CAST: Julia Roberts has her next role set, and it’s a leggy one – though she needn’t worry about her shape. The new mom will voice the title role of the spider in the live-action/computer-animated version of E.B. White’s classic 1952 children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, says the Hollywood Reporter. The other voices are no slouches, either: Oprah Winfrey and Cedric the Entertainer (as geese), John Cleese (Samuel the sheep), Steve Buscemi (Rat Templeton), Reba McEntire and Kathy Bates (cows Betsy and Bitsy), and Thomas Haden Church and OutKast’s Andre 3000 (slow-witted crows). Dakota Fanning will play Fern, the little farm girl, when filming starts in Australia this month.
SET: Everybody Loves Raymond will end its nine-year run on May 16 not with an hour-long finale but with a typical 30-minute episode. “We didn’t want to milk the story into an hour,” series star Ray Romano told TV writers. “There’s been enough of that,” added Phil Rosenthal, the show’s executive producer. Not that Raymond will leave without fanfare. Before the episode airs, the network will run a 60-minute retrospective. In other CBS updates, network chief Leslie Moonves said that when Evening News anchor Dan Rather retires in May, he could be replaced with a multi-anchor, perhaps multi-city format. He did not drop potential names.
BORN: Grammy-winning singer Lou Rawls, 71, and his wife and personal manager Nina, 34, welcomed son Aiden Allen, 6 lbs. 14 oz., on Jan. 10 in Akron, Ohio, publicist Paul Shefrin told the Associated Press. The child is Rawls’s fourth but the first for the couple, who were married Jan. 1, 2004.
ENGAGED: Mets star catcher Mike Piazza and his longtime girlfriend, former Playboy Playmate and Baywatch babe Alicia Rickter, will marry in Florida later this month, claim New York’s two tabloids, the Post and the Daily News. Reps for the ballplayer refused comment. Both papers say the wedding, reputedly slated for Jan. 30, should end rumors about the possibility of Piazza’s being a “switch hitter.” In a famous 2002 press conference, he stated for the record, “I’m heterosexual and date women.”
TESTIFIED: Coroner’s criminalist Steven Dowell, an expert witness at Robert Blake’s murder trial, said on Tuesday he could not be sure whether possible gunshot residue on the actor’s hands and clothes came from firing a gun the night wife Bonny Lee Bakley was shot to death, reports the Associated Press. Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels suggested in her questioning that Blake, 71, purposely ran his hands through his hair, held glasses of water, rubbed his hands on grass at the scene and engaged in other activities that could have removed the particles before police conducted tests.
REUNITED: Speed stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves are set to reunite for the first time in 11 years for Il Mare, a remake of the Korean feature Siworae, about a lonely doctor (Bullock) who exchanges love letters with a frustrated architect (Reeves) and then discovers they are separated in time by two years. Shooting starts in March in Chicago, says the Hollywood Reporter.
WAGERED: According to bookies in London, Van Helsing star Hugh Jackman has emerged as the 2:1 favorite to replace Pierce Brosnan as the next James Bond. Former fave, Clive Owen, had his odds reduced by Ladbrokes and William Hills after winning the Golden Globe for Closer. Owen is now in third place, behind Star Wars star Ewan McGregor.