Casting news: John Cusack finds focus in physics

Plus: Kurt comes to Sharon's rescue - for $5m; Daniel Day-Lewis takes to the high seas; Rachel Griffiths ready for Disney heartwarmer; Britney gets all wholesome in her big screen debut

John Cusack has signed on to produce and star in Cosmic Banditos, a wild, Pynchon-esque tale of marijuana smugglers adrift in the jungles of Columbia based on the novel by AC Weisbecker. According to screenwriter Jimmy Fishman (who wrote the film in tandem with Abbe Wool) the film is about a group of rogues: "Whose chaotic and random lives are suddenly given meaning by the laws of physics." Cusack has been interested in physics ever since filming the A-bomb drama Fat Man and Little Boy back in 1989. "Those first atomic physicists were real cowboys," he explains. "Like mystics, only they dealt with numbers instead of language." The script for Cosmic Banditos, he say, "Is just really original. It deals with quantum mechanics in a gonzo, gung-ho sort of way."

• Just days after it appeared as though the Basic Instinct sequel was set to founder without a male lead, Kurt Russell appears to have ridden to the rescue. According to American gossip columnist Liz Smith, MGM has offered Russell a cheque for $5m (£3.36m) to star opposite Sharon Stone in the follow-up to Joe Eszterhas's hugely profitable 1992 psycho-thriller.

• Although still toiling away on Martin Scorsese's The Gangs of New York, Daniel Day-Lewis may have his next job already mapped out. The British actor is reported to have beaten out several major Hollywood names to take the lead in the Moby Dick-style saga In the Heart of the Sea.

Rachel Griffiths - star of Hilary and Jackie and Me, Myself, I - is in talks to play the wife of Dennis Quaid in Disney's feel-good sports drama The Rookie. The story of a high-school baseball coach who becomes a star in the major leagues is based on the true-life tale of pitcher Jim Morris, who signed to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the ripe old age of 35.

• And finally, it had to happen. Perky songstress Britney Spears is poised to make her movie debut in a tailor-made role in a coming-of-age outing directed by Tamra (Billy Madison) Davis. The film will focus on three childhood buddies - a level-headed student (played by Britney), a ditzy cheerleader and a troubled rebel - who are reunited when they travel cross-country to a singing contest in California. Presently entitled "The Untitled Britney Spears Project" (snappy - let's hope they keep it), the film is budgeted at around $10m (£6.72m) and goes before the cameras in March.

The GuardianTramp

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