A Calgary native who landed her first modeling job at the tender age of seven, it was a mere four years later that Elisha Cuthbert instinctively knew that she wanted to spend the rest of her days in front of the lens. Following an appearance in the 1997 feature “Dancing on the Moon”, Cuthbert landed a job as a field correspondent for the acclaimed Canadian television series “Popular Mechanics for Kids”, and her reporting proved so effective that she caught the attention of first lady Hillary Clinton, who invited Cuthbert to Washington for a meeting.
Though she spent the majority of her youth in Montreal, Cuthbert moved to Los Angeles at age 17 in order to pursue an acting career. Featured roles as a reluctant pilot in “Airspeed” (1998) and a time traveling teen in “Time at the Top” (1999) were soon to follow, and by the time Cuthbert joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” in 1999, it was obvious that her talent was growing. Her role in the made-for-Canadian-television feature “Lucky Girl” only furthered her reputation as a dramatically capable rising starlet, and her distinct onscreen facial expressions and convincing performance soon caught the eyes of producers who were preparing a new thriller series for FOX.
Cast as Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) damsel-in-distress daughter, Kimberly, in the breakout hit “24”, Cuthbert’s character suffered through multiple kidnappings and a mountain lion attack over the course of the series’ first three seasons. On the heels of “24”, Cuthbert took a supporting role in the comedy Old School before appearing in the subsequent romantic comedies “Love Actually” (2003) and “The Girl Next Door” (2004), the latter of which found her taking the lead as an ex-porn star who becomes the object of affection to a lonely suburban boy unaware of her past. She now stars as the female lead in the Dark Castle horror remake in “House of Wax”:
Question: How many Red Bulls do you go through in a given day?
Elisha Cuthbert: I don’t normally drink it, but today and tomorrow and the next day I will be best friends with the Red Bull. Oh well, sugar free.
Question: What initially appeared to you about either the role or the film?
Elisha Cuthbert: It was a lot of things, all of those things put together. But the thing is, coming off of The Girl Next Door, it was important for me to make a movie that was either the opposite or completely different. I don’t ever want to be doing the same sort of thing, I never want to be typecast, because I have way to much to give to be sort of, to always be the hot chick in the movie. As much as I love The Girl Next Door, it was its own movie and it was time to make something different. And when Joel Silver approached me with this movie, I looked it over, I read it, I liked the idea but above all I liked the character and what her sort of journey is in the film. She goes through a lot of things, with her brother, with the physicality of the film, and I think a lot of it rides on my shoulders along with Chad. And the movie sort of flows because of our characters and that’s a challenging thing to take on. I mean, it’s a big movie, it’s a lot of crazy things that go on with my character, and it’s all going to be real. I think those things were some of the main reasons.
Question: After your years on 24, do you cringe at a scene where you are getting captured or kidnapped?
Elisha Cuthbert: (Laughs) I wondered if people were going to go, ‘She’s crazy, she’s doing this again.’ But I think the difference between Kim Bauer and Carly is the fact that Kim was reactive, you know? She reacted to the situations she was in where as I think Carly’s pro-active in solving the situation, going and taking care of the situation she needs to take care of, which was a big enough difference for me to go, ‘You know what, it’s not the same thing, this is a different situation,’ and she fights back, you know? That’s what I love about it.
Question: How did you develop the relationship between yourself and Chad?
Elisha Cuthbert: It was pretty instantaneous. It was, I think a lot of the scenes we sort of went, ‘Okay, at what point do we like each other?’ You know? We had to sort of break it down and go through each step or at least I did with the script and go, ‘Okay, we’re okay here.’ My character’s pretty much okay with him throughout the course of the film. I think he’s the one with the issue, you know. But you have make it play in the movie and he’s really good so it was easy, it was really easy to kind of get that immediately.
Question: They cut your finger off in the film.
Elisha Cuthbert: (holding up her finger) It’s here.
Question: Scream for instance the actress hardly ever gets touched.
Elisha Cuthbert: Yeah, exactly. The torture. Right, as much as it feels like a Scream, we’ve amped up the gore in this dramatically. It’s punchier than any other sort of teen horror, you know? It’s a lot of fun, but at the same time there’s moments where you’re like, ‘Oh my God. Oh jeez!’ Which I think make this film 2005, do you know what I mean. Actions films were sort of were here and then they went here and then it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s getting out of hand,’ and then all of the sudden horror is here, here and it’s getting really smart and then now we’re just gonna gross everyone out and have a good time with it.
Question: The head bashing at the end.
Elisha Cuthbert: Yeah, and it was important for me to, I felt like that was my moment. I felt like that was where my character goes, ‘I am not a sissy, I am going to solve this situation and it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be enough to be satisfying for a resolve of a movie.’ I remember shooting that and all the people there can testify. I was so sore the next day, because they were going to give me a fake bat and I said that there’s no way, because the feeling and the motion of having a real bat changes everything.
Question: I’m sure the actor appreciated that?
Elisha Cuthbert: Oh, he wasn’t there. That was a dummy. I got to go crazy on a, you know, plastic thing. Obviously, it’s intense when you see the reaction of his character and what he goes through and that aggression. It’s very gruesome but at the same time I feel very satisfied by the fact that my character steps up to the plate as opposed to like sitting in the back going, ‘Where do I step in, where do I step in?’ But I think that’s a really great moment in the movie, along with Paris’ death scene and all those things.
Question: Referential horror debunked the horror conventions.
Elisha Cuthbert: We have a lot of throwbacks to, I think, the classic ideas of what horror film was all about, I think when we were younger. It’s funny, I think, even the Drew Barrymoore thing with the Paris Hilton, I think there’s that sort of, even though it’s like two separate things, I think it’s a tie in to, ‘This is what we love about horror films, let’s collaborate all of those things and then amp it up one more notch and let’s make a horror film.’ I think that’s what it was all about, even though I may have had my apprehensions about Paris or whatever it might have been, it all really made sense at the end of the day for this film I think. It’s a fun, commercial, ah, horror film that people I think are going to really have fun watching.
Question: Wade is a really bad boyfriend. Did that come across on the page?
Elisha Cuthbert: (Laughs) It didn’t on the page and that He-Man comment, haircut comment, was never there. That was all Johnny Abrahams who, thank God he’s in this movie. I mean it’s, his comedic relief is so important, it plays such a crucial part in this film, but when he goes, ‘Where’d you get that haircut, the He-Man haircut,’ it’s like hysterical, you know? And those are the things that are never on the page but, all of the sudden you get there and the comradery of the cast and crew, especially so far away from home, they’re your family, and then all of the sudden all these sort of funny jokes and anecdotes sort of come out with those relationships, so it’s funny.
Question: Creepiness factor on set with the wax figure and all?
Elisha Cuthbert: I didn’t as much as I did watching it. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be no problem. I’m going to watch it and I’m going to be like, I did this and I’m not going to get to enjoy it,’ and then all of the sudden I’m there and I’m jumping like a loser. I was there and I’m jumping at my own movies. This is, like, ridiculous. It felt scarier seeing it dark and in the theater and cut together and put together finally and finished then actually being there because I think I was so focused on what I needed to do. It was very physically demanding, so I was constantly sort of trying to not get like sick or hurt or, you know, just trying to get it all together.
Question: Most challenging scene?
Elisha Cuthbert: There was a few moments in the movie that were really scary or difficult to do. I think the sequence where I’m getting tied up on the chair with the bindings and all that stuff. Even though that may be like a two minute sequence it took like three or four days to accomplish so physically it was a very grueling time. We kind of did parts of it, came back to it, did parts of it, back and forth, back and forth and then coming down the stairs, it was a lot of sequences that took part in making that. And then also, at the end of the film where we fall through the floor. Chad didn’t have to do this, I did this. Two boards like this and a lever was pulled and the floor was taken out from underneath me and I knew that this was about to happen, and then I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is the most frightening thing I’ve ever,’ like having the ground be gone underneath you in less than a second. The idea of it was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine.’ I was telling all the stunt guys, ‘I’ll do it, I’m good, we’re all good,’ and I get there and I’m sitting there and he’s like five, four and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ There was some really scary moments, but it was worth it because I think it turned out really, really nice. I think it looked really good.
Question: How much do you hate wax now?
Elisha Cuthbert: Oh, I still like wax. I’m not afraid of it. (Laughs)
Question: What were your apprehensions of working with Paris and then what was it like meeting her for the first time?
Elisha Cuthbert: Instantly I saw that there was a girl that wanted to do a good job in this movie. I think if it would have been any other way, it may have been scary. ‘Is she going to come to work, is she going to want to invest all of the time that I think all of us are investing?’ But it had nothing to do with that because as soon as I met her she was already discussing her character, already discussing how we were going to, how our relationship was going to interact. She is transitioning into an actress in her own way and I think she does a really great job in the movie. I think she’s really strong, I think it’s good. And the death sequence is incredible.
Question: There were claps in the audience in the death sequence.
Elisha Cuthbert: I haven’t seen it with an audience so I don’t know how their reaction is, but I hope it’s that, I hope they’re clapping. That would be great, that would be so good.
Question: Is that your favorite sequence in the film?
Elisha Cuthbert: Um, no, I think my favorite sequence is the end with the bat. I think that’s my favorite sequence. It was hard, it was very physically demanding. I was very, sort of, difficult, but I’m so proud of how they sort of piece it together and made it work. It looks very good.
Question: What is next for you?
Elisha Cuthbert: I produced and starred in an independent film called The Quiet, which is a very dramatic film that’s about… My character’s a girl who’s being physically abused by her father and the movie is about women, three or four women that sort of go through a transition throughout the course of the film. [It’s a] highly dramatic film, it will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and then continue on to do Sundance this year, or next year I should say. And it’s sort of one of those things that, with House of Wax, I wanted to make a different movie, like I said earlier, and make something that I haven’t done before. And I think every choice that I make in my career is sort of about that. And if it scares me, I’d do it. The idea of the challenge of each film or each character and if I’m nervous about doing it or not doing a good job, I sort of tend to go to that because I feel like the best work comes out of being challenged and I think that that’s what it was about, making or producing the movie and then starring in it.
Question: What was the challenge in House of Wax?
Elisha Cuthbert: I think it was just making everything make sense and believable and to sort of hold my own within the type of film that it is. This is a fun, gory, exciting horror film that, at the same time I want people to walk away going, ‘She did a good job,’ and to find the balance of that. Yeah. (dead silence)
Question: Do you consider these projects just for the creative challenges and worry about pigeonholing?
Elisha Cuthbert: I never try and play it as “the girl.” I think whether the studio or the movie wants that, I think, I don’t think I’m capable of making a movie just about the girl. I think it’s about being creatively different each time, about challenging myself, and also reading the movie going, ‘Is this a character I’d watch, is this a character I would invest time into?’ There’s all those things that go into picking or choosing or deciding to make a movie. I know right away from the first time I read a script whether or not I feel like I can bring something unique and different to the table. When I spoke with Joel Silver about this movie in particular, he said, ‘We want to make a big, scary movie,’ and I said, ‘Okay, and I want to make my character really great and I want to do that and I want to do this and I want to make it all come together,’ you know? And that’s what it’s about. I think you can make a commercial movie and still hold the integrity and keep the character development. But at the same time have an extremely good time watching it, you know? And hopefully people won’t notice those sort of decisions, it just sort of all flows together. That’s what you sort of strive for.
Question: Did you see the original?
Elisha Cuthbert: After, after the fact. Yeah, after the fact. I asked Joel, I said, ‘Should I watch the original?’ Actually there’s two, there’s one before the Vincent Price, I said, ‘Should I watch either of them,’ and he said, ‘No, because we’re making a movie for 2005. We’re making a horror film for this generation, this idea,’ and he goes, ‘But you should watch it maybe after,’ and I said, ‘Okay.’ And I watched it and it’s totally different and I watch it now and it’s Vincent Price, the whole thing is kind of cheesy, right, because it’s sort of dated, but there’s a lot of people that remember the movie and remember how frightening it was. I’ve run into a few people who are still sort of creeped out by the idea of the movie which is kind of cool, you know?
Question: Your name was floated about in the casting of Fantastic Four and also in some other comic movies. Is that a genre that interests you at all?
Elisha Cuthbert: Maybe. If it’s right. Fantastic Four I don’t think was right for me. I think I know, as an actor, myself. Like I said, if I feel like I can creatively do something with each part and make it my own and things sort of evolve or don’t evolve or come about. There’s so many great movies that are sort of circulating and going around, like Sin City or whatever it may be, that you obviously can’t do all of them and there’s a lot of actors, but if it makes sense for me, I think it would be great. I know Warner Brothers has a few, I’m sort of pushing Joel. Hey. (Laughs)
Question: What comic characters do you like?
Elisha Cuthbert: I’d like to see them do The Max. I don’t know if you remember that comic book, from MTV they did a show on it and it was about sort of this.
Question: Todd McFarlane.
Elisha Cuthbert: Yes, exactly. Not a lot of people know about it, but there’s this blonde sort of character in the book that I think could be really interesting. I love the look and the idea of her and it was a smart, really detailed, elaborate, well put together comic I thought. It was dark and interesting, I thought, not so typical. I liked to do things that are interesting, a little out of the box, but you never know. We’ll see. (Laughs)