updated 01/26/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Pam Grier, the Afro-queen of such '70s blax-ploitation flicks as Foxy Brown, won't kick your sorry posterior if you call her starring role in Quentin Tarantino's latest, Jackie Brown, a comeback. "It's a compliment," says Grier, 48, who is up for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 18. "It means I must have been great once. I'll take it." And what does Grier think about director Spike Lee's criticism of Tarantino using the n-word 38 times in Jackie Brown? "Do you want fantasy or realism?" she asks. "The characters are based on realism. I don't use the word, but I know people who use it all day long as an endearment—that's how they talk. If people are offended by this word, they don't live in Compton."

So what's the secret to getting small, furry actors to follow the script? "I found that if you squeeze their tiny little heads hard enough, they'll pretty much do anything you want," says Nathan Lane, 41, of his costars in Mouse Hunt. "There were 65 mice that were bred and trained for this film—they were born to be movie stars. They could be in a lab somewhere, injected with a horrible serum as part of an experiment, and instead they're in a trailer with catering. Much nicer. They were very grateful." So has Lane ever been pestered by any vermin offscreen? "I think everyone in the world has dealt with a cockroach, but no, I haven't had any rodent problems," he says, adding with a laugh, "other than working for Disney."

Directing 2-year-old Tenzin Yeshi Paichang in the Tibetan epic Kundun wasn't child's play for Martin Scorsese, a five-time Oscar nominee (twice for screenplays). "I have two daughters, so I know what 2-year-olds can be like, but not in shooting a film," says Scorsese, 55. "We got wonderful footage of the boy when he was sleeping. But after that, he had total control of the set. When the crew heard his voice, they'd shake a little bit. Grown men, shaking." The director took artistic risks to keep things rolling. "We built a house for the camera, painted clowns on it, put figure airplanes on the lens, and said, 'Look here! Look here!' " says Scorsese. "People were pretending to be animals, anything to get his attention. I went in very prepared, but, of course, with a child you can never be prepared."

Denzel Washington, who played an angel in The Preacher's Wife, taps into his dark side to portray a detective who sends a serial killer to the electric chair in his drama Fallen. "It was a natural for me to take Fallen after The Preacher's Wife," says Washington, 43. "I'm sick of being the nice guy." He doesn't think it's his strongest suit, anyway. Regarding one movie critic's recent suggestion that he would make a good James Bond, Washington is neither shaken nor stirred. "I don't think I'm good at playing charm, and that's what James Bond is all about," he says. "I might be charming at times, but I couldn't play charming for 120 minutes."

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