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Sarah Michelle GellarSarah Michelle Gellar - ’The Grudge’ Movie - Wizarduniverse.com Interview
Sunday 17 October 2004, by Webmaster
ToyFare presents the complete Sarah Michelle Gellar interview
With a new horror movie on the way, Sarah Michelle Gellar scares up some thoughts on Buffy toys, drinking games and Thermoses. Wizard Unvierse and ToyFare present to you the complete chat transcript.
The Grudge, what can you tell me about it? What interested you in the project?
Initially, it was the idea of something that has never been done before. It’s the first time a Japanese film has been remade for American audiences. That was deinitely the first part. Having seen the original—and realizing there was something different and exciting people haven’t seen. On a selfish level, just the chance to spend three months in Japan and sort of live there was a definite attraction to me.
What was that like? Do you plan on visiting again?
Oh, I’ve already been back. It’s incredible. It’s a culture based on history, honor and respect. You don’t get that very often. I can’t imagine anywhere where everything is different every day. You just walk down the street filming and find this temple with this monk that you’d swear is over 240 years old.
It’s so small that there’s a lot of history overlapping with modern culture...
Very much so, which is not something you see normally. It’s everywhere in Japan. It was so exciting to see and be a part of it. It’s something you can’t really experience until you live there.
Something interesting about the movie is that the original director is doing the remake. How does that help?
In every way, shape, and form. This is the man that created it. This is the man that wrote it, directed it, and that brought it to life. And I think that Asian cinema works at its best when it’s an Asian director who understands that. This is [his] vision.
Was doing The Grudge something you wanted because it was more supernatural—coming off a comedy/fantasy series?
I pick projects because I think they’re interesting. Something exciting that I would like to be a part of. Your career can never be that calculated.
A lot of people talk about the differences between Japanese horror and more traditional American horror. For a layman, how would you explain the difference?
American horror is very gory and graphic, the girl with the big boobs running in the woods with you screaming “Run the other way!” But Japanese is more psychological...I’d probably lean more toward calling them “thrillers,” because they frighten you at your core, they sort of reach each person individually. Not many people have been lost in the woods chased by a crazy man, but everybody has experienced true fear and emotion. That’s what this movie is at its core.
Just from watching the trailer, the details aren’t as clear, it isn’t just a monster chasing you. I think at the end, we see the back of your head, and I’m not sure what’s going on.
Thank the MPAA for that. [Laughs] When you see the film you’ll understand what’s going on. It’s actually a hand. In the shower.
I couldn’t tell.
People asked, ‘Did your head open up?’ Thank the MPAA for not allowing that in the trailer. The whole rating system is way past me. I don’t understand it at all.
Yeah, it’s strange.
It makes no sense. It’s so clearly a thriller moment. It’s not sexual.
A few months back there were reports you were considering a role in a Wonder Woman movie...Is that still an option at all?
You know, I have no idea where that came form...I’m way too short. [Laughs] Wonder Woman’s like six feet tall!
You could do it.
[Laughs] I don’t know if I could wear that outfit for three months... I’d be a little self-conscious.
Would you have worries about being typecast?
[Laughs] There are worse things than to be typecast than a superhero.
Your husband is a known comic book fanatic, has that rubbed off on you in any way? Do you read any of the stuff he brings home?
I collect antique books—I love books. I’m interested in any sort of reading—anything that’s old. I’m not a snob when it comes to comic books. One of the first things my husband said to me after making this movie was “You’ve gotta be in Wizard when you make this movie. It’s really important.” It’s one of the very first things he said. “It’s the magazine everyone reads.” So, he made me go out and get a bunch of magazines to catch up. It’s a totally true story.
So, there’s nothing of his that you’ve picked up on...
No, there is. I don’t think before I knew him that I even knew how to read a comic book. I think they were confusing to me, I didn’t know which bubble to read first or which way to go. [Laughs]
Sometimes the panels get weird, because they bleed into the other page, or jump around...
Yeah, they get confusing...I like graphic novels, I love illustration. And books don’t have great illustrations anymore, even the children’s books don’t have...You think of the wonderful illustrators of our past, and to me, comics and graphic novels are our only link to that.
It seems like people do children’s books as side projects now, it’s no longer a career. It’s more along the lines of “Oh, I’m gonna try my hand at a kid’s book.”
Exactly, there are no Shel Silversteins or Theodor Geisels anymore. To me, graphic novels and comics are the only way to pass stories in that sense now.
There are a lot of Buffy-related toys coming out now, moreso than while the series was actually on the air. How do you feel about that?
Really? [Laughs] That’s so interesting. Um, you know more than anything, it makes me happy. We all knew while we were working on the show that we were doing something groundbreaking and different, but I think stuff like that is when you realize the impact it really has. To me, it’s just, well, it’s an honor. There’s always been random merchandise, though. I think my personal favorite is the Buffy/Angel shot glasses. Made for the Buffy/Angel drinking game. Kind of an odd thing for Fox to make [Laughs]
There’s an actual drinking game?
Yeah. Every time Willow yells “Buffy, watch out!” or...
Whenever you use a stake...
Yeah, something like that. Something strange like that. I don’t know all the rules. I actually never played. I wasn’t 21! I couldn’t have played it for the longest time! [Laughs]
I would have been worried if you played...
Now, I know you went to San Diego, the Comic Con...
How was that?
It was so incredibly overwhelming. I’d never been to one before. Everyone kept saying “just wait, just wait.” There were so many people. I was overwhelmed and intimidated. We were joking, I was less nervous hosting the MTV Movie Awards than I think I was to go on stage at Comic Con. [The fans] know their business, they know what they’re talking about. You know, they know more about the show than I knew. I was worried they’d ask me a question, and they’d know the answer, and I’d get it wrong.
Did you do any signings? Or deal with the fans?
Freddy [picks up phone]: What’s happening Wizard?
SMG: [Laughs] That was Freddy.
[SMG to Freddy] He says ‘wuzzup?’ [Freddy hangs up]
We did, we flew in from Tokyo, Jason and I, and we had pre-signed 300 posters. We wandered around a little bit. It was very overwhelming.
Any weird fan experiences?
No, not at all. They were all really great. Sometimes I liken it to, I was telling my friend, sometimes you do these interviews, and it’s the same five or six questions you always get, like “Was it fun to be in Japan?”;l “What was it like working with a director that doesn’t speak English?” But I’ll tell you, being at Comic Con and talking to people kept me on my toes, because you guys know your business. I was getting nervous. [in reporter-like voice] “In episode 44, what did you mean...” and I’m going “Oh my God, oh God,” and I’m like “Oh God, um, Buffy saw a vampire...”
You held your own it seems.
I did OK. I think my top 10 list went over well.
Any Swans Crossing questions? (a short-lived teen soap Gellar was on in the early ’90s)
[Laughs] Not at the panel, but someone did come up to me. That’s the strangest thing, man. That show was on for the shortest time, and I still have people coming up to me to say “Swans Crossing was my life!” or they’ll do the Swans Crossing dance. One of my best friends, Brittany, who I’ve been friends with since we were five. Every once in a while, out of the blue, we’ll break into the Swans Crossing dance.
It’s funny, because the first time Buffy came on, I thought “Hey, it’s the girl from Swans Crossing!”
But that’s all changed now.
Yeah, now it’s “the girl from All My Children.” I think I get that more than anything else.
Ha. Yes. Well, getting back to Buffy, what’s your best memory from working on the show? Is it the kind of thing where you’ve done your part and left a nice body of work, or would you revisit? I’m sure you get this question all the time.
That’s OK. It really depends. People ask me all the time about a film. I’m very hesitant. I have no problem telling people I’m hesitant. Buffy was a film. I spent the whole first year of my life on the show telling people “It’s not like the film, it’s not like the film.” Buffy didn’t work as a film. Joss wrote it, it has great actors, but essentially to me it was a story that needed to be told over time. It wasn’t a beginning-middle-and-end story. So, for that reason, I think we went out on top. I was happy with the end. I don’t think we jumped the shark, we didn’t go on too long. It would worry me then, if we were to go back. In an hour or hour-and-a-half period, we would disappoint people. I was a little disappointed by the finale. I truly believed the finale should have been two hours. I don’t think Xander got nearly enough time, there was so much to wrap up. So if you go and make a movie, so many people will be disappointed. It’s inevitable.
Yeah. It just seemed like for most of the first season, the shadow of the movie loomed over the series. When I first heard about it, I thought, They’re making a show out of that movie?
Yeah, see, that was my life. Trying to convince people that “it’s different, it’s different.” So, then I don’t know why you’d go back and do it again. You know what I mean? Not the best idea. But I’ll never say never. If someone came to me with a script, and I fell in love with it, of course I’d do it.
Are you a horror movie fan?
I like movies that make you feel something. It doesn’t matter if it makes you sad, happy; if it makes you jump, I just want to feel something. I’m so tired of going to a movie and in my head I’m doing my shopping list. And so, to me, when I saw this film, even knowing what was going to happen, I still jumped in my chair. It still spooked me.
Would you work with the director again?
I think he’s going to be a big director. I truly do. I think you’ll be seeing a lot. His shots are so exciting and thought-provoking, it’s so different from what you usually see.
What movies have you been watching?
There’s a movie opening this week that I’ve been telling everyone,—I saw it in Tokyo—you have to see, Hero. It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing.
The Grudge...do you see that spinning out into other marketing areas? Toys? Sequels?
[Laughs] You know what, in Japan [let’s someone into the house, pauses for a second]... Hold on, been a busy week. Have you seen the original film?
No, I haven’t...
Well, um, so there’s this character [in the original film] that’s a little boy, and the freakiest part of the original movie is the little boy, and he’s always naked. In Japan there’s this popular trend of hanging things from your cell phone, and people see who can have the most things on their cell phone. And they made little Toshios that you can hang from your cell phone. [Laughs] Long story to get nowhere, but...
No, it was interesting.
I have one. I have a little naked Toshio on my cell phone.
I can’t really see a nursing Karen hanging from a cell phone. But the scary voice will catch on.
There’ve been a lot of comparisons being made to The Ring, but from reading about the movie, there’re some differences...
Obviously, in America, we tend to categorize. So, if you asked me what it’s closest to, of course I’m going to say it’s closest to The Ring because The Ring and Ju-On (The Grudge) were from similar cultures. One of the things I loved about The Ring was that it left that little bit to the imagination. Everyone took something different from the movie and that way, it was scarier than anything I’d ever seen, and this movie steps that up a little bit.
You’ve been in more traditional American horror movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer...Would you say that this is a new wave of horror?
I would hope so, I was just reading The Los Angeles Times a whole article on Asian cinema and, to me, some of the most exciting films come out of Asia. I think it would be great to start opening that up. It was one of those things of real pride, that while we were filming [The Grudge], it was announced that Takashi Shimizu would be directing The Ring 2. It was sort of, hey, we opened this up for him, and proud that it’s catching on.
That’s great. What else are you working on? Is there something else you want to plug?
Umm, can’t say yet. There’s something I’m about to do, but I can’t tell you what it is. For me, it’s a time where I can finally take my time. For so long, my movies were based on a three-month hiatus, and you know you try to get that in, because it’s the only different thing you can do for nine months. One of the things I’m learning now is to do a project, take a break, see your friends. I don’t have a time clock on me, and I can take projects based on different things. It’s nice to be able to wait for something. The Grudge ruined me, because it was such a great experience all around. It was one of the greatest casts I’ve ever worked with. It was amazing to be filming in this country where I didn’t speak the language of anyone on the crew, formed some of the deepest bonds I’ve ever formed. I’ve never cried so much at a wrap party. I’ve never even gone to a wrap party. I don’t like them. It was such an intense experience. So it kind of ruined me, because everything now has to compare to that. Is it something you’d look to do? Film in a country where you’re an outsider, language and culture-wise?
I would love to. I would absolutely love to. I think I’m nomadic at heart. I think actors are really gypsies at heart. One thing about Buffy, is that for the last eight years, I’d been in Los Angeles. And it’s getting kind of old for me. I love to travel and be in different places. A nice movie in Italy or Spain would be great.
Spain is nice this time of year...
[Laughs] That’s what I’m hoping for.
A lot of actors liken filming to summer camp...you kind of go away for a while, meet new people...
And then you really wish you could keep the friendships going...Thank God for e-mail, man. It’s certainly made it a lot easier to keep friendships going. They have these great programs now where you can write in English, and it translates into Japanese...
How was it adapting to the Japanese culture?
[sound of buttons dialing]
Freddy: Sorry about that...
SMG: [to Freddy] That’s OK...[back to interview] For me, I was a little spoiled because we had a good family friend that was in Japan while I was there. So I had the easiest way to acclimate because I had someone from home there, but it was really fun. Jason and I definitely got really competitive. Because it was like who can learn the most Japanese in a day. It was like a running joke. Who could learn more words that day. People used to joke “Did I make a movie while I was there?” Because each day I’d send pictures of all these things I did and people would ask, “Did you ever go to work?” It would be all we ever did, go to different cities. People ask, “When do you make the film?,” and I’m like, “Oh I do that too.” Having Jason as a costar, he had the same interest, some other actors may not like it. They may just want to sit in their rooms and watch SpectraVision and eat mac and cheese, but we had a wonderful group of actors that really wanted to see and explore. We did the town.
It sounds like you came out a different person...in a way.
I think, definitely. I would hope going some place like that, you learn.
Changing back to comics and toys, is there anything that Freddy is a big fan of, comics or toy-wise that you’ve just been confused about?
He’s more into comic books than toys. It’s me...I love all the lunch boxes, like all the Buffy lunch boxes. You know you’re famous when you get your own lunchboxes. But you know what makes me mad? You know when you were little the thermoses had the people on them too...
They’re just blank?
The thermos is plain. I want a Buffy thermos.
That’s pretty sad. We’ll have to start a campaign for Buffy thermoses.
Yeah, forget the presidential election, man. I want a Buffy thermos. These are the issues that count to the people.