Experience leads to projects with Spacey, Giamatti

Rachelle Lefevre won’t lie: Getting fired from Hollywood’s hottest vampire franchise bites.

“It was an extremely difficult time for me,” says the actress, who played villainous bloodsucker Victoria in the first two “Twilight” films before Summit, citing scheduling conflicts, chose to replace her with Bryce Dallas Howard last summer. “It’s still a little painful to talk about.”

While Lefevre’s days among the undead may end with her appearance in November’s “New Moon,” a stake’s hardly been driven through her career.

In 2010, she’ll showcase her range with pivotal parts in two pedigreed projects: In “Barney’s Version,” adapted from the novel by acclaimed Canadian author Mordecai Richler, she’s Clara, a manic-depressive, ’70s-era feminist poet who becomes Paul Giamatti’s first wife; and in the ripped-from-the-headlines drama “Casino Jack,” she plays Emily Miller, Tom DeLay’s fiery former press secretary, who helps bring down Washington power broker Jack Abramoff, played by Kevin Spacey.

“I’m always looking to do things that are really different from each other,” she says of taking on such disparate roles. “I like stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Playing the hard-charging Miller certainly qualified.

“I really couldn’t relate to her,” says Lefevre, who began her career in Canadian TV before breaking into films with the George Clooney-directed “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

To better understand what made her character tick, the actress read every archived Washington Post article relating to the Abramoff scandal she could find. But it was the feedback she received after reaching out to the real Miller that proved the turning point.

“Her response was if I wanted to speak to her, I could speak to her lawyers,” Lefevre says with a laugh. “You’re always waiting for that moment when it just clicks, and I knew who she was immediately based on that. It was like, ‘Aha! There she is!’”

Inspiration on the Rome set of “Barney’s Version” came more easily, thanks to co-star-turned-mentor Giamatti.

“Paul wipes the floor with everyone I’ve ever worked with,” she says. “He’s as dedicated to everyone else’s performance as he is to his own. I’m smitten.”

She’s also particularly taken with her career path these days. With the “Twilight” controversy firmly behind her, “I’m so grateful to be doing what I’m doing,” she says. “Whatever happens along the way, you just shake it off and continue to forge ahead with what you love.”

P.O.V.

Lucky Break: “When I was waitressing at a sushi restaurant and my customer, a Canadian TV producer, overheard me telling the hostess I wanted to be an actress and offered to get me my first audition.”

Favorite Film: “‘Stage Door’ for the witty banter and the way Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers hold their own.”

Five Years From Now, I Will Be…: “A better actor than I am today, absolutely guaranteed.”

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