Who's that tough lady law enforcer in The Hunted and Basic? There's a reason you'll barely recognize her as the same actress who played Gladiator's tragic Princess Lucilla. Connie Nielsen does her homework!

To turn this 38-year-old Danish beauty into Basic's stiff and stubborn U.S. Army captain Julia Osborne, it took military training, an androgynous uniform and a slight Southern drawl. "Every woman I portray is vastly different from me!" says Nielsen, who co-stars with John Travolta in the whodunit. "[My character] has that Southern belle quality: She's spunky on the one hand, but she's also durable.

"What's hard is to not exaggerate [the accent]," she adds. "It feels so nice and relaxed to talk like that, and then after a little while, you can do it so much, it becomes like a character in and of itself."

How'd she get the hang of her upright, by-the-book persona? "When we were preparing for the movie, I got to talk to these women in the military," she explains. "They also came every morning, and would take me through marches and would give me tapes with march songs [to practice]."

Since donning combat boots, Nielsen's also played two other women with rough occupations — the employee of an evil corporate conglomerate in Demonlover, and a WWII-era nurse in The Great Raid. So, it's no surprise she's longing for some lighter fare.

"I want to put on babe clothing!" she laughs. "I put it out to my agent, 'SOS, I want to keep the guy! Give me something really nice and frivolous.'"