Henry McGee/Globe Photos, Inc.
Liane Bonin
January 04, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Gwyneth Paltrow smokes up a storm as a nervous girlfriend in ”The Talented Mr. Ripley,” but odds are you won’t find the wholesome star smudging her lungs off screen. The 26-year-old actress says her distaste for butts first began back in the ’80s — thanks to another ambitious blond: Madonna. ”My dad [”St. Elsewhere” producer Bruce Paltrow] caught me trying to smoke a cigarette when I was 12 years old,” Paltrow explains. ”Leo Penn, Sean Penn’s father, was directing some episodes of ‘St. Elsewhere’ for my father. So he asked Leo Penn to ask Sean Penn to ask Madonna if she would write me a letter saying that she didn’t smoke. So I have this letter from Madonna saying, ‘Don’t smoke, I don’t smoke.”’

Paltrow, who has been known to enjoy her cigarette fix until fairly recently, even managed to become pals with her teen idol. ”Through the famous people club you meet people, you go, ‘Hi, you’re famous, we’re supposed to act like we’re friends,”’ Paltrow shrugs. ”But then you actually do become friends with some of them. Madonna’s a really good friend of mine.” So, does the singer remember the letter? ”I told her about it,” says Paltrow, ”but I don’t think she did.”

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