The 5-Year Plan

Maria Bello

WHY HER She's glamour girl and earthy Everywoman.

WHY NOW In The Cooler, she's Lady Luck to William H. Macy's loser in love.

After turning heads as a feisty doc on ER in 1997, Bello nabbed high-profile parts opposite Ben Stiller in Permanent Midnight and Mel Gibson in Payback. But while her career was taking off, the Philly native was mired in ''major existential angst'' -- plus a painful breakup. The solution: globe-trotting to refugee camps for Save the Children. ''Those joyful kids gave me hope,'' says Bello, 36, now a proud mama to 2-year-old Jackson Blue (with beau Dan McDermott). And she didn't give up on films. With tough-talking turns in Coyote Ugly and Auto Focus, she was the actress costars Macy and Alec Baldwin wanted as The Cooler's troubled waitress. Next, she'll play Johnny Depp's estranged wife in Secret Window and a reporter in John Sayles' Silver City. But Bello admits she's a bookworm at heart: ''I've always wanted to re-create the salons of Paris. Five years from now, I see myself sitting in my own wild little bookstore in NYC.''

Originally posted Dec 12, 2003 Published in issue #741 Dec 12, 2003 Order article reprints
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