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British actress Anna Friel stars opposite comedy king Will Ferrell in this month’s Land of the Lost. Not bad for her stateside big-screen debut.


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Anna Friel is enjoying the calm before the storm. She is sitting in her newly renovated 300-year-old house in the mountains of Spain, nursing a cold beer and peering down at the hills below. “It’s so beautiful and rural,” she says. “But huge winds are blowing in. I’m looking out at a mini-tornado.” It’s an appropriate and symbolic view for the actress, who is poised to see her star explode stateside this month with the release of the film adaptation of the 1970s TV series Land of the Lost. Friel -- who was raised in Rochdale, Lancashire, England, and is already a massive star in the United Kingdom -- had a few nerves when it came to auditioning for the role of Holly, who is no longer a teenager in the movie remake but Will Ferrell’s research assistant and love interest.

“I had to audition in front of Will at the director’s house and scream at dinosaurs,” she says with a laugh. “I think [costar] Danny McBride is also brilliant, so to have had to improvise with the two of them was a little bit terrifying. But they couldn’t have been more lovely.”

Fans of the original TV show may recognize a few tweaks to the plot, but those didn’t throw off 32-yearold Friel. “I didn’t know anything about the show, but I got the entire DVD series before I started,” she says. “I think the movie is the perfect balance. It’s a little bit more than just a family movie. It’s like watching Will Ferrell in Jurassic Park. There’s a romance, an action movie, and a comedy in one.”

Despite her initial nerves, Friel says the shoot is among her all-time favorite professional experiences. That’s no small praise from the actress, who has been working for more than 15 years and has received acclaim for everything from her work in the Broadway production of Closer to her Golden Globe–nominated turn on the now-canceled Pushing Daisies.

“Usually, you’re ready to go on to the next project, but it was a genuinely happy, happy set,” she says, though she admits it wasn’t without a little pain. “At one point, we thought we were all going to have an aneurysm. There’s a part where all these plants capture us, and to shoot it, we were [upside down] in harnesses for about a week, to the point where we were thinking, ‘Oh, please don’t take me up there again!’ All the blood had gone to our heads. Will was like, ‘Can you see? Can anyone still see?’ “ Thankfully, a quick break ensured that no one suffered permanent damage; then, the actors were whisked right back up. The filming was no sweat for Friel, who says she more than held her own on the testosterone-filled set. “I can mix it up with a group of men quite nicely,” she boasts.

And mix it up she does -- not just with the boys but also with her career. Friel has consciously opted for diverse parts, and her upcoming project is no exception. “I’m doing something called London Boulevard with Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell,” she says. “I’m playing a mad, messed-up drug addict.” The role is quite the opposite of the one for which American audiences know her best: that of sunshiny, lovable Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Pushing Daisies. But she insists that’s exactly the point. “You have to keep surprising people all the time,” she says. “Then, you can’t get pigeonholed. They’ll look at you and go, ‘I didn’t know she could do that.’ “