THE SOURCE'S MIDDLE-AGED SPREAD

* Not many 45-year-old women or men have the courage--let alone the body--to get naked in front of a movie camera. But Rene Russo, who stars opposite Pierce Brosnan in "The Thomas Crown Affair," does some of her best work in her birthday suit.

"Yep, that's me," Russo told us from Los Angeles, stressing that she didn't resort to a body double for insurance investigator Catherine Banning's multifarious bedroom bouts with Brosnan's wealthy art thief, plus a party scene in which she sports a see-through cocktail dress. "It never really dawned on me that, gee, I'm 45 and I'm taking off my clothes. For me, it was a matter of living inside the character," said Russo, who can be seen in the remake of the 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway romantic thriller starting Friday. "But it's always really nerve-racking, horrible and terrifying to do these love scenes."

Russo, who came to acting from a stellar career as a supermodel, concedes that youth, and not seasoning, is the hot commodity in Hollywood. "I have to say I was aware that this part could have gone to a 20-year-old, because men are the ones running this business. . . . But I love the European sensibility where women are considered to have a certain beauty through all ages. We in America seem to cut ourselves off from who we are. Maybe it started as a fashion moment where big breasts, small breasts, big lips or thin lips are suddenly the flavor of the season--and that's devastating to most of us." Very nice of her to empathize. In any case, Russo--who has a 6-year-old daughter and a 37-year-old husband--looks fabulous.

* Ever alert to social trends, The Source is banishing the term "greedy geezer"--an insult to the all-powerful lobbying group the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons--and replacing it with "sexy geezer." Okay, maybe not, but that doesn't stop us from applauding AARP's Modern Maturity magazine for issuing its first-ever list of the "50 Sexiest Over the Age of 50." Included in the magazine's "Hot Top 50" are Pam Grier, Harrison Ford and Judge Judy (in the category "Butt-Kicking Sexy"); Debbie Harry and Don Imus ("Gritty Sexy"); and Regis Philbin ("Daytime Sexy"). Paul Newman and Sophia Loren are consigned to--ouch-- "Vintage Sexy."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* And we thought he was just a regular guy! It turns out that Ken Duberstein is so richly complex a character that he'll be played by Mandy Patinkin in the upcoming Showtime movie "Strange Justice," based on Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson's book on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination battle. The two-hour docudrama---in which lobbyist Duberstein is our hero--debuts Aug. 29.

* We hear from Reuters that Rory Kennedy and Mark Bailey--whose Hyannis Port wedding was delayed by John F. Kennedy Jr.'s fatal plane crash--exchanged vows over the weekend at the Athens home of a Greek shipping tycoon.

* Lots of yakety-yak yesterday over Hillary Rodham Clinton's interview with Talk magazine. President Clinton is "comfortable" with his wife's comments about his marital indiscretions, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said, but disagrees with her assertion that he acted out of a childhood trauma. "He believes that he is responsible for his action," Lockhart said. In another, and possibly unrelated, Clinton family revelation, the Associated Press reports that Chelsea spent part of her summer weighing bulls and sorting breeding pairs at a Montana cattle ranch.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

* America knows George W. Bush as the front-running Republican seeking the nation's highest office, but a lucky few have experienced the inner man--the one who does that wicked Dr. Evil impression. Our friends from the Financial Times tell us that the Texas governor, an "Austin Powers" fanatic, is apt to discipline rowdy reporters and children by ordering, "Zip it! Zip it! Shut it! Shut it!" in his patented Evil cadence. Entertaining fellow passengers on the campaign plane, Bush has been known to mimic Evil's habit of pronouncing "a meel-yon dollars"--a joking reference to his fund-raising prowess--while putting his pinky to his lips. For an encore, Bush will perch a little hand puppet on one of his shoulders and impersonate Mini-Me, the bad doctor's miniature clone. "He's more partial to Mini-Me than to Dr. Evil," campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker explained--as though an explanation were possible.