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Maria Bello: Hot for 'The Cooler'

Maria Bello in "The Cooler."

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Maria Bello
William H. Macy

(CNN) -- For years, Maria Bello has been one of those actresses just under the radar. Despite raves for her performances in the movies "Permanent Midnight" and "Auto Focus," she's still best known for playing Anna Del Amico, one-time love interest of Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter, in "ER."

But that status may be about to change. Bello recently earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as a cocktail waitress in "The Cooler." She helps a sad-sack casino employee, played by William H. Macy, turn his life around.

Recently, CNN anchor Daryn Kagan spoke with Bello about the movie, the nomination and her career.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Maria Bello's with us from Los Angeles to talk about her new film. Congratulations.

MARIA BELLO, ACTRESS: Thank you so much. How are you?

KAGAN: Doing great. It's a happy morning to be talking to you. You have [the] Golden Globe [ceremony] coming up ...

BELLO: Yes, it's really all just so exciting. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. California time to do the satellite interviews [when nominated]. I walked into the green room and the TV was on and I was being announced. It was really exciting.

KAGAN: Let's talk about your character of Natalie. William H. Macy [is] so unlucky until your character comes along and changes his luck.

BELLO: He's -- Macy plays the cooler. He gets near a table in Vegas and everyone starts losing. And they call me Lady Luck. I suppose, I'm a cocktail waitress very down on her luck. We meet and fall in love as two people do. We fall in love with each other and fall in love with our own broken pieces I guess.

KAGAN: This is a long way, I think most will recognize you who haven't seen the movie from "ER" and you're days as Dr. Anna ... Del Amico. Yes. This character is very different from the "ER" doc.

BELLO: Yes, quite different from my Dr. Del Amico character, I think.

KAGAN: You play a cocktail waitress. Did you realize when you took the part -- I went to see the movie yesterday. I enjoyed it a lot, by the way. Did you realize how much nudity would be involved?

Bello plays a cocktail waitress opposite William H. Macy's hard-luck casino employee in "The Cooler."

BELLO: You know, I'm a bit of a hippie chick.

KAGAN: So that was OK.

BELLO: I never thought about it. When I read the script I was blown away by the writing. It's rare to have such beautifully drawn characters across the board. And just to hear the words William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin in the same sentence was enough for me to say, "Oh, please, I really want to do the movie." ...

We shot this movie in five weeks. I think the budget was $2.5 million. It's amazing now to me that people have come out to see it. It's becoming a big film.

KAGAN: How do you compete? You have the tiny budget, a short production schedule. This is a year of so many huge epics whether it's "Lord of the Rings," "Last Samurai," "Cold Mountain." How does a little movie like this one make it in that big company?

BELLO: I think it's many things. Mostly I think it's the writing. I think it's the acting, certainly the directing. But I also think it's marketing and the company -- Lion's Gate is distributing this. It's just done a great job. They really love movies. They understand, you know, good art-house films and how to make them commercial and I think they're doing that.

KAGAN: We'll give people the heads up to go see it. I think the big question of the movie and especially your character ... [is] "what is luck?" And do you consider yourself a lucky person I was wondering?

BELLO: I think I'm the luckiest person in the world, but I do believe we make our own luck. And I think it's from the energy that we put out into the world that's kind of what we get back. And so I have to work every day to be grateful for what I have, and I believe that that creates our lives.

KAGAN: You must be putting some good stuff out there because good stuff coming your way. We wish you luck. We'll see you at the Golden Globe Awards. I'll be there. So I'll look for you at the red carpet.

BELLO: Oh, good. I'll talk to you then.

KAGAN: OK, very good. Maria Bello, "The Cooler."

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