February 16, 2007 08:00 AM

After more than two years of focusing on motherhood, Gwyneth Paltrow says she’s ready to get back to business.

“I haven’t done a real part in a long time,” she told USA Today. “I’m going back to work now.”

Paltrow – mom to Apple, 2, and Moses, 10 months – plays a nagging wife in The Good Night, directed by her younger brother Jake, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, and she recently signed on to play Robert Downey Jr.’s personal assistant, Virginia “Pepper” Potts, in Iron Man, based on the comic book.

“When I had kids, I just wanted to be with them,” said Paltrow, 34, who is married to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. But doing a movie a year “makes you more interesting as a person and a wife and a mother.”

On Thursday night Paltrow battled frigid New York City weather – and a bad cold she caught from her son – to host a diamond jewelry auction at the St. Regis Hotel to raise money for the city’s first Hope Lodge, which provides free housing for adult cancer patients during treatment.

“It’s for a really good cause,” she told the paper. “This has been planned for a long time, so I couldn’t take a sick day today.”

Paltrow’s father Bruce lost his battle with throat cancer in 2002.

“When my father had cancer, he found it so isolating,” she said. “It’s very difficult to empathize with if you haven’t gone through it.”

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