April 01, 2002 12:00 PM

Lana Turner was discovered sipping soda at a Hollywood cafe. Beer company execs spotted Pamela Anderson on the Jumbotron at a football game and hired her for their ads. For Shannyn Sossamon, destiny struck in 1999 while she was working as a deejay at Gwyneth Paltrow‘s 27th-birthday bash. “It’s not like it’s an odd place for a casting director to be,” says Sossamon, then a struggling dancer-actress. Even so, she says, “the subject of fate comes up a lot.”

Lately, so does her name in movie credits. After costarring with Heath Ledger in last year’s A Knight’s Tale, Sossamon, 23, landed a starring role opposite Josh Hartnett in the new comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights. Says Sossamon of heartthrob Hartnett, whose character swears off sex: “I wish we were able to cuddle a little bit more. It was hard.”

Now in Rome filming a thriller, The Sin Eater, with Ledger, the Reno-reared actress (mom Sherry, 41, who split with Sossamon’s father, Todd Lindberg, in the mid-’80s, is a nurse; stepdad Randy Goldstein, 41, manages a car dealership) isn’t letting fame change her. “She’s a strong-headed girl,” says Mia Kirby, 21, one of three pals with whom she shares an L.A. house. “She still has the same friends and hangs out at home.”

So movie stardom isn’t everything? “I love dancing, taking pictures, writing, music,” says Sossamon, who is dating a twentysomething L.A. artist, Tex Salem. “Acting just gets the most attention.” It pays better than deejaying too.

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