December 01, 2003 12:00 PM

Central Casting

The Missing’s Cate Blanchett is currently filming The Life Aquatic, but she got into her role before she ever arrived on set. “My character is pregnant, and as I was being fitted for the prosthetic belly, I fainted. Later I found out I really was pregnant,” says Blanchett, 34, who is expecting her second child next spring. She had no idea playing a pregnant woman could be so hazardous. “I’d taken my clothes off to be fitted for the body cast, and they covered me in plaster of paris. You can’t breathe very well, so I fainted and smashed the cast. When I woke up, I was covered in plaster, naked, and thought, ‘This is the end.’ ”

Fish & Scripts

Despite his success, Bernie Mac hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. “I worked at Dock’s Great Fish in Chicago for $3.25 an hour. While I was cleaning, cooking and cutting fish, I was planning my act,” says the comic, 46, who costars with Billy Bob Thornton in the comedy Bad Santa. “My wife was the breadwinner for eight years. I had to swallow my pride to keep the comedy dream going.” In a way, says Mac, the hard work still keeps him grounded. “It’s important for me to keep my head on right because people get where I am and lose their minds. They hear voices or something.”

Life Goes On

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter‘s Kaley Cuoco says the mood on-set hasn’t been solemn since she returned to work on Oct. 20, five weeks after John Ritter’s death. “When you think of John, you can’t be sad,” says Cuoco, 18, who plays his oldest daughter. “People are laughing because we’ll think of something John would have said or a face he would have made.” But Cuoco admits there are times that are difficult. “I still talk about him in the present tense. I say ‘John is’ instead of’ John was.’ I’ll probably do that for a long time.”

Taking Stock of his Locks

In the drama Girl with a Pearl Earring, Colin Firth plays a sexy Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-century painter. To the dismay of the British actor, the role required him to wear a shoulder-length wig. “It was itchy, and I was always in danger of looking more Woodstock than 17th century,” says Firth, 43, whose costar Scarlett Johansson had a tough time keeping a straight face. “Film wigs are more convincing than toupees, but if your leading lady bursts into fits of laughter at the sight of you, it’s a challenge,” says Firth. “Scarlett would call me Fabio. I would do a sizzling look, and all she would say was, ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ ”

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