russian fugitive from that episode?). Loggia, who earned an Oscar nod for ''Jagged Edge,'' has played his share of wiseguys, but he's probably best known as Tom Hanks' giant-piano duet partner in ''Big.''
Other unconfirmed rumors swirling around the show, as collected by E! Online: 1) Newly separated Carmela will have a new love interest, played by a ''big name'' guest star. 2) Adriana (Drea de Matteo), Christopher's fiancée, who got flipped last season and became a reluctant FBI informer, will be the first to get whacked. ''There'll be a lot of blood this year, that's all you can count on,'' Tony Sirico (Paulie) told the New York Post this week. ''It's a gangster show, anyone could get rubbed out.'' Including Sirico's own increasingly hotheaded character. We'll have to wait until the season starts next January, however, to find out.