MOBY GRIP In the future, Herman Melville must be required reading. How else to explain why both Jean-Luc Picard and Federation enemy Khan can each recite passages from Moby Dick? In the recent Star Trek: First Contact (which has grossed more than $120 million worldwide), when faced with annihilation by the Borg, Patrick Stewart’s Picard says: ”He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race.” Similarly, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk asks the evil one (played by Ricardo Montalban) to surrender, and he replies: ”To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Literary fluke? First Contact screenwriter Ronald D. Moore defends Picard’s words (”Ahab is the archetype for his behavior,” says Moore), and Wrath scripter Jack B. Sowards claims it’s just a case of reinkhanation. ”There is no coincidence,” says Sowards. ”Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. They probably said, ‘Uh, Moby Dick, that worked before, let’s go back to it.”’ – Mark Borden

OFF THE DEEP END Although Oprah Winfrey’s book club turned Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean into a hot read, her Harpo Productions won’t have a chance to make a movie of the novel. Instead, Michelle Pfeiffer will turn the child-kidnapping mystery into a feature film. ”I know Oprah really loved the book, but I had it already,” says the One Fine Day star, who snapped up the rights while the book was still in galleys. ”It’s a great woman’s part because the woman in it is a mess.” Pfeiffer now plans to both produce and star. So what about a possible Pfeiffer/Winfrey pairing in front of the camera? Interestingly, when asked to comment, a spokeswoman for Winfrey would only reply, ”If there was an interest, we’re not aware of it.” – Cindy Pearlman

PLANE TRUTH For an estimated one in six Americans, the friendly skies are anything but. Not that a fear of flying has hurt sales of Michael Crichton’s Airframe, which, despite being about a grisly jumbo jet disaster, has become a runway best-seller. Says Christopher Bowe of Benjamin Books in Boston’s Logan Airport: ”The first week we sold 50 copies. That’s a lot of hardcovers.” (The book is No. 1 on the fiction best-seller list.) Nevertheless, Carol Gross, director of Fly Without Fear, a training program for aviaphobics, does not recommend carrying the book aboard. ”It’s on our hit list of what our members should not be reading,” warns Gross. ”If you’re going to read a book, Chicken Soup for the Soul is going to make you feel a lot better, but I’m reading Airframe.” – Shirliey Fung

IN BLOOM Sometimes the best acting ideas come from down under – literally. Just ask Geoffrey Rush. During a crowd-pleasing scene in Shine, which has earned the Australian actor a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of eccentric pianist David Helfgott, Rush bounces on a trampoline wearing nothing but a Walkman and a trench coat. Lynn Redgrave, playing the naked virtuoso’s future wife, steps outside and gasps with surprise. No wonder: To shock Redgrave on the set, Rush had plucked a bouquet of flowers and garlanded them around his privates. ”We were shooting in a garden,” he recalls, ”so I just went around and made a little wreath. Not that little, though!” Size aside, the trick worked. ”It certainly made my reaction to him,” Redgrave admits. ”I knew that when he turned around he was going to be nude, but the surprise certainly did help.” A new use for daisies? Better alert Martha Stewart.