Jason Lynch
August 13, 2001 12:00 PM

Now and Then

Laurence Fishburne was only 14 when he enlisted to play the soldier Clean in the 1979 Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now. “I grew up watching World War II movies that my father took me to, and I still had a romanticized vision of war,” says Fishburne. “So I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced cheese that I was going to be in a war movie.” His attitude changed dramatically when a hurricane swept the Philippines set of Apocalypse, which is being rereleased in theaters this month with 49 minutes of new footage. Fishburne, 40, recalls “sitting in a helicopter on top of a roof in the middle of a monsoon, and having the pilot say, ‘You’re not supposed to fly in weather like this.’ And I’m sitting in this helicopter thinking, ‘I’m going to die today.’ ”

High-Wire Act

Chris Tucker is the comedian of the pair, but Jackie Chan was the one pulling most of the pranks when they reunited for Rush Hour 2. “When I do stunts, I’m always playing around to make myself more comfortable, so I make fun of him,” says Chan, who added a little levity during a scene in which he and Tucker were suspended 12 stories in the air. “I played around with his wire—it makes a thung-thung sound—and said, ‘Chris, what happened to your wire?’ So he got scared and was almost crying.” But Chan, 47, was the one on edge when he ran naked, with his hands strategically placed, for a scene on a crowded Hong Kong highway. “This big truck almost hit me,” he says. “Then he saw me and said, ‘Jackie, can I have an autograph?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a free hand!’ ”

Hirsute Suit

“You have to like your makeup artist. You can’t afford to bear a grudge,” says Helena Bonham Carter, who arrived on set at 2 a.m. each day to begin a four-hour simian transformation for her role as Ari in Planet of the Apes. Going ape, says the 35-year-old actress, “was psychologically liberating. You feel like no one can see you. No one can tell what kind of mood you’re in. You feel completely freed.” That is, except for her libido, which was kept in check by her ape prosthesis during an onscreen lip lock with Mark Wahlberg. “I didn’t feel anything whatsoever through the makeup,” she says with a sigh. “It was a waste.”

Child Actor, Drama-Free

After playing Kevin Spacey’s daughter in American Beauty, Thora Birch has moved on to another critically acclaimed performance as a quirky teen in the comedy Ghost World. But the title of the supernatural-free film, which is based on a comic book, has been confusing her pals. “When I told people, they were, like, ‘Ghost World, is that the one with a skeleton riding on a motorcycle?’ ” she says, referring to the Ghost Rider comic book. Now 19, Birch has been acting for 15 years and has managed to do so without splitting from her parents, checking into rehab or landing in jail. “I remember that some of the other kids who were doing it didn’t necessarily share my enthusiasm,” she says. “It was never a stress for me. It has only enriched my life, not made it something awful.”

Cleese and Quiet

Whenever he is trying to go undetected, British actor John Cleese finds that convenience stores can be pretty handy. “If I go into Barnes & Noble or Tower Records, they’ll all know me,” says the Monty Python alum, who plays a casino owner in the comedy Rat Race, opening Aug. 10. “But if I go to a 7-Eleven, they’ll have no idea who I am. My recognition is very patchy, and long may it stay that way.” But “life could be a lot worse,” admits Cleese, 61. “A makeup girl was telling me about stars like Mel Gibson. If he throws [his cigarette] butt out of the trailer, it’s quite possible that butt will end up on eBay.”

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