Despite starring in 1999's Hamlet with Ethan Hawke and last summer's O, an update on Othello, actress and full-time student Julia Stiles didn't have an edge in her 9 a.m. Shakespeare class at New York City's Columbia University, where she's a sophomore English major prone to sleeping in. "My professor e-mailed me," says Stiles, 20. "He said, 'You think you don't have to come to class anymore, hotshot?' " While shooting her new film, The Business of Strangers, a psychological thriller with The West Wing's Stockard Channing (see page 63), it was Stiles who did the teaching. "We were shooting in this series of depressing airport hotels," she says. "So we would watch MTV, and I would explain to Stockard stuff she didn't know anything about." Like what? "Who Britney Spears and Eminem were."
Don't count Tim Allen among the celebs wary of mingling with fans. "The funniest things happen," says Allen, 48, who stars as a corporate desk jockey bent on revenge in the comedy Joe Somebody. "I like going to truck stops in places like Green River, Utah. People see you and think, 'There's no reason Tim Allen's standing in front of me,' so they say, 'You look like him and you sound like him, and if I didn't know for sure, I'd say you were him.' " Allen can garner an odd response even on his native Michigan turf. "I did it in McDonald's in Saginaw," he reports. "The guy just looks at me. 'Can I order?' I say. Then he goes and comes back with the manager and they're both staring at me, mouths open. 'Can I get a cup of tea?' Pretty soon five employees are staring at me. It was a little like they were looking at a deer and didn't want to make any sudden moves."
Winning the Brass Ring
Starring in the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy Lord of the Rings has already drawn Elijah Wood into the realm of the recognizable. "I naively thought I'd just go and hang out at a comic book convention in San Diego. I got stopped, and a wall of fans surrounded me," says Wood, 20, who lobbied for the role of Frodo Baggins, the shy hobbit who leads a ragtag crew on a quest to destroy the Ring, with a video of himself running around the Hollywood Hills in a homemade hobbit costume. "There are a lot of fanatics out there that I don't get. Like, I don't understand Trekkies. Sorry, but it's lame. With Rings I understand it. I lived it. And I will live it for the rest of my life."
Thanks, but No Thanks
Übermodel Emme, who has made a career showing off her 200-lb. figure, recently got something surprising in the mail: an offer to pose in Playboy. "I was pretty slack-jawed," says Emme, 38. "I thought to myself, 'I want to frame this letter and put it in my office.' " Although Emme, who welcomed first child Toby Cole Aronson on Aug. 9, considers the Playboy request "a lovely compliment," she nonetheless declined on feminist principles. But her manager husband, Phillip Aronson, didn't share her disdain for the project. "He said to me, 'I know you don't want to do this, you are more than just your body, but boy, wouldn't that be cool?' "
Finding the Write Stuff
Owen Wilson, who currently stars in the action movie Behind Enemy Lines and the offbeat comedy The Royal Tenenbaums, confesses that he came to his acting career accidentally. "I thought maybe I'd go into advertising or be a writer," says Wilson, 33, which is no surprise since Tenenbaums is the third movie—following 1996's Bottle Rocket and 1998's Rushmore—that he has cowritten with his old University of Texas college buddy, director Wes Anderson, 32. "But it's a lot harder to make yourself sit down and write than to act. If it weren't for Wes," he says, "I doubt I'd be working."