January 15, 2008 / 5:14 PM / in 11 years

Fame comes quickly to Portugal's "Call Girl" star

LISBON (Reuters Life!) - With her leather-clad posterior now plastered all over Portugal, Soraia Chaves seems overly humble in saying the director of “Call Girl” took a risk casting her in her first film role three years ago.

Actress Soraia Chaves poses after an interview with Reuters in Lisbon January 11, 2008. With her leather-clad posterior now plastered all over Portugal, Chaves seems overly humble in saying the director who chose her for her first film role three years ago took a risk. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

The 25-year-old Portuguese beauty appears to have learned a lot since then and with only three cinema roles to her name, two of them as seductive leading ladies, she has become the country’s best known actress.

The former model said she was approached for the 2005 adaptation of 19th-century Portuguese classic “The Crime of Father Amaro”. She went, with low expectations.

“They asked me to try, I went, they liked me and even though I had no experience they chose me anyway,” she said, laughing gently. “I think they made a risky bet.”

But the bet worked and the film went on to become Portugal’s most-watched national production in recent years, helped by steamy love scenes between a priest and the young woman (Chaves) he falls in love with, who becomes pregnant by him.

That set her up to play Maria, or Vicky depending on the client of the hour, in “Call Girl”, in which Chaves plays a cold-hearted, upmarket lady of pleasure who corrupts a small-town local politician.

In between offering seductive school girl acts to clients and spinning out lines like “It’s incredible how quickly shame disappears,” she encounters an old flame, who also happens to be the policeman investigating the politician she corrupted.

The formula has been a winner. During its release week at the end of December, 70,000 people went to see the film, setting it up to possibly match Father Amaro’s popularity. Chaves’ acting is strong, critics say, and the corruption theme has hit a nerve in Portugal where such cases are not uncommon.

For someone who has risen that far that quickly Chaves appears serene and has both feet planted firmly on the ground.

“At this stage, I will try to look around, without expecting too much,” she said. “Above all, I want to develop, find projects that I believe in.”

Chaves gives few clues about what exactly she wants to do next, saying her main goal is to develop professionally. The actress, who is a fan of Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn, just laughs when asked if she could imagine being a Bond girl.

But one thing is certain — for a rising star like Chaves, Portugal is probably already too small.

“In Portugal it’s difficult to make a living, or dedicate a career only to cinema,” she said.

She is focusing on neighboring Spain and is hoping to take advantage of her success with Call Girl to find opportunities there and in London.

In the meantime, she is enjoying doing her bit to shake up conservative Portugal a little with the film. She says she admires Maria for her honesty in “not saying sorry” to anybody for what she does as a living.

“I feel that it is difficult in Portugal for people to give recognition when women exhibit their sensuality,” she said. “The script was great, some of the lines were cruel but it gave me immense pleasure to say them.”

Reporting by Axel Bugge, editing by Paul Casciato

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