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Sarah Michelle GellarSarah Michelle Gellar - About her career - Now Magazine Interview
Monday 19 January 2004
I Had to Find a Life After Buffy
She knew she had to reinvent herself, but her attempt to transform into a screen sexpot made her ill.
Sarah Michelle Gellars lesbian kiss with Selma Blair recently came second in 100 Greatest Sexy Moments, Channel 4’s countdown of racy screen scenes. But the actress reveals that she almost pulled out of the scene.
Her scheming character in Cruel Intentions, a contemporary update of Dangerous Liaisons, was set to seduce Selma’s innocent schoolgirl Cecile. But former Buffy star Sarah suffered a panic attack.
"Iwas thinking to myself: ’I can’t do this....I can’t do it.’ I was worried about it the night before, wondering if I’d ever be able to go ahead. It was no better on the day itself."
"As for the scene being sexy, I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up! We had to film in the open in New York’s Central Park and it seemed that half the city was watching."
But the 1999 film changed 26-year-old Sarah’s image forever. "I went into the whole thing with my eyes wide open. Part of the reason for doing such a movie was to reinvent myself, so it was great to play such an overtly sexual role. I loved Buffy - the character and everything about her. But I knew that when she was finished, two, three or four years down the line, there was a danger of my not being remembered for anything else."
She remained nervous, though, even after the kissing scene with Selma. She felt even worse after reading on the internet that it was ’destined to be the leading DVD masturbation scene of all time’. She says, "I didn’t even want to think about it. But I was proud of the film and the quality of the work. And that kiss is no reflection on Selma at all. She’s a brilliant actress. I can’t say my scenes with Ryan Phillipe were any more comfortable for either of us, even though we’d known each other since high school. It’ll be a long time before I do anything like that again."
Sarah, who’d previously starred in scary teen movies such as Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, has since relaunched her film career in style. She starred with her actor husband Freddie Prinze Jr in a live action version of the cartoon classic Scooby Doo, which was a big hit in 2002. Now she’s back this spring, again with Freddie, in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
"The first film was exhausting," she recalls. "I was still filming Buffy, so I had to keep travelling between LA and Australia, from the TV set to the film set, every couple of weeks. The jet lag built up but whenever I felt drained I just had to think of how lucky I was to be in a great TV series and a film at the same time. That’s what gets you through the tiredness. This time though, I could concentrate just on the movie."
It was also another chance to work alongside her 27-year-old husband. "That was a bonus," she said. "I always thought he was a great actor and he proves it in every scene."
They’ve kept a surprisingly low profile since their secret marriage ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, before the film launch of Scooby-Doo in the summer of 2002. Unlike Britney Spears recent visit to the same chapel, Sarah and Freddie’s wedding failed to hit the headlines. "That’s just how we both like it," she says. "It’s hard when you’re in love because you want to share it, but it’s so personal. I want to share those things with people around me - not with strangers. It’s how I keep some kind of sanity in my life."
Sarah also insists that she’s not naturally outgoing. "I feel confident on a film set because I know what I’m doing," she says. "But a movie launch, that’s a different matter. I honestly feel very nervous when giving television interviews or turning up at a premiere. I might not look it - that’s where the acting comes in - but I’m certainly feeling it."
Sarah had a tough childhood, which she admits affected her confidence. She was raised virtually single-handed by her mother Rosellen after her late father walked out on the pair. She began her acting career in Burger King ads and financed her own education with TV commercials. "It was always a financial struggle," she recalls. "A private education in New York is one of the best you can get in the world, but we were barely able to make rent payments on our apartment. I’m not going to pretend it was easy at school either. There were a lot of rich kids who made my life hell. They soon got to know that I was there on a part scholarship and could hardly afford to make up the fees. They constantly reminded me of the fact, too, so I’ve always thought of high school as being a breeding ground for evil. It made me more determined than ever to make something of my life."
Her days of being short of cash are now over - she has a lavish home near Los Angeles. "I worked very hard to get here and I’m enjoying myself immensely," she says. "I’ve travelled and done all the things I was never able to do as a child."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was hard work though: "I was on set every day for at least 12 hours," she says, "but the show transformed my life so I’ll always be grateful."
Whatever happens in the future, it’s highly unlikely that she’ll ever take a such a sexual role as Kathryn in Cruel Intentions. "I think she had something that most of us have, but we keep it in the privacy of our own bedroom,’’ she says. "If someone was like that in real life she’d be known as something as a whore. She was far too free with her body, her language and her hands. For fans of that movie and that scene, I have to confess I’m more like Cecile the virginal character, than Kathryn."
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