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TRON: Legacy clip
TRON: Legacy clip: Clip from the film TRON: Legacy, featuring Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund.
Wilde plays a new character called Quorra in the 3-D video game movie redux TRON: Legacy, opening Dec. 17. / Disney

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She's known on TV for her lab coat as Dr. Remy "Thirteen" Hadley on House and in magazines for her bikini (see her 2009 GQ cover). But when Olivia Wilde catapults to the big-budget big screen in TRON: Legacy, audiences will see last year's Maxim-anointed hottest woman don something in between those extremes: a neoprene catsuit and severe dark bob that renders Wilde virtually unrecognizable.

"She was definitely pretty voluptuous" at first, says Wilde, 26. But she and director Joseph Kosinski agreed that her character, Quorra, "didn't need to be this temptress." So the rubber was shaved down.

Still, Wilde, the daughter of prominent Washington journalists, is perfectly OK playing the brainy babe. "The actresses I look up to from the last century [including family friend Julie Christie] didn't apologize for their beauty," she says. As long as meaty roles come with the costumes and magazine spreads, "I'm comfortable being a confident woman in a bikini or a rubber suit or a sack."

Wilde credits her success to her marriage to filmmaker Tao Ruspoli. "It's created a stability that's allowed me to flourish," says Wilde, who lives a relatively low-key life in Venice, Calif. "I've had this support base from my husband through thick and thin." And though kids aren't in the cards quite yet, Wilde says, she is "looking forward to being a mom."

She is not, however, too keen about the consequences of being a darling of the laddie-mag mob and the Comic-Con crowd. "Having to put on makeup to go get coffee —it's so against my nature," she says. "I really resent that, so I don't do it. Then I regret it when I see the pictures."

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