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Mena Suvari: Enticed By A Good Scandal

This story was written by CBSNews.com's Melissa Castellanos

Actress Mena Suvari doesn't shy away from a scandalous role when it comes to the small or big screen.

Suvari exudes vulnerability and yet a strong sense of sexuality, which has stood out in her films, such as Academy-Award-winning "American Beauty," in which she plays the object of Kevin Spacey's desire. Her portrayal was so convincing that she received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress by the British Academy Awards.

"I have been told that before - I guess that's just me," Suvari told CBSNews.com with a chuckle. "But, I've always been really interested in the work and the craft of what I do - the artistic, creative side. Just really try to follow my own interests and if it's a story that comes away with a character that really speaks to me and I feel connected to, that's kind of my process."

Although it has been almost ten years since "American Beauty," Suvari was enticed again with another scandalous role with her latest film, Lifetime's "Sex Lies And Sin City: The Ted Binion Scandal."

The film is based on the true story of the death of wealthy Las Vegas casino heir Ted Binion (played by Matthew Modine) and the shaky trial that followed of his lover and her con artist boyfriend. Suvari plays Binion's lover Sandy Murphy, who is sentenced to four years in prison, only to be set free after the Supreme Court overturns the case due to the reasonable doubt and lack of evidence.

"Well, the script came to me, I read it and it really appealed to me. I sat down with our director, Peter Medak. I was really taken by it. I have always been interested in criminal psychology and read several books. I love a good scandal," she said.

Suvari stars alongside actors Modine and Marcia Gay Harden in the film.

"It was wonderful. Actually Matthew had been part of a film that is screening at the Rome Film Festival this week, called 'The Garden of Eden,' so it was great to be able to work with him again. Marcia is absolutely wonderful and we were very thrilled and lucky to have her be a part of the project," she said.

In order to get into character, Suvari read books and watched trial footage, "Court TV" interviews, including an episode of "American Justice" on A&E, of which she admits she is a big fan.

According to Suvari, the verdict was definitely a topic of discussion throughout the whole shooting of the film.

"It was a big scandal - really the whole case and the whole trial in general. There was enough reasonable doubt that they shouldn't have been convicted in the first place. I really believe that is what our justice system stands for and that if is there is any reasonable doubt, then a person shouldn't be convicted. There really was. I think just based on that they were wrongly convicted," she said.

There has also been a lot of buzz surrounding her latest scandalous role on the big screen in "Garden of Eden," which has a lot of sexual content.

Suvari goes to great lengths for the role to capture the character - or in this case the great lengths she didn't go to - since she chopped all her hair off.

"Garden of Eden" is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel that takes place in the 1920's in the French Riviera. Suvari plays Catherine, a young American woman who meets a young American writer, David Bourne, who she weds.

"It's very much about relationships and transformation and Catherine starts to unravel after their marriage. She really starts to question herself and her relationships. They meet a young Italian woman and they bring her into the relationship and she starts to play sexual games. It's very much about the search of oneself," she said.

In order to test her husband's love for her, Catherine cuts all her hair off to get a reaction out of him.

To make the process of her transformations easier and more believable, Suvari went to the final look and shaved all of her hair off, but used three wigs for the in-between stages.

"It was already very short - just that in general. It was a bit strange. It was also very liberating at the same time," she explained. "I am grateful for the experience I am happy that I got to do it at least once in my life. It was like its own psychological experiment. It was very empowering for me to go through and a challenging to experience how people perceive you."

Although there hasn't been an official release date for "Garden of Eden," the film will be featured at the Rome Film Festival on Oct. 27, according to Suvari.

"Sex Lies And Sin City: The Ted Binion Scandal" premieres on Oct. 26 on the Lifetime Network at 9 p.m. ET/PT.