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Interview: Elisha Cuthbert for "The Girl Next Door"

By Paul Fischer Wednesday February 25th 2004 11:00AM
Elisha Cuthbert for "The Girl Next Door"

'24' star Elisa Cuthbert was all-smiles as she walked in a Los Angeles hotel room to chat about her film, The Girl Next Door. The sexy, 21-year old Canadian was wearing a low-cut blouse and jeans, and was in a clearly in a playful mood as she firstly proceeded to sit on this reporter's lap. Maybe she hadn't quite gotten over playing a porn star in the cheeky romantic comedy Girl Next Door. "I'm still getting into the role", she says laughingly.

But back to business, as we get down to why she was keen from going from a CIA operative's daughter-in-distress, in TV's 24, to sexy and seductive porn star Danielle in her newest movie. "I had come off of doing Old School and Love Actually, small parts where I didn't have the weight of the film riding on my shoulders. I wanted something to kind of showcase more of a range of emotions, obviously." So along came The Girl Next Door, a more adult-themed teen comedy, revolving around an ambitious high school senior, Matthew (Emile Hirsch), with dreams of a career in politics, overjoyed to discover that his new neighbour, 19-year-old Danielle (Cuthbert), is absolutely beautiful, and they fall in love quickly, head over heels. Their relationship is put to the test, however when he discovers (along with the rest of the town, eventually) that she used to be a porn star.

Cuthbert didn't exactly go out, she says to research the porn industry, but says she spoke "to a few of the girls from Wicked Pictures and Vivid and kind of got a take of what they were like. I was surprised that I had this stereotype in my mind that these girls were like the two girls that were my friends in the film, which they're not, but really into fashion, normal girls, and so I was pretty impressed. It was pretty wild." Going further into the businesslike aspects of the porn industry, Cuthbert noted that "these girls are entrepreneurs." Of course, when all's said and done, The Girl Next Door is no Boogie Nights, a sexy comedy but for the slightly younger set, so being sexy for the teen market can be risky. "I didn't feel the pressure of having to do it for the public. I think just personally for myself, I had a place where I felt like I had to stop, which was full nudity. I push it to a certain point, obviously, in the opening of the film, but the director and I kind of talked about it, and I had a strong opinion on the fact that we could make a teen comedy and not have to do full nudity." And at a mere 21, nudity in general is something she says is of no interest to her. "Just right now in my career, I don't feel the need togo there, but maybe down the line I will, I really don't know. But at this point in time in my career I don't feel like it's necessary." Yet in this film, Cuthbert does go hot and heavy with her 17-year old co-star, in the back of a limousine - kind of. "Our sex scene took place separately," recalls Cuthbert, laughingly. "Because of the nature of the scene, it was hot in the limo, so we had to cut out the back of it and a camera was basically where the trunk is, and because of the positioning of us, they shot Emile and me separately, so we were never actually together." She laughs when asked how hard it is to do something like that. "You mean making love to a box, because that's exactly what it was. I don't know, you do the best you can I guess." It's been quite the Hollywood journey for this pretty starlet, who hails from Alberta, Canada. With '24' a hit show, Cuthbert has been defined as one of a new breed of 'It' girl, yet competing with many other young actresses in this chew-them-out town, keeps her in some kind of perspective. "Is there a pressure to be pretty? I set boundaries and goals for myself and try not to compare myself to anyone else because I will not be anyone else besides myself. So I try and stay true to me,and hopefully the right projects will come my way." She might look great, but doesn't do much to stay in shape. "I don't really work out but I try to do things that are active and not sit at home and watch TV all day. Mind you, I do that too, also I like to jog and stuff like that, but I'm not a gym girl." Cuthbert admits that life as an actress can easily cut in on relationships, "but if you really want it, you make it work." And for the record, she's taken, but by whom, she won't divulge. Cuthbert is not only busy promoting Girl Next Door, but is equally hectic shooting the third season of '24', and hopes it swill be renewed for a fourth year. The actress admits that shooting a series with a fairly specific structure is difficult to maintain. "It is very difficult to maintain a show that has such hype off the top. It's got a following and people respect the show a lot, and that's the writers' jobs, to maintain that quality. I think when you're writing something that's quality I think people obviously expect it to stay that way." Recent critics complained that her character was too much a damsel-in-distress. "I never really blamed the writers, nor did I feel like it was a problem. I mean, television is television, and I love the show so much as it is, but I was willing to do whatever they wanted and we had already kind of gotten in the middle of the season and it was like, they gotta keep doing what they gotta do. So I just tried to do the best I could with the scenes." As for future projects, Cuthbert would prefer to keep mom. "I never like talking about it until I'm actually working on a set because I'm so superstitious, but there's a couple of projects I'm hoping will happen during hiatus, and I'm kind of writing something with another writer to kind of do later down the line. We're developing a script from a book so we'll see how it goes." Cuthbert would prefer to be in front of a TV or film camera, than gracing the covers of a plethora of magazines, but she is taking her escalating fame with a dose of salt. "It's weird. The press stuff comes because of the films. It's never 'when can I be on the next cover of a magazine.' I'm out there promoting this film because I want people to see it. I'm doing the cover of Lucky and doing the other covers that are coming up soon are that so people will be more aware. I mean, there's no real huge star in the film. We're going on the script here and hopefully people will like it." She adds that there remains a degree of pressure keeping yourself pretty for the sake of a magazine cover. "Yeah, there may be a pressure but I like to think of it as a chance to be someone different for the day. We go in and, just like the set when you're shooting stuff and we have fun, put on good music, and have fun that day. Whenever it's a photo shoot I know it's gonna be fun." Away from the glamour, Cuthbert says that she remains grounded with help from her close knit family. "My mom and dad keep me grounded, just to be able to talk to them, and as in the film, I had two girlfriends growing up in high school so we were kind of like a tripod, but they keep me grounded too. They call me and go, 'what the hell were you thinking? What was that dress you wore?' and I'm like, 'but I got it for free,' and they're like, 'okay, I gotcha.'"

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