Sarah Michelle Gellar: 60 Questions For Sarah
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so you may have seen some media coverage or reunion photos. Fifteen years ago, star Sarah Michelle Gellar was approach the end of her tenure as a slayer of the undead. At the time, she was engaged to Freddie Prinze Jr. with whom she was costarring in a big-budget movie adaptation of Scooby Doo. For a brief time, it seemed like Gellar might be able to jump from TV to movies once her Buffy contract expired. That’s when Gellar landed on the cover of the May 2002 Young Hollywood issue of Movieline magazine discussing her relationship as well as her TV and movie projects.
Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t your typical young Hollywood actress. She’s already been in the Industry for 21 years so she seems almost past that phase. She doesn’t do any of the bad-girl things associated with Young Hollywood stars, like getting DUIs, shoplifting, doing drugs, serial dating hot-looking up-and-comers and hanging out with rock stars. But then again, Gellar, 25, has a lot to carry–she balances a grueling work week on the hit series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with an occasional feature film. She’s already starred in the blockbusters I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2, the romantic comedy Simply Irresistible and the smart, sultry success Cruel Intentions.
Raised by a single mother in New York City, where she attended Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School and the Professional Children’s School, Gellar knew at a very young age that she wanted to work in the entertainment industry. She began doing commercials at age four, and at six made her TV film debut in An Invasion of Privacy. When she won an Emmy for playing Susan Lucci’s daughter on “All My Children,” prime-time casting directors became interested in her, which is how she landed the lead on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The series turned into a ratings dynamo and is currently wrapping up its sixth season. This month the indie Gellar made for director James Toback, Harvard Man, is getting a limited release. And this summer she’s starring in her biggest movie to date, the film version of the popular cartoon, “Scooby-Doo.” She plays Daphne to fiancé Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Fred. Plenty of Hollywood insiders are betting that she’ll have a long, healthy acting career because she has a reputation for being professional, which many actresses her age simply aren’t, and she has shown some fierce acting chops, most notably as a ruthless, sexually charged manipulator in Cruel Intentions and as a drug-popping college student in Harvard Man.
I’m set to meet Gellar in a Culver City studio, where’s she posing for this magazine’s pictures. Her mom, some of her best friends and her publicist are all there. Because of her “Buffy” schedule, they rarely get to see her so they take advantage when they can. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the game between the Patriots and the Rams has just started, and Gellar, a sports fan, is missing out on the fun. Prinze, with whom she lives, is at home with their friends watching the game. Gellar takes time to check in with him and exclaims, “You were right!” when she hears the underdog Patriots are winning. She promises to bring home food and then whispers “I love you” before hanging up. She’s eager to get home, but after the shoot she has to answer my questions. Her publicist tells me she’s not worried that Gellar won’t be able to answer them because the actress talks fast.
When our interview finally starts I greet her with a “Hello, Buff…”–then I catch myself. Damned if I can bring up her real name. I’ve been watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reruns all week.
“It’s Sarah,” she smiles as we shake hands. She even shakes hands fast.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: You’re on the cover of the Young Hollywood issue, but you seem more mature than most young actresses.
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR: Isn’t that scary–all of a sudden you get to a place where you’re not the youngest anymore. For so long I was the baby of everything.
Q: Do you have a fear of being stuck in Young Hollywood Hell?
A: I’m not too concerned about it. The one thing about being on a television show is it lets you age. Buffy’s not still a junior in high school. Buffy’s basically a mother now, she runs a household. And I’ve been able to be picky about my projects.
Q: Do you have a post-“Buffy” plan?
A: I need a break from television more personally than professionally. The grind of it. I need to travel, to decompress. You worry if you’ve done yourself a disservice. Is the work challenging enough? Are you getting lazy? That’s my biggest fear. But I’d love to do a sitcom one day. I’d also love to do big feature films. I want to do period pieces, comedy, action, drama. I want to do it all. And I want to do it tomorrow!
Q: I interviewed your fiancé, Freddie Prinze Jr., a few years ago and he told me he’s perfectly happy letting you do it all and he’ll just be a househusband.
A: Whatever makes him happy. He is an amazing chef. I have a lot of ideas for restaurants; we’d love to open one. He also has wonderful ideas for television shows–I’d love to see him follow that. He has a lot more talent than me. I kind of do one thing, but I think I do it pretty well.
Q: If Freddie asked you to take off a year so you could just develop your relationship, would that be possible for you?
A: To take a year off? I don’t know. Everything I have in my life I’ve worked for–my home, my car, clothing. I didn’t have any of this growing up. My mom and I really scraped by. Now I’m in a great position and I’m grateful for it. I love what I do. Part of what makes me driven is that I want to accomplish so much. I can’t answer where that comes from–it’s something inside me.
Q: Is it possible for you to relax?
A: Yes. When I go on vacation, from the second I get off the plane I’m there. I like to go to warm places. I like to go to hotels where I don’t have to leave. Just spend two weeks, walk on the beach, go to the spa, read. I’m lucky that Freddie shares that with me. We’ll go on a vacation and half our suitcases are just books.
Q: Wait a minute. Freddie told me he never read books. When I went to his house, he didn’t even have any books on his shelves.
A: That was before me.
Q: So what books did you get Freddie to read?
A: Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling did something only Oprah had started to do, which was to get people reading again. I’ll read every book on the Oprah Book list.
Q: When did you start collecting books?
A: When I had money. I have the first editions of all four Harry Potter books. I have a complete collection of all of Arthur Rackham’s first editions, including Peter Pan. My goal now is to have every first edition of Dr. Seuss.
Q: You and Freddie have something else in common: you’re both starring in Scooby-Doo. Who was more excited about doing the film?
A: Both of us. Before we even read the script he’d seen every single “Scooby-Doo” episode and had them on tape. When I had to do research, I didn’t have to go anywhere.
Q: What attracted you to doing a summer “event” film?
A: I love the cartoon. And I love Australia, where we shot it. I’d love to have a house there. So that was it for me: to go there and do a really big-budget feature film and to play someone as psychotic as Daphne.
Q: What’s the premise?
A: Rowan Atkinson plays the villain Mondavarious. He’s the owner of Spooky Island, who tries to get the gang to come together and solve the mystery on the island. Freddie and I didn’t work together that much. My main storyline is with a character named Zarkos, played by Sam Grecco. That’s all I can say for fear of death from Warner Bros.
Q: You received a lot of attention for kissing Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions. Has any other scene you’ve done won you as much attention?
A: I got a lot of attention for kissing women, not only in Cruel Intentions but also my kissing Lindsay Sloane on TV. And I kissed Velma in Scooby-Doo. I’m not sure what’s going on! [Laughs]
Q: Who knew it was love first–you or Freddie?
A: You ask him, he’s going to say me. It was probably me, but there’s one “movie” moment that happened where we both looked at each other.
Q: Was that moment when you worked together on I Know What You Did Last Summer?
A: Oh, no. We were just friends then. We had nothing in common other than just hanging out and having fun. He was in a serious relationship then.
Q: So when did that moment occur?
A: Five years later. We lost touch when he got really busy doing She’s All That and Head Over Heels. Then he broke up with his girlfriend and did that thing where you try and get back in touch with your old friends. And I called him and said I heard he was back and if he wanted to go for sushi to give me a call. I’m still learning how to talk about this because I’ve never had a relationship that’s public before.
Q: So it’s the sushi that did it?
A: I love sushi. We love to try new stuff. Where we go every week the sushi chef makes us two things that are new. One of them I’ll always eat, but the second one is often not for me. Once he made us stomach, and I felt like I was on “Fear Factor.” Freddie ate it and loved it.
Q: Think you could go on “Fear Factor”?
A: Oh, God, no–$25 million would not make me go on “Fear Factor.” You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat a pig rectum.
Q: What did Freddie have that none of your previous boyfriends had?
A: He balances me. We’re both homebodies. We love to have our friends over. We love board games–we’ll play them until three in the morning. I love Scattergories, Scrabble, Director’s Cut, Facts in Five.
Q: How many children would you like to have?
A: No idea. If you ask Freddie, he’ll say “a gaggle, a bushel.”
Q: Who cries more: you or Freddie?
Q: Does he write you poetry?
A: Yes, he does.
Q: Freddie thinks that acting is very simple. Do you?
A: I don’t understand Method actors. To me, Method seems like channeling. I don’t want to be thinking about my dog dying, I want to be the character. In that sense, it’s simple to me, to become that character. I get paid to act. If I have to play a homeless person, I’m bathing that morning. When I had to play Buffy crawling out of a grave, not only did I shower every morning, but sometimes I showered at lunch and reapplied all the dirt. And when I wrapped, I showered before I went home.
Q: You worked with James Toback on Harvard Man, which is based on his Harvard experiences in the ’60s. Was it the script or working with Toback that attracted you?
A: Him, initially. I had seen a lot of his work, and I loved Black and White. I went to see him and he told me about his experiences with LSD and how he went to this doctor who brought him back [from a bad trip]. I told him I wanted to do that story, I wanted to do nitty-gritty moviemaking, I wanted him to challenge me.
Q: Your sex scene with Adrian Grenier has been described as kinky. How kinky was it?
A: For me, it wasn’t kinky, it was awkward. Jim’s movies are sexually free and I probably made him feel confined. But he never asked me to push the line. He was always incredibly respectful. I’m not in a place where I’m comfortable doing nudity. If I ever did, it would have to be a movie that by doing it, it would move the story further. What’s sexy is when sex is left to the imagination. I love when it’s implied. I roll my eyes and yawn at gratuitous sex.
Q: Could you ever conceivably pose nude for a magazine like Playboy if it meant boosting your career?
A: Right now I can’t, but I don’t believe in saying never. There might be a time when I got pregnant and felt really beautiful and wanted to have a nude picture. People gave Demi Moore so much flak [for the Vanity Fair cover on which she posed nude while pregnant], but I understand what she was doing. She was trying to show that this was where she felt the most beautiful.