December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

Julia, Meg, Demi, Sandra. The exclusive sorority of actresses who can make a potential hit movie on their star power alone is a small one. But this year they pledged a new member. With Double Jeopardy, Ashley Judd, 31, energized the big screen with a tough-tender role that left viewers and critics ready for more. Her portrayal of a woman wrongly accused of murder, who is physically and psychologically determined to set things right, sent a largely female audience hurrying to the multiplex, where Jeopardy has grossed more than $112 million. “She’s a star,” says actress Salma Hayek of her pal’s appeal. “Other actresses have glamor, but Ashley has this grace like Audrey Hepburn.” Her new status is a sweet one for the hardworking Judd, whose mother, Naomi, and big sister Wynonna are the Judds, country’s pure-platinum duo. As a teen the non-singing Ashley cleaned their tour bus for $10 a day. Now her own payday is an estimated $8 million per picture. And her dance card has been filled with the likes of A Time to Kill costar Matthew McConaughey and balladeer Michael Bolton. Still, current beau Dario Franchitti, a champion race car driver, told Scotland’s Daily Record, “Ashley’s not really into that big showbizzy scene.” Judd, who nailed the Jeopardy part opposite Tommy Lee Jones after a pregnant Jodie Foster dropped out, lives in her own place on her family’s 1,000-acre spread near Nashville with a dog, a cat and llamas. One negative aspect of fame followed her home though—a security guard who stalked her was arrested last September for trespassing on her property. With typical bravura, Judd told him to leave, and he did. (Franchitti followed him in a car until police caught up.) On the set, Judd, who stars in the January thriller Eye of the Beholder, throws her weight around over just one thing: She insists on doing her own stunts. “Sometimes we had to trick her away from the set so the stunt-woman could do the very tough stuff,” says Jeopardy producer Leonard Goldberg. “It was easier not to have to argue with her.”

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