Allen's 'Stranger' gives Brit a chance to work with iconic helmer

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GALLERY

Just about every successful Hollywood career has been energized by an unexpected lightning bolt.

For Lucy Punch, it struck at a supremely opportune time, after she had been out of work for about a year and auditioned for the perennial “Untitled Woody Allen Project” that eventually became “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.”

“The part was vacated by a big movie star (Nicole Kidman),” she says of her role as Charmaine, the flighty young call girl who is wooed by and then wedded to the character played by Anthony Hopkins. “I thought the chances of me getting it were slim, but somehow I convinced Woody I was right for the part.”

Yet this particular lightning bolt had a twin. In true “perception is everything” tradition, the 32-year-old British thesp was also being considered at around the same time for a role in the ensemble laffer “Dinner With Schmucks.”

“I was in the process of auditioning for it, and it looked like it might happen,” she explains, “but I think getting the part in a Woody Allen film certainly helped sway some minds.”

The Woodman’s imprimatur tends to have that affect. Punch soon landed a part in the Nick Cassavetes indie “Yellow” and is fielding other offers.

“I’ve had an incredibly busy year,” she gushes.

The highlight was working with Allen among a star-laden cast that included Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin.

“He gives his actors a huge amount of freedom,” she says. “He’s focused, and expects his actors to be the same. The stamp of approval from Woody gave me lots of confidence.”

All of this beats slaving over a research paper on Romanesque cathedrals in France, which is what sparked an interest in acting when she realized as a university student that she didn’t want to write such a paper, but would prefer to audition for a TV show in London. She got the part in “Big Bad World,” committed to an acting career and put cathedrals in her rear-view mirror.

“I hope to do this forever,” she says.

LUCKY BREAK: “I’ve had many lucky breaks, but the chance to be in this Woody Allen film certainly was the luckiest and the most unimaginable. It was a lot of luck.”
FAVORITE FILM: “‘L’appartement.’ It’s set in Paris, with Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci.”
THE CAREER I’D LIKE TO EMULATE: “Can I transform myself to be as talented as they are? Can I say Daniel Day-Lewis? He’s played so many different characters, and that’s what I love doing. He totally reinvents himself and hides in a world. That would require taking an injection of insane genius and talent to match his.”

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