October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

In other Aussie news, Russell Crowe created a league of his own on the Rosarito, Mexico, set of his upcoming 19th-century naval drama, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The star taught the cast and crew how to play rugby, his favorite sport, to build up their endurance for the seafaring saga’s physical scenes. When one player balked, “I told him, ‘Hey mate, it’s all about the

work,’ ” Crowe told The New York Times.

Double feature: Rising Aussie star Naomi Watts (left) shared a little red-carpet revelry with best mate Nicole Kidman at the L.A. premiere of her new thriller, The Ring. Watts, whose career took off after she starred in last year’s noirish mystery Mulholland Drive, plays a journalist investigating a videotape that causes the death of anyone who watches it. “We’ve always been there for each other,” said Kidman, whose 20-year friendship with Watts dates to their high school days in Sydney. “I’m here to support her.”

For Pitt’s sake: The L.A. sheriff’s department rescues stranded motorists, stray cats and, occasionally, overwhelmed celebs. While furniture shopping in West Hollywood, Brad Pitt (below) and Jennifer Aniston (left) attracted such a big crowd of fans that officers were called to help them get back to their car. Not that the uniformed escort could get the couple out of everything: When the stars got to their vehicle, they found they’d been ticketed.

Of posing forces: Sporting a daring décolleté, Chelsea Clinton (right) joined material mom Madonna and her natty-by-nature daughter Lourdes, who was celebrating her sixth birthday, at a retrospective honoring the fashions of the late Gianni Versace on Oct. 14 in London.

Live and let tie: In the upcoming James Bond thriller Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan circles the globe to prevent a war of catastrophic proportions. But getting his 5-year-old son Dylan to put on his sneakers was another story when the pop stopped to shop in Malibu. The 007 adventure opens Nov. 22.

Travels with Charlie: On hiatus from college, Natalie Portman offered a few sidewalk cellutations while walking her pooch Charlie in New York City.

Depp perception: French singer-actress Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp perambulated with daughter Lily-Rose, 3, and son Jack, 6 months (in stroller), in Beverly Hills. The couple, who live in the South of France, are in L.A. while Depp is shooting Pirates of the Caribbean, an action flick based on the Disney theme-park ride.

On a break from filming The Whole Nine Yards 2, costars Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet sipped and spied on their neighbors at an outdoor cafe in L.A. The comedy, a sequel to their 2000 hit, reunites the pair with Bruce Willis.

Puckish pop star Avril Lavigne showed off her skating skills at a surprise 18th-birthday bash (thrown by her label Arista) at a New York City rink. “It was full-on ice hockey with helmets, gloves, sticks,” says the native Canadian. “Awesome!”

Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Taylor (above) bonded at the Carousel of Hope ball held in L.A. on Oct. 15. “It’s a magical night,” observed Lara Flynn Boyle, who mingled with Samuel L. Jackson (below), while Kate Hudson (right) gala-vanted among the 1,500 guests. Said Jackson, who paid $500 for a Sidney Poitier-signed plate at the event, which raised money to fight juvenile diabetes: “I’ve always wanted his autograph, and now I have it.”

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