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Funny Girl

Valeria Golino wants a cigarette."Do you mind?" the Italian actress asks with great trepidation, knowing the feeling about smoking in America. "I'm tired of constantly apologizing and being thrown out of places. I know it's wrong, but give us...

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Despite her comedic talents -- like being able to catapult an olive from her belly button in "Hot Shots" -- drama is Golino's forte. She made her debut in Lina Wertmuller's "A Joke of Destiny," and in the 10 years since, has picked up a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the Nostro D'Argento (Italy's Oscar) and a Golden Globe award. She still works in Europe -- mostly on dramas -- and has the occasional dramatic role in the U.S., most recently in Sean Penn's directorial debut, "Indian Runner."

"I think that movie showed how talented Sean really is," she says. "I think everyone knew, but because of his reputation, it was never as clear. But after 'Indian Runner,' it was. The moment he gets in a room you just smell talent. Even when he's wrong, he's right."

Golino's first dramatic role in the U.S. was in Barry Levinson's "Rain Man." She played Tom Cruise's girlfriend and says, "In my humble opinion, that's Tom's best work. He deserves to be a star for how disciplined and hardworking he is -- if for nothing else, than for his will."

As for Dustin Hoffman, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in "Rain Man," Golino says, "I was so excited, I mean it was definitely not the role of my life, but the idea of being there and watching Dustin Hoffman -- it was like going to acting school every day." Despite the critical acclaim of "Indian Runner" and "Rain Man," Golino is not satisfied.

"I'm proud of the movies that I've done, but I'm not proud of myself in the movies," she explains. "The roles I've had have been more a function of the movie. I'd like to be able to do a role where I can risk a little more."

She may get that chance with her next film, "Immortal Beloved" with Gary Oldman, Matthew Modine and Miranda Richardson. In this period piece about Beethoven, Golino may have found the perfect part in an American drama: She'll play an Italian countess.
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