September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Who’s That Girl?

Mastering a southern drawl for her new comedy Sweet Home Alabama came easily to Reese Witherspoon, a native of Nashville. “It’s sort of like putting on an old pair of shoes,” says Witherspoon, 26, whose character, a country girl from the wrong side of the tracks, reinvents herself as an elite New York City clothing designer. “Of all the movies that I’ve done, this is probably the closest to my own story. It was exciting to get back to my roots.” Now that she’s a big movie star, Witherspoon must be recognizable to fans above and below the Mason-Dixon line, right? “Well, they always think that I’m Claire Danes, Christina Ricci or Alicia Silverstone,” says the actress. “I had someone make a U-turn in the street recently and say, ‘Oh my God, you’re that Ricci girl!’ I said, Tm sorry that you had to make that illegal turn, but I’m not.’ He was so disappointed.”

Serving Style

She has hit the court in a hot-pink micro-dress and a black cat suit, which is why tennis ace Serena Williams has become as famous for her fashion sense as her game. Is there anything the world’s No. 1 won’t try on? “No. I’d wear anything,” says Williams, 21. “In the ’80s I wore the purple-jean skirt and the purple shirt with the purple socks. I was huge into that.” As the reigning French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champ, the queen of center court is now eyeing center stage with the help of an acting coach. “I was going to be on The District and The Bernie Mac Show, but I had to turn them down,” says Williams. “Tennis is year-round, so I can’t do as much as I’d like.” But there’s one role she’d make time for. “They should remake Clash of the Titans, and I would like to play the princess. That would be perfect.”

Keepin’ It Cool

Long before he became a star, Will Smith was the Fresh Prince of Produce in his Philadelphia neighborhood. “My father had his own business. We installed those long freezer cases in supermarkets,” says Smith, 34, currently filming Bad Boys 2 with Martin Lawrence. “A supermarket basement is the nastiest place on the face of the earth. You can walk in a sewer and it’s not as bad as that.” The actor’s oldest son, Trey, 9 (with ex-wife Sheree Zampino), is a lot more enthusiastic about following in his father’s footsteps. “He’s already thinking, ‘Wait a minute; all the little girls come around when Daddy is here,'” says Smith. “So Trey is like, ‘Come on, Dad, let’s go to the Beverly Center.'”

Music Lesson

Kieran Culkin, who plays a troubled teen in the new drama Igby Goes Down, admits he was no angel in school. “In the first week of eighth grade, we had a new math teacher, who assumed I was a real dummy,” says Culkin, who by that time had already logged small roles in Father of the Bride and Home Alone, as well as their sequels. “She gave me a math test that had 10 questions on it, but she gave the rest of the class a test that had 20 questions. She thought I was a poor student and needed to ease into math. But I was an excellent math student and I refused to take the test.” Says Culkin, who turns 20 on Sept. 30: “Then she told me I had to quiet down because I was disturbing the class. And I said, ‘I’ll show you what disturbing the class looks like.’ So I jumped on my desk and began singing the national anthem.”

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