THE BRITISH INVASION
British actress Helena Bonham Carter, who is generating Oscar buzz and has already won a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the Henry James adaptation The Wings of the Dove, says she has taken a fancy to American promotional junkets. "I go there to eat Smartfood popcorn. I love the cheddar flavor," says Bonham Carter, 31. "There's a hotel in New York City that has a supply of it in the mini-bar, so that's the place I always have to stay." But consuming cheesy snacks isn't her favorite American pastime. "I love watching the telly in the States," says Bonham Carter. "You have all these magazine shows, like Entertainment Tonight, that we don't have in England. I love all that stuff. It's because of my lurid curiosity. I'm no different than anyone else, I suppose, although it does creep me out if I see myself on any of those shows."

THE ART OF THE DEAL
Nobody is more surprised by Matt Damon's success than Matt Damon. Long before landing the starring role in The Rainmaker, the 27-year-old actor started cowriting the screenplay for his new drama Good Will Hunting with pal Ben Affleck. "The truth is we couldn't get arrested as actors, so we thought, 'Why don't we just write our own movie?' " says Damon, who costars in the film with Affleck and Robin Williams. "At the time Ben was sleeping on my couch. We were desperate." Selling the script was their meal ticket. "The suits were going, 'Boys, we were thinking half a mil,' " says Damon. "And Ben and I, who aren't sure if we can afford McDonald's tonight, are sitting there like, 'Half a mil? Hmmm.' " But success hasn't spoiled him: "I've gone from eating fried ramen noodles out of the box to eating real spaghetti."

O.J., NO WAY
O.J. Simpson has received a written apology—but not the $500 his lawyer Ronald Slates also demanded—after he was asked to leave the Brentwood Inn restaurant last year because, said co-owner Gloria Nulty, Simpson's presence made other customers "very uneasy." Was Nulty within her rights when she ejected O.J.? "[Simpson] can point to civil-rights violation but, typically, you reserve the right to refuse to serve people in restaurants," says Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in L.A. "They're not like buses where, if you pay your dollar, you have the right to ride unless you're being a problem. So he does have a bit of an uphill battle legally." Okay, that's the law—but how about the real-world view? "If [Slates] just wants an apology and $500, it's a cheap way to get out of it," says Goldman. "It could cost them $10,000 in attorney's fees to fight a case like this."

PLAYING FAVORITES
Emmy-winning actor Dennis Franz won't miss a beat as Det. Andy Sipowicz when his ABC crime drama NYPD Blue marks its 100th episode on Jan. 13. "Maybe, as a gift for doing 100 episodes, they'll put nameplates on the parking spaces," says Franz, 53, who has missed only one day of work in five seasons. "I'm very protective of my space. If somebody takes it, I will pull up in front of the car and start honking my horn. It's fun to watch the scurry of activity. Four or five people come running, and soon the other car is gone." But Franz is not as proprietary about his NYPD case history. "People always mention certain episodes that are their favorites, but I can't remember everything we've done," he says. "So I usually just smile and say, 'Oh, that's my favorite too!' "