September 08, 2003 12:00 PM

Mucho De Niro

“To me, heaven and hell are states of mind, not a place you go when you die,” says Penélope Cruz, 29, who plays an assistant to Satan in the Spanish film Don’t Tempt Me, “You can just open the newspaper to experience hell.” In the philosophical comedy, Cruz portrays a former male gangster whose infernal torment is to be trapped in a woman’s body. “It wasn’t hard to play a man. It was fun. The director [Agustin Diaz Yanes] said, ‘You’re Robert De Niro in GoodFellas, and you’re angry because they put you in the body of this tiny woman.’ ”

Kid Rock

Kate Hudson and her hubby, Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, already know their unborn child is a rocker. “We just went to a Neil Young concert in Vegas a few weeks ago, and Baby was dancing,” says Hudson, 24. “I love the music, and Baby seems to as well.” Adds Robinson, 36: “He or she will definitely have good taste in music. At least while they live in my home. I’m always playing music or singing, so I think the kid is off to a good start.”

Deconstructing Woody

Working with director Woody Allen can cause even a seasoned pro like Stockard Channing to question her abilities. “Woody would let you do a scene and then say, ‘No, no, ugh!’ ” says Channing, 59, who plays a failed nightclub singer in Allen’s comedy Anything Else, due Sept. 19. “I was convinced I was going to be fired.” Channing survived and even earned some praise from the Woodman. “I made him laugh once, and he gave me a compliment. It was very over-the-top, so I wrote down the word—it was something like ‘show-stopping,’ ” says Channing. “It felt like I was back in grammar school and somebody was putting a gold star on my paper.”

Room Disservice

Andrew Firestone’s fiancée, Jennifer Schefft, is now working for his family’s winery in Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., but don’t expect this bachelor to be barking orders at the new employee. “You can’t boss Jen around. She’s extremely independent and smart,” says Firestone, 28. “I would never go that far mixing business with pleasure anyway. But now when I go all over the country for work, it makes sense if she comes.” Traveling together poses one problem. “Our hotel rooms are pretty scary. Jen’s sort of a human volcano,” says Firestone. “Her bag just erupts when she is getting ready. There are piles of shoes, clothes and makeup everywhere.”

Car Trouble

Haley Joel Osment has an Oscar nomination to his credit, but he still can’t drive himself to work. “I just got my permit,” says the 15-year-old actor, who costars in the upcoming drama Secondhand Lions. “It’s definitely one of the most important parts of my life right now. Having the freedom to go places on your own is a big step.” Any hairy incidents so far? Says Osment: “No wrecks yet. But my mom’s still too afraid to drive with me.”

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