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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Features Interviews F to J > Sarah Michelle Gellar

SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR

GETS UNDER THE SKIN IN THE GRUDGE

by Brad Balfour

Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: October 26, 2004.

Ever since she was discovered by an agent at age four, New York born and bred Sarah Michelle Gellar has been in spotlight from doing commercials, as the groundbreaking star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and film star (Cruel Intentions/I Know What You Did Last Summer). Now, in rapid fired sentences, Gellar answers questions about her latest film, the dread-laden The Grudgeóa horror film based on its Japanese predecessor. As a horror film vet, Gellar applied her skills deftly, both drawing audiences in and creeping them out.

What made you want to be in The Grudge?

I had a fascination with it. I had left the TV show and it was the first time in my life where my own decisions could be based on what I want to do rather than have to be planned during my hiatus. [Also because it offered] the opportunity to travel to Japan and live there-- not just visit for a press junket where I only end up seeing the Park Hyatt. It was cool to be part of something that was a first because this is a first time that a Japanese remake was directed by the Japanese director of the original with an all Japanese crew. Also, by American standards, it was probably one of the cheapest films made this year but by Japanese standards, it was one of the most expensive films ever filmed at Toho Studios where Godzilla movies are made. So all those firsts combined made it a unique opportunity.

Are you a fan of Japanese horror films?

Iím a fan of Japanese cinema in general. I donít get genre-specific. Itís an incredibly untapped market. As American filmmakers, we constantly steal from everyone and I wonder why we werenít stealing from the Asian film market. You would think that after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that there would have been this massive influx. It was all hype but then not much happened. Now we see it with the remake of The Ring, Shall We Dance and Dark Water. Iíve seen all the originals of those films and I saw Hero like two years ago. 

Did you see lots of stuff in Japan?

So much. I went anywhere I didnít have to fly to because they wouldnít let me. God bless the bullet train. I went to Kyoto, I saw sumo wrestling, I went to all the temples and shopping. The Sony store in Japan has these robotic dogs that take commands. I wanted to bring one back home.

How was it working with a Japanese director who didnít know English?

Well even though he doesnít speak the language he always had control of how much tension should be in the movie. I can barely control things in English let alone pay attention to every character and every scene. If a movie works then you should be able to watch it with the sound off and still understand whatís going on. Thatís what this was like because we couldnít really communicate with words. The themes are universal because itís about betrayal, rejection and marriage. Also little Japanese boys are scary.

Besides the language barrier how different was it working with a Japanese director?

Heís very quick. Coming from TV I thought I knew what fast was but you donít know fast until you work with Japanese filmmakers. I learned a lot like that as an actor you have to put complete trust in your director, that he will lead you through your performance. As a director you have to trust your actor to bring your vision to the screen. In television, you have directors coming in and out all the time and you are the keeper of your character. No television director has seen every episode of every show and definitely not like we have, so you have much more control over that. This was a great lesson because without language I had to really trust the director. I think that it will make it easier from hereon in because if a director speaks English then that is a bonus. In the beginning we had a translator and by the end she was afraid she was going to lose her job because we didnít need it. I understand a lot of Japanese but I canít always speak it back.

How was it working with master director/producer Sam Raimi [Spider-Man; Xena: Warrior Princess; Evil Dead]?

He is obviously one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood and I figured he would just show up at the premiere. But he is so hands on and so passionate. He loves what he does and was very strict about letting [Grudge director Takashi] Shimizu have his vision and making the studio back off. He is also one of the kindest people Iíve ever met. About two weeks ago he called me to see if I was ok and I was like "What do you need?" He said he didnít need anything but really just wanted to know if I was ok.

Did you shoot more than one ending?

We shot endings as well as epilogues in Japan. We shot the film on a very modest budget then a month later I had to go back to Japan for re-shoots. That worried me a bit but it turned out they wanted to add back story for our characters.

Would you be in the sequel?

Iím not signed for a sequel but I know Sam wants to do one. I want to open the movie first. 

What frightens you?

Iím not really a fearful person. I donít live my life in fear. I look forward to challenges but Iím not going on Fear Factor anytime soon. I donít like rats or roaches and most things New York City girls are supposed to be afraid of.

What draws you to the horror genre?

Being on Buffy really spoiled me because itís so rare to have a female protagonist like that. Women drive television but they have a long way to go in films. Women canít open a comedy the way Jim Carrey can or open an action film the way Tom Cruise can. In the horror genre seems to be where women shine like Naomi Watts in The Ring. Our last two Best Actress winners went on to do genre films; Halle Berry did Gothika and Charlize Theron is doing Aeon Flux. Some actresses can be the girlfriend or the wife but I think I would get so bored.

How does being such an icon affect your life?

I was very young when the show became successful but at the same time I wasnít that young. I grew up in New York with a very normal upbringing even though I was working. I donít know how the young girls who get success when they younger than 18 handle it because youíre under such a microscope. Those are such difficult years and I would never want to be a teenager again for all the money in the world. For the eight years of "Buffy," my movie roles were determined by my hiatus. I had three months and I was able to do whatever I could in those three months. I couldnít do any independent films because the finances on those are so shaky. If god forbid the money wasnít in the bank at a certain date that was my hiatus so my options were very narrow.

Whatís next?

First a vacation. Then I hope to do this Richard Kelly project. This movie raised the bar so high for me and I learned that I donít have to jump into anything. For fifteen years I didnít know it was ok to take projects slowly.

Would you ever want to go back to series television?

Definitely not in the next five years but just because I physically canít do it. AlsoÖ Why canít hotels have TiVos? Iím missing a lot of my shows right now. I think hotels should have TiVo and every guest that comes in can set it for their shows. Then, when you canít sleep instead of watching SpectraVision you watch your shows.

Were you happy with the way Buffy ended?

Yes and no. I believe the finale of Buffy should have been two hours. I think a lot of the characters, specifically Xander, didnít get enough screen time. But I loved the idea that she was going full circle and sharing her power. I know some stuff had to get cut like a scene where I was walking down a hall in the high school having flashbacks so it was fun seeing all of us from eight years ago.

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2004 Courtesy of Sony Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2004 Courtesy of Sony Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2004 Courtesy of Sony Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2004 Courtesy of Sony Pictures.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. Posted: October 26, 2004.

 

Copyright ©2004   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.
Posted: October 26, 2004.