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Devil incarnate

Bedazzled by Elizabeth Hurley

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What lovestruck nerd in his right mind wouldn't sell his soul to the Devil for a chance to spend the rest of his days (on Earth, at least) alongside the fetching Aussie actress Frances O'Connor? For that matter, who among men could resist any temptation if said Devil materialized to them in the curvaceous form of British beauty Elizabeth Hurley?

Such is Brendan Fraser's enviable dilemma in Bedazzled, director Harold Ramis' loose remake of a 1967 English movie starring the comedy team of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook -- a remake in the sense that it's still a Faustian farce (with Fraser a logical successor to Moore's original oddball), but loose to the extent that Elizabeth Hurley definitely is no Peter Cook.

"It's weird because Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were comic heroes of mine, but actually I hadn't seen their version until after I'd agreed to do this one," Hurley says during a recent interview. "I loved it, of course, but I was relieved to realize that the movies are pretty far removed from one another, and especially relieved that I'm a different sex than Peter Cook. By making the Devil a woman, not only does that limit a lot of the obvious comparisons, but it also adds an extra spin to the story and gives it the feeling of being more like a sexual freefall."

At 35, Hurley is clearly more than just another pretty face (although she's that, too, as a model for Estée Lauder). As an actress, she has demonstrated a certain flair for comedy -- she was a much more agreeable straight woman for Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery than was Heather Graham in the Spy Who Shagged Me sequel, for example, but she's not without some dramatic abilities as well (see the junkie she played opposite Ben Stiller in Permanent Midnight). She even runs her own production company, Simian Films, which she co-founded with actor Hugh Grant, her former boyfriend and ongoing business partner.

Call her a workaholic, but the way Hurley sees it, "I've always had a very strong work ethic, and I truly like doing a day's work. It makes me feel better about going out for a drink at the end of the day. I mean, if I lolled around the house watching TV all the time, I'd feel slightly guilty about going out at night, you know?

"If people have ever underestimated me because they thought I was beautiful, I suppose they were well-mannered enough not to indicate it to me," she continues. "In any event, I've always thought one goes into a business situation with a distinct advantage if you are underestimated, so if that ever happened to me, I probably wouldn't mind. I know a lot of pretty girls who pretend to be way dimmer than they are, and they can usually sneak in the back door and get anything they want. I've never played dumb to get what I wanted, but it's actually not a bad theory."

Neither is playing tough to get what you want, particularly when it involves having your private life misrepresented in the media. A favorite target of the British tabloids throughout her seven-year on-again-off-again romance with Grant, Hurley recently sued the American magazine Jane about an article that quoted her referring to him as a lousy lover. The actress vehemently denied ever saying it and demanded a retraction; the writer claimed to have the comments on tape, before finally admitting the story was fudged.

"Contrary to those early reports, I never said anything mean about Hugh, and they never had anything like that on tape, so I feel vindicated. It was all quite amicable. They've apologized, and now everything's fine," Hurley notes. "What made me so furious at the time was you expect that sort of thing from the British tabloids because, traditionally, everybody knows those stories are always made up. But I'd never come across anything like that over here before, and that was a bit discouraging."

Meanwhile, she and Grant will continue to collaborate as producer and actor, if not as girlfriend and boyfriend. (Their previous Simian projects were the box-office disappointments Extreme Measures and Mickey Blue Eyes.) As Hurley puts it, "The truth of the matter is, we work very well together. We're like night and day in our approaches to the work, but we sort of complement one another. We've been confidantes for so long, both of us would hate not to have the other one there for us. I mean, I still can't accept a movie without Hugh reading the script first, you know? It's rather like a habit."

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