A steamy sex film has earned her more fame than anything she has achieved in television soap operas. But now the actress at the centre of a scandal that has shaken deeply religious Iran has denied taking part in the film that threatens to ruin her life. Zahra Amir Ebrahimi faces social ostracism, a wrecked acting career and possible lashing after police seized copies of the home-made production which appears to show her having sex. The film, which has been distributed in street markets and posted on websites, has shocked the socially conservative country at a time when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's radical Islamist government is trying to banish the supposedly corrupting effects of western culture. It has been given added impact by Ebrahimi's reputation for playing religious, morally upstanding characters in Iranian state TV soaps. One highly successful series, Narges, was watched by an estimated 68 per cent of the population. Police interrogated Ebrahimi at length after being alerted to the film's existence. She has not been charged but investigations are continuing. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Ebrahimi, 25, denied being the woman in the film. She dismissed it as a fake made by a vengeful former fiance who used expert studio techniques to form a montage of incriminating and explicit images designed to destroy her career. 'I watched the film after I heard about the fuss from colleagues and the girl in it is not me,' Ebrahimi said. 'I admit there are some similarities to the character I played in Narges. It is possible to use studio makeup to have a person look like me. I have some knowledge of montage techniques and I know you can create a new face by distorting the features of another person.' Legal experts say Ebrahimi's denial might be sufficient to avoid punishment. Under Iranian law, video footage must be corroborated by supporting evidence or a confession. According to the country's Islamic legal code, sex between two unmarried people carries punishment of up to 99 lashes. Ebrahimi's former fiance, an assistant film producer who has been referred to publicly only as 'Mr X', is in custody after being extradited from Armenia. He faces up to three years in jail and a GBP6,000 (HK$88,685) fine if found guilty of making and distributing the film. He admits taking part but claims that Ebrahimi suggested the film, which he says was shot at her home, and distributed it herself. However, Ebrahimi said her former lover threatened revenge after she ended their relationship a year ago because of his infidelity. 'He said he would do something that would mean I would be unable to hold my head up and would prevent me ever working again in Iran. I think this film is him trying to put his threats into action,' she said.