Need to Know: Lily Cole

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Why she's on our radar: The radiant, Pre-Raphaelite British supermodel plays Valentina, Heath Ledger's love interest, in his final film, the trippy adventure The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

HER SHTICK: A Kewpie-eyed beauty, Cole, 21, exudes a childlike innocence that belies serious book smarts.

AS SEEN IN: St. Trinian's; ad campaigns for Chanel; also seen on campus at King's College, Cambridge.

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MODEL STUDENT: "I started modeling at 14," says Cole. "It's simple. You respond to what the photographer wants and wear other people's ideas. I got bored with it, though, so I went to university."

LOSING HEATH: "We'd done three months' work on Parnassus," she says, when Ledger passed away. "He was an incredible man — kind, generous, talented. One in a million for sure — one in a billion, really."

FRAGILE CONNECTIONS: "We shot one scene for Parnassus for two nights on Blackfriars Bridge in London, with the rain machine pouring down. It was so cold and miserable yet such an amazing situation—to be in my own town, on that bridge, with Heath."

THE UNDERSTUDIES: Three actors — Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell — stepped in to rescue the production after Ledger's death. "Colin is funny and has a great heart," Cole says. "It was weird for me, but it felt right to continue filming with a man who was also having a hard time with his friend's death."

GINGER SNAP: "In British culture, redheads get teased at school," Cole says of her trademark locks, "but I've grown up enough to realize I love my hair."

THE NAKED TRUTH: "It was a scandal when I did French Playboy in 2008, though I was never actually nude in it. I think it's really funny that I'll have a cover of Playboy to show my grandkids."

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