By Kim Cunningham
July 03, 1995 12:00 PM

JUNGLE FEVER

Spending a couple of weeks on location last fall in Costa Rica was no picnic for Ernie Hudson, who plays a hunter who bravely leads an expedition through a jungle of killer gorillas in Congo, the new thriller based on Michael Crichton’s novel. “It’s okay to see spiders and snakes at a zoo, but there’s something else about seeing them on your cot,” says Hudson, 49. “I’m afraid of everything in the wild. Anything that can’t talk, I’m afraid of. I have 11 acres of land in California, and anything that is not related to me dies. I have a guy come to spray.”

PRIDE OF HER FATHER

Russell Means, 55, the Native American activist who made his movie debut as Daniel Day-Lewis’s friend Chingachgook in 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans, now provides the voice of Pocahontas’s father in Pocahontas. “I’ve gone from being the last of the Mohicans to the first of the Algonquins,” jokes Means, himself an Oglala Lakota Sioux. He says he took the role in the Disney picture “to introduce the world’s children to my people,” and also because the spunky heroine reminded him of his own 14-year-old daughter, Tatuye Topa Najinwin. “She’s the spitting image of Pocahontas,” he says proudly. “She’s athletic, beautiful, and an A-student.” Means recently completed his autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread, due this fall “Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis can play me in the movie version.”

  • MAD ABOUT BRAD
  • Although Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt met casually through friends last year, it wasn’t until they paired up seven months ago in Seven, a cop thriller due in September, that sparks ignited. “When we met to start work on Seven, playing husband and wife, it was love at second sight,” Paltrow, 22, the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow, told London’s You magazine. “It was immediate. Our first date was at an Italian restaurant in L.A., and no one gave us a glance. Now, it’s a case of, ‘Who’s that girl?’ ” That girl’s modest successes include parts in Flesh and Bone and Jefferson in Paris, but she’s now relishing her major role as Pitt’s pal. “I am properly in love for the first time in my life,” says Paltrow, “and I do not care if my former boyfriends read this.”

EIGHT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH

Broadway veteran Betty Buckley is celebrating July 4 by taking over for Glenn Close in the New York production of Sunset Boulevard. “I’m thrilled to be back on Broadway and not the least bit nervous about replacing Glenn,” says Buckley, 48, who followed Patti LuPone in the London production as has-been movie queen Norma Desmond. But the former stepmom on TV’s Eight Is Enough still finds doing eight shows a week to be a physical challenge. “I’m training two hours a day so I [keep in shape] for the stairs,” says Buckley, who must make 12 trips, in heels, up Boulevard’s 18-foot spiral staircase during every performance. “I do heavy-duty cardiovascular training with a coach who’s also got me running and doing weights. It takes a great deal of stamina, so I’m training like an athlete.

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