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10 November 2009 @ 01:15 am
Los Angeles Magazine + Movieline  
This article is from the Los Angeles Magazine - it's great, enjoy reading it :)


Carla Gugino's best known for her portrayal of agent Amanda Daniels on HBO's Entourage, but she has landed 60-plus roles on TV and in movies since moving to L.A. at the age of 16. Sipping Moroccan mint tea in her Hollywood Hills backyard, the actress opens up about playing Ari Gold's nemesis, her relationship with filmwriter and director Sebastian Gutierrez, and starring in Women in Trouble
By Mike Kessler

Los Angeles magazine, November 2009

Which Carla Gugino will I get—the G-rated movie mom or the intimidatingly sexy woman I saw in a YouTube clip called “Carla Gugino in Her Underwear”? This is the question that hovers as I wait for Gugino to open the gate to her Hollywood Hills home, a two-story hacienda that’s concealed by a long stucco wall and a small forest of bamboo and bougainvillea. It’s a hot afternoon, with roofless tourist vans chugging up the road, birds chirping, and the din of traffic from below. I hear Gugino walk across her yard, shush a barking dog, and wiggle the latch on the turquoise gate before opening it. “Thanks for making yourself available on such short notice,” she says, stealing my line.

Dressed in a light green V-neck tee and white linen pants, this is definitely the more family-friendly Gugino who’s starred in Spy Kids and Race to Witch Mountain. Standing five feet seven inches in beaded sandals, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she leads me and her Yorkie-poodle mix, Luna, into the kitchen, opens a Tupperware container of Moroccan mint tea, and begins preparing two glass mugs. “It’s from Urth Caffé,” she says. “It’s traveled the world with me.”

Even if you don’t know Gugino by name, you recognize her face—the curvy mouth, the ski ramp nose—as soon as you see it. She was a lesbian parole officer in Sin City, an ex-cop in Righteous Kill, with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and a brainy academic opposite Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum. She may be best known as Amanda Daniels, the agent who’s too much woman for Vincent Chase in HBO’s Entourage.

Gugino appears as Elektra Luxx, a porn star on the cusp of an epiphany, in Women in Trouble, which comes out this month. The film is a dark comedy—and the first in a trilogy—written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, who is Gugino’s longtime partner. Gugino stars alongside nine other women whose lives cross paths during one particularly hectic day in L.A. Elektra has to decide how to handle an unexpected pregnancy and spends most of her time onscreen trapped in an elevator, stripped down to her undergarments with a perfect stranger. “The anatomically correct Elektra Luxx Vagina Deluxe retails for 89 bucks and comes in three different colors,” she tells her elevator mate, as a way to convey her popularity in the adult film business. “It is the number-one-selling celebrity vagina on the market.” Race to Witch Mountain this is not.

Rather than hang around some dodgy porn studio in the Valley, Gugino prepared for the role by watching documentaries and sampling “classy porn that was shot on film” in the ’70s. “I don’t find porn very sexy, and I find the porn world so depressing,” she says. “Once I got some insight into the mechanics of the making of porn, I was ready to play Elektra.”

Gutierrez, who wrote Snakes on a Plane, created the role of Elektra Luxx with Gugino in mind. But the two agreed that the film would be ill served by nudity or gratuitous skin-flick realism. “You can’t do that with a movie if you want to keep a certain level of lightness,” she says. The same might be said of their relationship—something Gugino learned when she was filming a steamy scene with Simon Baker in Judas Kiss. Gutierrez was directing, and almost as soon as the camera started rolling, “he yelled, ‘Cut, cut, cut!’” says Gugino. “I was like, ‘But we didn’t finish our lines.’ And Sebastian was like, ‘Yeah, yeah—we’ll make the scene work.’ So now we have a running joke: In any of the things we work on together, I’m either a lesbian or I don’t have sex onscreen.”

We’ve taken a seat at a wrought-iron table in the lush backyard. She and Gutierrez have lived here for the last six years. The place was built in 1927 by the Chandlers, the powerful family who founded the Los Angeles Times and helped shape the city. The house later served as the consulate for a Western European democracy. (Fearing attention from those tourist vans, Gugino asked us not to reveal too much.) “Alfred Hitchcock used to come to parties here,” she says. “We’ve always wanted to host a film noir party, with a fake corpse facedown at the bottom of the pool and everything. It’s such a hidden little piece of L.A. history.”

Gugino was born in Sarasota, Florida, one of three children of an orthodontist father and a homemaker mother. In 1988, at the age of 16, she moved into the L.A. home of her uncle and aunt (Carol Merrill, who was a model on Let’s Make a Deal) and got permission from the courts to work on set without a guardian, usually a requirement for child actors. New in town, with a last name that no one could pronounce (it’s Goo-jeen-o), she considered adopting her mother’s maiden name, Burgess, but “my Italian father would have died if I did that,” she says. The name didn’t deter casting directors, who picked her for TV roles in ALF, Who’s the Boss?, and Falcon Crest, to name a few. In 1993, she landed a starring movie role opposite Pauly Shore in Son in Law. She’s been busy in Hollywood ever since, landing 60-plus roles on TV and in movies, from Spin City and Chicago Hope to her own short-lived drama, Karen Sisco.

Of the many characters she’s portrayed, one of her favorites is Ari Gold’s nemesis in Entourage. “The show’s producers wanted someone smart and complex, not a one-note bitchy thing,” she says. “They wanted someone who is strong and sexy and doesn’t make apologies for herself. As a woman, you rarely get direction like that. Usually you’re asked to soften up or to be cold and take on the worst characteristics of men.” Gugino drew from a few female agents she knows, but, she says, “the role was written well enough that there wasn’t anything I wanted to change. It was spot-on.”

She looks at her phone and realizes she’s late for another meeting. Tomorrow Gugino will be on a plane to Vancouver, where she’s filming her latest project, Sucker Punch, a film by 300 director Zack Snyder. She stars as a psychiatrist in the 1960s—as well as a “Polish dominatrix-slash-choreographer-slash-madam. There’s singing and dancing, too,” she says, admitting that she felt somewhat “schizophrenic” researching the part. But, as Gugino says, in her line of work “you have to mix it up. I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life. I’m aware that there isn’t a big role that would change my career. And that’s fine. As long as it affords me a shot at the best parts.”

Today I've seen another fine interview with Carla, this time it's from Movieline

Carla Gugino on Sex Appeal, Women in Trouble, and Her Sucker Punch Musical Number

Carla Gugino’s had great success as an actress — she’s a geek goddess after her Sin City cameo and her turn as Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, and she won raves on Broadway this year for Desire Under the Elms — but she’s thinking of starting a second career as a porn star. Just call her Elektra Luxx, the character she plays in boyfriend Sebastian Gutierrez’s new movie Women in Trouble; it’s a role that Gugino enjoyed so much that she’s hoping to spin Luxx into a series of additional films. A little assertive, the slightest bit daffy, and rocked by news of an impending pregnancy, Luxx is a porn star on the brink — and that’s just where Gugino likes her.

I talked to the 38-year-old actress yesterday about Luxx’s appeal, onscreen sex, and her much-anticipated reteaming with Watchmen director Zack Snyder on Sucker Punch, which Gugino was eager to discuss.

So you’ve actually shot a second Elektra Luxx film since this one?
We have! We actually just finished the second one.

And there’s even a third film planned?
Yes, it’s part of a trilogy.

Would you have expected all that from this character?
You know, it’s funny, because when we were actually shooting it, Sebastian was like, “You know, I really think this story needs to continue.” By the time we were done shooting, we knew we had a second one — like, he actually had it written.

It’s interesting the way she’s introduced, in a nun’s habit with lipstick. It’s like she’s conflating two extremes: Madonna and whore.
[Laughs] It’s true! I had a crucifix and platform heels on and I was like, “Boy, am I in trouble.” But it is true, and I kind of love that the character’s deconstructed within thirty seconds. You’re like, “Is she a nun? Oh God, is she a porn star?” And then her phone rings and the doctor’s saying, “Come in, I need to meet you.” It’s a lot of life in four minutes of screen time.

There’s a lot of sex appeal on display, but all the actresses look so comfortable. It’s like they knew they had to take their clothes off, but they got to choose their lingerie first.
I know, it’s true. I have to say, Emmanuelle Chriqui was like, “There is no one besides Sebastian Gutierrez who could have gotten us all in our underwear — and we’re happy about it!” I think it’s really that foreign sensibility. He’s South American, and I think it’s that thing that certainly Pedro Almodovar does or Francois Ozon, those different European filmmakers. You can have that kind of sexuality — if you think of Juliette Binoche or Charlotte Rampling or Penelope Cruz — because in foreign films, sexuality often doesn’t have to be separated from the character. It doesn’t have to be, “Is she smart or is she sexy?” [Women in Trouble] is definitely about beautiful women in lingerie, but they actually have complex characters.

In other roles, have you felt like the director just wanted you to be sexy, but wasn’t adding much else to the equation?
I think personally, sexuality is a pretty huge part of life for all of us. It’s part of how we relate to each other. I’ve never minded if that’s part of a character, but if that’s the only purpose of the character, I’m like, “Hey, you guys are missing a big opportunity.” I think eye candy is important, but I’m always looking for what’s underneath there. I’ve been pretty fortunate that even in the roles that I’ve played that are pretty sexy characters, I’ve had something more to play. It’s one of the good things that comes along with not being an ingenue anymore, you know? When you enter your “leading lady” years, you’re expected to have something underneath, too. [Laughs]

Did you call in a lot of favors to get this cast?
It was really a family affair in that regard. Sebastian had written this one scene — I think it’s the one with Connie [Britton] and I in the elevator — and he said, “I think I could either make this a short film, or I could put ten of them together, and in ten days, shoot a whole movie.” We thought we’d do it with friends in between our regular jobs, and we’d get to do this little movie together. I mean, nobody worked more than four days, and we shot it in twelve, which was pretty crazy. We definitely had a lot of those actors in mind, and all of them are dear friends. Like, Connie Britton and I met on Spin City and she’s one of my very best friends. Emmanuelle, I met on Entourage, and Malin Akerman, who’s in the second film, I met on Watchmen. Joe Gordon-Levitt and I met when I did a few days on The Lookout, Simon Baker and I did a movie together with Sebastian called Judas Kiss…it’s been crazy. Marley [Shelton] and I actually did a movie together that hasn’t come out yet called The Mighty Macs, where she plays a nun and I play a basketball coach. We were like, let’s mix it up!

Was the second Elektra Luxx film shot as quickly?
On that one, we had a little bit more time — we shot that in about eighteen days. Some of the characters return, and then we have Timothy Olyphant, Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men, Kathleen Quinlan, and some really wonderful cameos. It was definitely down and dirty still, but maybe even more ambitious.

Did Sebastian write this with you in mind? Did the two of you get to collaborate on this character?
Sebastian did write this with me in mind, and I had as much room for feedback and collaboration as I would want. The truth is, there were a couple of points where I was like, “Oh, I don’t think the character would do this,” or “I don’t think she would give this breakdown yet,” but for the most part, I loved the character so much that there wasn’t a lot that I wanted to change. It’s funny — sometimes a part will seem like the best part you ever got to play, but you really have to give a lot of notes and have a lot of input. And then there are other ones, like the role I played on Entourage — I literally read those first five episodes and I was like, “I don’t want to change anything. I love this character exactly as she is.” It was like that with Women in Trouble, too. Elektra really came to life for me in this movie. She has one of my favorite speeches that I’ve ever gotten to do near the end, where you really get a sense of who she is and how her life has brought her to this point.

You also reunited with Zack Snyder on Sucker Punch this year, where you play Mrs. Schultz. What can you tell me about her?
I’m actually in the middle of filming right now — I go back tonight and shoot tomorrow morning. I play a dual character: this Polish, 1960s psychiatrist, and in the alternate world, I play a dominatrix-slash-madam of a brothel. The character’s last name is now Gorski.

Zack Snyder really loves to make you Polish.
I know! [Laughs] I know, it’s so funny. We kinew we wanted her to be Eastern European in some way, and I was exploring different things and found this Polish voice that felt right for her. Zach really loved the idea, and then we were like, “Oh my God, Sally Jupiter was Polish! How bizarre!”

Are you involved with all the weapons training and fight sequences for Sucker Punch?
No, unfortunately I’m not. I do have a really cool song-and-dance number that I’ve been working on. The truth is that I would love to have been involved, and I’m actually training with the Navy Seals [with the other actresses] because I’m there, and it’s like, why not? So I’ve been working out with the girls, and they’ve been kicking ass. It’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen, for sure.

Do you get to actually sing in your musical number?
Oscar Isaac and myself, we sing a duet. I don’t know if I can say what the song is yet, but yes, I do sing and dance.

Have you done that onscreen before?
You know what’s funny? I’ve just been terrified of singing for most of my life, and of late, I’ve done so much of it. I did a short film that Joe Gordon-Levitt directed me in where I play a rock singer, and in Elektra Luxx, there’s a very small dream sequence where I sing and do a little dance. I’m like, I’ve gotta get my act together! This is a new chapter for me, and I love it. I love having my limits be pushed.
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