Mardi Gras is raging in New Orleans, but first-time director Nicolas Cage and Sonny’s cast didn’t wait for Fat Tuesday to party. While Mena Suvari raves about Magazine Street’s vintage duds, and Brenda Blethyn the raw oysters, Harry Dean Stanton touts a simpler pleasure: ”You can walk out of a bar with a drink and into another with the same drink.” James Franco, who plays a prostitute in Sonny, coyly notes: ”I spent a good bit of time on Bourbon Street, looking for sex workers for research.” So grateful was Cage for all the local hospitality, last month he threw a French Quarter block party featuring a blues band and cochon du lait (roasted pig). ”I always said that if I ever directed a film,” says Cage, ”I’d like to say thank you to the neighborhood.”

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”It would make me happy to see Sissy Spacek take it home to Virginia with her fine acting self.” — Julia Roberts, on her choice for this year’s Best Actress Oscar