Melissa George is the latest Australian actress on the road to Hollywood stardom. The ex-soap opera-cum-roller-skate champ broke out in a big way, when she played Lauren Reed, chillingly effective double agent extraordinaire on the hit TV series Alias, after failed attempts on US TV with the likes of Thieves. Discovered at age sixteen and cast on the popular night-time soap “Home and Away” (aired on Australia’s Channel Seven), George quickly became a fan favourite through her portrayal of runaway Angel, from early 1993 through August 1996.
Possessing an alluring fresh-faced beauty, the usually blonde George seemed to have her whole career ahead of her upon her “Home and Away” departure. She spent her initial time out of the TV series grind taking on projects in different fields, including her sleepwear line An Angel at My Bedside and her teen-aimed health and fitness video “Mind, Body & Soul”. Baring her enviable shape in Australian Playboy in 1997 was a seemingly controversial move than didn’t have much of a detrimental effect on her fan base, but rather kept her in the public’s mind.
A recurring role that year on the US-Australian co-production “Roar” (Fox) marked her introduction to American audiences, starring opposite fellow Aussie up and comer Heath Ledger in the medieval-set adventure. The following year, George made her feature film debut with a small but pivotal role in the thriller “Dark City”, her mostly unclothed role memorable to the limited audience that caught the film. She was next featured in “The Limey” (1999), co-starring with Peter Fonda as a doomed young woman whose ex-con father (Terrence Stamp) goes on a mission to avenge her death.
Though a starring regular role in the proposed TV series remake of the popular “L.A. Confidential” seemed like a plum role for the actress, it turned out to be a false start, as the cancelled pilot went unaired, with viewers unable to see her take on Lynn Bracken, the role that Kim Basinger originated and for which she took home an Oscar. George proved impressed with her turn as a bank-robbing cheerleader in the teen black comedy “Sugar & Spice” in 2001. Later that year, David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” screened to raves at Cannes. Initially conceived as a TV series, the pilot was extended into a feature film with George in a supporting role. the actress returned to US TV as regular alongside John Stamos in the sexy adventure series “Thieves” (2001), playing the more tech-savvy of the two titular career criminals. Well-reviewed but also suffering in the ratings, the series did prove to be George’s official entry into the Hollywood market, but not without a few more baby steps. In 2003 she landed a pair of appearances on the hit series “Friends” playing the too-sexy nanny to Ross and Rachel’s daughter Emma, and she followed that turn with prominent guest spots on “Monk” and “Charmed” and a featured role in “Down With Love” (2003) opposite Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.
Again poised for TV stardom, she was cast as Susan in NBC’s U.S. version of the BBC’s edgy hit sit-com “Coupling” (2003), but only filmed the pilot episode and was subsequently replaced by Rena Sofer, which was lucky for George, as the sit-com was yanked after only a handful of airings and cancelled. Instead, that same season she took on a prominent supporting role on “Alias” (2001- ) playing Lauren Reed, whom show star Sydney (Jennifer Garner) learns married Sydney’s beau Vaughn (Michael Vartan) while the spy was comatose for many months.
George, married to Chilean exporter Claudio Dabed, recently completed filming Derailed, opposite her former Friends co-star Jennifer Anniston, and hits screens shortly in the remake of the seventies horror film, The Amityville Horror, in which she plays Kathy Lutz, who discovers things that go bump into the night when she moves into a house with her family, that was once the scene of some grisly murders. George talked fame, success ands horror, to Garth Franklin.
Bubbling with a ferocious and good-humoured energy, beautiful Aussie Melissa George is only to aware of the ups and downs, working as an actress in Hollywood. George, 28, promoting her co-starring role in the remake of The Amityville Horror, admits that she is finally “getting there,” adding “I’m relatively new and am just noticing the difference with getting ‘Amityville’ and ‘Derailed.’ It’s not difficult to find the good roles at all, but rather, it’s difficult to just actually GET them. I’m reading amazing scripts. Often saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m in love with these,’ like I was with ‘Derailed’ and ‘Amity.’ But they’re like, ‘Sorry, but such and such is doing it.’ Whatever!”
Yet, she says, smilingly, she remains philosophical when it comes to dealing with her regular bouts of ups and downs. “There’s probably a hundred in a day in this town,” the actress further admits. “By eleven o’clock I was on a plane to Australia to go and do something, by one o’clock my trip was cancelled and then by three o’clock I was back on. I cannot tell my parents my life because they go through it too, so with those things I just say, ‘They’re not ready yet for my look, my style, and the way I perform.”
George further admits that growing up down under helped put the whole Hollywood experience in perspective. “I know that if I get tired of all the craziness in Hollywood, I would just get on the plane and go back home, which is a comforting thing and has made me more humble. I think Australians do well here because we feel a bit naughty, like we’re in America and if they only knew how much fun we were having, we’d all get thrown out, you know. So there’s that mischievous thing that we feel that gives us this beautiful kind of sense of joy in a crazy, hard town. I say what’s the worst thing about Hollywood is you get rejected a lot, but you look at Australia, you might get rejected once every six months and that’s only because there’s one film every six months, whereas here it’s like six movies a day and six nos.”
George, who made an impact in Season 3 of Alias, hits the big screen twice this year, first with Amityville Horror, in which she stars as the late Kathy Lutz, who, with her husband [Ryan Reynolds] and three children, barely survived 28 days in a house which was the scene of some grisly murders. Having played the devilishly bad Lauren Reid in Alias, George relished stepping into a more heroic mode in Amityville. “I liked this character, because I like to play a strong woman. This was a difficult role because I felt like I was the audience seeing the movie, witnessing what my character was going through. I felt like I was responsible for what the audience was going to feel when they watch our movie. Like, how does Kathy Lutz behave? That’s kind of what we’re going to feel as well.”
George said that despite it being a horror film, she had no reluctance to take this particular film on. “‘ It’s not just a horror film where you’re getting slashed apart, you’re running through the forest and your clothes are falling off or whatever. I liked that there was a real story to it. Then they said, ‘It’s actually a remake.’ And it’s a ’70s film.’ I didn’t realize that, so it was beautiful that I didn’t know those things. Also I hadn’t seen the film when I auditioned.”
George went straight from Amityville Horror to the psychological thriller, Derailed, starring Jennifer Anniston and Clive Owen, about which she is surprisingly coy. “I play Clive’s wife and it’s based on a book. Jennifer and I are the two women and I do the first half of the film and she does the second. I can’t tell you much more than that. It’s this big, big, big, cool script.”
As for plans for Melissa’s possible return to Alias, she is not ruling that one out. “There’s definitely talk of me coming back, which is my ego speaking, not me in general, but I think you need Lauren Reed, the evil, blonde thing that shoots and puts away the gun quietly, walks and doesn’t run away. It gives Sidney something to be afraid of a little more,” she adds, smilingly. So what if you think she got killed off. “I have this image of Lauren in the south of France and she doesn’t have the British accent anymore. She actually really was French all along and the whole thing was a lie. Like I’m in the corner smoking a cigarette or something and she turns around with a black wig and a scarf and stuff, with this beautiful French accent. Isn’t it great?”
George says that she genuinely misses Alias for all sorts of reasons. “there was something about Alias where I got to be beautiful and loving in the day and evil at night, which was just a character that I did not relate to at all, but it was just such a fun, fun role. I just to go to work every day with Jennifer, Michael and Victor and just have this cast.” While George is preparing to take a break back home in Oz, she says she is waiting to find out what’s next. “I’m just trying to pick the next thing carefully, which is hard. We all want a pay-check but hey, if I do the wrong movie, I won’t work for six years or seven years.”