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From: Toronto Star

Maria Bello prefers to play brainy, twisted blondes


Maria Bello is the thinking person's blond bombshell.

She's gorgeous enough to play the bikini babe or the killer cutie. But she has resisted roles like that throughout her decade-plus career, which began with the low-budget film Maintenance in 1992. Even in this week's Assault on Precinct 13, the remake of the 1976 genre thriller, she plays a police psychologist who just happens to look really good in a party dress.

Now 37, Bello didn't make acting part of her life plans until she was well into her 20s. She majored in pre-law and political science at university and considered a career as a lawyer. But a drama class taken for extra credit pushed her in a different direction.

She first began to attract attention for her television roles, which included playing Dr. Anna Del Amico for ER's fourth season in 1997-98.

Her profile really began to rise with The Cooler in 2003, in which she played the vulnerable-but-dangerous girlfriend to William H. Macy's Vegas victim. Since then, she's been very much in demand, with a half-dozen films due out in the months ahead, plus John Sayle's Silver City, just released on DVD.

Bello spoke to the Star during the Toronto International Film Festival in September, while promoting Silver City and filming David Cronenberg's latest, A History of Violence.

Q. You're in so many movies now. Do you turn down a lot of films?

A. I do. I only do things I love.

Q. What do you get offered that you don't want to do?

A. Things that don't have a point of view. Things that bore me. Things that I've already done. Things that are uninteresting. I want something that challenges me. Since I've done Silver City, I've done four other movies, and I've absolutely loved every minute of it. They only get better and better. And now I'm here working with David Cronenberg doing A History of Violence. He's my favourite director of all time, whom I've always wanted to work with. I like his bizarre sensibility. And underneath that, there is such depth and layers and interesting takes on society.

Q. I wouldn't have pegged you as Cronenberg fan.

A. I have an odd sensibility as well.

Q. You could have played the beautiful blonde as much as you wanted. But you very often play complicated characters who are not always shown in the best light.

A. Well, listen, I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and all of the women I knew were really interesting, complicated people, including my mother. So I grew up thinking I was a complicated person. So when I read (scripts) that are just about the pretty blonde, I don't understand them and I can't relate to them. I relate to real people, men and women who are complicated. That's why I choose the roles that I choose.

Q. Your Silver City character Nora is a journalist who sold out her principles and is marrying a corporate lobbyist. But in real life you're something of an anti-Bush crusader, aren't you?

A. Do you remember what happened after the Iraq War broke out? People in Hollywood started speaking out and immediately they were being accused of being unpatriotic and disloyal. People were getting fired and not getting certain jobs. I just found it so horrendous, and I feel that as an artist it's my responsibility to have a point of view and to say what I feel.

Q. How did you like filming Assault on Precinct 13 in Toronto?

A. I loved it. Mostly because the ensemble was incredible. We worked hard but we sure had fun. I love Toronto.

Q. Your career seems to be going quite nicely.

A. Thank you! You know what I love? I love the slow build.

I'm not a girl who at 20 years old was dying to be Julia Roberts. I love what I do. I love to act. And I feel like I will keep acting until I'm 90.