It's easy to be skeptical of models turned actresses, but no one can accuse Gemma Ward of trying to coast on her looks. The 23-year-old Australian, who has been the face of Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Dior, wore a Halloween mask for the entirety of her American screen debut in the 2008 horror flick The Strangers. More recently, she portrayed a 73-year-old plastic-surgery addict in a Perth Theatre Company production of The Ugly One ("I based the character on Jane Fonda," she says). But Ward's willingness to play against type doesn't mean she won't flaunt her sex appeal, and she does just that as the queen of the mermaids in this month's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, her return to the big screen (she'd been on a professional hiatus since the death of Heath Ledger, whom she was dating at the time). Ward insists her character isn't just eye candy, though. "These mermaids really are villains," she says eagerly. "They use their charms to lure sailors. It's a deadly seduction that they employ." Clearly she's missed playing the siren.

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