JAMES WILBY, lead in the homosexual period film "Maurice" (see review) is talking about playing a sex scene -- with a man: "It's difficult," he says, rushed, British and polite over the phone. "You have to take a deep breath. The director's saying, 'Move your elbow two inches' and there's 20 people looking at you. You feel like a monkey in a cage. I mean, these love scenes are only existing because of two people being in love, being idiosyncratic and the particular things they share with each other . . . Maurice is not me. Once you've got {his character}, once he's there and it's not conscious, you can do anything, you lose your self-consciousness. If it had been me, my ears and cheeks would be red, my facial muscles all tense . . ."

Wilby, 29, replaced Julian Sands in the role (star of the Ivory-Merchant "Room With a View," Sands backed out of "Maurice" for personal reasons). It was "daunting," Wilby says, to achieve Maurice's "naive nakedness" and "chart the emotional journey from this confused, rather desperate young man at the beginning to Maurice at the end . . ."

For Wilby the hardest acting involved a break-up scene between his character and platonic lover Clive (played by Wilby's friend, Hugh Grant): "I've never had to cry before. I knew it was going to be new territory so I threw myself at it . . . I thought it through very carefully. The fact he tries to kiss Clive and Clive throws him away in a kind of horror, that was a wonderful moment to start from -- an emotional physical start . . ."

Wilby will be associated with British period movies for a while, it seems. His next film is an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's "A Handful of Dust," with Alec Guinness and Judy Dench, and directed by Charles "Brideshead Revisited" Sturridge. "That's the 1930s," says Wilby. "I'm getting closer to the present day."

To mark Halloween, the Satellite Foundation will feature the "Touch of Evil Film Festival," a month-long (and well-selected) series of horror/sci-fi films, with guest appearances by British horror novelist Clive (Hellraiser) Barker (appearing October 14 at 7 at the Old Post Pavilion, Room MO9) and science fiction writers Samuel Delaney, William Gibson and John Shirley (these 3 at an American Film Institute panel Saturday October 17 at 2). There are several themes, including the films of David Cronenberg, David Lynch and George Romero; and "Halloween 13" -- 13 days of grisly/scary double features (I count 12) between Friday and October 31. Friday, it's Stuart Gordon's ReAnimator and From Beyond (AFI at 9); and on Monday (AFI, 8:45), Carl Dreyer's 1932 Vampyr and Wer

ner Herzog's Nosferatu. Saturday (AFI at 9), it's Cronenberg's They Came From Within, Videodrome and The Fly. Watch this space for future horrors, including Jacques Tourneur's Cat People, Tod Browning's Freaks and Joe Dante's The Howling. The Cronenberg evening is $6 for nonmembers. The other film events are $4.50 for nonmembers. The guest panels cost $5. For more festival info, call Satellite at 363-9229 or AFI at 785-4600 . . .

Friday marks the Biograph's 20th anniversary. It's celebrating with Fred Astaire movies: Top Hat and Swing Time (Friday through Sunday); Shall We Dance? and You'll Never Get Rich (Monday through Wednesday); and Swing Time and The Gay Divorce'e (Thursday and Friday, October 9) . . .

Tuesday at the AFI, Vietnamese filmmaker Ho Quang Minh will attend the premiere of his 1985 film Karma, a story of the war featuring an all-Vietnamese cast and told from the perspective of a South Vietnamese soldier. The show is at 8:45.