Watch out, Penélope. Spain’s newest “It” Girl, Leticia Dolera, is poised to conquer America next.

The 21-year-old Barcelona beauty made a splash last week at the Venice Film Festival premiere of “Imagining Argentina.” The film sparked controversy for its depictions of violence during a late-Seventies military coup, receiving boos during its first screening and a 10-minute standing ovation the following night. But Dolera’s intense portrayal of a doomed teenage daughter, whose parents are played by Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson, won praise.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Dolera, who auditioned reading a passage from Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck,” says her youthful looks helped her win the role. “I have one of those faces that can look young or old, depending on how much makeup I wear,” she says, calling from her home in Barcelona. “My character is just 15, but she’s forced to grow up suddenly when her mother is kidnapped.

“I think we all grow up during difficult periods in our lives,” she adds.

With two more films in the can, Dolera is set to become the next darling of the festival circuit. The musical comedy “The Other Side of the Bed,” in which she plays a daft party girl, is currently in theaters, and the thriller “Cat’s Kisses,” in which she plays a neglected teenager, will premiere at Toulouse.

After filming the three movies back-to-back, she came to Los Angeles to study English and signed up with an agent at UTA. “I prefer acting in English. It’s like music to me,” she says. “Someday I hope to speak without an accent.”

At 17, the ingenue nixed plans to study chemistry at college to give acting a try. “When I told my parents, they went, ‘Uh-oh,’ but something in my heart told me I had to try it,” she says. Dolera was promptly cast as a spoiled teenager on the popular TV series “Al Salir de Clase,” the Spanish equivalent of “Beverly Hills 90210.”

“I thought only young people watched it, but 40- and 50-year-olds would recognize me,” she says. Along the way, Dolera developed a taste for designer clothes by Gucci, Chanel and Luca Luca, all perfect to wear to go dancing at Barcelona’s famous nightclubs. But the actress also spends plenty of time at the movies and practicing yoga, which makes her a virtual Angeleno.

“I’ve spent three or four months in L.A. auditioning,” she says. “Yoga is the perfect thing to do in a hotel room.”

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