March 24, 2003 12:00 PM

The Inside Stuff-ing

“Frankie [Muniz] and I almost killed each other,” says Angie Harmon of filming fight scenes with her 17-year-old costar in the action flick Agent Cody Banks. “The stunt people know how to miss, but we whaled on each other. In one scene we hit bone to bone. I thought I broke my hand. We definitely had bruises.” Not all the assets of her character, a voluptuous operative who trains top-level teenage spies, were as authentic as the black-and-blue marks. “Did you see my rack?” says Harmon, 30. “We had so much stuff in there: shoulder pads and things that look like chicken cutlets. It’s not The Hours, I know—I had a prosthetic [chest] instead of a prosthetic nose.”

Face value

Italian actress Monica Bellucci wasn’t sure what to expect when she teamed up with Bruce Willis in the war drama Tears of the Sun. “They say it’s better to dream about movie stars and never meet them,” says Bellucci, 34, who also stars in this year’s Matrix sequels. “But Bruce was very generous. I had a very emotional scene to do, and he was off-camera with tears in his eyes just to give me the emotion.” Of course five months of filming in jungle-like conditions gave the actress plenty to cry about. “Every day I was covered in mud. They tried hard to make me look bad,” says Bellucci, who plays a doctor running from Nigerian rebels. “The helicopters threw up a lot of dirt, and I was breathing horrible stuff. But if you worry about blackheads, you shouldn’t be doing this film.”

Upright Citizens Brigade

For John Spencer the key to portraying Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on The West Wing is in the details—of the show’s White House set, that is. “I feel political just walking around it,” says Spencer, 57. “Our Oval Office is the same as the Clinton Administration’s, right down to the upholstery. So this environment seems very real.” The presidential vibe also has the actor minding his posture. “Martin [Sheen] and I both have a habit of bending over and slumping a bit,” says Spencer. “When I see him, I’ll say, ‘Stand up, Mr. Sheen,’ and he’ll say, ‘Stand up, Mr. Spencer.’ ”

Recycled Goods

The TV business hasn’t always treated Arsenio Hall kindly. Before his current gig hosting the new Star Search, Hall starred in the shortlived 1997 sitcom Arsenio. “I’d rather sit butt naked on broken glass than go through that again,” says Hall, 47, whose main complaint was the show’s generic humor. “A sitcom has to be like a suit: custom-made. It can’t be off the rack.” The comic knew he was getting hand-me-downs when one writer told him, “I could never get Ellen [DeGeneres] to do this.” The ham-handed comedy also irked Hall. “In one scene my wife [played by Vivica A. Fox] says, ‘The doctor told you to only have a half a cup of coffee.’ I grab a cup that’s a foot tall, and I’m like, ‘How about this cup, honey?’ I thought, ‘Could this be cornier? I’m doing the large-cup joke?’ ”

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