Okay, we all know people from L.A. are a lit-tle strange, but did Tim Hutton and Debra Winger really name their kid after a rug?

The actor smiles, brushing his hand through his shaggy hair.

"We saw a beautiful handmade rug which had a scene of Noah's Ark. And it was about a month before the baby was born. Neither one of us thought it was going to be a boy. We had strong feelings it was going to be a girl. When he was born, I mean, the doctor could have held the baby up and said, 'It's a toaster!' I would have accepted that easier than 'It's a boy.' We both were just so startled. We'll never forget us looking at each other."

So they named him Noah. After the ark. And the rug.

Hutton cried, but not like a baby. A "totally redefined" way of crying, he says, searching for the right way to describe that moment, that miracle, that breathless rush of first love under the hot white lights of a green-tiled hospital room with his famous actress wife just another nameless, flushed woman in labor, counting the minutes between contractions, the squiggles on the fetal monitor, and finally, after 24 hours, giving birth.

His eyes mist with tears at the memory. "We were all reborn in that room."

Funny -- that's the theme of Hutton's new movie, "Made in Heaven." Souls are continually renewed and allowed to improve on their former selves. Before the movie, Hutton says, he didn't believe in reincarnation. Now, he says he does.

"He was handed to me. I cut the cord and gave him a bath." It was, he says, like "a dam broke in me. When I was sponging him in the bath, I could not stop talking. I don't know what I said. Nobody remembers. I was a babbling fool."

If Hutton and Winger are bonkers over the boy, it's probably fair to assume that the feeling is mutual. Which just goes to show that even two self-absorbed, rootless Baby Boomettes can find peace in UltraPampers.

"In that one moment, everything changes," he says, still babbling. "You suddenly wonder what it is you've been doing for so long. And what it is you believed in. Things that you think you've been passionate about suddenly wither away. Suddenly there's this being, in front of you, with you, that instantly becomes everything. There really is nothing else that comes close."

He's tall and lanky, in vintage gray-striped vest under a gray jacket. His brown hair curls beneath his ears; his blue eyes stare ahead, honest and focused. "You can't get away from his eyes," actor William Hurt recently told a reporter. He is also unfailingly polite, holding a chair for his guest at breakfast, self-consciously brushing off a compliment. No wonder Winger -- five years his senior -- nabbed him.

Charming and raffishly sexy, with a quirky, almost Bohemian sense of the absurd, Hutton is a serious actor who doesn't act serious. Ask him whether he's musical and he ponders the question, finally saying, "I am while I'm walking over to a piano." And when he absent-mindedly pours the interviewer's pot of tea into his half-empty coffee cup, he laughs sheepishly. Still young enough to be embarrassed by such gaffes, he seems less the self-assured Hollywood idol and more the awkward kid brother.

In "Made in Heaven" Hutton plays Mike, a World War II vet who dies while rescuing a mother and her children from drowning. Mike goes to Heaven and meets Annie (Kelly McGillis). They fall passionately and perfectly in love, but before they can settle down in the celestial cottage of their dreams, Annie is sent to Earth in the form of a newborn baby. Mike begs to return to Earth, too, and God's assistant (played in drag by Winger) allows him to be reborn in the persona of Elmo, a scruffy beatnik who drifts aimlessly through life before taking up jazz. He is given exactly 30 years to find his soulmate.

It took Hutton only 23 years -- he met Winger four years ago. They had a few intense encounters before parting. "It was like turning magnets around," he says, twisting his fingers to demonstrate. "Brrroing."

They met up again two years ago at a New Year's Eve party and married several months later. A week after the wedding, Hutton began filming "Made in Heaven."

It was a pleasant break for the actor, all dreamy and Leslie Howard-like, in his first real leading-man romantic role. As Elmo, he was finally able to shed the brooding adolescent persona in favor of the punkish vagabond he plays with abandon. There are, perhaps, two sides to the actor himself: the sensitive son of the late actor Jim Hutton who won an Oscar in 1980 for best supporting actor as the sensitive, suicidal son in "Ordinary People," and the rakish, starlet-hopping director of rock videos who tore around Malibu in his Porsche 924.

Over breakfast, Hutton is still on full babble.

"It's been incredible. We've been able to be together since he's been born, and nobody's had to be away while the other was working. Debra went off and did a movie. I was able to be there."

Working for the first time after the birth of Noah in April "was quite an interesting experience for her. She would finish a scene and then look over and there was her son. Or there I would be holding him, walking behind the cameras. She just kept saying to me, 'Wait till you go to work. I can't put it into words, but something is different.' "

He's already noticed the difference. "At meetings, I'm like, 'Don't waste my time, I have a son at home. I have a family at home. I don't need this.' " He's grown testy with "certain things you put up with, certain unpleasant things that have to do with work."

Like -- ahem -- doing interviews?

"Funnily enough, yeah, doing interviews, but not on this movie, because this movie -- there's something about 'Made in Heaven' that is different from anything I've done. Not just because of the story, but because of when it happened in my life. We started filming it a week after I got married. ... I have a son now, and so much has happened in the last year and a half. I haven't done interviews for a long time. I guess there's some strange thing inside me that I never had before, which is, there are things about having the experience of having a baby I don't mind talking about. It's not this 'see what you can get out of me.' "

So who gets up in the middle of the night?

"Well, we take turns, but most of the time Debra does. I'm not going to try to misrepresent that. I do the mornings."

Noah has slept through the night only twice. "You can't wait for that nap," Hutton says, looking exhausted. "So you can be with each other or read a book or do these things, and when he does sleep, two hours go by and you look at each other and say, 'Oooh, I miss him. I wonder when he's going to wake up?' Without realizing it, you turn the TV up a little."

The image of two of the best and brightest actors of their generation -- their credits include "The Falcon and the Snowman" and "Taps" (him), "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Terms of Endearment" (her) -- tiptoeing around the house like any suburban couple is somehow reassuring. So are their concerns. "School. Where you're gonna live. The biggest thing I went through when he was about a month old was, 'Debra, I don't want to live in California anymore. I wanna go back east.' "

He takes a sip of coffee. "I grew up with a change of seasons, and I suddenly have this thing about wanting to come back. I had this whole idea of Upstate New York. She feels the same way. You know, in about two years."

Diet is another concern. "Suddenly, you're reading these articles about when the baby first starts eating after, uhhh ..." He looks uncomfortable discussing the topic. "Ahh, after breast milk," he says in a near whisper. He seems suddenly shy, as if he had given away some choice gossip. He can see the headline now: DEBRA WINGER'S BREAST MILK -- HUTTON TELLS ALL.

"If you have him lean more toward fruits then there's going to be an aversion maybe to vegetables, because breast milk is sweet and fruit is sweet and then vegetables, well, they'll say they don't want them."

Is his wife still breast-feeding?

"Uh, oh yeah," he grins. "Everything works."

Is he a better actor than his father?

Hutton looks wounded. "I don't think so," he says. "Just different."

Jim Hutton died in 1979 at the age of 45 from liver cancer. He had left Tim's mother when the boy was 3, but before his death lived with Tim at the beach for several years. They were very close, and Tim grew to accept his father's rootlessness. "If he could rent the steak he ate, he would."

"The thing that happened to my father, I think, is that he started off with 'Where the Boys Are,' and he was asked to just be silly and not do a lot. Wear these silly hats and walk funny and always make faces. It wasn't until Tennessee Williams' 'Period of Adjustment,' that George Roy Hill directed with Jane Fonda, that he got his shot at doing something dramatic. But at that time he had already done three Paula Prentiss movies, churn-it-out-fast films, that he couldn't escape it. People only wanted to see him that way."

As a child, Tim moved with his sister and mother to Cambridge, Mass., then to Connecticut and finally to Berkeley, Calif. He played basketball and discovered acting in the ninth grade. His father was very supportive, but did not live to see him in "Ordinary People."

For years, Hutton could not speak of his father without choking up. Now, he says, "I don't know how to explain it, but I do feel like I have it figured out. I've come to terms with it." Jim Hutton, he says, suffered from "the impostor syndrome."

"It was all a big joke. You know, 'When are they going to find out?' That kind of thing."

Does he feel the same?

"No, but I used to."

He also inherited his father's restlessness.

"For a couple of years there I was moving around so much, which again is something I can only connect to my own childhood and growing up in these different houses, moving every two years or something, and so for a few years I was moving around so much. I couldn't stay in a place more than a certain amount of time, and I'd go off to Europe and just travel around."

He stares off into space. "I always had a real intimacy with the unknown, never a fear of it."

Along with this wanderlust was a hunger to acquire things -- art, furniture, cars, "just stuff, things, none of it of any value, just things I identified with in a strong way. They gave me something.

"When he died, my father didn't have anything but books. And a beautiful roll-top desk." Which he and Winger now own.

His wife, not surprisingly, experienced the same kind of restlessness in her twenties. "When we met four years ago," he says, "we looked at each other, we talked for six hours straight about everything and knew each other so well and ran as hard as we could in opposite directions."

They met again at a party. "The funny thing about that particular evening, we were both almost forced by our different groups of friends to go out that evening -- neither knew the other would be there and all that. Somehow we knew four years ago that we wanted to be together, but we weren't ready. There was some living we had to do. Some searching."

Winger did her searching with former Nebraska governor Robert Kerrey, and Hutton was most often linked with actresses Elizabeth McGovern (his "Ordinary People" costar), Rosanna Arquette, Kristy McNichol, Diane Lane and Melissa Sue Anderson.

What drew him to Winger, known for her sometimes turbulent behavior, was her strong personality.

"We liked each other, but we disagreed about things. We didn't trust each other. We were circling each other like tigers in a cage. For four years we did that. We'd run into each other every six months and say," his eyes narrow, " 'So, it's you. Yeah.' "

The PR woman is hovering in the background. Hutton looks annoyed. He's being taken to a television studio and he clearly wants to keep talking.

His next film is Gregory Nava's "Destiny," due out early next year, costarring William Hurt, who described Hutton as having "the guts to pin me down ... He's relentless."

"Almost out of the gate I was described as intense and moody and turbulent," Hutton says, "so that was very nice what Bill said. He was probably the strongest actor I'd worked with, and to read that was very nice. When it comes from somebody that you respect that much."

When you become a parent, it is suggested, you stop being a child.

"I think in some ways you stop being a child. In other ways you're allowed to be a kid again. You're allowed to see things again that maybe over the years you've begun to take for granted.

"The other day it was raining. We held Noah up to the window, to look at the rain coming down on the window. He tried to reach out. He saw beyond the window. He looked up and noticed it and smiled. And the smile grew and grew until he was giggling and he had this fascination for the rain. So later that night the news was on and the newscaster said, 'When we come back, more bad news. Johnny Mountain will have all of today and tomorrow's weather and it doesn't look good -- more rain.' I thought to myself, 'At which point in your life do you accept that rain means bad and sun means good?' "

Is Noah, who was surely made in Heaven if not Hollywood, the ghost of Hutton's father?

"Sometimes it's impossible not to {think of him}, because he looks like my dad. He has the same ears. It's very funny."

Too bad his father never saw his grandson.

Hutton grins.

"Yeah, but he might have seen him before we did.