By Samantha Miller
June 10, 2002 12:00 PM

Bridget Moynahan isn’t easily swept off her feet—but for Ben Affleck she made an exception. On her first day shooting The Sum of All Fears in Montreal last year, Moynahan was required to make out with Affleck on the floor. “The next day,” she says, “there was a bed scene, so we were in bed the whole day, you know? Not even a cup of coffee. No dinner. No nothing and he gets me in bed. It’s so not right.”

Not that Moynahan is complaining. After roles in 2000’s Coyote Ugly and last year’s John Cusack romance Serendipity, and a turn on TV’s Sex and the City, the 31-year-old former model is breaking into the big leagues with Sum, a prequel to the high-grossing ’90s thrillers The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, based on the Tom Clancy bestsellers. “She is at the stage now where her name is mentioned as an exciting possibility for almost every movie that is casting,” says Affleck, who, as CIA analyst Jack Ryan, falls for Moynahan’s medical resident Cathy Muller.

The role is a switch from her hissable TV debut as Natasha, the chilly socialite who stole Mr. Big (Chris Noth) away from Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) on City. “Once it was serious with Big, I don’t think people were very happy with me,” she says. “You would just get the looks.” In real life the 5’10” Binghamton, N.Y., native only has eyes for her own boyfriend of two years: Scott Rosenberg, 39, a screenwriter (Con Air) with whom she shares a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. (She also has a one-bedroom pad in New York City.) At home, she’s more goofball than glamor girl—though Affleck took some convincing of that. Rehearsing the love scenes, “Ben was very shy,” says director Phil Alden Robinson. “She would sort of hold his hand and try to get him through it. I think he was intimidated by how pretty she was.”

Nothing that a dirty joke couldn’t fix. Moynahan, says City‘s Noth, “has got a very raucous sense of humor.” Pal Daniel Primer, who met her six years ago in acting classes, notes her penchant for slipping into fake accents—especially Irish—to amuse friends. “She’s always been silly,” he says. Competitive, too. The avid athlete reluctantly gave up playing pickup basketball a few years ago. “Once they know you can play, they start treating you like a guy and it gets a little rough,” she says. “It’s not good to show up on auditions with a black eye.”

Growing up with two brothers (Andy, 33, a computer programmer, and Sean, 29, a potter), Moynahan shunned girlie pastimes like ballet. “Hated the tights, hated the tutu and had my mother take me to the soccer field,” she says. When she was 7, her parents—Brad, 63, an administrator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Mary, 62, a homemaker—settled in Longmeadow, Mass., where Moynahan attended Longmeadow High. “I hear a lot of models who are like, ‘I was the ugly duckling,'” she says. “I didn’t go through that. I had the best time.”

After she graduated in 1989, a friend persuaded her to come along to a modeling school in Springfield, Mass. She soon nabbed agency representation, and at 18 boarded a train for New York City. “I was terrified,” she says. “I cried all the way.” The tears dried when she landed on magazine covers like Glamour and in soap and shampoo commercials. But by age 25 she began itching for change and took up acting classes. Modeling “was great for my bank account,” she says, but “you reach a point where you need something more.”

Next up, Moynahan plays a trainee opposite Al Pacino in another CIA thriller, The Recruit. From Mr. Big to Mr. Corleone? “It’s insane!” she says. “I’m living the dream.”

Samantha Miller

K.C. Baker in New York City