Rene Russo plays Natasha, the sultry, curvaceous spy in the new live-action flick The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But the former model—who began sashaying down catwalks at 17—remains unimpressed by her looks. "In high school I was a skinny, skinny, skinny girl, taller than all the boys," says Russo, 46, who has a 6-year-old daughter, Rose, with her husband, Dan Gilroy, a screenwriter. "I knew what it was like being ignored and made fun of." Even now, years after she has smoldered onscreen opposite a who's who of Hollywood's leading men (including Pierce Brosnan, Mel Gibson, John Travolta and Kevin Costner), Russo insists her self-assessment hasn't changed much: "I don't think I've ever gotten out of high school. It never ends."
"I'm in the show about women loving each other," says Kate Capshaw, who just finished filming a segment about bisexuality for the Showtime miniseries It's a Girl Thing, a drama that will air next year. "I loved the experience and appreciate how strategic men have to be in order to get that kiss," says Capshaw, 46, whose role included a romance with another woman. "It was definitely new territory, and I think it went very, very well. I really have so much compassion." Capshaw wasn't fazed by having to disrobe. "I've done nudity in other films. In this case it was the same. You sort of get around showing too much or doing too much. At the same time, you are naked."
While most singers who make the leap onto the silver screen worry about how they look or getting their lines right, R&B songstress Mary J. Blige, who will make her acting debut in the drama Prison Song, had more pedestrian concerns. "I'm not a good morning person, I didn't like getting up that early," says Blige, 29, who is promoting the MAC AIDS Fund on her current world tour. "I didn't like being on the set all day and doing scenes over and over." Still, she toughed it out. "I was shocked that I was able to do it. Everyone was like, 'Oh my God, Mary's an actress!' " But don't expect the reigning Queen of Hip-Hop Soul to be going Hollywood: "I like performing more than gettin' up in the morning. I'm a night person."
Mark Wahlberg got his comeuppance about tabloid rumors linking him with Friends star Jennifer Aniston
, his love interest in! upcoming comedy Metal God. "My mother reads [the tabloids] and calls me up," says Wahlberg, 29, who costars in The Perfect Storm. "Mom is going, 'I read you stole Brad Pitt
's girlfriend! What is the matter with you, Mark?' I'm like, 'Mom, what are you talking about?' " For the record, Wahlberg denies any on-set romance with Aniston. "Brad is a friend," he says of the actor, with whom he will costar in the upcoming remake of Ocean's 11. "I only wish I could convince my mom."
Check the Ledger
Teen heartthrob Heath Ledger (10 Things I Hate About You), who plays Mel Gibson's son in The Patriot, says that the two Aussie actors quickly became mates. "Mel and I didn't sit down and say to each other, 'How are you going to be my dad or son?' " says Ledger, 21. "We just started hanging out. Mel's a great guy. He gives everyone a piece of his time. I learned a lot from him." Even so, Ledger has no designs on becoming the next Mel Gibson. "I have no strategy for my career. I'm not good at planning," he says, adding, "I'm still a kid."