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After starring in a trio of lightweight films (Sliver, The Specialist and The Quick and the Dead), Sharon Stone knew the pressure was on when she signed to star with Robert De Niro in Casino, the Mob drama directed by Martin Scorsese. “Believe me, I went into this thinking, ‘I’m not gonna choke now,’ ” says Stone, 37, who finds herself in the heady company of Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Elisabeth Shue as one of the year’s Best Actress Oscar nominees. “I started this movie in a state of abject terror. I could barely speak.” Then she slipped into something more comfortable. “I started throwing myself at [costar] Bob De Niro—I had no choice,” she says, explaining that Casino’s plot required her to romance De Niro’s casino manager. Not that this took much acting. Says Stone: “He’s a wonderful kisser. I’m sorry for saying it, Bob, but it’s true.”


Ted Danson has more reason for cheer than the ratings success of his recent NBC miniseries, Gulliver’s Travels. He and actress Mary Steenburgen, married last October, are merging their families. (She has two children, 15 and 12, from her marriage to Malcolm McDowell; he has two, ages 16 and 11, from his marriage to Casey Coates.) “I went through a lot and finally came out the other side of adolescence,” says Danson, 48. “I actually have a shot at adulthood. Men are slow. Well, this one was.” Of their life together, he says, “It’s a great dance. Mary’s masculine side and my feminine side get along fantastically and vice versa. We both like wearing pants, and we both get a thrill out of a garter belt once in a while.” As Gulliver, Danson got to wear a garter belt. “It’s very hard,” he observes, “to hold up [18th-century] stockings without one.”


Oksana Baiul, the waiflike Ukrainian who beat Nancy Kerrigan for the 1994 Olympic gold medal in figure skating, has since moved to Connecticut and adopted such American pastimes as shooting pool, playing ice hockey and inviting friends over to watch Melrose Place. “It’s a tradition,” she says. “Of course we are talking during the show, about the boys or what will happen.” Baiul, 18, costars with gold-medalist Viktor Petrenko in her own TV special, The Wizard of Oz on Ice (CBS, Feb. 27). “TV is much better here than in the Ukraine,” she says. “Here, they have the nice costumes. There, they are junky.” As for love, American-style: “I am free, I am available, I am looking.”


English actress Kate Winslet, 20, who plays the lovestruck Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, is dumbstruck to be among this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress. But she credits Jane Austen’s realistic, clear-eyed view of romance, which dates back to the early 1800s, for drawing viewers today. “It’s hard when you’re really in love with someone,” says Winslet, who has been there, done that. “I’ll sit by the phone for a few days, and then I eventually say to myself, ‘Come on, girl. There’s more to life than this crud.’ Just because these characters lived almost 200 years ago and wore corsets doesn’t make them aliens. Girls today can relate.” Winslet’s current role, as Ophelia in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, will take her even further back in history, but, she insists, “I’m not just some period babe. In fact, what I’d really like to play is a wild Valley Girl.”