August 30, 1999 12:00 PM

Nude Awakening

In the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, Rene Russo has a topless scene with love interest Pierce Brosnan. The actress says she isn’t as nonchalant about flashing her body as some might expect a former model to be. “I lived at Eileen Ford’s house when I started modeling,” recalls Russo, 45. “I remember walking into a room. There was one German girl, two Swedish and one Danish, and they were sitting around talking. They had no tops on, just little cotton [panties]. I walked in, the American girl that I was, in my pajamas, robe and fuzzy slippers. They didn’t have that cover-up, self-conscious attitude. But I’m very aware of my body. I’m not a European woman who doesn’t know when her top is on or off.”

The Wrath of Joan

She recently notched her fifth Emmy nomination (for best actress in a miniseries or movie for Showtime’s The Passion of Ayn Rand), but Helen Mirren says she is a bit apprehensive about what to wear to the Sept. 12 awards ceremony. With good reason. “Last time I wore a funky suit and this hat, which I called my bird’s nest,” says Mirren, 54, currently on the big screen in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. “Then about a week later I’m watching TV, and Joan Rivers comes on with her show. And I heard, ‘What did Helen Mirren think she was doing?’ Three other people were with Joan, and one after another they said, ‘She looked awful.’ At the end of the show they voted for who was the worst dressed, and they all go, ‘Helen Mirren.’ Then Joan turns to the [camera] and says, ‘Helen, if you’re watching, get your act together!’ I’m going to wear garbage bags from now on.”

The Unmarrying Kind

In the romantic comedy Love Stinks, due Sept. 10, 3rd Rock from the Sun’s French Stewart plays a TV writer loath to pop the question to his girlfriend. The actor says he can sympathize with his character’s trepidation. “I think all guys have to be nudged into marriage,” says Stewart, 35, who took the plunge last year with Katherine LaNasa. “My wife has a son from another relationship, so she made it clear that she wasn’t there to be my girlfriend. She wanted to be married. So we took some time to be engaged and then we just did it.” Stewart will face more complicated relationship issues next season on 3rd Rock from the Sun, when his earthling girlfriend gives birth to their baby. “The logistics of this kid’s DNA are boggling to me,” he says. “I just hope my son isn’t Alf.”

When Words Fail

Steve Martin, who wrote the script of Bowfinger, his new comedy costarring Eddie Murphy, says it took him a while to compose his thoughts. “I can’t write in the morning,” says Martin, 54, who had previously written or cowritten seven films, including The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Roxanne and L.A. Story. “And I do it a little at a time. Sometimes it takes years to finish. I never want to think it’s work. If I thought I had to do some writing work, I’d just about die.” Martin is able to summon his comic acting gifts much more freely. “It’s a wild gene,” he says. “I guess I’m just a show-off.”

What’s My Line?

“I don’t know that I’m so famous,” says actress Janeane Garofalo, who costars with Ben Stiller, Greg Kinnear and William H. Macy in her 15th film, the superhero comedy Mystery Men. “I have yet to have a driver who has known who he is picking up. And they always butcher my name beyond reprieve.” Garofalo, 35, says she doesn’t get recognized on the street that much either. “The public at large doesn’t care. They’ve got their own lives,” she says. “A few people turn their heads, but they don’t know why they know me. I can see it in their eyes. People will say, ‘Do I know you from school or are you my sister’s friend?’ They don’t know my name, for sure.”

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