January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

>Maya Angelou On the set of Down in the Delta, a new film about a Chicago woman who digs for her African-American roots in Mississippi, the likes of Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes were in awe of being touched by an Angelou. “The actors wanted to work with me, so they came to work for peanut shells,” says Maya Angelou, 70, who was talked into the job by producers. “Wesley Snipes left an $80 million movie he was filming to come over and give me a week of his time.” Although Angelou, a professor at Wake Forest University and a gourmet cook who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., has acted (Roots) and directed for TV (including documentaries for PBS), she’s best known for her poetry and such memoirs as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Yet she didn’t write Delta and can’t imagine directing her own material. “I need another point of view,” she explains. Not that filmmaking is so dissimilar from writing, she adds: “I came to see the camera as my pen. I just let the ‘pen’ tell the story.”

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