Two years ago Amy Stryker was a struggling actress who not only couldn't find a job, she couldn't even get an agent."They took one look at me and said 'Forget it!'"

Stryker wore braces.

"I couldn't wait to get them off," said Stryker, a redhead with bright blue eyes and a smile right out of an Ultrabrite ad. She'd come up to New York City from North Carolina expecting to launch her acting career, but hadn't counted on the fact that her tin grin would meet with such widespread rejection. She settled for a $50-a-week job as an assistant to a local producer.

Then Stryker got her Big Break. Robert Altman was holding auditions in New York for the part of the bride in his new movie "A Wedding." A friend suggested on a whim that Stryker try out. She wandered over on her lunch hour, Altman took one look, and the part was hers.

"I asked if I should have my braces taken off," she said, but it seemed a mouth full of metal was just the image Altman was looking for. He was, in fact, more concerned about her hair. Would she mind if they out it? "I said no, they could dye it green!"

Stryker went back to her humdrum job, head up and shoulders back, to tell them the news. Her boss looked up, bored: "Well, did you get it?" She said, "Yeah, and I quit."

She spent the next nine weeks "in a dream world," working with Carol Burnett, Lillian Gish, Geraldine Chaplin - actors she'd looked up to and admired for years.

So it's only natural that a newly confident Stryker still feels a little nervous now that her braces are finally off. She can't help remembering the good fortune they brought her, and even though she says she would absolutely hate to have to wear them again, she knows it never hurts to have a gimmick.

She still wears a retainer.