Former Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless returns to television in the two-part ninth-season premiere of The X-Files, airing Nov. 11 and 18. For the actress, appearing on a show about the paranormal was relatively normal. "Coming from the world of demon immaculate conceptions and warlords and people recovering from multiple deaths, nothing much surprises me," says Lawless, 33. "I was only surprised that there was no one they wanted me to kick in the head." Although she can't reveal much about her X-Files role, Lawless says, "I spend a lot of time underwater and performing naked. Well, actually I didn't perform naked. I credit that to a great body double. I don't do nudity. I'm a mother of two kids."
Sherry Stringfield, who left ER in 1996 to "get a life," returned this fall in part to silence fans asking about her departure. "It was 100 times a day," says Stringfield, 34, who in the interim taught a script-analysis class at her alma mater, State University of New York, Purchase. And in March she and husband Larry Joseph, a science writer, welcomed daughter Phoebe. "Strangers would come up and have an opinion on how I should live my life. I didn't exactly see leaving a job as being a big deal." Returning to her regular role as Dr. Susan Lewis, Stringfield is convinced more than ever that she could not be a real M.D. "I do not like blood. Now it's even worse," she says of the show's improved special effects. "They have fake chest cavities they crack open. Oh, it's horrible. I almost passed out."
Plunging Depp into His Work
In the new thriller From Hell Johnny Depp plays a 19th-century Scotland Yard sleuth investigating the Jack the Ripper murders, which remain unsolved to this day. During in-depth study for the role, Depp, 38, came across one theory he really likes: "It's that Jack the Ripper was an American doctor who was in London at the time and was in fact brought in for questioning and held for a while. Then he caught a boat back to the States, and the murders stopped." As for Depp, he spends most of his time in France with his girlfriend, actress-singer Vanessa Paradis and their daughter Lily-Rose, 2. In fact, the actor plans to take an extended break from film work. "I don't have anything coming up," he says, "except collecting unemployment."
Add one more item to the list of Billy Bob Thornton's quirks, which include anorexia and wearing a vial of wife Angelina Jolie's blood around his neck. Thornton, 46, who appears with Bruce Willis in the film caper Bandits, also has a bad fear of flying. But since his marriage to Jolie last year, Thornton is suddenly a lot braver. "If we are together on a plane, I never worry," he says. "It's like, the other day she said to me, 'If anything ever happens, we just look each other in the eye, hold hands, and that's the deal.' So I'm not worrying much about it anymore. I guess I'm a bit of a fatalist."
Saber-ing His Role
Beating out 350 actors for the lead role of Anakin Skywalker in the next two Star War prequels (the first, Attack of the Clones, is due next summer) left newcomer Hayden Christensen humbled. "I still live with my folks, who make me mow the grass and take the garbage out," says Christensen, 20, who also plays Kevin Kline's son in the drama Life Is a House, opening Oct. 26. "Then one day I'm on this multimillion-dollar set. Every nuance was surreal. The outfit and cloak? Mind-boggling. Meeting R2D2? An out-of-body experience. The light saber? A thrill." The latter reduced Christensen to a big kid on the set. "I picked it up," he says, "and started making the same sounds I made when I was a kid with a stick—the whooshing of the saber turning on and the slash-through-the-air sound. [Director] George Lucas looked at me and said, 'Hayden, we have enough money to use slightly better sound effects, so stop mouthing it.'"