04/30/2008 12:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is Malin Akerman the Next Big Thing? She Should Be.

You may have seen her recently in the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid, or the Katherine Heigl vehicle 27 Dresses. Or maybe you remember her (as many people seem to) from a certain episode of Entourage involving a threesome. But before long Malin Akerman will definitely be easier to put a finger on -- er, recognize.

She's been working steadily, but due to the vagaries of movie-release scheduling it may be awhile before she next comes to a screen near you. She's playing Silk Spectre (the younger one, next to Carla Gugino) in the upcoming DC Comics adaptation Watchmen, and will be alongside Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock in Anne Fletcher's (27 Dresses) romantic comedy The Proposal. Neither one is out until 2009, but I mention Akerman now because when she's big-time next year, you can say you heard it here first.

Call me naïve, but one reason it seems clear to me the Swedish-born, Canadian-raised 29 year-old will get there is that she's so crazily likeable. It's hard to imagine a casting director -- or anyone who meets her, really -- being able to say no. Especially if he or she is attracted to women. (Here's a photo.)

However, Akeman also has a mix of smarts and that loose, up-for-anything vibe that few of FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World" can lay claim to. She recalls the laid-back babe Cameron Diaz played in "There's Something About Mary" -- appropriate, considering Akerman also made a name for herself by playing the trophy girl in a Farrelly brothers comedy. Well, at least she starts "The Heartbreak Kid" that way. When Ben Stiller's commitment-phobe meets her, serendipitously, outside a San Francisco laundromat, she is what many guys would call the perfect woman: warm but confident, super hot, and capable of taking a pratfall (she later flips over the handlebars during a smoochie bike ride) without batting an eye. Then, in a ludicrous turn only the Farrelly brothers could imagine, she reveals herself as an insane drama-queen who's many thousands of dollars in debt.

That's when the real fun (sexist fun, as some have called it, but whatever) begins. Akerman clearly enjoyed singing her co-star's ears off in the scenes of their honeymoon drive down to Mexico. She starts sobbing after a deluge of apple juice jets out her nose -- an annoying problem from her coke-snorting days -- and just when the poor Stiller character thinks it can't get any worse, she straddles him and urinates on his back in front of a crowd. (Hey, he'd been stung by a jellyfish.) The film takes a downturn, if you ask me, when an atrocious sunburn renders Akerman almost completely unrecognizable, then confines her to a hotel room for most of the rest of the movie, thus allowing Stiller to pursue his true soul mate.

Michelle Monaghan, who plays her, is fine. But I don't think I'm the only viewer who felt cheated by this cruel (and only somewhat funny) switcheroo. Lucky for me, I got to see more of Akerman's super-cool side Tuesday night, at the New York premiere of Iron Man. She asked me if I wanted her to break my arm. For some reason, I said no.

We were talking about the character she plays in Watchmen, which she'd just finished shooting. "She kicks some ass, basically. There's six of us, six vigilantes," Akerman explained. "It's more of a real-life happening than it is we fly or throw magic spears." This is, of course, old news to people familiar to the classic DC Comics series. I'm not one of those people.

She talked about the months she'd spent assaulting stuntmen (lucky bastards!) on the film's Vancouver set. "They can take it," Akerman said. She flashed a devilish grin. "If you've chosen a career to be a stuntman and you're getting beat up left, right and center, you have to like it somewhere deep inside." True, but I'm sure it also depends on who's beating you up.

"I can disarm you. If you point a gun at me I can take it and turn it back on you." Luckily for me, I wasn't packing that night. It dawned on me that this is one of conversations I'd always dreamed of having with a girl of this sort, so I kept at it. Had Akerman beaten up guys before, for real? "I punched a guy in elementary school. He was calling my friend names and I just got really fed up. He punched me back, right in the face. And then we were friends right after."

If she'd had a girlfriend handy, I would have called her a horse right then and there. Instead, I asked Akerman what she'd learned from all her martial-arts training. "Different sensitive spots, how to twist somebody's arm. I don't know if they actually taught us how to break a limb, but I hope so. If you want to be a guinea pig, we could give it a shot." For some reason, I hesitated. "No, not tonight? You let me know, you call your people and let me know," she said. I need to -- before she gets way too big to waste time on a little arm-breaking session.