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Freeman at last

When he’s not at his home in Tallahatchie County, Miss., actor Morgan Freeman can be found on his boat sailing in the Caribbean. “I can’t be reached [there]—I’ve dropped off the edge of the earth,” says Freeman, 61, who executive-produced Mutiny, a fact-based drama about black sailors prosecuted by the Navy for mutiny in 1944, which airs March 28 on NBC. “At sea I depend on me. When it’s rough and ugly or even scary and terrifying, all the other things drop away.” As for how he navigated his way to stardom, Freeman offers, “Fate, God, kismet—what governs us? Luck. Luck is your only savior. Pluck has something to do with it, but luck decides.”

Not ready for prom time

Sissy Spacek, who played the prom queen from hell in Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror classic Carrie, wasn’t interested in appearing in the sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2. “I didn’t even read the script,” says Spacek, 49, who costars with Academy Award nominees Nick Nolte and James Coburn in the drama Affliction. “Carrie was such a great role for me, I could never revisit it. It does floor me that all these years later, Carrie is still so popular. It’s amazing to me that people even know who Carrie is, but teenagers still come up to me and say, ‘I love that movie.’ ” Will Spacek check out Carrie 2 star Emily Bergl? “I am eager to see what they’ve done with the sequel,” she says. “I’ll probably take my teenage daughter [Schuyler] to see it.”

Up in smoke

Stand-up comedy’s nicotine king, Denis Leary, who costars with Clint Eastwood and James Woods in the new suspense thriller True Crime, snuffed out his biggest vice during the shoot. “I play Clint’s nonsmoking boss—I actually quit smoking for the role,” says Leary, 41. “And Clint plays an inveterate smoker. He doesn’t smoke, but he took up smoking for the part. He chain-smoked Camel nonfilters for the entire shoot. It was pretty hard working with a guy who was chain-smoking Camel non-filters, you know what I mean?” So has Leary picked up the habit again? “On the record? No.”

He who gets slapped

Having to split with his real-life fiancée, Reese Witherspoon, in Cruel Intentions, a teen adaptation of 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons, was cruel and unusual punishment for young heartthrob Ryan Phillippe. “The scene I have to break up with Reese in the movie was awful—I actually threw up that day,” says Phillippe, 24, who plays a modern-day version of John Malkovich’s 18th-century lothario, Valmont. “It was 12 hours of the same scene over and over again. She hit me at one point, and the director was like, ‘I love it.’ She ended up hitting me for the next nine takes. I had a big welt on my face. When it was over, I went to the stairwell of this hotel and threw up.” Phillippe and Wither-spoon, who are expecting a baby this September, won’t have to worry about their child ever seeing Mommy hit Daddy onscreen: “We ended up cutting the scene because it was too intense.”

Medical leave

After five years as Dr. Peter Benton on NBC’s ER, Eriq La Salle moonlights as a police detective in John Sandford’s Mind Prey, a crime drama airing March 22 on ABC that marks his debut as a TV producer. “I didn’t come out of the box knowing exactly what to do as a producer,” says La Salle, 36. “I was learning. Sometimes the actor in me wanted one thing, and the producer in me said you can’t have it. I was definitely wearing different caps.” As for whether his ER role will increase since George Clooney‘s departure, La Salle, who is under contract through next season, says, “I don’t know. As an actor I’m just showing up and trying to reveal more about the character that I’m playing. That’s much more of a producer’s question.”