September 23, 2002 12:00 PM

A Blast in the Past

For his new turn-of-the-century military epic The Four Feathers, Heath Ledger performed all his own stunts. “It was good to get out there and scream, beat people up and jump on horses,” says Ledger, 23. “It keeps it exciting. I didn’t break my ankle or anything, but looking back I probably should have.” Feathers marks a hat trick of historical dramas for Ledger, who also starred in A Knights Tale and The Patriot. Doesn’t he long to play a more contemporary man of action? “Everyone is going, ‘So are you going to be doing period movies and riding horses for the rest of your life?’ ” says Ledger. “But I’m not going to put on tights and be a superhero. I’m not going to conform to a plan for turning me into some mega dude.”

Script Tease

For Sophia Loren, portraying a dowdy older woman in Between Strangers, the directorial debut of her younger son, Edoardo Ponti, 29, presented formidable challenges. “Getting wrinkles and a washed-out complexion took three hours every morning,” says the 68-year-old beauty, who points out that her own radiant features have never been enhanced with cosmetic surgery. “It’s in my DNA. It’s something that runs in my family. We are always very beautiful.” And despite a supportive atmosphere on the set, where the entire crew took to calling her Mammina as her son did, Loren had one gripe with her director. “He was always changing my lines,” says the actress. “It drove me crazy. I really suffered very much.”

Trouble A Foot

Long before she became a global pop star, Gloria Estefan was already doing her part for international relations. “I was a Spanish and French interpreter in customs at Miami International Airport,” says Estefan, 45, who cohosts the Latin Grammy Awards, airing Sept. 18 on CBS. “I had to tell people to strip naked to be searched. One time they caught a nun from Italy trying to smuggle a salami on a rope under her habit. I went to Catholic school, so I was going, ‘Oh, Lordy!’ It was very surreal.” Of course, contraband meats are tame compared to some of the requests she has come across since becoming famous. “There are fans with a foot fetish,” says Estefan. “They want close-ups of my feet. I’ve thought about teasing them with pictures. First, one of my foot in a sneaker, then in a sock, and then a picture of some really ugly foot. But I never did that. You don’t mess with foot-fetish fans.”

The Boob Tube

The atmosphere on The Sopranos’ set can get pretty intense, so Lorraine Bracco, who plays serene shrink Dr. Melfi, likes to lighten the mood by playing pranks. Her favorite target? Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini. “I always try to break Jimmy out of character,” says Bracco, 47, of her costar on the HBO mob drama, which begins its fourth season on Sept. 15. “Once, I put on one of those expandable blow-up bras underneath my shirt and pumped it up. But he was so into the scene that he didn’t notice. And I made them really big. He didn’t get it.”

She Got Game

“I’ve never been more nervous, knowing I could make a total fool out of myself in a matter of minutes,” says Meredith Vieira, 45, host of the new syndicated version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, of her own experience in the hot seat as a guest last November. How does she think her colleagues from The View would fare? “Star [Jones] would be overconfident and jump too fast,” says Vieira. “Joy [Behar] is an ex-teacher, so she could do very well. Lisa [Ling] would never do it because she does not want to appear stupid. And Barbara [Walters] would do really well. But I would have to let her win, wouldn’t I?”

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