All it took was a few trips south of the border to get Amy Irving thinking about her sexual side.

"Ever since I started going to Brazil, my body temperature [has risen]," says the actress, who's wowing audiences there with her starring role in the movie Bossa Nova. "It's a culture in which sexuality is so natural. There's no self-consciousness about your bodies, about sex. There isn't this puritanical American thing where we don't talk about it. Nobody pretends they don't do it."

The former Mrs. Steven Spielberg also credits her current husband, Bossa Nova director Bruno Barreto, with helping to bring her out of her shell. "One of Bruno's goals was to tear the white picket fence down from around me," she says. "I just did The Vagina Monologues in New York and I had to do 20 different orgasms on stage. I don't think, before I met Bruno, I would be comfortable doing that!"

Bossa Nova, which stars Irving as a widowed English tutor who finds love and sex after 40, marks her first movie with Barreto since the two met and fell in love on the set of A Show of Force. "When we were in Brazil and I was getting mobbed at the airport, I thought, 'God this has never happened to me before,' " says Irving, 46. "It was a kick in the pants to have it happen at my age."