By Nancy Perry Graham
September 13, 1999 12:00 PM

Singer Sheryl Crow got the chance to make her acting debut in this month’s The Minus Man, a psychological thriller starring Owen Wilson and Janeane Garofalo, after pal Dwight Yoakam suggested her to writer-director Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner). The role was gritty: a heroin addict. After seeing her, Fancher thought she was physically right for the part: “Put her with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in a roadhouse bar. Yeah, it works,” he says. Still, he had reservations about whether she could act. But in one of her early readings “she dropped her head and flicked her hair,” says Fancher, and he was hooked. “With her it has to be physical,” he says. “[In the end] I didn’t have to direct her at all. She was irresistible.”

On an ABC News special, Latin Beat, airing Sept. 7, Salma Hayek says that 10 years ago Hollywood producers shunned her because of her nationality. “When I first started they said, ‘Just don’t say you’re Mexican. With your name and your looks you can pass for Lebanese. Work on your accent…so that it sounds more Middle Eastern.’ ” Hayek refused. “I was born and raised in Mexico,” she says. “I’m Mexican.”

Danielle Steel may not have attended the parties that her fifth husband, venture capitalist Tom Perkins, threw to celebrate the launch of his newly restored yacht at Gosport, England. But she did make time that same week, while attending fashion shows in Paris, to meet actor George Hamilton for dinner—in London. (Steel and Perkins have since announced they’re splitting.) Hamilton, a close friend of Steel’s, begged off any suggestion that he is to blame for the split. “I had nothing to do with the divorce,” he says. Maybe not, but it appears he and Steel are more than just friends. Hamilton’s rep confirms that the two are now dating.

Had they lived, Princess Diana and her star-crossed lover, Dodi Al Fayed, were possibly going to take their romance west. I’m told by the owner of Malibu Ocean Sports that Dodi called to discuss purchasing several kayaks for delivery to his home in Malibu just a week before the accident that killed him and Diana. The store had previously shipped kayaks to the lovebirds in Europe.

Stage and screen veterans Ed Asner, Carl Reiner and Theodore Bikel teamed up to perform in The Dybbuk, an English-language radio adaptation of a classic Yiddish play that was produced by Hollywood Theater of the Ear and will be broadcast on some National Public Radio stations beginning Sept. 4. “Radio was my first love as a boy,” Asner told me. He added that he loved doing this play “because I didn’t have to get dressed up, shave or go on a diet. I just get to work with great actors.”

Fast Takes: Wolfgang Puck’s spokesman denies rumors that Puck and his wife, Barbara Lazaroff, partners in Spago, are splitting. He says the culinary couple are on vacation in Europe with their children….

Of her role as Mary in the upcoming CBS miniseries Jesus, Jacqueline Bisset says, “I’m not a religious person. But going through the crucifixion scene was very, very moving.”