By Tom Cunneff
May 06, 2002 12:00 PM

Marlo Thomas reprised her role as Jennifer Aniston‘s mom on the April 25 episode of Friends, reassuring the nearly nine-months-pregnant Rachel that she’ll make a good mother. (Rachel gives birth on the May 16 show.) The two TV icons have a special bond dating to Thomas’s first appearance on Friends in 1996, when Aniston good-naturedly reprimanded an overzealous director for giving too much advice to the ’60s That Girl star. “Wait a minute,” Aniston told him. “This is the queen of TV. You don’t tell her how to act.” On May 8 Aniston and media mogul Barry Diller are cohosting a party at Diller’s L.A. home to celebrate the publication of Thomas’s new book, The Right Words at the Right Time, an inspirational tome in which 108 influential people share their best advice. Hardest celebrity to get? The Dalai Lama, Thomas tells me, “because he doesn’t talk on the phone.”

When most of us see a play we like, we tell our friends. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson make a movie out of it. At least that’s what the couple did after seeing Nia Vardalos’s one-woman play, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which ran for a month in L.A. in 1998. While developing the screenplay with Vardalos for the film version, which just opened and costars Sex and the City‘s John Corbett, Hanks, who produced the film with Wilson, had one request: more kissing scenes! Apparently one kiss wasn’t enough for the romantic comedy king and star of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. “The audience wants to watch them fall in love,” he told Vardalos. Total lip locks now: nine.

Speaking of Greece, that’s where Jennifer Tilly shot her latest movie, The Cat’s Meow. On one of her days off, she was walking through a small town and saw some tables with nice tablecloths. She sat down and ordered tea when a woman approached her. Told they didn’t have any tea, Tilly said she’d have some coffee. The woman grunted but brought out a cup. Only when Tilly went inside to use the bathroom and saw family photos and a man sleeping on a couch did she realize she was in a private home. She quickly apologized and left—but not before trying to pay the woman.

The fourth Star Trek: The Next Generation movie just wrapped production, but the cast’s greatest challenge wasn’t keeping Earth safe from aliens; it was keeping the set safe from thieves. After a break during filming, the cast and crew returned to find a gaping hole on the Enterprise’s bridge: The captain’s chair was missing. It marked the third time that someone had made off with the command post of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) since 1994. Set decorators scrambled to build a new 150-lb. Naugahyde chair at a cost of $15,000. (A prop craftsman from the movie estimates that a Trekkie memorabilia collector might pay 10 times that.) The studio suspects an inside job, but they’ve yet to catch the culprits. My suspicion: those unruly Romulans.