Sean Penn, ''The Crucible'' and Shaquille O'Neal made headlines this week

By EW Staff
Updated November 24, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

EX FILES: Does Sean Penn want to kiss and make up? Well, maybe not, but the actor-turned-director (The Crossing Guard) says he wouldn’t shy away from once again sharing the screen with his ex-wife, Madonna. ”I think she’s an untapped actress,” says Penn, who costarred with the singer in 1986’s Shanghai Surprise. ”Given the right material, I’d work with Madonna. She’s a very specific presence in the world and in my life.” After all, another ex, his former girlfriend Robin Wright (with whom he has two children), costars in Guard, though Penn admits that at times directing his former flame was ”a little tense.” But don’t expect Penn to ring up the Material Girl with ideas anytime soon. When asked if the two keep in touch, Penn smirks and offers, ”Not exactly.” —Cindy Pearlman

DIG THIS: The residents of Hog Island, near Essex, Mass., weren’t thrilled when Hollywood came calling. Local clam diggers worked themselves into a collective tizzy when the cast and crew of The Crucible, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, arrived. They worried that the elaborate production would get in the way of their work. ”I’ve got kids to feed,” fretted one woman. ”We like Hollywood, we like renting movies, but we like our clammers better,” said another. The film, an adaptation of Arthur Miller‘s 1953 play about the nearby Salem witch trials, managed to avoid trouble when executive producer David Picker and location manager Charlie Harrington promised that clamming activities wouldn’t be affected. In the end, the filmmakers actually contributed in a small way to the clam economy. ”We had a scene where one of the women accused of being a witch is digging clams,” says Harrington. ”So we waded across the channel, bought some clams, and used them in the movie.” —Keith Lissak

PLAY’S THE THING: Appearing in his second film, this time as a rapping genie in Disney’s kid comedy Kazaam (summer ’96), Orlando Magic star Shaquille O’Neal was always on the ball — or at least always with the ball. ”We had to provide a hoop so he could practice,” says producer Scott Kroopf, who adds that the impromptu court was just fine with the crew. ”You would see the grips set up a shot and then go off and shoot baskets with Shaq. Every time he walked on the set someone would throw him a ball so he could do a slam.” Court time aside, Kroopf says Shaq is a natural actor. ”He has a lot of discipline as an athlete, so he has a lot of focus,” he says. But the 7′ 1” B-ball star did create one unforeseen problem while filming. Says Kroopf, ”We had to build the set taller.” —Cindy Pearlman