If you're invited to dinner with director-actor Kenneth Branagh and his wife, Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, be advised. While shooting their new movie version of Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing in Italy last August, the couple had costar Michael Kenton and his girlfriend, Courteney Cox Arquette
. over to their rented villa for dinner. "I spent the evening rearranging the furniture so they wouldn't see this rat emerge from the wall," says Branagh, 32, explaining that Thompson had adopted the rat as a pet during their stay. "I threatened her with death if she kept feeding it," he says, "but she ignored me. and when the rat came out, Courteney nearly left the ground. We spent the rest of this very drunken evening laughing about how Emma was more concerned with this rat than with these international stars."
A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Now that the dust has settled on assessments of Hillary Rodham Clinton's first 100 days, it's time to cheek in with cinematic First Lady Sigourney Weaver, who plays a President's wife in the hit political romp Dave. "My character's a bit of Eleanor Roosevelt mixed with Pat Nixon, and a dash of Mrs. Clinton because she's so capable," says Weaver, 43, a Democrat. "I'm delighted Hillary is in the While House. She's smart, she has a real job, and she even uses her real name. It's about time the First Lady reflected real women. But Weaver, who has a daughter, Charlotte, 3, says if she were really the First Lady, "I'd immediately have a mother's summit where women could talk about the problems of raising a family and working at the same time. The day-care situation in America is horrible.' The rest of the time she would hit the road, albeit the high one. "It would be great," she says, "to travel on Air Force One."
Actresses Ally Sheedy. Talia Shire. Helen Slater. Martha Plimpton, Jill IJ ken berry. Lindsay Crouse and JoBeth William-spent days and nights last summer gabbing together. The results can be seen in Chantilly Lace, a TV movie airing on Showtime on June 18 about seven friends who come together three times in one year. "It's the best thing I ever did," says Sliced). 30. of the improvised project, which was done under the auspices of Robert Bedford's Sundance Institute in Utah, where the actresses shared two nearby houses. "There was a lot of discussion, whether we were shooting or not. It was almost like a retreat. I made Talia coffee every morning, and now I'm doing a movie, One Night Stand, which Talia is directing. According to her, I make a great cup of coffee and that clinched it.
SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT
Garth Brooks, country music's round mound of sound, has been keeping a close watch on his scales. He has lost some 40 lbs.—not in-eluding the beard he shaved off recently. "I was at 237 right around Christmas, and I'm down to 195," says Brooks, 31, who won his third straight Entertainer of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music in Los Angeles earlier this month. "I feel much better, but I still don't look the way I'd like. My biggest fear, like everybody's, is putting it back on." What's the skinny on his weight-loss formula? "No fat. That's pretty much it. If something's hard to do, I can't do it, but this is pretty easy." Still, he will probably never reach his goal. Asked whose body he'd like to have, Brooks grins and says, "Michelle Pfeiffer's, I think."