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Her raunchiest role was playing a stripper in Lay the Favorite…but Sleuth will have to settle for playing favorites by celebrating the fact that his screen crush REBECCA HALL turns 34 today!

“In the annals of acting,” raved GQ magazine, “you won’t find a feat more impressive than the one Rebecca Hall pulled off in Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008): almost stealing a movie in which Penélope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson go lesbian (below). And she did it with fire-eyed soliloquies, not nude shots.”

Her next film—released just 4 months after Vicky Christina—featured an even odder pairing: Frost/Nixon found her playing the sexy society girlfriend of interviewer David Frost, Caroline Cushing.

“I couldn’t be happier that Rebecca played me,” gushed the real Caroline—who’d lured David away from actress Carol Lynley. “I only wish I’d been as beautiful as she is!”

Cushing is pushing it a bit: On New Year’s Eve 1975, Prime Minister Harold Wilson threw a dinner party at 10 Downing Street for Frost and Caroline: “His girl was attractive, positive and wore a transparent blouse with no bra,” recalls the Prime Minister’s senior policy advisor Bernard Donoughue, now a Baron. “Harold Wilson avoided speaking to the braless Caroline…and turned his back on her.” Rebecca put up a good front—ditching her bra for Frost’s first meeting with Nixon…though less “pokie” than her pert predecessor (below).

“I played the thinking man’s totty (Brit for ‘hottie”)—which I’m fine with,” Bec shrugs of the Frost character—a role that comes naturally due to her upper crust pedigree. “Hall says she doesn’t understand why everybody always wants to talk about her parents,” writes The Guardian, but considering that her director dad, Sir Peter Hall, founded the revered Royal Shakespeare Company…and American mom Maria Ewing became “one of the world’s most famous opera singers,” it’s hardly surprising.

Her parents split when Becky was just 5—her playboy papa, whose first wife was actress Leslie Caron, cheated on Ewing with eventual fourth (and current) spouse Nicki Frei. Dad’s most famous film was 1968’s acclaimed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for which he talked young Judi Dench into going topless as Queen Titania!

But miffed Mama went him one better: “My mother was one of the greatest performers I ever saw as a kid,” Rebecca recalls, “and I watched her all the time.”

Including on the night of Sleuth’s wedding anniversary: “No one who witnessed Maria Ewing’s premiere performance as Salome on Oct. 9, 1986, directed by her then-husband Peter Hall, will ever forget it,” wrote one opera buff. “She seduced King Herod with a Dance of the Seven Veils that left nothing to the imagination!” As Ewing explained to the Washington Post: “It was my idea to do the dance naked. For me, the scene wouldn’t work any other way.” Works for us!

“She was breathtaking,” Rebecca remembers. “I used to stand in the wings and have a shower running for her and help her out of her outfits.

Told today by the New York Times that “there are pictures of you doing this on the Internet,” Mom gets mad: “Oh, gracious me. The Internet is like aliens landing on the planet and we can do nothing about it. I don’t like that at all.”

Neither does Rebecca—who eschews all social media—and thus surely missed the recent fake frontal hyped to be of her (above): “Coming from parents who are in the public eye {in Maria’s case, pubic}, I learnt early on not to take it all too seriously. It takes a while to develop a thicker skin.” And it took a while for Sleuth to prove that she didn’t follow in my mom’s mons•steps—discovering definitively that the model in the motorboat actually has Hall’s head atop MetArt favorite Kristina’s naked bod.

“I grew to be 5-foot-10 when I was 11,” the actress shudders. “I felt a right twat. It’s huge for a girl, and there was a disconnect between my limbs and my brain.” Now, the brainy beauty’s got legs…and knows how to use ’em!

It didn’t help that early on Dad cast her as a cross dresser in his production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It…leading to a reputation she’s open about: “Oh, this sort of strange deference to her father, a blue-stocking intellectual who is very repressed. Basically an asexual intellectual.” And is she? “I’d say it was 100% bollocks.” Corset is…

You won’t be surprised that she majored in English Lit in her father’s old college at Cambridge…but perhaps perplexed that she walked out just before her final year because “I wanted that feeling of not having completed, I wanted a chip on my shoulder.”

But did she “complete” the act with Cambridge classmates Benedict Cumberbatch {they’re still close, above left)…or Dan Stevens—the future Matthew from Downton Abbey—with whom she shared a flat (and a kiss, above right). “Rebecca and I lived together,” Stevens says today. “But never romantically.” Lady Mary, mother of god!

When Sir Peter Hall offered his daughter her first feature film role, “I thought he was off his nut,” she says. “And then we both had this one moment of going, ‘Oh fuck!’”

Which she did … in her next film, the 2006 TV remake of 1993’s Wide Sargasso Sea (above). “We see Rebecca completely nude from the side as she lies on her back in a sex scene,” reports the Celebrity Nude Database. “She quickly moves her arm from his shoulder to his waist, exposing her bare breast—which continues to jiggle as he thrusts into her, for about 4-5 seconds.” And then it’s on to that exposed breast—as romeo Rafe Spall really sinks his teeth into the roll. What they hay!

“Later we see her lying on her front,” CNDb.com continues, and “we get a brief glimpse of her butt when the camera moves in, but the shot is focused on her bed partner.” Clearly the director wasn’t her dad!

The racy role made Hall certifiably smoking hot…with feminist director Nicole (Lovely and Amazing) Holofcener gushing: “People love her, just love her. It was kind of like Kate Winslet when somebody discovered her.” Yet when Kate discovered her director hubby Sam (American Beauty) Mendes had eyes for 7-years younger Becky after 7 years of marriage …

… she bitched when he scratched his itch—brazenly giving “head” to her in public!

“What’s it like to be a marriage-wrecking bitch?” Guardian reporter Simon Hattenstone asked Hall in June 2010, just after Winslet left Mendes. ‘Heeeheeeheee! You thought you’d tackle the rumors head on, did you?” Rebecca replied. “I did not have sexual relations,” she smiled in her best Clintonian cadence. Asked if it bothered her to be cast as ‘the other woman,’ she shrugged: “No, mostly I didn’t give a shit.”

“Rebecca Hall is a fine actress,” the Guardian concluded, “but she’s now better known for her role in a recent tabloid splash, after she was cast as the femme fatale, or deadly English rose (above), who could, possibly, have destroyed the marriage of Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet.

“I’m. Not. Saying. A word,” Hall hissed when asked about the affair by Vogue…but the spokesman for Mendes {who had cheated on lover Rachel Weisz with Winslet} had the last word: “It’s true they are in a relationship,” read the official announcement after the director’s divorce became final in 2011. “They are dating and have been for some time. I can’t put an exact date on it.” Bet Kate could.

Actually, Rebecca might have cheated on Sam just before his Titanic spouse jumped ship! “At the premiere of The Town,” In Touch Weekly wrote of the late-2010 film, “Ben Affleck looked into the eyes of the beautiful brunette standing next to him, acting as if there was nowhere else he’d rather be. Yet the woman was not his wife, Jennifer Garner, but his co-star Rebecca Hall” {they’d been spied earlier kissing on the film set}.

Hall stayed with Sam…but got the last laugh by cheating on him with her Broadway co-star Morgan Spector last summer—while they were “playing illicit lovers in a bed scene” in the play Machinal. While Mendes’ agent announced, “We’ll not be commenting on this,” Bec said it all—when she married Morgan this past September 26th!

“On the night before her wedding, a beautiful bride-to-be with tumbling red hair opens the door to her lover,” wrote the Daily Mail. “Although he is not the man she is to marry in the morning, they kiss passionately, before he rips off her clothes and ravishes her on the carpet. This is the opening to the BBC’s latest period drama, Parade’s End.”

“It boasts two sex scenes in the first six minutes,” the Mail continues about the series called Downton for Adults. “It features the show’s stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall {mates since Cambridge} breathlessly panting and grappling at one another through illicit sexual congress.” A scene ten minutes into the next episode “shows a naked Hall in the bath.”

“It’s just presenting a version of a period that’s not just everyone being all pretty and sitting around drinking tea in corsets,” Rebecca reflected. “They did actually have sex, you know—and badly, as well.”

Wrote the Daily Mail’s reviewer Rachel Johnson: “Hall’s Sylvia character is a ‘damn fine piece.’ In Downton, there is no sex, let alone nakedness. Having said that, the sex in Parade’s End is tasteful and period-appropriate and the nudity, like Maggie Smith as the Dowager Duchess, never, ever goes downstairs.”

High-brow Hall stayed upstairs…but barely contained…when she hit the red carpet for her first block•bust•er film, 2013’s Iron Man 3. Attentive action hero Robert Downey Jr. kept his eyes on the prize, as did everyone else! “No bra, no problem!” quipped the NY Daily News the next day. “Rebecca Hall teat•ered dangerously close to a wardrobe malfunction. Not only did the brunette beauty show off plenty of cleavage from the front, she also flashed a little more than she bargained for from the side!” And Sleuth completes the picture below.

“Rebecca Hall, in just a brief time, has become one of our favorite actresses,” Indie Wire concludes. “Someone who makes any project endlessly more exciting.” A fitting END to the 34-B beauty’s 34th B-day!