2004 Honoree

Maria Bello

A Secret No More

Maria Bello Jumps out of a cooler and into a window
By Bill Smyth
Photographed by Michael Preis

Se-cret (sē – kr ît) 1 a): kept from knowledge or view; b) conducted in secret; c) remote from human frequentation; d) constructed so as to elude observation or detection

Secrets are meant to be broken. Let’s face it. It takes massive willpower to keep something bottled up inside… especially in Hollywood.

When an actor or actress is on the verge of creating a big buzz, it rarely goes unnoticed. Enter Ms. Maria Bello, Hollywood’s newest unleashed secret. With two hit movies in The Cooler and Secret Window and four movies on the burner, Maria is taking Hollywood by storm and not looking back. After fifteen years in the business, she’s just getting started.

Maria came to New York City in 1989 with Broadway dreams and loved the romanticism of the City. “I remember way back coming to the City with two trash bags of clothes and knocking on this girl’s door on the UWS on New Year’s day because I heard she needed a roommate,” Maria, 36, said. “I wound up sleeping on her floor for over a year. I knew even then how incredibly romantic New York was and how lucky I was to be starting my career here.”

For firsteen years Maria has worked alongside some good company. You may have seen her in Coyote Ugly, Duets, Payback and as Dr. Anna Del Amico on NBC”s hit show ER. But it’s her current success that is having a ripple effect with directors up-and-down the California coastline.

This year, Maria earned Best Support Actress nominations at both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards for The Cooler opposite Alec Baldwin and William H. Macy. In it she plays a cocktail waitress who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck gambler played by Macy only to change his losing ways to winning. His “Lady Lucky” her role of a lifetime.

“I knew I wanted to play this part,” said Maria, one of the four siblings of Polish-Italian descent. “I was thrilled to be nominated for both awards but the SAG meant everything to me. I’ve been struggling in this business for 15 years and to have my peers recognize my work was absolutely huge. The Cooler changed my life. With both films, I am having the opportunity to do the most creative work of my career and it’s very exciting”.

In Secret Window, Maria plays the divorced wife of Johnny Depp’s character Mort Rainey, a 

That’s where the fun begins.

“I read Secret Window last year and it was such a page-turner that I couldn’t put it down,” said Maria. “Usually I look at a script because I like the part but this wasn’t about the part. I just thought it was a fantastic thriller.”

For all the fanfare Maria is enduring, she is actually a shy, down-to-earth girl who stays true to her Pennsylvania roots and kin. At the premiere of Secret Window, 22 relatives from Philadelphia came up to see her. “The same people that came to my Off-Broadway premiere 15 years ago,” she laughs. “They were on the red carpet, stopping people and taking pictures of everyone, stopping Will Smith and screaming, ‘Hey, hey, over here, we’re Maria’s parents, I’m her grandmother, take a picture with me,’ They made it so much fun.”

She persevered to get the part for Secret Window. “I’ll never forget it. I was in Philly and I schlepped up to New York and the snow was just pouring down when I walked into David Koepp’s office soaking wet and just miserable,” Maria recalls. “He explained that it’s not so much the character but the plot and trajectory of the story and finding ways to make the thriller work.”

Next up for Maria? Four films. She’ll be starring in Silver City, where she plays a reporter covering a Colorado governor’s race; Assault on Precinct 13 with Lauren Fishburne and Ethan Hawke, a remake of the 1976 John Carpenter film; Sisters, a modern version of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters; and Aftershock, based on the true story of a manic-depressive Hollywood writer who after yearlong shock treatments forgets who she is.

Her love affair with Manhattan is not far behind. “It’s my home and my favorite place in the universe and we are in the process of buying an apartment there,” said Maria, who has a three-year-old son Jackson Blue with screenwriter Dan McDermott. “There are so many things that I love about LA but I really miss New York City. I miss the day-to-day interaction with the people on the street.”

The City is waiting with open arms.

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