June 30, 1997 12:00 PM

SAYING IT AIN’T SO

“Matthew and I are not dating!” says an exasperated Sandra Bullock, 32, responding to the persistent rumors that she is romantically involved with Matthew McConaughey, her handsome costar in last year’s A Time to Kill. “All the women in America are hating me, but I do not own Matthew. He’s a single man.” Still, Bullock, who is currently starring in Speed 2: Cruise Control, does admit McConaughey has a pet name for her: Redblood. “To him I’m just a red-blooded American woman,” she explains. “But Matthew gives everyone a nickname.” As for romance, Bullock says, it would be hard for her to get seriously involved with any man right now. “It’s like I meet some guy and say, ‘I’ve only known you for two days, but do you want to go to a premiere so the tabloids can hound you for a month? Yes, let me shatter your life with one walk down that carpet.’ ”

ELEPHANT MAN

Independence Day freedom fighter Will Smith is back turning aliens into interplanetary goo in the sci-fi comedy Men in Black, due July 2. “It’s just my job to save the world every summer,” says Smith, 28, who costars with Tommy Lee Jones. “I really don’t know what I’m going to do for an encore next year. But it has to be something big on the July 4 weekend.” So how did Smith, who starred in the 1990-96 NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, transform himself into an action-movie leading man? “The secret to my success is that I’ve got big ears,” he says. “America needs heroes with large ears. That’s why they like me and Mickey Mouse. If they ever do the live-action Dumbo, I’m right up there as a contender.”

EN-DEERING YOUNG CHARMS

Despite being a showbiz veteran at 15, Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas says that he doesn’t feel old for his age. “Really, I don’t,” insists Taylor Thomas, who stars in the adventure flick Wild America, due July 2. “I mean, I was a high school freshman this year. I felt like the little man on the totem pole—a lowly freshman in a world of seniors.” In Wild America, Taylor Thomas plays one of the three young Stouffer brothers who trekked across the country in 1967 filming wildlife documentaries. “It was great. We got to work with real animals, like a live alligator,” he says. “Six guys had to hold the alligator, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to get too close. But I did snuggle up to this cute baby deer who liked to nuzzle my neck. I didn’t realize it, but the next day it looked like I had a bunch of hickeys.”

NAKED LAUNCH

Pop singer Paula Cole, whose breakthrough single, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” is now a VH1 staple, proved she’s more than just a videogenic face by producing her second album, This Fire. “I was on the phone 12 hours a day making budgets and all that crap,” says Cole, 29. “I know now that it’s really the secretaries who do all the work.” But she isn’t above playing up her looks, having posed nude for her album cover. “It was just me and my girlfriend Jodie [Olson], who’s a great photographer,” says Cole, who will join Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Jewel and others on the all-female Lilith Fair tour, kicking off July 5 in George, Wash. “We went to her backyard. There was a wedding next door, but I don’t think anybody saw.”

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