CINDERELLA'S STORY

Byline: Glynis Costin

Doing a striptease scene is my lifelong fantasy," confesses actress Lesley Ann Warren.
"I'm not kidding," she laughs. "My fiance [Ron Taft, creative director for Columbia Pictures Television] even did this little cartoon of me wrapped around one of those stripper's poles--you know, 'Lesley's fantasy.' It's weird, but I'm really fascinated by that whole world."
In "Bird of Prey," directed by Temi Lopez ("Chain of Desire") and currently being filmed, Warren acts out that fantasy as a cynical cabaret performer who bares it all in a vampy bride-gone-wild dance number. But audiences don't have to wait until "Bird" to see Warren strut her stuff.
In "Color of Night," a psychological thriller starring Bruce Willis and Jane March that opens this weekend, she plays Sondra, a bottle-blonde, sex-crazed kleptomaniac with a penchant for leopard prints and body-sculpting skirts. She also happens to be a patient in Willis's therapy group (he plays a psychologist) with a "borderline personality disorder" and, like everyone else in the whodunnit, a murder suspect.
And if all that isn't enough to keep Warren's synapses firing, she has a sizzling sex scene with March, the young beauty from "The Lover." That is, if it isn't cut. "It was really an erotic scene. I actually took her top off, and we kissed, and I touched her body," says Warren nonchalantly. "I mean, it was very tastefully done. But I heard there have been fights with the ratings board and it may not be in the film. It's insane if it's true. It's not so graphic, and it's not anything we haven't seen before."
To get into the character of Sondra, she hung a Bijan ad in her trailer.
"I'll probably get killed by Bijan when this comes out, but that was my prototype--you know how those Bijan women are all made up, lots of jewelry, bright, tight clothes and heels. I even padded my breasts twice and I have relatively nice-sized breasts."
Playing the risqué woman is nothing new for Warren. Since her debut as the virginal Cinderella in the Sixties TV movie classic, Warren has done turns as a ditzy bombshell ("Victor Victoria," for which she received an Oscar nomination), a worn-but-wise barkeeper ("Choose Me") and an array of prostitutes, madams and sexhibitionists in TV movies with titles like "Portrait of a Showgirl." "I have some kind of affinity for it," admits Warren, 48, who could pass for 35. "I've actually talked a lot about this with my therapist. Maybe I was some big sex mama in a past life."
Recently, however, she has taken a long look at her career and decided to quit doing network TV movies before she's labeled "Queen of the Miniseries." "These days, TV movies are sadly trotting two steps behind the tabloids," explains the actress, who has played a mom who hires a hit man to kill her cheerleader daughter's rival and a mother who shoots her daughter's rapist in court.
"I've done it and I'm sick of it," she explains.
Warren's own life reads like the script of a miniseries.
"I've been through a lot," she says, referring to an unhappy childhood, an abusive relationship as a teenager, a former marriage to then-hairdresser-now-megaproducer Jon Peters and a bout with anorexia as a ballerina.
Things are different now, and while her sexy in-your-face film persona might get the most attention, Warren describes her true self as a cross between "a fairy tale ballerina" whose idols are Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn, and "a stripper girl" who is fascinated by the power of sexuality.
"I'm a classic virgin/whore dichotomy," she acknowledges. "Both really live inside of me. I'm this perfect split."

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