February 23, 2009 12:00 PM

>Sixteen years after winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, the Brooklyn-born actress, 44, has nabbed her third nomination for playing a kindhearted stripper in The Wrestler.

DID YOU THINK TWICE ABOUT TAKING THIS PART? I definitely thought long and hard about it before I committed. I loved the challenge of it. What didn’t appeal to me was, frankly, New Jersey, naked, winter!

HOW DID YOU TRAIN FOR THE PART? I wanted to know how to do what she did, to have her skills. I had to learn some gymnastic stuff to do some of that pole work.

STILL POLE DANCING? I can’t say that I am. It’s hard! I understand the hazards of the exotic dancer in a way I never imagined.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN? I love to cook. For New Year’s we made a big meat sauce, filled with pork and ribs, and some zeppole too—the kind of old, old-school Italian food that really makes you feel your culture and womanhood.

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