Chuck Arnold
June 26, 2000 12:00 PM

Back in the Swing

“I’m not coming out of retirement,” insists tennis ace Martina Navratilova, who will compete at Wimbledon for the first time since 1996, playing women’s doubles with South Africa’s Mariaan de Swardt. “I never retired from doubles, I retired from singles.” Does Navratilova—who won a record 9 Wimbledon singles titles and could tie Billie Jean King’s record 20 titles overall with a victory—think she has a shot at winning? “A good shot? No. An outside chance? Yes,” says Navratilova, 43, who will also do commentary for TNT when the tournament begins June 26. “I would not be playing with no chance of winning. But I don’t have any illusions. I know I’m not the player I was 10 years ago. I just want to have fun—and maybe cause a little havoc.”

Prinze Charming

In the new romantic comedy Boys and Girls, Freddie Prinze Jr. finds love with Claire Forlani; in real life the actor is deeply involved with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar. “It’s not like Sarah took me off the market,” says Prinze, 24. “I was never on the market. I was with [actress] Kim McCullough for years. I’ve never been single in my life.” Despite being one of Hollywood’s hotter young heartthrobs, Prinze felt a bit inadequate doing his first love scene with Forlani in Boys and Girls. “I’m sitting there without many clothes on. There’s millions of people watching. And the only thing I can think is that Claire’s done [love] scenes with Brad Pitt,” says Prinze, referring to Meet Joe Black. “I’m Velveeta. He’s Brie.”

Spitfire and Desire

Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage, who stars in the auto-theft flick Gone in 60 Seconds, says that his first car stole his heart. “I had a Triumph Spitfire,” says Cage, 36. “It was a beautiful little roadster in a faded yellow. But it also needed a lot of work. I couldn’t get it registered, so I would sit in my car in the garage and pretend I was driving to the beach with the sun on my face. But the only light was this tiny bulb overhead.” Although he finally got the car registered, Cage eventually gave up his wheels. “I found out that this car was going to break down every single week,” he says. But persistence triumphed in the end. “I found that car again a year ago and I bought it,” he says. “I wanted it to know that it didn’t get the best of me.”

Mistaken Identity

What’s in an initial? A lot, if you’re former Melrose Place actress Vanessa Williams, who had often been confused with former Miss America Vanessa L. Williams until the latter took on her middle initial. Then the uninitialed Vanessa was cast in the new Showtime series Soul Food, based on the flick starring—you guessed it—Vanessa L. Although their careers have intersected, the two have never crossed paths. “I look forward to meeting her,” says Williams, 37, who will be Maxine, the role first played by Vivica A. Fox in the film, when Soul Food premieres June 28. “I want to know how she is managing a new husband [L.A. Laker Rick Fox], a new baby, three other kids—and a career.”

Can You Dig It?

“Suddenly I am a sex symbol,” says Samuel L. Jackson of his starring role in the remake of Shaft. Playing the superbad detective, he says, made some female fans see him in a new light. “On the way to the Shaft set in New York City, I’d pass women, and they’d go, ‘Sam, now that you’re Shaft, you look so much better,’ ” says Jackson, 51. “I never realized that I looked like a troll onscreen before Shaft. It never occurred to me that I was this ugly guy in movies.”

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