By Jason Lynch
December 21, 1998 12:00 PM

And speaking for Miriam…

It didn’t take an act of God, but Sandra Bullock needed a lot of persuasion before signing on to voice the character of Miriam in the animated Moses epic The Prince of Egypt, due Dec. 18. “Steven Spielberg called me and asked me to do it,” says Bullock, 34, whose voice joins those of Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jeff Goldblum. “Then I talked to [Spielberg’s partner] Jeffrey Katzenberg. Those guys can get you to do anything.” Still, Bullock found herself praying for creative inspiration. “You don’t have the atmosphere of being on a movie set,” she explains. “You’re in a little recording booth with no crutches. It’s like being there naked with your voice.” But the actress wasn’t alone. “I had Jeff Goldblum in the room,” says Bullock. “But wait: Jeff and I were not naked.”

A Malt Liquor Christmas

Michael Keaton is the first to admit that his latest role—a father who is reincarnated as a snowman in the new family film Jack Frost—is far from a surefire bet. “Believe me, there have been stupider ideas that have turned out to be great movies,” says Keaton, 47. But after the script left him in tears, “I said, ‘There’s gotta be something in this unless I’m just way more pathetic than I thought.’ ” So what are Keaton’s own Christmas plans? “I’ll probably celebrate the way my family always does, by robbing a liquor store,” he says. “Then I’ll swing on by, hit a bar and kind of lay around the trailer.” Nice try; pressed, the actor says he’s really pretty much a sucker come the holidays. “I like the whole Rocky Mountain Christmas vibe,” says Keaton, who expects to go skiing with his family. “It’s like an old Christmas card come to life. Now I sound Hallmark-ish. Are you happy now?”

Mother-daughter conflict

Although Shirley Jones had never seen The Drew Carey Show when the producers asked her to appear on the sitcom as Drew Carey’s significantly older other, she knew what to expect. “I said, There’s going to be a lot of fat jokes and a lot of age jokes,’ ” says Jones. “And that’s precisely what it is.” At 64, Jones has 34 more years of kissing experience than Carey, but she still gives his lips a thumbs-up. “I’ve kissed all these exciting leading men in my career, and he passed the test,” she says. “He’s a wonderful kisser.” Jones, who is best known as the matriarch of The Partridge Family, had a tougher time dealing with fellow 70s TV mom Marion Ross, 70, who will also appear on the ABC sitcom Dec. 16—as Carey’s mother. “Marion and I are good friends,” says Jones. “When I found out she was his mother, I thought I was going to die!” Apparently, so did Ross: “She said to me, ‘Why don’t you play the mother and I’ll play the girlfriend?’ ”

Sammo sidekick

Before joining the cast of Martial Law as LAPD cop Terrell Parker, Arsenio Hall, 42, made sure he wouldn’t play yet another martial arts master on the hit CBS drama. “When I watched the show, the first thing I noticed was that even the Avon Lady could kick butt,” says Hall, who costars with non-lean fighting machine Sammo Hung. “I didn’t think my core demographic would buy that either. I’m the original Rosie O’Donnell—now all of a sudden, I’m a kung fu master?” Although Hall will stick to less stylish forms of combat on the show, he did study kickboxing in college—until he squared off in his first tournament. “The guy kicked me once in my head, and that was it,” says Hall. “I thought, ‘Forget this! I’m a communications major!’ You can learn katas and all that intricate stuff, but once a brother kicks you on top of your head, everything goes out the window.”