OLIVIA Wilde's undeniable appeal is a throwback to the Golden Hollywood era; her almond-shaped, feline eyes and angular cheekbones conjure a film noir goddess burning up the red carpet.
But Wilde hasn't always been a siren. As a teen she felt uncomfortable in her skin. "I wanted to look like Kate Moss, and nobody looks like Kate Moss!" she says on the phone from her home in New York.
"Maturity is about self-acceptance, and celebrating what makes you different," she adds, wishing she could tell her 15-year-old self not to worry so much about the way she looked: "I wish I could have said, 'What you naturally have is perfect; just take your time.' I used to change my hair colour every month, going from pink to blue to red to green, and constantly change my style. I wanted to change everything at once."
It's testament to her upbringing that she didn't grow up revelling in her looks. She was raised in a whip-smart New York family of political journalists - parents, brothers and grandfather; her sister is a civil rights attorney.
More driven to act than to be a professional beauty, she's handled her trajectory from the small screen (The OC, House) to big-screen crime thrillers and action adventures (Tron: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens) with aplomb. Although she's been Revlon's global brand ambassador since 2011, and is the face of its new ColorStay Ultimate Suede Lipsticks, she says modelling doesn't come naturally to her.
"I'm not a trained model and never wanted to be. I bring a character into a photoshoot. I'll think of a story - why I'm there, what I want - and that keeps my interest and brings an engaging expression, not an empty stare."
While some actors remove their make-up before leaving the set, Wilde prefers to stay well groomed in her downtime. "I'm a product girl," she admits. "It's a great way to celebrate your natural features, not hide who you are. I rarely leave the house without make-up on. Even when I'm not working, I put a bit on, just to highlight areas and define my face."
Her run-out-the-door look is "a sheer foundation with SPF - so I know I'm safe as well as covered - plus concealer, then I fill in my eyebrows, and add eyeliner and mascara".
To keep fit she does SoulCycle, a weighted cycle class: "It's a 45-minute cardio workout and you get your weights in, too. I could never do a session of weights and 10,000 squats against a wall; that would drive me insane."
After her marriage at age 19 to Italian prince Tao Ruspoli, Wilde's evolution into womanly success has been untroubled. And smart/funny trumps all - her engagement to Saturday Night Live star Jason Sudeikis adds a new dimension to her cool glamour.
"Part of being a woman is being able to defy expectations - about what we can achieve in business, politics, art, in every way," she says. "In my personal life I've had to prove people wrong, but I enjoy doing that. It's wonderful when people realise you can be both attractive and smart. For too long, people have been convinced you have to be one or the other."