CANNES — Sitting in the shaded garden of the Hotel Resideal, Mia Maestro is the picture of serenity in a white eyelet Chloé dress and gold Tod’s flats. The 26-year-old Argentinean actress had small roles in two well-received Spanish language films at the festival, which wrapped yesterday — “La Nina Santa” (“The Holy Girl”) and “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a film about Che Guevera. While she’s taken part in the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, showing up in her French favorites Givenchy, Dior and Chanel, Maestro actually has had time to unwind and enjoy her week on the Riviera.

U.S. audiences might already know the actress from “Frida,” in which she played the painter’s younger sister or, more recently, from a continuing guest role on “Alias” as Jennifer Garner’s mysterious half-sister, Nadia. However, she’s already a favorite with art-house filmgoers. After nailing her first audition to snag a key role in 1998’s “Tango,” directed by Carlos Saura, Maestro got a taste of success and glamour early on. (That film was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.) “It was so nice to do all of those glamorous events at the beginning of my career and sort of get them out of the way,” Maestro says. “Because now I don’t find myself wondering, ‘Am I going to the Oscars? Am I going to Cannes?’”

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Maestro’s poise is also derived from her urbane upbringing in Buenos Aires. Her father, a businessman, and her mother, a former economist and math logic professor, took her to films almost nightly. “My parents are cinephiles and my sister is 10 years older than me, so I was always treated as an adult. I could see movies that were not meant for me when I was, like, nine.”

By the time she got to audition for Saura, a major director in Argentina, at age 19, she’d already seen (and practically memorized) all of his films. Not that she had her heart set on acting. Maestro earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and also had intensive voice training. “I really thought I was going to be a writer and then a singer. Instead I started working right away at a theater company and acting just chose me.”

These days, she’s quickly morphing from art house beauty to mainstream star. “‘Alias’ is my first time on TV and I’m already recognizing it’s a completely different world. Everybody watches it, but I’m used to an audience caring about my films, not my life.” Working out of L.A., which she now calls home, does have its pluses. “I come home every day to my dog and I get to fish and scuba dive,” Maestro says.

After her post-Cannes holiday in Provence, she’ll begin rehearsals in New York for a theatrical tribute to Hans Christian Anderson that will be produced in Copenhagen in 2005. She’ll play the mechanical songbird in the tale “The Chinese Emperor” where she’ll get to show off her vocal talent. She’s also just wrapped “Kidnapped,” an American suspense thriller co-starring Ruben Blades.

Reflecting on her impending stardom, Maestro adds, “I hope people aren’t disappointed. I think my life is pretty boring. It’s pretty scandal-free.”

— M.M.

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