September 09, 1996 12:00 PM

HOLD THE RICE

“Thirty was so strange for me,” says former teen idol Matt Dillon, now 32. “There is no turning back. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that now I am a walking and talking adult.” At least onscreen, Dillon can still act out, which is exactly what he does playing a character loosely based on Beach Boy Brian Wilson in the new movie Grace of My Heart, opening Sept. 13. To prepare, Dillon says, he saturated himself in Beach Boys music. But one song he has yet to take to heart is the group’s ode to marriage: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Says the never-married Dillon: “Yeah, I’ve had problems with commitment before. The older you get, it doesn’t get any easier. I’m set in my ways, and I bring my own baggage to a relationship. It’s hard to commit, even to the right person.” But what about the beautiful Cameron Diaz (She’s the One), his current flame? “I must say,” he says with a smile, “that personally I’m happier now than I have been in a long time.”

CHELSEA WARNING

While covering this summer’s political conventions for cable’s E! Entertainment Television, Eleanor Mondale, daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale, admitted to a bias. “There aren’t many people that have had the experience that my brothers [attorneys Ted, 38, and William, 34] and I have had,” says Mondale, 36, explaining she has special feelings for the children of Presidents and Vice Presidents. “I actually wrote Chelsea Clinton [then 12] a letter when Bill Clinton was first elected. I said, ‘This is a very exciting time in your life. Just write everything down so that you have a memory of it. And really enjoy yourself and don’t let what people say about you or your family get to you, because that’s hard.’ ” Mondale is philosophical about her time as Second Daughter. “It changed my life forever, that’s for sure,” she says. “Not in a bad way. It just changed things.”

REELING IN THE YEARS

Ellen Burstyn has been geezerized, at least onscreen. Last year, the 63-year-old actress played Winona Ryder’s pot-smoking granny in How to Make an American Quilt. Now, in the new drama The Spitfire Grill, she portrays a tough-minded New England widow in her early 70s. Is this a wise career move? “Well, if I get a good job, I’ll do it,” says Burstyn. “[For Spitfire] I had to change everything: my walk, my talk, my hair. Aging makeup, aging body.” But there’s a big upside. “It’s amazing when you look at yourself all day as an old woman,” she says. “Your eyes sort of adjust to it. And then, at the end of the day, you can remove it all. It’s such a miracle.”

BEACH-BADGERED

Since losing his late-night talk show to the ratings gods, comedian Jon Stewart, 33, has managed to stay in the public eye. He has his own HBO special on Sept. 20, stars opposite Drew Barrymore in the romantic comedy Wishful Thinking this winter and is often spotted by fans in his home state of New Jersey. On a trip to the beach there recently, he notes, “this guy comes up and says, ‘Are you Jon Stewart?’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, he’s seen me on TV and wants my autograph.’ But he asks me, ‘So, do you have a beach badge? You need one if you’re going on the beach.’ ” So much for the star treatment. “I think he just wanted to see if I had the $7 it took to buy a badge so he could have a story to tell years from now at the badge-checkers’ bar.”

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