Madeleine Stowe

updated 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Opposite camera hogs like Kevin Costner (Revenge) and Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans), she mixed an ethereal beauty with an earthy backbone and earned every close-up. Surprising, then, that growing up in Los Angeles, Madeleine Stowe, 35, didn't date much. "I spent most of my time playing the piano," says the half Costa Rican, half British-American actress. "I liked to stay hidden." But after sweet reviews for her first starring role in the thriller Blink, the secret is out. "She's like a '40s actress come to life in the '90s," wrote Movieline magazine. "She could probably uncross her legs onscreen and you'd still stare at her face!" Johnathan Kaplan, director of Stowe's Unlawful Entry and her latest, Bad Girls, goes even further: "I adore her. There's something so delicate about her that it just breaks my heart." Yet Stowe's no distressed damsel: She earned an estimated $1.5 million for Bad Girls. Now she and husband Brian (Dream On) Benben ride and rope on their ranch near San Antonio, where she neither primps ("At home I look like a bag lady") nor pumps ("The last time I exercised was a year ago"), but rather horses around with her ideal male. "I have a crush on one of my horses, Sherman," says Stowe. "He's a solid dude and very quiet and likes to cuddle." Who can blame him?

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