Virginia Madsen isn’t shy about expressing her eagerness for entering Oscar race 2005.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she says. “I suppose you can never know success until you get there but I think I wear it well.”

The wait for Madsen dates all the way back 1984, when she had a noticeable turn in David Lynch’s sci-fi epic “Dune.” While many thought “Dune” would launch her into a more elite and sought-after stratosphere, Madsen instead found herself in such films as “Zombie High,” “Hot to Trot” and “Highlander II.”

All of which makes “Sideways” that much sweeter.

Going into the audition with director Alexander Payne, Madsen felt she was right for the part of Maya and “knew it was mine.” In the past, that confidence would sometimes turn to disappointment when a role she was vying for would go to another actress. Not this time.

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“We met at the Chateau Marmont and he told me I got the role,” Madsen recalls. “Many weeks had gone by and I had bet the studio (Fox Searchlight) didn’t want me, going for someone more bankable.

“I knew so much about this character. I felt so certain that this part would be mine. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Santa Ynez Valley. I know those people and that character and I know how I feel when I get up there. When I’m there I have a certain serenity and Maya was that way too: serene and a good listener.”

While the film centers on Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church’s weeklong jaunt of wine tasting, golf and sex — and not necessarily in that order — the emotional heart of the film is the budding relationship between Giamatti and Madsen.

And the scene where each person talks from the heart about the underlying significance of wine — which, in turn, is really about themselves — will undoubtedly be the clip shown a gazillion times when Madsen is mentioned for Oscar.

“I put a lot of work into it with my acting coach,” Madsen concedes. “And then all I had to do was listen to Paul.

“It was so beautifully written that you just don’t want to get in the way of the script. You want to keep it very simple. You don’t need anything between the lines. I’ve spent 15 years working on scripts that need filling in the blanks.”