August 20, 2001 12:00 PM

Shooting steamy love scenes with a tattooed lady like Angelina Jolie can present problems—especially when she augments her body art midway through filming. Such was the case on Original Sin, Jolie’s thriller with Antonio Banderas. I hear director Michael Cristofer flipped when his female star showed up in early April of last year sporting a dragon’s tail and the name “Billy Bob” freshly tattooed on her left arm. Unlike the other 10 tattoos she had then, this one couldn’t be camouflaged with makeup without risking infection. So, for one dance scene, the costumer covered it with a bow; in others, Jolie wore a flesh-colored patch. The latter also served to help keep her then new relationship with future husband Billy Bob Thornton a secret.

Speaking of Thornton, he just got out of prison. He and Aussie heartthrob Heath Ledger recently wrapped Monster’s Ball, in which they play father-son correction officers. They shot part of the drama at the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, where 120 inmates, mostly lifers, appeared as extras. Although the director, Marc Forster, asked for real inmates, he had no hand in the actual casting. “That was up to the warden,” he tells us.

Having logged close to 60 hours in a single-engine Cessna, Greg Kinnear was an FAA test away from joining the ranks of aviator movie stars (think Ford, Travolta) before a heavy workload put his free time into a holding pattern. But his flight training continued in his role as a heroic helicopter pilot in the just wrapped Mel Gibson-led Vietnam War epic We Were Soldiers. “I learned to do everything but hover, which is like juggling eight eggs at once,” Kinnear told me at the L.A. premiere of his latest film, HBO’s Dinner with Friends, airing this month.

Just Shoot Me’s Wendie Malick had plenty of time to make hay during her five-month hiatus, which ends Aug. 13. She and her husband, builder Richard Erick-son, board three horses on their 40-acre ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, where Malick rides every day. During her break, their mare, Mikey Rose, gave birth to a quarter horse they named Cassidy (as in Hopalong). Malick spent four nights in the barn sleeping on a bale of hay awaiting the birth, which occurred at 2 a.m. “It’s the closest to childbirth I’ve gotten,” says the actress.

Jami Gertz (Twister) was kicking back on a recent Italian cruise with her husband, investor Tony Ressler, when she got an urgent phone call from her agent. Gertz’s first thought was that topless photos of her would wind up in the tabloids. The day before, she doffed her top “for the first time” sunbathing on Sardinia. Gertz was relieved when her agent broke the real news: She had received an Emmy nomination for her four-episode arc as a lawyer on Ally McBeal last season.

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