BEACHED ''The Beach'' doesn't seem to be winning over any more fans in Thailand. In addition to the environmental protests over the film, the government was considering blocking the film's release (set for today) because of its negative portrayal of Thailand and Buddhism. A spokesman for the country's Parliamentary House Committee on Religion, Arts and Culture said they were angry about an opening heretical scene with a Buddha statue put on a footpath near an entertainment zone, according to Reuters, and the general attitude shown in the film that there's plentiful sex and drugs to be found in the country. We wonder if this is just a polite excuse to get around saying that the movie stank. After all, it's bad taste in ANY country to dis Leo.
CASTING After ''Sleepy Hollow,'' Johnny Depp has become the go-to man for old tyme slasher picks: He may star in the Jack the Ripper tale ''From Hell,'' directed by the Hughes brothers (''Dead Presidents'').... Two offers are on the table for Brad Pitt to star in literary adaptations. The first is for a role in ''Beach Music,'' based on Pat Conroy's novel about a widower sued for custody of his kids by his in-laws after his wife commits suicide. The second, less morose option is to headline the Robert Ludlum thriller ''The Bourne Identity,'' about a man who wakes up with amnesia after being shot. Then again, maybe he'll hold out to play Harry Potter.... Ving Rhames will play a drag queen helping out the daughter of a drug addict in the Showtime movie ''Holiday Heart.'' It's produced by Robert De Niro, who seems to have a thing for husky queens, judging from this and ''Flawless''.... Josh Hartnett (''The Faculty'') will join Ben Affleck in ''Pearl Harbor''.... Marg Helgenberger (''China Beach'') will star in the pilot for the CBS drama ''CSI,'' playing a single mom who's a detective and an ex-stripper. Was someone playing Pilot Season Mad Libs?
HONORED Ricky Martin will receive a ''Lasting Image'' award at the 15th annual Imagen Awards, handed out to prominent Hispanics in the media. Martin's honor goes to the most high-profile celebrity who is a positive role model, according to MTV News. But one question: Did the term ''Lasting Image'' come from the same people who recently gave the Spice Girls a Lifetime Achievement Award? Hope springs eternal in the awards game.
THEY'LL BE BACK NBC has renewed ''Third Watch,'' ''West Wing,'' and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' for next year, making ''Freaks and Geeks'' its only first-year drama still on the air (''Cold Feet'' vanished quickly this fall) not to get a pickup yet. But ''Geeks'' fans are planning to stop at nothing to support their favorite show, pledging, ''We shall roll forward with all the power of a 20-sided die!''
REUNITED Wipe away those gangsta tears: Three original members of N.W.A. are going to perform live for the first time in more than 10 years, according to MTV News. The trio -- Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren -- will join up for the March 27 airing of ''Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com'' on USA.
IN THE PADDY WAGON Chrissie Hynde was arrested in a New York City Gap window Thursday with three other PETA members for protesting the chain's leather jackets, which Hynde and Co. claim are made from sacred cows in India. (Hynde ripped one of the display jackets during the protest.) The singer claims that the Gap uses leather from India, where the slaughtering is inhumane because of the cows' holier-than-thou status; the Gap claims that even though the jackets say ''Made in India'' on them, the leather was not gotten from that country, but Hynde wasn't buying it. ''It seems highly unlikely that the Gap would buy its leather from America, where the slaughterhouse practices are considered humane and legal, and send the leather to India, stitch up the jacket and send it back to America,'' she told Reuters. But if it is true, perhaps your local Gap will start issuing frequent flyer miles with each leather jacket purchase.
RECRUITING ABC is looking to team Al Michaels with ex-Jets coach Bill Parcells and the 49ers Steve Young in the ''Monday Night Football'' booth next season, now that the network has let Boomer Esiason go, according to the Hollywood Reporter.