June 04, 2001 12:00 PM

The Show Must Go On

Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrman says he can empathize with star Nicole Kidman, who has been busy promoting their new musical while in the midst of a nasty divorce from Tom Cruise. “Can you imagine how tough this is on Nicole?” says Luhrman, 37, who finds parallels in his film. “The story of Moulin Rouge is about the transition from young, naive romanticism to being hurt and having scars but not allowing yourself to be killed by the pain. In the process of delivering the movie, I lost my father and Nicole lost the most meaningful relationship of her life. But Nicole can make these public appearances now because she knows the movie—and life—are about not allowing anything to destroy you.”

Abysmal Without Bismol

His catchphrase may be “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” but the WWF wrestler admits that he’s no Emeril Lagasse in the kitchen. “I mostly just barbecue steaks,” says The Rock, 29, whose real name is Dwayne Johnson. “I can’t even really do good hotdogs.” His culinary shortcomings came back to haunt him on the Moroccan set of his debut film, The Mummy Returns. After ignoring costar Oded Fehr’s advice to pass up the local cuisine, he says, “I was sick as a dog. It was 100° outside in the desert, and I was shivering. I had three blankets on in between takes.” And relief was nowhere in sight. “In Morocco,” he explains, “you don’t have Pepto-Bismol at Walgreens, I was living on toast and couscous for days.”

Not a Familiar Face

Her peers have recognized her with Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations and a recent American Comedy Award win, but Malcolm in the Middle’s manic mom, Jane Kaczmarek, says that the rest of the world still doesn’t notice her. “My husband is Bradley Whitford, [who plays Josh] on The West Wing, and when we go out, everyone recognizes him, They look at me and say, ‘You must be very proud;” says Kaczmarek, 45. “We went to Disneyland, where there are tons of people who you’d think would watch the show, and not one person recognized me. Brad says it’s because they think I’m going to yell at them.”

Jay Low-Key

Jay Leno is celebrating his ninth year as the Tonight Show host, but don’t look for a splashy prime-time anniversary special to commemorate the event, as was the norm for his predecessor Johnny Carson. “I think it’s my Scottish influence, from my mother’s side,” says Leno, 51. “My mother said you should never draw attention to yourself. When I was 7, I used to go to the market with her and deliberately run away and ask the manager to page her; she’d be so embarrassed having her name being called in a public place. That’s why the name of the show is The Tonight Show with Jay Leno [not Starring, as Carson had it],” he explains. “Otherwise it’s kinda like showing off every night.”

The Kids Are Hall Right

“If you stick around long enough, you don’t have to practice,” says Harry Shearer, 57, explaining how his fictional rock band Spinal Tap got to Carnegie Hall, where they will play on June 4 as part of the Toyota Comedy Festival. Shearer expects that he and his costars from the 1984 documentary spoof This Is Spinal Tap, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, will approach the gig similarly to the way they did their 1992 performance at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. “You look at all the posters of what’s played before, and you are awed for a moment,” he says. “Then you go back to trashing the place.”

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