Ericka Souter
November 26, 2001 12:00 PM

Bedtime Story

Sure he’s engaged to supermodel Christie Turlington and has costarred with Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks, but life wasn’t always a bed of roses for actor-director Ed Burns. In fact there wasn’t even always a bed. “I lived in my car four days a week for one summer,” says Burns, 33, a Long Island native who spent long weekends busing tables when he was 21. “I was in the Hamptons, and I’d stay out till 4 or 5 in the morning, grab my sleeping bag and sleep on the beach until the sun came out. Then I’d jump in the water. But if it rained or there were too many mosquitoes, I slept in my car.” These days Burns, who wrote, directed and stars in Sidewalks of New York, rests easy in the $2 million loft in Manhattan that was once the home of John F. Kennedy Jr. He certainly doesn’t get wistful about his car-bunking days, “it was a Honda,” he adds, “so I slept with great difficulty.”

Ellery’s Queen

“This is a boy’s household,” says Laura Dern, who feels a bit outnumbered at home these days. On Aug. 21 she gave birth to Ellery Walker, her son with blues-rocker boyfriend Ben Harper, 32, and motherhood has thoroughly altered her outlook. “For the first time in my life everything makes sense,” says Dern, 34, who costars with Steve Martin in the comic thriller Novocaine. “I love acting, but when I first started I wasn’t sure what my job was exactly. Now, my son just expects me to show up at his crib every morning. No judgments. Just me. It’s not about worrying if I’m likable or if people are comfortable with me. He thinks I’m pretty cool.” So does her boyfriend. “Ben and I are quiet types,” says Dern. “The other night we were talking about how neither of us went to our high school proms, and Ben said, ‘We have a prom every single night.’ ”

Body of Work

When the directors of There’s Something About Mary approached Gwyneth Paltrow about playing a 300-lb. woman in the comedy Shallow Hal, the actress had one demand. “I said I wouldn’t do anything that was mean-spirited,” says Paltrow, 29. “I have friends who have struggled with weight issues for years.” So she could relate? C’mon. “Yes, I’ve always been a slim person, but I’ve had issues with my body. Through most of junior high school I felt very awkward. I was very small for my age and very skinny. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that I began to feel more comfortable in my skin.” Even now, Paltrow, who wears a fat suit in the film, has problems with her bod offscreen. “A few years ago I quit smoking and went on this macrobiotic diet. I gained a few pounds, but the gossip columns were vicious about it. My friends actually e-mailed them to me. I was like, Thanks a lot.’ But it made me wonder, What is the standard of ‘being thin’? We have this impossible standard, and someone is always pointing a finger.”

Women’s Liv

“Eighty percent of the scripts I read are about men. But I am very patient,” says Liv Tyler, 24, who wanted something “more than a few pages long,” and got it when she landed the role of Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (the first, The Fellowship of the Ring, opens Dec. 19). It’s Tyler’s 17th film since she began her career as a model at 14. “I don’t think it was too much too soon. When I started working, it actually helped me in school,” says the actress, whose mother, former model Bebe Buell, was 21 when she fell for rock star Steven Tyler. “I was restless, dyslexic and had attention deficit. When I started having responsibilities, it improved my schooling. I felt more focused.” Working also kept Tyler, who is engaged to British rocker Royston Langdon, from picking up any vices. “I didn’t have all that free time on my hands to do drugs. I was traveling and meeting wonderful people. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it kept me out of trouble.”

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