By Lynette Rice and Gregory Kirschling
Updated June 18, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

MOVIES Billy Bob Thornton should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for ”Bad Santa.” Maybe for ”Bad Santa 2”? ”I don’t know that they’re ever gonna do a sequel,” Thornton says, ”but I thought, Boy, I hope I get to play another irreverent character like this someday.” So he just signed to do a ”Bad News Bears” remake, written by the raunchy ”Bad Santa” guys. F — -, yes! ”Of course,” he adds, ”because this is a popular movie and it involves a lot of kids, we’re probably not going to go as far as we did with ‘Bad Santa.”’ Oof, f — -in’ kids. Soon Thornton heads to Nova Scotia to film the psychological thriller ”Fade Out.” ”I play a schizophrenic screenwriter, so I don’t have to do a lot of homework,” he quips…. Cheer up, Freddie Highmore. You’re the new Charlie, opposite Johnny Depp, in Tim Burton’s ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Talk about golden ticket, little dude. First, though, the 12-year-old Brit will be seen in the upcoming ”J.M. Barrie’s Neverland,” costarring — quelle coincidence! — Depp.

TELEVISION ”Apprentice” gossip! According to a friendly source, Mark Burnett Productions approached founder Jeff Bezos about taking over for the Donald when Trump’s contract is up. ”It’s a great idea,” says someone familiar with the talks. ”Jeff represents the future of commerce, and he’s a visionary.” Another visionary, ”Apprentice” brain Mark Burnett himself, responds to the claim thusly: ”You are so wrong that your editor should take you into his or her office and tell you you’re fired.” [Done. — Ed.]