By David Cobb Craig
December 17, 2001 12:00 PM

Ample Evidence

Sporting a short-cropped hairdo, blue jeans and cowboy clodhoppers, Hilary Swank so convincingly portrayed Brandon Teena in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry the true story about a girl who lived her life as a boy, that she won an Oscar—and left some moviegoers confused. “I read things that said, ‘Hilary wore this or that dress to prove she’s a girl.’ Well, I am a girl! I love clothes, makeup and shoes. Look at these 5-inch heels,” says Swank, 27, referring to a pair of strappy black Marc Jacobs on her feet. Her new film The Affair of the Necklace—an 18th-century costume drama complete with whalebone corsets and heaving bosoms-should further dispel any doubts about Swank’s femininity. “What girl wouldn’t want to wear those clothes?” says Swank, adding, “It’s funny. With Brandon I strapped my breasts down, and with this movie I strapped them up. My breasts were taking on a life of their own.”

A Hit on the Kisser

Talk about learning the ropes. Will Smith climbed over them and into the boxing ring to portray Muhammad Ali in the biopic Ali, opening Christmas Day. “We decided early we were fighting for real and not pulling any punches,” says Smith, 33, of going mano a mano with actors playing Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston. “I felt like I was going to pass out a lot of days.” Worker’s comp came in the form of a kissing scene with the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, 30, who plays Ali’s first wife, although during the filming of that intimate moment, Jada hit him below the belt. “She whispered, ‘Don’t make your mouth that big, because if you shoot a closeup of a kiss, your mouth is 12 feet wide on the screen,’ ” reports Smith. “She said, ‘Keep your mouth smaller or you’ll look like a whale.’ ”

All Bets Are Off

Leaving ER to pursue a big-screen career was a gamble that paid off in spades for George Clooney. But his luck ran out last summer in Las Vegas, where he filmed Ocean’s Eleven, during a losing streak at the blackjack table with his costar Matt Damon, 31. “I do hold the record for most blackjack losses in Vegas,” says Clooney, 40, laughing as he recalls a special night. “First, I had cash and it was gone. Then you dance around to get a line of credit at a casino. I threw out all my money and lost everything in seconds. Matt said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ He started putting down money for me, and I said, ‘I have to tell you: have the worst luck.’ ” Damon concurs. “I counted. I think George lost 25 hands in a row,” he says. “There were professional gamblers in the place pulling back their chips until Clooney left. It was like he was jinxing the room.”

Take Two

Playing the benevolent wizard Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has given Richard Harris, 68, his biggest hit in a film career that started in the ’50s, and he’s the first to tell you things were different back then. “Now it takes these young stars four days to arrive, and they come with 19 bodyguards, dietitians, trainers, psychiatrists and motivators,” says Harris, who concedes that today’s actors are a bit more abstemious. “Peter O’Toole and I had dinner a week ago and talked about what if we were starting out now. We came to the conclusion that if we lived the type of life we lived back then—as rabble-rousers—we’d be unemployable by 2001 Hollywood standards. For instance, if the schedule was 12 weeks, then producers would add on an extra one because they knew I’d be late some days,” says Harris. “When Richard Burton did a movie, they added two weeks.”