Sharon Gless packs on 25 lbs

Sharon Gless has put on a hefty 25 lbs by pigging out on ice cream, chocolate and French fries-and her husband is furious.

But the 49-year-old former Cagney and Lacey star is doing it for her career, making herself fat and frumpy so she can play a food-bingeing, psychotic fan in the stage version of Stephen King's Misery.

Yet she admits her extra weight has taken its toll on her marriage, as her husband, producer Barney Rosenzweig, 54, wails that she looks like a blimp.

"Barney is furious," says Sharon. "He tells me, 'You're using this part as an excuse to eat', and there may be an element of truth in that."

Now Sharon's so fat that she can only squeeze into her husband's sweaters and a pair of dowdy stretch-waist sweatpants as she downs pint after pint of Haagen-Daz Belgian chocolate ice cream.

"All of me has grown. There are some parts of me he likes, but generally he's not too happy. He understands why I'm doing it, though-and wisely he's staying out of my way," adds Sharon.

Like Robert DeNiro, who put on weight to star in Raging Bull, Sharon is chowing down for the sake of art. She'll be starring in the British stage production in the Misery role of Annie Wilkes played in the movie version by Academy Award winner Kathy Bathes.

Sharon's husband Barney left her in their rented London apartment and flew back to California, vowing not to return until Misery's opening night.

"He left a lot of clothes behind, which is reassuring, but when I think of him being gone, I start crying," admits Sharon.

She says there's no great secret to putting on weight. "Eat exactly what you want, when you want it.

"I'm crazy about kedgeree (a British casserole of smoked fish, eggs and potatoes) with double helpings of curry sauce. For an afternoon snack, some chocolate; I love chocolate.

"Dinner is likely to be meat, two vegetables and French fries."

Sharon will even get to eat peanut butter from the jar-six nights a week, on the London stage.

But her weight gain, along with having her blond tresses dyed mousy brown for the role, has made her cranky at times.

"I feel invisible," she says. "I've noticed that people don't look at me; there isn't that pizzazz that there was as a blonde.

"I forget what I look like-then I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror and get depressed.

"But this role is pig heaven for me," adds Sharon, who's always had to watch her weight.

"I'm so much of an ice cream freak that at our wedding, as well as a cake, we had a mix-your-own-ice-cream-sundae bar with four kinds of ice cream and every kind of topping and sprinkle you can imagine."

Sharon met Rosenzweig when he was the producer for her Cagney and Lacey cop series. They've been married for three years.

Sharon, who won her battle with alcohol five years ago at the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota, says that before she landing the stage role, she'd lost five pounds.

"But I started nibbling and realized I was putting on weight and said, "Why do I have to be thin to be an actress? I'd love to do roles that didn't require me to be thin.'

"The very next day the letter arrived from the producer inviting me to play Annie Wilkes and I said, 'Yahooo!'"

Gless says she's nervous about her London debut, but is hoping for a long rul so all the pounds she has put on won't be for naught.

She's under contract for the show until at least March 20 and explains why she chose not to wear padding to look heavy.

"You can get away with it during film takes, but on stage you're closer to the audience and you've got to carry it off eight times a week," she says.

As soon as the production finishes, though, she vows she'll shed every extra pound.

"At the end of the run I'm checking into the Cal-a-Vie spa, in California, for as long as it takes to get this off."

But if Barney is smart, he'll avoid urging her to get thin again after she has finished playing the frumpy role, says Sharon.

"If you tell a fat person she has put on weight, it opens up all sorts of insecurities that make you want to head straight for the cookie jar," explains the actress.

"Women all over the world understand that, but I don't think men do-they don't eat for the same emotional reasons we do."