Voted Star of the Future at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian actress Lisa Ray is back in the new film "All Hat."

"I'll be seeing it tomorrow night at the big premiere," Ray smiles as she sits down for an interview in eTalk's festival lounge. "I don't know, I can't do the red carpet thing anymore. Plus it's not appropriate for "All Hat" because it's a cowboy film," she jokes.

In this new Canadian film based on Brad Smith's novel, an ex-con (Luke Kirby) returns to his rural Ontario roots and outwits a corrupt and wealthy thoroughbred owner trying to take over several local farms and create sprawling urban developments out of them.

Also starring Keith Carradine and Rachael Leigh Cook, this comical "neo-western" as Ray describes it puts the spotlight on the difficult lives today's small farm owners face.

"They're a dying breed because it's so difficult to make ends meet," says Ray, who got into the role by learning how to drive a tractor. "I lived on a farm for a week with a kick-ass female farmer," she smiles. "I dig that farm smell. The smell of "sacred" cow."

Calling the film "sexy, fun and full of relevant issues," it was important to do it says the actress who garnered international acclaim for her work in Deepa Mehta's "Water" (2005).

"The last few years have been a combination of both promoting "Water" and moving on to other projects," says Ray, who calls the acclaimed Mehta her mentor. "I'm pretty lucky. That's set the bar pretty high," she smiles.

With her eye on the future, the one-time model says, "Making "Water" was a one-off experience. It went all the way through to the Oscars and that was an experience. But I need to grow as an actress," she adds.

- Constance Droganes, entertainment writer,