Everyone knows it’s a good idea to drink a lot of water--but three giant bottles of the stuff a day! Isn’t that going a bit far?

Not according to Canadian actress Margot Kidder, who has been putting that amount away for several months now and as a result has the complexion of a 6-year-old and energy to spare.

There are, she admits, drawbacks to such an intake. Her drive in from her Malibu home requires pit stops at several service stations. And she has some difficulty sitting quietly through lengthy meetings.

Of course, Kidder, who is 36, was an actress of boundless energy and great enthusiasms even before she abandoned alcohol in favor of aqua pura. “A whirling dervish,” director Richard Donner called her after he picked her to play Lois Lane in “Superman.”

He should see her now.

Now she works seemingly non-stop--some good things, some bad. Twenty-seven features to date, she reckons, and more TV movies than she can remember. She just completed a CBS-TV movie, “Hoax,” a mystery thriller in which she plays a missing bride who may or may not be the woman Mike Farrell married. And this week she started another project--"Shell Game,” a pilot for CBS in which she plays a con artist.


All in all this is shaping up as a busy year for her. She has been asked to star again with Christopher Reeve in the upcoming “Superman IV.” And producer Paul Heller has picked her to direct a remake of Agnes Varda’s 1961 French film “Cleo From 5 to 7.”

“That’s really exciting,” she said the other afternoon. “Paul called up the American Film Institute and said he wanted a woman director for the film and who would they recommend. They gave him my name.”

She made a 50-minute film for the AFI 12 years ago as part of their women film-makers apprenticeship program. Called “Again,” it was about a woman who keeps pictures of her ex-lovers on the wall until she meets someone she decides is Mr. Right. Then she takes down the pictures. The last scene shows her with all the pictures back on the wall--including one of Mr. Right, who turned out to be Mr. Wrong.

The only other thing she attempted to direct was a documentary about the making of “Missouri Breaks,” the 1976 UA movie that starred Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.

“I was such a jerk,” she said. “I mean, I thought they wanted a real documentary. So I filmed all the behind-the-scenes rows and arguments and shot footage of the vet shooting up the horses with tranquilizers so the actors would look as if they rode well. What an idiot I was. Then when they fired me, I realized what they’d wanted was a publicity film.”

Kidder, a feisty and outspoken actress, let it be known that she was indignant. She does not believe in keeping quiet when she feels strongly about things. After she appeared in “The Amityville Horror,” about supernatural events taking place in a Long Island home, she called it “one of the worst movies ever made. . . . I didn’t believe a moment of it.”

And she was outspoken in her criticisms of producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler when they dropped Donner after the first “Superman” and replaced him with Richard Lester. “Scummy,” she called that. Nobody was particularly surprised when her role in “Superman III” was cut down to just 12 lines.

“Superman IV,” however, will be a Cannon production.

“I tAlked to Menahem Golan this week,” she said. “I haven’t yet seen a treatment, but if I’m happy with it, I’ll do it if I can. With the Salkinds out of the picture, I have no more problems. And I’m devoted to Chris (Reeve).”

Kidder, who has starred in such movies as “Willie and Phil,” “Trenchcoat” and “Heartaches"--none of which set any box-office records--as well as the “Superman” films, says she’s now reassessing her career.

Last year, she was quoted: “I don’t feel comfortable as a performer and I’m a big turkey as a movie star.”

“That was blown up out of all proportion to what I meant,” she said. “But I am in a weird frame of mind at the moment. I know acting is not going to be enough for me for the rest of my life. This business is very hard on women at a certain age, and I never want to end up just having to accept what’s offered me. So I am anxious to direct, to have options.

“And I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. When I was back home in Canada last year, I was with a group of people from the same background as myself. Remember, I was born just south of the Arctic Circle--my birth certificate is in Eskimo and English--and I grew up in a tiny place called Labrador City. When we talked, so many memories came flooding back and I began writing them down. I wanted my daughter Maggie (now 10 and a result of her marriage to novelist to Thomas McGuane) to know about my upbringing.

“Now it’s turning into a script which I’d like to direct in Canada. Really it’s about a father-daughter relationship up there in the wilderness. See, I have this marvelous father, a true adventurer. He was an explosives expert who used to take off round the world for year at a time. There’s a lot of him in me. It’s no surprise I have this wanderlust and my travel bills are so high. I get that from him. Also it explains why I find it so hard to settle down, though I have to try for Maggie’s sake.”

Since her marriage to McGuane foundered, she has tried twice again--a brief marriage to actor John Heard and an almost equally short one to French film director Philippe de Broca (“King of Hearts”). They met when he directed her in “Louisiana” in 1983 and were married that same year in France.

“That was a bit impulsive, I’m afraid,” she said. “Not a little irresponsible. We just weren’t meant to be married to each other. We just got carried away. But the honeymoon in Kenya was spectacular. I fell so in love with that country. I really felt I knew it. Other people have told me they had the same feeling about Kenya. I just know I’m dying to go back. And on days when I’m fed up with this business, I fantasize that I’ll wind up there, conducting safaris. Writing too, of course.”