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MOVIES
When it comes to attracting Oscar-caliber actors, Brett Ratner isn’t quite in Spielberg’s league, but you gotta give the director props. He just snagged another Academy Award-nominated thesp for his X-Men 3 cast: House of Sand and Fog‘s Shohreh Aghdashloo. ”I’m playing Dr. Cecilia Reyes, and she has this power to create a six-inch force field around herself and ward off any attack,” explains the unlikely sci-fi fan, who’ll join returning mutants Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and Ian McKellen for an October start date. Oooh, what else? ”To tell the truth, I don’t know because I have not read the script yet! Brett is still working on it.”…

Billy Bob Thornton will play an ex-NASA astronaut who tries to hand-build a rocket in the Polish brothers’ The Astronaut Farmer….

Don’t be fooled by the title: Thandie Newton’s next film, Pursuit of Happyness, is about ”fear, damage, and pain,” says the Crash costar, who plays Will Smith’s estranged wife in the rags-to-riches tale. ”The film is not a bundle of laughs, but it’s an extraordinary story about how people can be so defiant in the face of a completely negative situation that society throws at them.” Prepare to get out your hankies!

TV
The Majority Report radio cohost Janeane Garofalo will also wax liberal on TV this fall with a multi-episode guest stint on The West Wing. ”I’m brought on by Bradley Whitford’s character to help him advise the Matt Santos [played by Jimmy Smits] presidential campaign,” says the actress, who nixes the idea of any extra-political hanky-panky (”Oh, no, no, no, no. I’m an asexual campaign adviser”). Also on her slate: a supporting role in Southland Tales, director Richard Kelly’s long-delayed follow-up to 2001’s Donnie Darko. ”I play General Tina McArthur, and the movie is, in Dr. Strangelove-ian fashion, a comment on the military- industrial newstainment complex.” Come again? ”To try and explain to you, it would be like me trying to explain Donnie Darko. I don’t know how.”…

Guiding Light alum Cynthia Watros is joining the cast of Lost as Libby, reportedly a therapist who may or may not have been aboard Flight 815 when it crashed.

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