updated 10/06/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

British actress Alex Kingston is scrubbed and ready for battle as Dr. Benton's new adversary, Dr. Elizabeth Corday, on NBC's ER. And the soon-to-be-ex-wife of Ralph Fiennes has already won round No. 1 with Eriq La Salle, who plays Benton. "I've been the first to play a trick," says Kingston, 33, who retaliated after La Salle accidentally bit her thumb while she was feeding him candy off-duty. "The next day, in makeup, I made them bruise up my thumb," she says. "I was walking around with a black nail, and Eriq said, 'I'm so sorry. I know you'll never forgive me.' Then, at the end of the day, I licked off the makeup, showed him my clean thumb and said, 'It healed really fast, Eriq.' "

After playing the lead in the Family Channel biopic Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor, airing Oct. 5, Geraldine Chaplin was distressed, like millions of other people, when the renowned humanitarian died on Sept. 5. "I had just received a video of the film, and I had shown it to my friends," says Chaplin, 53, who plays Mother Teresa from age 36 until she received the Nobel Peace Prize at 69. "When she died, people started phoning me, and they'd say, 'I don't know whether to give you my condolences or what.' " The role proved to be an inspiration to her offscreen. "When I passed beggars, I used to take out money, give it and not look at them," says Chaplin. "Now I stop and talk and touch people and have conversations."

So how did elegant British thespian Sir Anthony Hopkins wind up in a testosterone-charged survival thriller like The Edge? "I like action movies," says Hopkins, 59. "I don't like slow movies. I don't like Masterpiece Theatre. My only concern for this movie was if I could run fast enough." In fact, he couldn't go the distance. An old back injury flared up, causing Hopkins such excruciating pain that he underwent delicate surgery in the middle of the film's production. "To fix my back, they had to move my vocal cords to get the shattered disk pieces out," he says. "I never really thought that the worst might happen and I would never speak again." Fortunately, it didn't, and he can. "They took out three pieces of my back," Hopkins says triumphantly, adding a twist worthy of Hannibal Lecter: "I've got them in my refrigerator at home."

Despite his star turn as a brutish LAPD officer in the new crime drama L.A. Confidential, Russell Crowe considers himself one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets. "I'm still having conversations with people like I've just come out of the stratosphere," says Crowe, 33, who has done more than 15 films, including Virtuosity. "Everyone is always discovering me." In fact, adds Crowe, "I started working in TV at 6. But I was never a child star—I was a child extra. My parents were location caterers, so I was the annoying little kid on the set." But he always knew his place would be in front of the camera someday. "Even at 6," he says, "I would look at the 28-year-old guy playing the war veteran in a film and tell my parents, 'I don't know why the director doesn't see me in that role. I might be a little short, but I can do it.' "

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