It was a cold December afternoon in 1999 when I interviewed Samantha Morton for The New York Daily News, but the budding movie star was aglow as she marveled about the way her career was going and about the fact that soon--very soon--she would be a mommy. --GUY FLATLEY


n “Sweet and Lowdown,” Samantha Morton plays a fragile mute named Hattie, a luminous loser who bestows sunshine and sexual favors on a manipulative, skirt-chasing musician. Mute she may be, but that hasn’t stopped critics and other admirers from talking–even shouting– about how this diminutive, 22-year-old Brit quietly steals Woody Allen’s ‘30s comedy out from under such savvy pros as Sean Penn, Uma Thurman and Anthony LaPaglia. (To read Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Woody Allen, click here.)

“I don’t identify with Hattie at all,” says Morton, and it’s easy to see why. She speaks with persuasive British cool, making it clear that nobody’s going to make a doormat-Hattie out of her. There’s an impish gleam in her blue eyes, her short brown hair is pulled back and twisted into a tiny knot at the top of her head, and her hands gently rub a patch of visible belly between her sensible sweater and dainty pajama bottoms. Her first baby is due next month, but she’s not frantic. There has been ample time to visit New York, check into a fancy hotel, chat about a movie she truly loves, and still make it back to London in time to join actor Charlie Creed-Miles, her live-in partner, for the blessed event.

“It’s such a pleasure to watch ‘Sweet and Lowdown,’” says the actress, who, until now, was best known for her gritty portrait of a reckless sexual adventurer in Carine Adler’s 1997 indie “Under My Skin.” “I was knocked out by Sean’s performance, though I always find it hard to watch myself. Boring! It was lovely to see what Woody had done with what we shot, the way he interpreted everything. This film is saying, be careful, watch over what you love, because you need it. People make great mistakes in their life.”

In her own life, Morton has been careful to watch over her love of acting, a love kindled in a television workshop when she was a kid in Nottingham, England. One in a family of nine children, she remembers her childhood as happy and normal, but there was poverty aplenty. Her mom toiled in a factory for 15 years, and Morton herself cut out for London at the age of 16. Before long, she was grabbing the spotlight for her work on stage and making her film debut opposite Richard Harris in “This Is the Sea.”

“Imagine–I was 16 and my leading man was Richard Harris,” she says, rolling her eyes and laughing naughtily. “What a precedent that set! When my girlfriends ask what it was like to work with Sean Penn, I say, ‘Oh, it was okay. But I’ve worked with Richard Harris, the sexiest actor in the world.’” (To read Guy Flatley's 1972 interview with Richard Harris, click here.)

orton’s leading man in “Jesus’ Son,” an upcoming comedy-shocker about a druggy '70s drifter and the even druggier girl he manages to impregnate, will be Billy Crudup. “Working with Billy was a mind-blowing experience,” she says. “He’s visually stunning, but he has no ego. He just wants to make a scene work.” (To read Guy Flatley's 2002 interview with Billy Crudup, click here.)

A key scene set in an abortion clinic is so disturbingly real that it leads you to ask Morton about her own views on abortion. “Why do you want to know–because I’m pregnant?” she responds, patting her tummy. “Well, I don’t think anyone should be pro-abortion or anti-abortion. Every case is different. People who have extremist views about abortion are very frightening to me.”

But the determined Brit knows her own mind. “People say I’m too young to have a baby,” Morton says, “that I should concentrate on my career. But I’m feeling very conceited about this. I say to my girlfriends, ‘Hey, I’m having a baby!’ It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And, you know, it’s about ready to pop out.”

She rubs her belly again, and it’s easy to believe her.