Kim Cunningham
January 16, 1995 12:00 PM

STAR CHAMBER

Star Jones has taken her case to the people. The former Brooklyn, N.Y., assistant district attorney, Court TV commentator and NBC legal eagle now presides over Jones & Jury, a syndicated show in which she arbitrates small-claims cases (under $5,000) and the real-life litigants agree to accept a decision by the audience-jury. Jones, 32, takes armchair justice seriously and so does her audience. “The most fun is when fans stop and say to me, ‘Girl, my baby started crying in the middle of the so-and-so case. What happened? What did the jury say?’ ” Though the jury is still out on her show’s future, Jones says she can handle whatever comes her way. “There’s a law degree in my back pocket and a list of the Top 25 law firms in my Filofax,” says Jones. “I always keep it there because you never know what’s going to happen.”

TAKE MY LIFE, PLEASE

In the new romantic comedy I.Q., a bewigged Walter Matthau portrays genius Albert Einstein as a silver-maned mensch more interested in stirring up chemistry between his niece (Meg Ryan) and an auto mechanic (Tim Robbins) than in squaring MCs. “I’m sure we’d have gotten along splendidly,” Matthau, 74, says of Einstein. “I’d tell him some jokes in Yiddish. I think Albert would enjoy Yiddish jokes. I made sure to tell at least four jokes a day to Meg and Timmy Robbins.” And like Einstein, who continued to work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., until his death at age 76 in 1955, Matthau has no intention of retiring. “Some people retire and go fishing,” says Matthau. “If I retired, I’d go acting.”

WIGGING OUT

Before playing Jo in the remake of Little Women, Winona Ryder steeped herself in the mores of the mid-19th century. She learned to knit and do needlepoint, and even got to put out a few unexpected fires. “The prop people warned us to be really careful when we carried candles around,” says Ryder, 23. “We were all wearing wigs that were very flammable. One night, while we were shooting, I heard this scream. [Costar] Claire Danes had carried her candle too close to her head and whoosh! her wig went up in flames. I ran over and put out the fire with my hands.” So even little women can be big heroes? “Yeah, I guess I’m a hero,” says Ryder. “It would make a really cool episode of Rescue 911.”

THE VERDICT

Paul Newman plays irreverent outsiders to perfection, including the down-on-his-luck handyman in Nobody’s Fool. But when it comes to casting another type of reel, nobody feels as foolish as Newman, an avid fisherman. “I’ve been able to stink up the best fishing areas on every coast,” says Newman, 69, with mock pride. “A few months ago, I went out on a boat and fished for hours with no results. Finally, the captain of the boat came over to me and said something horrible: ‘Paul, the bait was closer to the fish when it was in the bait shop than when it’s on your line.’ ”

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