And now we know: "Ally McBeal" (the series, if not the character) will not end up with Billy Thomas.
The network has confirmed that Bellows' Billy Thomas character is to leave the Cage/Fish firm in the spring. But hope lives -- at least when Fox notes that Bellows/Billy will be back on a recurring basis next TV year. No details on how many episodes that gig will entail or under what circumstances the Billy character will be written off.
According to gossip maven Liz Smith, Bellows wants to (what else?) pursue other/different opportunities -- like, um, the movies. The 32-year-old actor recently completed work on the big-screen romantic-drama "Beautiful Joe," with Sharon Stone. To date, his most prominent feature role was in the 1995 wanna-be Woody Allen comedy, "Miami Rhapsody" with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Bellows is a founding cast member of "Ally," which premiered in September 1997. The Liz Smith item notes that the actor originally only signed a one-year contract with the series -- a rarity in an industry where seven-year pacts are the norm. Next fall, "Ally" will begin its fourth season.
In series lore, Billy is the great love of Ally's life -- an entanglement that began in childhood when they, er, sniffed each other. Writing off Billy shouldn't be a big stretch -- the guy wigged out this season, bleaching his hair blond, donning an earring and splitting with wife Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith).
The Bellows exit marks the first major defection for the series, ranked No. 29 for the season to date.
"HIGH" TIMES: In-demand Ashley Judd, whose star power was cemented when her name packed in the fannies for the dud that was "Eye of the Beholder," is zeroing in on a "Jagged Edge"-style courtroom drama for one of her next projects, Daily Variety says.
"High Crimes" tells the story of a Harvard Law School professor who defends her husband, accused of mass murder, in a military court. Judd would play the professor. The film is slated to begin production in the fall -- a start date that would give the actress time to finish the romantic comedy "Animal Husbandry."
GOING TO GRACELAND? With (presumably) no more "Scream" movies to cut into her summer vacations, "Friends" star Courteney Cox Arquette is in final talks to play Kurt Russell's love interest in "3000 Miles to Graceland," according to Variety. The Vegas-heist flick also will star Kevin Costner.
"NEXT" NEXT: Steve Carr, who helmed the surprise comedy hit "Next Friday," is being lined up to direct the $25 million Jamie Foxx action comedy "National Security," the Hollywood Reporter says. In true 1980s-style buddy-flick fashion, "National Security" is an odd-couple tale -- this one about a white ex-cop who joins forces with the black man (Foxx) he was unfairly accused of beating.