July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

THE LAST WORD

Meg Ryan had some tough duty prepping for her role as an Army captain in Courage Under Fire, the Gulf War drama that costars Denzel Washington and opens July 12. “I’ll tell you what it involved: the Four Seasons hotel, cappuccino and Jacuzzis,” says Ryan, 34, who shot the film in Texas and Arizona. “When I’d get to [the set] in the morning after all of the above, I’d yell, ‘Okay, I feel good! I’ll climb that wall!’ ” Not that it was every woman for herself. “The real military [advisers] were trying to impress upon us actors that we were brothers-in-arms,” says Ryan. “I was saluting. I’m going left. I’m going right. I’m stopping short and walking into my brothers-in-arms. It got to be a comedy act.” Eventually she learned to walk the walk and, when required, to talk the talk. “The male actors were talking about their war wounds—one broke his arm on the set, another hurt his leg—and I’m like, ‘I had a 10-pound baby a few years ago,’ which shut everyone up.”

IS IT BEAUTIFUL UP THERE?

Hoop queen Lisa Leslie, the top scorer on the U.S.A. Basketball Women’s National Team that will compete at the Atlanta Olympics, has become a model player. She just signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models. “Now I can answer all the people in the shopping malls that, yes, I am a model,” says Leslie, 24, whose slender 6’5″ frame attracts plenty of attention. “Fortunately, my mother is 6’3″. She raised me to be confident and hold my head up.” Leslie doesn’t Hi worry about men being intimidated by her height: “I normally date guys who play basketball and who are taller than I am.”

SWEET GURGLE OF SUCCESS

Model-turned-actress Liv Tyler, who is the daughter of Bebe Buell, a former model who is now Liv’s manager, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, was truly surprised when Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci cast her as the lead in his current coming-of-age film, Stealing Beauty. She thought her audition for him was a disaster. “When I get nervous,” says Tyler, 18, “my ears turn red. Red like they’re on fire. I had to cover them during the audition.” And that wasn’t even the worst of it. “My stomach was making the loudest gurgling noises, like I hadn’t eaten in a year,” she says. Her tummy trouble didn’t escape Bertolucci’s attention. “He asked me some getting-to-know-you questions like, ‘How old are you? Where did you grow up? Did you eat breakfast?’ ”

CAAN GAME

You would think James Caan had suffered enough Misery in his career. But as a villain pursued by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the new action-pic Eraser, he was humbled by true star power. “Arnold got to fall gently into a fur-lined box that had ‘Armani’ stamped on the outside,” says Caan, 57, of one of the movie’s stunts. “Mine said ‘Eggs.’ ” Don’t even mention the scene with live alligators. “Everyone said, ‘Arnold, don’t go near the gators! Jimmy, run right close to them.’ ” The final insult, says Caan, came when T-shirts emblazoned with Arnold’s silhouette were distributed. “I got a bunch, put my face over Arnold’s and printed on the back, in big letters, CAAN: SUMMER 1996. I left one in Arnold’s trailer.” Fortunately, adds Caan, “he thought it was hilarious.”

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