10 Actors to Watch 2012: Dree Hemingway

Forget the 15 years she spent as a nascent ballerina and attempt to put out of mind her last five years of modeling superstardom. Dree Hemingway is, at last, ready for her bigscreen closeup.

“I always knew I wanted to be an actress,” says Hemingway, 24, daughter of Mariel, niece of supermodel Margaux and great-granddaughter of Ernest. “I also knew I wasn’t ready when I was younger. It would have been a mistake to just throw myself into it. I needed to mature.”

Hemingway, who grew up on mom’s film sets and now follows in her footsteps with a starring role this month in the sweet (though sometimes shocking) coming-of-age pic “Starlet,” attributes her cinema-ready maturation to the photo and video shoots she’s aced for the likes of Halston, Gucci, Valentino and Calvin Klein.

“Modeling trained me to tap into my feelings and play a different character in every single shoot,” says the coltish beauty, who’ll also be appearing in Herve Mimran and Geraldine Nakache’s French release “Nous York” next month.

But writer-director Sean Baker’s “Starlet” is the actress-model’s real coming-out party. Having garnered festival circuit raves for Hemingway’s seemingly naturalistic turn as a newbie San Fernando Valley porn star who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a cranky widow (Besedka Johnson), the film is set to launch Hemingway’s new career in stellar fashion.

“I’ve never been more proud of anything in my whole life,” she says of the role.

Lucky break:“With acting, it was meeting my manager, Allan Mindel. It was the first time somebody was really willing to take a chance. I told him, ‘I don’t think it’s going to be easy, because I don’t want to go out for just anything. I think there’s going to be that one director who’ll take a chance and it’ll all work from there.’ That person was Sean Baker.”

Favorite movie: “Romeo and Juliet” by Baz Luhrman. “I love its mix of gritty and dirty, and that relationship is just the epitome of love to me. Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio really are brilliant in it.”

Career I’d like to emulate: “I love the Hepburns — Katharine and Audrey are my style role models — but Cate Blanchett is the career I’d like to emulate. I think she’s the actress most like the Hepburns and all the old-time movie stars. I just love her.”

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