By Stephen M. Silverman
March 05, 2004 10:15 AM

OSCAR UPDATE: After Sunday night’s Academy Awards, the winners are already back at work. According to various reports, “Mystic River” Best Actor Sean Penn, 43, will star with Naomi Watts in the drama “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” and then costar with Nicole Kidman in the thriller “The Interpreter.” “Monster” Actress winner Charlize Theron, 28, will costar in HBO’s biopic “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” playing the comic’s wife, Britt Eklund. “Mystic River” Supporting Actor Tim Robbins, 45, will do a sci-fi romance with Samantha Morton, “Code 46,” while Renee Zellweger (“Cold Mountain”), 34, is preparing to play tragic rocker Janis Joplin in a big-screen biopic, after she starts shooting “Cinderella Man,” a boxing drama with Russell Crowe. That begins next month.

ABOVE ‘AVERAGE’: Beauty picked beauty — not the nerd – on Monday night’s finale of NBC’s “Average Joe: Hawaii.” Former Miss Missouri Larissa Meek went for buff blonde beach boy Gil Hyatt over Brian Worth, who on a good day (and after he had his hair re-styled) almost looked like David Schwimmer. In making her pick, Larissa said she was acting on her “intuition,” and Gil told her to go with it. The pair are still a couple — even after she revealed that she once dated “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” pitchman Fabio.

MORE ‘RAYMOND’: CBS president Leslie Moonves told reporters that, despite earlier reports, he’s “very guardedly optimistic” that his network’s most popular sitcom, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” will be back next season. “We’re talking, which is good,” Moonves said. But just in case, he’s discussed a spinoff, purportedly featuring Robert, the put-upon policeman brother on the show, played by Emmy winner Brad Garrett.

ROY WALKING: Five months after a bloody onstage incident with a 300-lb. tiger that had him fighting for his life, Siegfried & Roy illusionist Roy Horn, 59, was able to take 558 paces with the help of a wheeled walking aid, said a spokeswoman for the duo. She added that Horn, 59, has “strong willpower” and is training intensively, while MGM Mirage officials have said that Horn has a long recovery ahead of him.

WALES WATCH: Catherine Zeta-Jones and her parents, who are building a $1.85 million home in a fishing village in the star’s native Wales, appear to be losing an effort to force one of their neighbors to stop managing his business from his garage, reported the Associated Press. On Tuesday, the Swansea Council planning committee voted to permit neighbor Steve Gwynn to continue his telecommunications business in his home for the next two years.