Britney Spears, Justin Theroux, and a new Kevin Hills project made news this week

+ Britney Spears is attempting yet another comeback. Reps have confirmed that she is at work on the follow-up to 2007’s Blackout. A statement from Jive Records says that ”Britney Spears is spending her summer in the recording studio…working with a team of top-notch producers and songwriters. We’re very excited about what she’s accomplished so far.” So is Sean Garrett, who happens to be one of those producers. ”We’re trying to take her stuff to the next level,” he tells EW. ”I’m going to come up with something crazy for her.” Spears has sold 83 million albums worldwide, but Blackout was her worst performing original album, likely due to declining CD sales and her status as last year’s most permanent tabloid fixture. But Garrett — who’s also worked with Usher, Beyoncé and Chris Brown — welcomes the challenge. ”I like to work on an artist when they count them out…and bring them back.”
+ It’s been four long years since Eminem released his last solo album, but associates say the music megastar is getting serious about his long-anticipated return. ”Em is excited,” says rapper Bishop Lamont, a fellow protége of Dr. Dre. ”He’s been quiet too long, and he’s got a lot to get off his chest.” While no release date has been announced for Eminem’s next album, his label says he’s currently at work in the studio. Eminem was reportedly devastated by the 2006 death of his close friend Proof in a shooting, but Lamont says he’s heard ”some amazing stuff” from the 35-year-old provocateur’s recent recording sessions. ”He went through what he had to go through, and now he’s been able to take all the pain and stress and put it out in the music.” — Shirley Halperin and Simon Vozick-Levinson

+ Hollywood is finally noticing Justin Theroux for something other than his soulful eyes and killer cheekbones. Sources tell EW that the celebrated character actor (Mulholland Drive, Six Feet Under) has just landed the sweetest writing gig in town: He’s taking on the script for Iron Man 2. Marvel Studios won’t confirm the deal, but Theroux has generated a lot of interest after early screenings of Tropic Thunder, the Robert Downey Jr. comedy (out Aug. 13) that he co-wrote with Etan Cohen and Ben Stiller. Theroux made his directorial debut with last year’s Billy CrudupMandy Moore dramedy Dedication, and will now get first crack at writing the sequel to this summer’s highest-grossing film so far. — Nicole Sperling

+ Anyone know if Ellen Barkin‘s got a younger sister she hasn’t told us about? Fox is about to start the search for a strong and sexy tomboy (Jenna Elfman? House‘s Olivia Wilde?) to play a man trapped in a woman’s body for a midseason drama from Journeyman creator Kevin Falls. The project sounds like a remake of the 1991 movie Switch (starring Barkin), but it’s actually based on a telenovela from Argentina that, if ordered to series, could help Fox recapture those pre-American Idol days when young women actually tuned in to its dramas. ”This won’t be a one-joke show like ‘Wow, heels are hard to walk in’ or ‘Dude, where’s my penis?”’ explains Falls. ”The show is about a new strain of chauvinist. Not unlike certain viruses, he is harder to detect and more dangerous. It’s going to be one of the hardest roles I’ve ever cast.” — Lynette Rice