Because Mark Wahlberg plays a human (as opposed to a "damn dirty ape," as Charlton Heston put it) in the Planet of the Apes remake due this July, he was spared the arduous makeup sessions that his hairier costars had to endure. "I started to give them a hard time, but it wasn't [worth it], especially with Michael Clarke Duncan, who's 6'5", 315 lbs.," he says. "You don't wanna mess with him." Wahlberg, 29, also set one key ground rule with director Tim Burton before signing on. "My meeting with Tim lasted about two minutes. I said, 'I'll do anything you want me to do, as long as I don't have to put on a loin-cloth,' " says Wahlberg, who memorably bared his back—and front—side in Boogie Nights. "Charlton Heston is a hard act to follow, even after playing Dirk Diggler."
No Friend of Mine
Danny Nucci couldn't have been happier about costarring in a new CBS sitcom with Jason Bateman—until he heard the show's name. "They've settled on the worst title ever known to man," says Nucci, 32, about Some of My Best Friends, a title chosen after Kiss Me, Guido and Me and Frankie Z were rejected. "It's like you're looking in a dustbin: Let's find the worst title for a sitcom that's a mouthful and no-body will get." Best known as Leonardo DiCaprio's pal Fabrizio in Titanic, Nucci comes to the show, premiering on Feb. 28, after spending last season on the short-lived detective series Snoops. How did he survive it? "Well, I fell in love with [costar] Paula Marshall," he says of his current girlfriend. "That helped."
Xena: Warrior Princess can get pretty campy, but even Lucy Lawless is amazed by what makes it onto the air. "I watched an [old] episode the other day when a woman got eaten to death by crabs," she says. "Eaten to death by crabs! No wonder people think it's a goofy show." Lawless, 32, has to get her yuks in now because Xena will utter her last battle cry in June, when the show airs its final original episode. "I've had a great time, but boy, it has been hard work," says the actress, who has dibs on her famed Xena costume. "You better believe it! I'm going to walk off that last day wearing my outfit and drive home in it. I've had so many ups and downs over the last six years in it that I earned keeping it."
"You've just got to be tenacious and sometimes swallow your pride," says Liam Neeson, who is pestering celebs to contribute items to Movie Action for Children, an online auction (at www.sothebys.com until March 7) that he is chairing for UNICEF Ireland. The proceeds will help to fight the spread of HIV in Africa. While the actor's efforts have paid off—he has landed Mel Gibson's Brave-heartsword, one of Harrison Ford's bull-whips from the Indiana Jones series and also persuaded George Lucas to donate Neeson's lightsaber from Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace—his own contributions aren't all that he had hoped. "I wanted to give my script from Schindler's List, covered with all my coffee stains and cigarette ash," says Neeson, 48. "And I cannot find it anywhere. At the time I thought I was just making a little black-and-white movie in Poland. I must have left it in the hotel thinking, 'Well, the film is finished, I don't need this anymore.' "
"It was finally an opportunity to at least pretend that I have some class," says former Law & Order star Jill Hennessy, 32, who tackles Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the NBC miniseries Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot (March 4-5). "It was so difficult because I've always been likened to a truck driver. I've worked with acting teachers who say, 'Wow, you walk like a truck driver!' So I'm thinking, 'How the heck am I going to play one of the most beautiful, feminine women of all time?' It took a lot of work."