Updated July 05, 2004 12:00 PM

Charm School

Playing yourself isn’t as easy as you might think. Just ask Randy Jackson, who turns up as himself on General Hospital June 29. “I don’t know if you can call it acting, but [to prepare] I drank a lot of coffee, I chewed a lot of gum, and I stared into the mirror a lot,” says Jackson, 48. “I just looked at myself, saying, ‘You really are a handsome one.’ I thought of myself as Prince Charming.”

Summer Reading

It’s no surprise that the best gifts for Harvard grad Natalie Portman‘s 23rd birthday were educational. “My mom and I have the same birthday [June 9], and my dad got us vegetarian cooking classes. That was cool,” says Port-man, who costars in the upcoming drama Garden State. “And my late grandfather was an economics professor who specialized in the economy of Turkey. He wrote obscure books, and my father found them and gave them to me, which is awesome.” So will the actress actually read the texts? Says Port-man: “I don’t think I’ll be able to understand them. They’re just nice to have.”

Villainous Vanity

Despite the four mechanical arms Alfred Molina wears as the diabolical Dr. Octavius in Spider-Man 2, the English actor thought his comic-book incarnation was quite dashing. “It was strange because [he] looks nothing like me,” says Molina, 51. But the crew “gave me cheekbones and a slightly higher brow. They also gave me pecs, which I’ve never had in my life. I mean, I’ve got middle-aged-man tits. It was very flattering.”

Table Wear

Talk about method acting. Ryan Gosling learned to make furniture while preparing to play a house-building soldier in the World War II drama The Notebook. “I apprenticed with a cabinetmaker in Charleston for about two months. We made all the Adirondack chairs in front of the house,” says Gosling, 23, who costars with Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls). “We sat in them a lot. And we shot a scene where Rachel and I consummate our relationship on a table I made. But I couldn’t keep it. We used a special wood, and the deal was [the cabinetmaker] got the table. But he doesn’t know what happened on it.”

Flashdance Music

As far as she knows, the most exotic place her music is played, says British singer Dido, is a nudie club. “I’ve got a huge fan base in a different market: Apparently my last album [Life for Rent] is quite good to strip to, according to many strippers that I have met,” says the 32-year-old pop star. “It’s a strip bar classic.”



“Stars believe that if they become famous in one area, they get the all-access celebrity pass. Sometimes you’re lucky just to get the gig you have. But people start believing—with the power of the ‘yes people’ around them—that they have this all-around, multifaceted talent that they can apply to anything. I already know I Can’t act. I don’t have to do some terrible submarine movie to figure that out. Hey, celebrities: Stay put! Enjoy! Is it so bad to make millions of dollars just from singing?”