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Paprika Steen Deserves Applause

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Looking sleepy from jet lag - she's just returned to New York after a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles - and complaining a little about the bone-chilling wind on Manhattan's streets on this December day, Danish actress Paprika Steen contemplates the idea of becoming a star in Hollywood and figures the time is right.

"I'm a late bloomer for everything," says the 46-year-old actress, sipping from a Starbucks cup. "In a funny way, I think I was born in my 30s. When I was 19, I didn't look 19. Before, I was always playing the wife; now I'm playing the love interest. So it's interesting that it goes that way - perhaps it's the Helen Mirren way. I guess I'm growing into my age - in a nice way."

Tall, lithe and blonde, Steen has seen her Danish acting contemporaries - including Mads Mikkelsen and Ulrich Thomsen - make inroads into American films. Now she believes she's got the perfect calling card as well: Applause, a searing Danish drama that just opened in Los Angeles for a qualifying Oscar run and will open in New York in early 2011.

The film, in which Steen plays a stage actress fresh out of rehab trying to reestablish relations with her estranged children, offers a memorable enough performance for Steen to mount a small Oscar campaign as best actress. Though she's a long-shot for a nomination in a crowded year, the performance is definitely deserving - and is already earning her meetings with American filmmakers.

"I'd like to land a part in a big comedy," says Steen, who made her name in Denmark playing comedy on a popular Saturday Night Live-style TV series and film comedies. "That would be a good place for people to see me. In Denmark, I did a lot of parts resembling the kind of thing Teri Garr or Lisa Kudrow would do. I'd love to do that again."

Comedy seems the farthest thing imaginable from her work in "Applause."

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