Alison Eastwood got an early start as an actress, starring opposite her father Clint in the 1985 film Tightrope at the tender age of 11.

"I wasn't thinking about pursuing acting then, or what I would be doing as an adult," Eastwood says of that experience. "It was an opportunity to spend time with my father and take time off from school--which, when you're 11, is the best thing ever."

In fact, Eastwood--now 27--was a relative latecomer to the acting profession, having spent some time traveling and "exploring" before she finally settled on an acting career. Since then, she has been seen in numerous feature films, including Friends and Lovers, with Stephen Baldwin and Robert Downey, Jr., A Little Harmless Sex with Lauren Hutton and Jonathan Silverman, Breakfast of Champions with Bruce Willis, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

Later this month, Eastwood will open at the Court Theatre in West Hollywood in The Philadelphia Story. She has the lead role of Tracy Lord, a character made famous in the 1940 film version by Katharine Hepburn (opposite Cary Grant and James Stewart). "I love the character because she has a complete upheaval in her life in a day and a half, and has a massive revelation," says Eastwood, who also relates to the style of the play. "The '30s was a great time for writers who wanted their characters to go through a discovery. Besides, I always thought of myself being born in the wrong era. I appreciate the wit and the humor of that time."

Are there parallels between Tracy Lord's life of privilege and Eastwood's childhood as the daughter of a famous movie star? "Not at all," says Eastwood. "Fortunately, I was brought up in a way that's completely opposite to Tracy Lord. I was taught to be humble and appreciative, and never to think of myself as anything but a regular person. So it's been a challenge for me to find that sense of entitlement and that feeling of being above the common man, which is where Tracy starts in the play. But I can really identify with her human-ness at the end."

While she has performed on stage before (in Woman in Control and It's A Beautiful Life, both at the Coast Playhouse), this is by far the most ambitious role that Eastwood has undertaken: "It's the lead, and she drives the play. Most of the roles I have done have been supporting roles, or were in ensemble pieces. Tracy Lord has to take charge and drive the play."

Nevertheless, Eastwood seems excited to have had this gauntlet thrown down before her: "It's educating and inspiring for me," she says. "With movies, you might get a little rehearsal time; but with theater, you get to rehearse every day and go on this great journey. It's a totally different experience. I feel like the rookie, but it's been a wonderful confidence builder."

When she is not acting in film or theater, Eastwood focuses on producing. She is working on several projects, among them a biopic of Jean Harlow based on David Stenn's 1993 book, Bombshell. "I've been working with a writer on different drafts," she says. "It's a tough sell because it's a period piece and a biography, but it's moving along."

Eastwood says that she has had a real Hollywood education since plunging into acting and producing: "I grew up watching the business, but really from a kind of golden, one-sided view, because my father was already in a position where he had his own production company and had made a name for himself. He made it look easy, basically. When I came into it, I realized it was extremely hard and tedious work."

Has the fact that she is Clint Eastwood's helped her career? "I've never found it to be exactly a door-opener, to be honest with you," she replies. "When you have a parent like that, there are a lot of expectations on you, and no anonymity whatsoever. You're not allowed to have a bad day or a bad audition without somebody scrutinizing it or accusing you of nepotism, or whatever. But I've let go of worrying about what other people think. I do my work, and do the best I can."