October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

Don’t Fence Me In

Michelle Pfeiffer projects an aura of cool sophistication in the movies (including her current drama, White Oleander), but in real life she’s a tool-belt-and-sawdust type of woman. She has even tried to turn her two kids, Claudia Rose, 9, and John Henry, 8, into This Old House types, though with minimal success. “We’ll start a project and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’ll build this playhouse,’ but I’m left to finish everything,” says the actress, 44. “This just happened: I had a little picket fence that someone built for me and I thought, ‘Great, the kids and I will paint this.’ So we get the things we need, we each have our paintbrushes and, literally not even 20 minutes into it, they are like, ‘Mom, can we go play?’ And for the next four hours I was painting the fence alone.”

Adam’s Ribs

In his new romantic comedy, Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler plays a lonely toilet-plunger salesman who gets bossed around by his seven sisters. Which, it turns out, wasn’t that much of a stretch for the comedian. “I was just visiting my mom in New Hampshire,” says Sandler, 36. “She told me what to do a lot when I was home. Every move I made, we talked about what I was doing wrong. Walking around in sweatpants with a stain on them—I got a 45-minute lecture on that.” For Sandler, who is engaged to actress Jackie Titone, keeping a cool head with the ladies in his life saves the day. “I’ve learned not to react to what they’re saying as fast as I used to,” he says. “I used to snap pretty quick. ‘Leave me alone!’ was my catchphrase. Now I just go, ‘What do you need?’ I’m getting older and a little bit nicer.”

Who’s the Boss?

Talk about intimidating: For his first feature film in English—director Guy Ritchie’s remake of 1974’s Swept Away—Italian actor Adriano Giannini not only had to play Madonna‘s lover, he had to do it while playing a role made famous by his father, Giancarlo Giannini. “I auditioned in Rome and the next day I was in a London hotel suite with Madonna and Guy,” says Giannini, 31. “Honestly, I thought my father was going to walk out of a closet and say, ‘Surprise, this is Candid Camera!’ ” Shooting some of his scenes as a slovenly sailor stranded on an island with a rich American socialite was equally surreal. “I had to throw a big octopus in Madonna‘s face,” says Giannini. “We used a real one and there were so many takes that the thing was dying because it had been out of the water for so long. At one point I had to give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” His costar needed less TLC. “She’s tough in the best way,” says the Italian actor, who got plenty of direction from the husband-and-wife team. “Guy was the director,” says Giannini, “but she is Madonna. They were both in charge.”

The Real World

As the writer, cocreator and star of Life with Bonnie, ABC’s new sitcom about a harried TV talk show host balancing a career with family obligations, Bonnie Hunt doesn’t have to go far to gather material. “I am on the phone with my sisters every day,” says Hunt, 38, who culls story lines from the real-life high jinks of her six siblings and their 15 children. “Like the episode where I had my son pull on my sweater while I’m in it so that it will look baggy and my hips will look smaller—that really happened. My sister had her daughter do that.” It’s not a technique the actress recommends, however. “When my niece let go, my sister fell and hit her face. It swelled up so much that her big face ended up making her hips look small,” says Hunt, who is married to investment banker John Murphy. “Hey, what matters is that it worked.”

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