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‘Machine Gun Preacher’s’ Michelle Monaghan in it for ‘long haul’

With her ridiculously high cheekbones and legs that seem to go on forever, actress Michelle Monaghan could easily spend her time playing parts that require little more than her model-quality looks.

But the 35-year-old from the small town of Winthrop, Iowa, is not willing to settle for what Hollywood wants to send her way. After gaining attention opposite Robert Downey Jr. in 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and turning in interesting roles in “Mission: Impossible III” and “Gone Baby Gone,” Monaghan took her career into her own hands, learning to drive a big rig to play trucker Diane Ford in “Trucker,” a tiny indie film that demonstrated she’s more than a set of fabulous gams.

She continues her trek into challenging territory with the role of Lynn Childers in Marc Forster’s new film, “Machine Gun Preacher.” Playing what she calls a “quiet giant,” Monaghan is the steely, patient wife of a gun-toting ex-con-turned-preacher, a woman whose faith sustains her through tribulations that would destroy many others.

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It’s the first part Monaghan signed on to after giving birth to her daughter and taking two years off (her husband is Peter White, an Australian graphic artist). The hiatus, she said, was not borne out of a desire not to work, but rather a lack of compelling roles.

“If I’m going to go to work, I want it to be something that is going to kill me,” Monaghan explained over a latte at a Beverly Hills cafe. “I don’t want to go and do an easy job that’s not going to challenge me, that’s not going to inspire me because that’s not worth it to me. If I’m not going to learn something when I go to work, then I want [to stay home and let] my daughter learn something from me.”

Tired of the constant laments about the paucity of roles for women, Monaghan is developing projects of her own — she’s looking for a psychological thriller that doesn’t fall apart in the third act. And she is willing to work with directors, like she did with first-time “Trucker” director James Mottern, to help get the financing needed to make the projects a reality.

“My career is my responsibility. I’m not fulfilled doing the same role over and over again,” she said. “I think if I were going to continue doing roles that don’t support the kind of acting I want to do, then I can’t expect the industry to support me for a very long time. And I’m in it for the long haul. I’m willing to prove myself.”

She proved herself to Forster, who was wowed by her versatility.

“I think Michelle has this incredible potential,” Forster says. “She’s a great comedian. She’s great in drama. She’s so believable, even in roles like ‘Mission: Impossible.’ I always liked her, and when she came in and read … I was blown away.”

— Nicole Sperling


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