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Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas (Wall Street) says he wasn’t just role-playing while filming his hit suspense-thriller The Game. “In many ways, my life was paralleling this picture,” says Douglas, 53, who stars as Nicholas Van Orton, a billionaire investment banker caught up in a high-stakes, life-or-death labyrinth. “The character and I are both second-generation successes. And I know with my situation, no matter how much you succeed, you always feel like some of the credit is being taken away by the fact that your father was in the business, too.” So does Douglas envision himself becoming a veteran Hollywood player like his dad, Kirk, 80? “I think I’m going to be a retired golf player,” Douglas says slyly, “because that is the one thing that my father really hates.”


Chicago Hope fans who tune in for a new season’s dose of Peter Berg as sexy surgeon Billy Kronk will find their fix is only temporary. Berg, 35, will shed his scrubs for a five-episode sabbatical later this fall to direct the movie Very Bad Things, based on his own screenplay. “It’s a demented little love story,” says the novice director, who snared Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater and fellow Hope doc Adam Arkin to star. “Five groomsmen all start murdering each other the week of the wedding.” Berg’s sick sense isn’t stifled on the Hope set either. “We operate on cattle organs, which is fun because it makes for a lot of good pranks,” he says. Pranks? “We’re allowed to do whatever we want with the organs when we’re done,” says Berg. “Let’s just leave it at that.”


In the romantic comedy The Matchmaker, Janeane Garofalo plays an American who is reluctantly coupled off while traveling in Ireland. “I’ve never been matchmade,” says Garofalo, 33, who is happily single. “I have had friends set me up on blind dates, but those are just so awkward. I think I have what I call anti-chemistry, where you repel the other person.” But that hasn’t stopped Garofalo from playing Cupid herself. “I’ll tell a girlfriend that this guy really likes her,” she says, “and then I’ll tell him she likes him. I plant little seeds, which goes back to my theory of love.” Which is? “Love is creating something in your head out of nothing,” says Garofalo. “It doesn’t work for me, but there is still hope for other people.”


Lela Rochon, who costarred in the 1995 hit Waiting to Exhale, found herself a bit breathless while playing a stripper in the thriller Gang Related. “When they say, ‘Action,’ your first thought is, ‘Suck in that stomach!’ ” says Rochon, 33, who costars with Jim Belushi and the late Tupac Shakur. “The dancing scared me to death. The first day I had a major strip scene, and I immediately sat down and cried. But at least you don’t have all those boring wardrobe meetings.” Having worked with Shakur on his final film—which wrapped eight days before the gangsta rapper’s fatal shooting last September—left Rochon deeply affected. “I thought he was adorable,” she says. “He told me he had a bad feeling about his life. He sort of knew that the end was near. It was really sad because anytime there was a loud noise on the set, Tupac’s bodyguard came running.”