By Nisha Gopalan
December 19, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

WHY HER She broke our hearts as Two Towers’ lovelorn Eowyn. WHY NOW She finally gets some action in King.

For years, Aussie Otto has honed her chops on stage, in indies (Love Serenade), and with bit parts in big movies (What Lies Beneath). But she finally comes out swinging in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when her willowy Eowyn — still pining after Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) — dons armor to charge into battle disguised as a man. ”I don’t think running was an option,” Otto says of her 22-pound getup. ”It’s damn heavy.” Instead, she shows off horsemanship and fierce swordplay — and has the body count to prove it. ”I did a bit of damage to the stunt guys,” she says. ”I stabbed one orc in the leg, someone in the neck….” Now that she’s tapped into her inner savage, Otto, 36, currently filming The Flight of the Phoenix with Dennis Quaid, hopes to take her dramatic skills to the dance floor: ”I’d like to be able to tango,” she says. ”It’s very theatrical. It’s got an aggressiveness to it.” That inner brute doesn’t die so easily.