updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

According to Ashton
Ashton Kutcher talks about romance, rumors and how, when he first met Demi, he didn't know she was famous

Has dating Demi Moore boosted Ashton Kutcher's career? He thinks some people believe that, and it bugs him mightily. "If people think that's why I'm doing well, it bothers me," says Kutcher. "Before I even met Demi, I managed to figure out how to be on a sitcom for five years, produce my own television show and make a couple of films that did extremely well. I was on Saturday Night Live. I was on the cover of Rolling Stone. So I already had a pretty good career before I met my current significant other, and I think I will have a pretty good one after." For the record Kutcher—who has a new sci-fi thriller, The Butterfly Effect, opening Jan. 23—also calls talk that he and Moore are about to wed or become parents "crazy," although he says the relationship is going great.

It certainly had an odd start. "The funniest thing is that...I didn't know who she was," says Kutcher. "I sat and talked to her for half an hour not having the slightest idea that I was sitting with a famous human being." Once Kutcher, 25, got to know Demi, 41, he quickly got to know her family. The two are often photographed with her children—Rumer, 15, Scout, 12, and Tallulah, 9—and even her ex, Bruce Willis. Kutcher's relationship with her kids? "I try to help them with the problems they have, and they bring me a lot of joy. But to really define what I am to them would be very difficult." He clearly enjoys hanging out with the Willis-Moore clan. "What did I get for Christmas? I got two weeks to spend with a beautiful, loving family. It was the greatest gift I could get."

Now it's the New Year, so back to work. Kutcher swears this time he really means it—he's finished with Punk'd but says he's developing two new projects for MTV, one for FOX and three films. "I get bored very easily," he says. "You move on, you do new things."

Low Key: Britney

After she shocked the planet with a trip to a Las Vegas chapel followed by a quick annulment, Britney Spears, long an avid fan of the photo-op, suddenly got camera-shy. Now you see her, now you don't.

Once Spears's Jan. 3 marriage to childhood pal Jason Alexander was over, the uncoupled pair retreated to separate corners in search of privacy. Britney was photographed leaving Las Vegas after the wedding, then didn't pop up in public until Jan. 8 in Tampa, where she took in a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from a private press box with three female friends. And no, she wasn't scouting locations for her own three-ring circus. Talk that she might be in rehab brought vehement denials from her reps, who claim the singer is plunging back into work.

According to them, she is preparing for a concert tour and an upcoming Showtime special. Spears also will have a role in the film version of A Mother's Gift, a book she wrote with her mother, Lynne. They also say she'll soon call MTV's TRL to promote her new single, but they won't divulge her location.

Alexander was lying low too, not that he seemed all broken up by the end of his brief marriage. Alexander has used his Camaro as a decoy to help him dodge the media spotlight, but he has been spotted out at his usual bar haunts in Hammond, La., playing pool, dancing and laughing with pals. Wearing a brown suede jacket, striped shirt, jeans, earring, gold necklace and sandals, Alexander joked with friends and strangers alike at one of his favorite hangouts recently. "I wore flip-flops to my wedding!" Alexander laughed. Says good buddy Jared Prescott: "He's a great guy and he's been though a lot, but he's doing great."

That said, Alexander has also been consulting with an agent and an adviser, former pro football player Michael Jackson, who says Alexander won't be talking to the press until there is a "meeting of minds of all parties." Stay tuned.

Alec Baldwin and ex-wife Kim Basinger face a situation they had hoped to avoid—a public custody battle over their daughter Ireland, 8. The couple, who married in 1993 and divorced in 2002, had temporarily agreed to joint legal custody, with Baldwin, 45, getting visitation rights. Court papers stated that Baldwin was required to attend anger-management therapy and a parenting course, and Basinger, 50, was required to provide periodic updates on their daughter via computer. Things turned uglier after a mental health expert evaluated each parent, with both sides hurling new charges. The trial is set to begin Feb. 23.

In Miami Beach, J.Lo Flies Solo
From the cat's away, mice etc. files: With fiancé Ben Affleck in Europe to promote his film Paycheck, Jennifer Lopez met with ex-boyfriend Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in Miami Beach. The two hit the town's trendy nightspot Prive around 1 a.m. on Jan. 12, with respective bodyguards and assistants in tow, and sat at adjacent tables. "It's just a coincidence," Combs tells Scoop. "It's like the hottest club on Sundays. There ain't no reunitin'. We're friends, you know?" Diddy also was reportedly spotted dropping off Lopez at her house the next afternoon. Meanwhile Affleck joined buddy Matt Damon in Berlin—where Damon is filming—to watch the NFL play-offs on TV. Affleck then moved on to London, telling reporters, "I feel real lucky to have such an amazing fiancée.... We are fine together, despite what people say." Look for the couple to try a more low-key relationship in the future. Lopez won't attend the Oscars this year, says her spokesperson.

Applegate: Duty Calls
Yes, jury duty can be a drag. So Christina Applegate is finding out. After the actress was thrown into the jury pool for the murder trial of Robert Blake, she pleaded too busy to serve. "I can't sit on a jury for nine months," Applegate told Scoop. "There's a Broadway show I'm possibly going to be doing." Tell it to the judge. Even though celebs are rarely picked because lawyers are wary they may hold sway over jurors, that doesn't mean they're excused. Applegate was still waiting in the pool at press time.

On Jan. 6 George Harrison's estate filed a $10 million lawsuit against Dr. Gilbert Lederman, an oncology doctor who treated the former Beatle before his death in 2001. The suit alleges that Lederman coerced the bedridden Harrison to autograph a guitar and listen to the doctor's son Ariel (left) play the instrument. Lederman's attorney said Harrison gave the autograph freely.


Neve Campbell

Neve Campbell cowrote and stars in The Company, a film that looks at the world of ballet, her passion since childhood. Campbell, 30, the former Party of Five and Scream star, spoke with Scoop about her dance fever.

Was it tough getting into shape for the ballet scenes?

I had a hard time with my body. I was always in pain. I have arthritis in my neck and my hips. I've had surgery on my feet. I've had snapping-hip syndrome, tendinitis, shin splints, bursitis [tennis elbow].... I broke my rib.

Yikes! So why did you make this movie?

I wanted to make a film about dance itself and the process of choreography and what the dancers go through...the athleticism and the challenges.

How did you become interested in ballet?

I started dancing when I was 6. Dad took me to The Nutcracker. I fell in love with it and said, "I want to do that." And he bought me ballet lessons for Christmas. [Dancing] was my entire childhood and my early adulthood.

How is your career different from Party of Five days?

Have I become smarter about choosing my roles? No. My taste has always been the same. I am just in a place now where I can be patient and wait for things I believe in.

What bad scripts have people sent you?

There are all kinds of really bad romantic comedies. There are action films where the female roles are there just to be the sexual presence. There are so many bad female roles—it is hard to explain.

You starred in Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3. So, as an expert, are horror movies still scary?

For me? I can't watch them because I get scared.

Any chance of a Party of Five reunion?



PRICE: $3 million
PLACE: Beverly Hills
SPECS: James Spader is not only shaking up ABC's The Practice these days. The 43-year-old actor recently sold his 4,800-sq.-ft. Coldwater Canyon retreat. Nestled behind gates, the house, built in 1940, features six bedrooms and six bathrooms, along with a breakfast area, den, library, covered patio and a projection room.

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