May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

Touched by an angel
In City of Angels, Nicolas Cage plays an angel who hangs up his wings for Meg Ryan. But researching his role was not so heavenly. “It wasn’t like I could just call up an angel and ask, ‘So what’s it like?’ ” says Cage, 34. “But I’m not going to be so narrow-minded as to say that they don’t exist. If you lose the conception of them having wings and bugles, and you think of them as life particles with a protective energy that might turn you in a certain direction that keeps you from getting in a car accident, that’s an interesting thought.” In fact, Cage thinks angelic intervention may have saved him on a Hollywood freeway. “The transmission didn’t work. I spun around and went into a 180 and faced the [oncoming] traffic,” he recalls. “So I started driving backwards. I should have been dead. I thought for sure somebody else was steering the boat.”

Will power
After setting off box office fireworks the past two July 4 weekends with Independence Day and Men in Black, Will Smith is expecting a different kind of blockbuster this summer: His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, is due with their first child. “So that July 4 thing might still work out,” says Smith, 29, adding that the newlyweds have yet to settle on a name. “Jada has some names picked out, but we’re gonna have to talk about it,” says Smith, who has one son, Trey, 5, with ex-wife Sheree Zampino. “Because Jada is into [names like] Moon, Air and Earth. And Smith just doesn’t work well with the names she picks.”

Marked man
Having won raves for Boogie Nights, has Mark Wahlberg retired his rap tag Marky Mark for good? “Yes,” says Wahlberg, 26, now starring in The Big Hit. “But I love to make music. My record company calls me all the time and says, ‘We’ve got to do a record.’ ” But the erstwhile Calvin Klein briefs boy will keep his drawers on in the future: “As far as pulling down my pants and running around in my underwear, I don’t think I can do that anymore. Maybe a 20-year anniversary. I’ll come out with my beer belly and pull down my pants.” The former teen idol even gave some advice to Leonardo DiCaprio, his costar in The Basketball Diaries. “He’s got to realize girls grow up and somebody new comes along,” says Wahlberg. “You’re cool, and then they rip your poster off the wall because you’re not cool. Then they like Marilyn Manson.”

She goes on a hapless star trek in the sci-fi hit Lost in Space, so what would Party of Five‘s Lacey Chabert want to bring aboard her rocket ship? “I’d like to take my dog and some good CDs,” says Chabert, 15, who plays middle child Penny in the Robinson family. “But I would definitely leave my schoolwork behind.” As for potential space suitors, the young actress says she could not bring any Earth boys along for the ride. “My dad says I can’t date until I’m 16,” sighs Chabert. “The good news is that I’m almost 16.”

Daddy dearest
Count Danny DeVito among the fans of hip-hop impresario Sean Puffy Combs, better known as Puff Daddy. “I don’t know if you saw the Grammys, but Puff Daddy and I were on together,” says DeVito, 53. “Puff Daddy and I are likethis. I’m even in his new video called ‘Victory.’ He’s a very talented guy. I’m anxious to keep up a good relationship with him. He wants to get into acting. Maybe I could help put him in a movie.” DeVito, who helped compile the soundtrack of the new romantic comedy Sliding Doors, says he keeps himself attuned to the MTV set. “I listen to all the new stuff,” he says. “It keeps me young—and I can relate to my kids better too.”

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