In the foul-weather thriller Twister, Helen Hunt looks so fetching as she races into monster storms to be pelted by hail and debris that her costar, Bill Paxton, nicknamed her Tornado Babe. "I wanted to do something physical," says Hunt, 32, who found the perfect break from NBC's Mad About You in the athletic bravado required to play a tornado hunter. "I like to get muddy, but I didn't realize how far this would go. It was hard to have a good hair day on Twister. I saved a ton on hairspray and just threw caution to the wind, so to speak. We had hairstylists who painted mud into my hair every day—not a recommended hair conditioner."
PADDING THE PART
"I thought Chicago Hope needed a big kick in the rear, so I kicked it as hard as I could, and it kicked back," says Peter Berg, 34, on why he wrote the show's recent blood-soaked episode about a violently dysfunctional family. "At first, I wanted to out-ER ER, but it wasn't a spoof," says Berg, who portrays hockey-playing surgeon Billy Kronk on the CBS series. "I just thought Chicago Hope could use a little more of the chaos and mayhem that ER does so well." Berg also wreaks havoc in the current film The Great White Hype, for which he had to gain 25 pounds to play a heavyweight boxer. "Liquid supplements didn't work, so I started eating three Big Macs a day, plus fries and cherry pie," he says. "I put on the 25 pounds in what seemed like eight days. When the movie was finished, I was a big fat monster at 202 pounds, so I started running and I haven't stopped in three months. Now I'm like Forrest Gump. I just run everywhere."
NO DISPLAY CASE
Actor Elijah Wood isn't happy being a teen dream. Says the 15-year-old, who has more than 10 movies under his belt, including Forever Young, Radio Flyer, North, The War and his latest, Flipper: "I don't read the teen magazines. They're weird. I see headlines like 'Big Blue Eyes Elijah Wood: We've Got Him!' I don't like that. It's so bubblegummy." Worse than the fanzines, though, are the excessively enthusiastic fans who track him down at home. "When we lived in Petaluma, Calif., everyone knew where I lived," says Wood. "Moms would come to my house and ask me to perform at their daughters' birthday parties. I was like, 'I am not on display.' I act because I enjoy it. I don't do it to be famous."
UNDER HIS SKIN
Like many country stars, Patty Loveless, who last month won top female vocalist of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, has fans who wear their hearts on their sleeves. But after a concert in North Carolina a few years back, she met one who advertised his devotion inside his sleeve. "He had me sign my name on his bicep, right under this tattoo of my face that he'd had done," says Loveless, 39, whose latest album is The Trouble with the Truth. "My face was right where there was a big ol' muscle he could flex. He was gonna have my signature tattooed as well. He had his girlfriend with him, so I figured if it was okay with her, it was okay with me." Loveless thinks about him sometimes. "What if he's now in love with [country bombshell] Shania Twain?" she wonders. "Maybe he put her body under my head. That might be smart."