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Paula Patton

10 Actors to Watch: Film Class

When Paula Patton found herself at a table with Jerry Bruckheimer, Denzel Washington, Tony Scott and Val Kilmer, she experienced an out-of-body moment. She was taking part in a “Deja Vu” read-through and tried to take in the moment.

Just minutes after the session wrapped, she left the room welling up.

“I got on the elevator after the meeting and just felt myself get so emotional because I couldn’t believe the people I’d just been working with,” says Patton. “I know how lucky I am to have these opportunities.”

Patton began her career in documentary films. As part of a PBS project, Patton made “The Ride,” about tensions between white high school students in Pine Ridge, S.D., and the Native American population there. She went on to make more documentaries following that project, but her heart wasn’t really in it.

“I was doing gory medical stuff and was slowly running out of energy,” says Patton. “I didn’t want to tell anyone, because of all the time and money that had gone into my education, but then I started thinking about what I really wanted to do, and it was acting.”

Patton’s career has taken off with prominent roles in the recently released “Idlewild” and the upcoming Disney pic “Deja Vu,” but she’s solidly focused on the job at hand and not the spoils that come with her newfound fame.

“In the end, the most fun is the work,” says Patton. “Premieres and photo shoots are like cotton candy. They’re fun, but a day later you’re taking out the trash and picking up the dry cleaning and wondering when you’re going to work again.”

Even as her career takes off, she clearly remembers that as quickly as success has arrived, it’s by no means a guarantee over the next few years.

“It wasn’t that long ago that I was in acting class and dreaming of this and wondering if it would happen to me,” says Patton. “I never forget to be thankful for everything that’s happened.”

THREE QUESTIONS

An actor should never: “Give up or doubt yourself. Be fearless and give everything you have. Acting should be the one thing you can’t live without.”

Five years from now I’ll be: “On a film set exploring a really interesting character. That’s really it for me. As an actor, you’re happy just to have the next job. Beyond that, in five years I’d love to be working on something I’ve written, with someone else directing.”

I want to work with: “Everyone. I can’t possibly list them all.”

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