Actors reunite with the people they play -- EW brings Woody Harrelson and Larry Flynt, Sissy Spacek and Loretta Lynn and other famous pairs back together

By EW Staff
October 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

The People vs. Larry Flynt
Before actor Woody Harrelson signed on to star in director Milos Forman’s 1996 biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt, he first wanted to meet the devil in the flesh. ”Larry’s someone I expected that I wouldn’t like,” says Harrelson, ”and because of that, I figured I probably wouldn’t end up doing the film.” But Harrelson soon learned there was a lot more to the controversial Hustler honcho, now 63, than mere smut peddling. ”The thing about Larry is, maybe he is a hillbilly and maybe he does a job that a lot of people don’t respect, but you can’t have more integrity than he has,” the 45-year-old actor explains. ”To this day, I’m proud to call him my friend.”

Running With Scissors
Joseph Cross’ childhood in Pelham, N.Y., was far, far from that of Augusten Burroughs, the memoirist Cross plays in Running With Scissors. For starters, the 20-year-old actor is the son of two very put-together parents who have been married for 28 years. Burroughs, on the other hand, was shipped off as a teenager to live with his mother’s shrink, whom the book and the movie dub Dr. Finch. Cross says acting out Burroughs’ twisted youth was intense: ”[It] really hit me when we were doing the scene where Augusten gets his stomach pumped because Dr. Finch had convinced him to fake a suicide to get out of going to school.” On the set, Burroughs, 40, and director Ryan Murphy teased Cross for being so…normal. ”He had a quality to him [of] wanting to put your arm around him,” says Burroughs. ”When we would break for lunch, we’d say [to Cross], ‘You should get Evan [Rachel Wood] pregnant because the scandal would be f — -ing great. Having a love baby on the set would be a genius move.”’

Coal Miner’s Daughter
Call her a coal miner’s daughter’s double. Long after claiming 1980’s Best Actress Oscar for channeling the queen of country in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sissy Spacek still hasn’t stopped playing Loretta Lynn. ”When I got to the photo shoot, I went in with my accent,” says Spacek, 56, ”and when I left, I had hers again. We were like dueling banjos. I used to tease her and say I was gonna get a bus and go on the road and be her, so there’d be two Lorettas touring. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a bond with anybody like I have with Loretta.” Lynn, 71, agrees: ”It’s like I’m talking to a mirror that knows everything about me and I know everything about her.” The singer remembers sorting through glamour-girl head shots when the movie was being cast: ”All of Charlie’s Angels was in there. And then I got to this freckle-faced thing with reddish-blond hair and said, ‘This is the coal miner’s daughter.’ Universal laughed at me. But I get laughed at a lot, honey!”

Even though ex-mobster Henry Hill got kicked out of witness protection in the 1980s, tracking him down for this photo proved difficult. Hill, played by Ray Liotta in Martin Scorsese’s drama GoodFellas, has recently fallen on hard times, turning to drink and bouncing between prison and homelessness in Venice, Calif. But he happily showed up to reunite with Liotta, whom he’s seen only sparingly since the film’s 1990 release. ”I met with [Henry] and his brother at a bowling alley,” recalls the actor, 51, of their first encounter. ”It was after the movie was done, complete. Marty didn’t want me to talk with him [beforehand]. I wasn’t going after any kind of imitation.” Not that his subject noticed. Hill, 63, remembers sitting transfixed at an early studio screening. ”It was the first time I’d never gotten up in the theater to go pee or something,” he says, his laughter dropping to an awed whisper. ”Honest to God. I could not believe it.” (Two days after this shoot, at the urging of Liotta, Hill checked into a Westwood, Calif., center for alcohol rehabilitation.)

A Beautiful Mind
Attention, Hollywood: Alicia Nash has the ability to predict the Oscars. Or perhaps the gift only works for films based on her life. ”Somehow I had an intuition they would be getting awards,” she says of A Beautiful Mind‘s four statuettes, including Jennifer Connelly’s Best Supporting Actress prize for playing Nash. ”Jennifer gave the role depth and understanding.” But Connelly thinks that Nash, 73, the real-life wife of schizophrenic Princeton mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (played by Russell Crowe in Ron Howard’s 2001 film), is the one deserving the praise. ”She’s bold and up-front,” says the 35-year-old actress. ”She’s so devoted and has been so incredibly giving and such a source of love and strength for him.” The film version of Nash’s love affair ultimately brought Connelly her own happy ending. ”Career-wise and personally, it certainly had a huge impact on my life,” says Connelly, who met Paul Bettany, now her husband, on the set.