October 23, 2000 12:00 PM

Joaquin and Talking

Joaquin Phoenix costars in the new drama The Yards with The Artist Formerly Known as Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg), but he was much more interested in the moniker of another Yards actor, James Caan. “Jimmy was known as the Dream on-set,” says Phoenix, 25. “They put it on his chair. I was like, ‘How did you get this name, Jimmy the Dream?’ Caan said, ‘Look, kid, I got no ambitions. I don’t want anybody to think Jimmy is a great actor anymore. I just want people to say he’s a dream to work with.’ A week later, Mark became the Dream Jr. I was really hurt by that. But then they gave me Flash because I’m always the first one on-set.”

Rock 101

Playing a teenage rock journalist in director Cameron Crowe’s drama Almost Famous was a big stretch for newcomer Patrick Fugit, 17, who admits that before he got the part, “I didn’t listen to any music. Cameron said, ‘That’s okay. We forgive you.’ During rehearsals he gave me this huge collection of music—Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, [Peter] Frampton—and said, ‘This is rock. Enjoy.’ ”

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Despite her rather abrupt split with Billy Bob Thornton this spring (maybe you heard, too, that he married Angelina Jolie), Laura Dern has done her best to remain mum on the subject. “It’s particularly tough when you’re silent and other people are not,” says Dern, who costars in the comedy Dr. T and the Women. “All we have is our own self-respect and dignity. I’m trying to dance within that. If I felt it would help me to talk about it because I’d learn something, then I would.” Dern, 33, also refuses to let the breakup sour her memories of Daddy and Them, the dark comedy she filmed with Thornton that is due out next year, shooting down rumors that he is trimming her part in the editing room. “If Billy Bob did that, he’s a brilliant editor,” she says, “because I’m in every scene.”

You (Don’t) Go, Girl

Winona Ryder’s not much of a partygoer. “Someone asked me about the glamorous world of Hollywood and going to events,” she says, “and the odd thing is that they run the same picture of me over and over so it looks as if I’m out and about, but it’s really from three years ago.” In fact, she’s been quietly scaling back her time on film sets as well. “I haven’t made a movie since finishing Autumn in New York,” says Ryder, 28, whose celluloid romance with Richard Gere came out in August. Although she appears in Lost Souls, Ryder actually filmed the supernatural thriller two years ago. “I am now of the mind-set that I want to do one movie a year, if that. I think it’s nice when you don’t see the same actors all the time. I know there are certain actors I don’t want to see anymore.”

Al, the President’s Man

Heard something funny from Al Gore recently? There is a good chance that Stuart Smalley had a hand in it. The former Saturday Night Live performer and writer Al Franken has been penning jokes for the Democratic candidate. “It’s much harder writing for politicians because half my instinct is to go for something that would be a disaster,” says Franken, 49, who has contributed a few zingers—poking fun at reports of a Gore spy in George W. Bush’s inner circle, for instance—that missed the mark. “For the [first presidential] debate, I’d write a joke like, ‘Our mole said you’d say that’ or ‘Our mole said you’d wear that tie,’ and everyone would go, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ ” Another example of what not to do: “I gave them a line for [the Vice President’s appearance on Late Show with] David Letterman: ‘I’ll tell you one thing, if I get impeached, it will be for something different’ ” Funny, Gore didn’t use it. “It’s not a bad joke,” says Franken, “but I guess you don’t bring up impeachment.”

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