By Ericka Souter
December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

Feet Accompli

Stockard Channing isn’t thinking much about the Oscar buzz surrounding her role in the psychological drama The Business of Strangers. Mostly she’s happy just to be standing on her own two feet after breaking her ankle hiking through L.A.’s Topanga Canyon in September. “I had surgery on my ankle and was in a wheelchair for seven weeks,” says Channing, 57, who headed back to The West Wing’s set before she recovered. Luckily “they wrote it into the show. But I was very frustrated being in a chair. Your whole world is just insane. ‘Oh, I left the pen in the kitchen!’ becomes a whole thing-getting on the walker to the hallway and then in the chair and around the corner.” Not that she lets much get in her way. “Life is a lot more interesting after a certain age,” says Channing. “Sure, every now and then you have to play just somebody’s mother or somebody’s crazy mother or whatever. But I’m happy.”

Really Leery

It’s hard to imagine trash-talking comedian Denis Leary as skittish, but the Newtown, Conn., set of his new drama, Final, currently in limited release, had him spooked. “We filmed at [Fairfield Hills] mental hospital, which had been closed down,” says Leary, 44, who plays a psychiatric patient. “It was very creepy. Lights went off and there were howling noises. It was like being in a horror movie.” Working in the eerie locale for 17 days even had Leary reverting to the buddy system. “I didn’t want to wander around by myself. We would ask each other, ‘You want to take a walk to the bathroom?’ No one wanted to go by themselves.”

The Replacement

In the new romantic comedy Kate & Leopold, Hugh Jackman plays a 19th-century gent propelled into present-day Manhattan who wins the heart of contemporary city girl Meg Ryan. When it comes to being a real-life Romeo, however, he could take a few pointers from his costar. On his fifth wedding anniversary, he was stuck filming an action scene for Kate in Central Park, so Ryan gallantly volunteered to be his stand-in. “I couldn’t leave the set,” says Jackman, 33, who is married to actress Deborra-lee Furness, a fellow Aussie. “So Meg and my wife went out for a lovely anniversary dinner. She did a great job in my place, and I am fully indebted to her for taking my wife out and romancing her.”

The Long Arm of the Law

During the 1990s, Ice-T was best known as the creator of controversial gangsta rap hits like “Cop Killer.” These days, the rapper makes his living as one of New York City’s finest on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU. The key to his successful transition? “Knowing that cops and criminals are the same,” says Ice-T, 43, who was born Tracy Marrow. “They both walk in a room with a gun and want to know some answers. If you don’t give them, there will be a penalty.” This is his second turn as a TV cop, but he isn’t worried about being typecast. Actually, he would prefer it. “Bad guys usually last just one episode. Besides, on SVU I’ve got the loosest noose around my neck when it comes to what comes out of my mouth. I am allowed to be a little more hip than the others. I can throw in a ‘Whattup.’ ”

Scholarly Pursuit

Forget the Emmy Awards. Friends star David Schwimmer would gladly forgo the rigors of sitcom life for a chance to be Teacher of the Year. “I’m ready to maybe go back to school and change careers,” Schwimmer, 35, who has a bachelor’s degree in speech from Northwestern University, told Britain’s The Observer. “I would like to teach in public school. I think I have a lot to offer in that area.” But he won’t get the chance until the Friends cast calls it quits for good-which, Schwimmer says, may happen at the end of this season. “Our contract is up in April. We’re not signed up to do another year, and we are not even in talks. I’m ready for it to be over.”