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15 March 2009 @ 09:05 pm
Carla Gugino - An acting junkie who never says no  
Another smart interview with Carla :) Source: globeandmail.com

An acting junkie who never says no

Carla Gugino is like the weather - sometimes you notice her, sometimes you don't, but she is always out there.

Are giant, special-effects-laden, comic-book movies your thing? Because Gugino is in a biggie right now, the Watchmen. As the original Silk Spectre, she ages from a 25-year-old babelicious costumed crime fighter in the 1940s, into a 67-year-old bitter stage mother to Malin Akerman (who is, hilariously, only seven years younger in real life). The Watchmen wasn't Gugino's first graphic-novel movie, either; she was also in 2005's Sin City.

"The cast of the Watchmen are all incredible people who are actors before celebrities, who love to disappear into a character," Gugino, 37, told me over brunch in Manhattan last fall. It's an apt description of herself, as you'll see. And she's certainly believable as a pinup: With her curvy frame, dark hair and olive skin, Gugino could have held her own with dames like Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis.

Maybe you think that actors appear in high-profile kids' mo`vies because they need to juice their careers? Jack Black, Duane (formerly The Rock) Johnson, Vin Diesel and especially Eddie Murphy believe that, and apparently, so does Gugino: She plays a wacky astrophysicist in Race to Witch Mountain, which opened yesterday. She also appeared in Night at the Museum and the three Spy Kids movies.

Or perhaps you're following the Mumblecore movement, the low-budget, homemade style of filmmaking in which a bunch of friends, frequently non-professionals, collaborate on a script, act in it themselves, shoot it on digital video, and release it without a studio, often after a premiere at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Tex.? Well, premiering tomorrow at SXSW is Gugino's newest, Women in Trouble. It's written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, the native Venezuelan who made Gothika and Snakes on a Plane, who also happens to be Gugino's live-in love of 12 years. And it co-stars a bunch of their pals, including Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), who used to be on the sitcom Spin City with Gugino.

"We just got together and made this little movie," Gugino said. "It was a cool experiment, made for almost no money, shot in 12 days, with a bunch of fantastic people, all our friends: Connie, Marly Shelton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin."

The film follows 10 different women, including a flight attendant, a psychiatrist and a bartender - Gugino's character, Elektra Luxx, is a porn star - over one problematic day. They've already shot a sequel, called Elektra Luxx; Gugino sings and dances in that one. "We all decided in the midst of our real movies, we're going to get together once a year and do this thing, because it's turned out to be so fun," she said.

All righty, but are you of the mind that the best filmed entertainment these days is found not in movies but on TV, especially on HBO? Well, guess who's there with you: Last season Gugino had a recurring role on Entourage as Amanda Daniels, the hottest talent agent -professionally and physically - in Hollywood.

"I was sitting by myself the other night at my local sushi bar, reading a script, and this girl came and sat next to me," recalled Gugino, who lives mainly in Los Angeles with Gutierrez and his two teenagers. "She said, 'Amanda is such an inspiration to all of my friends.' When I heard that, I was glad Amanda has made that impression - it's such a guys' show, yet she can be sexual and super-smart at the same time, which is what women actually are. But I also thought, we must be starved for that kind of character, because she is questionable ethically on a lot of levels."

Finally, maybe you think all screen acting pales in comparison with the theatre. But Gugino has you there, too. In her Broadway stage debut in 2004, she played a character based on Marilyn Monroe in Arthur Miller's After the Fall opposite Peter Krause. "Michael Mayer, the director - he also directed Spring Awakening - took a big risk casting me," Gugino said. "He obviously saw something in me that I don't even know I saw. That was truly, truly terrifying. I'd be standing offstage thinking, 'I don't know if my legs will move to step on stage.' Then once I was on stage, it was bizarre, it felt like something I'd been doing my entire life." She spent this past winter in Chicago appearing in Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms opposite Brian Dennehy and Pablo Schreiber (Liev's brother).

Gugino admits to being something of an acting junkie - "I love it so much, I could work all the time" - but her schedule is also just Working Actor 101. "For so long as you are an actor, you're so afraid you're not going to work," she said, "so when an opportunity presents itself that I feel I can do something interesting with, I never want to say no."

She was only 13 when she went on her first audition, and 14 when she got her first job. Emancipating herself at 16, she graduated from one-day roles on sitcoms including Who's the Boss, ALF and The Wonder Years, to small film roles and miniseries, including 1995's The Buccaneers, which took her to England for five months and allowed her "to - sorry to be clichéd - find myself as an adult." She also landed major roles on a few series, including Spin City, Karen Sisco and Falcon Crest. In the latter, she played an 18-year-old virgin bride to a much older man who she ended up murdering with a letter opener.

"I was 17," Gugino said, laughing. "I thought the show was something I could sink my teeth into every day, make good money and support myself. But one day one of the producers said to me, 'We'd love to send you to this coach that some of the other actors are seeing, because you're just a little too understated.' In other words, an overacting coach. I realized it wasn't my real home."

Now Gugino's been around long enough that she's played both Robert DeNiro's daughter (in the 1993 film This Boy's Life) and his lover (in 2008's Righteous Kill). She's never going to be Julia Roberts or Cate Blanchett, but she keeps plugging, and amazingly, she's the opposite of jaded. "I can't believe I've been acting for over 20 years," she said. "Yet I still feel I'm at the beginning."
(Deleted comment)
Lemon: RTWM PClemon_tree_x on March 21st, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
of course not! She's better than them :p None of them could have played a spy kid mum and a super woman in love with her rapist. Carla is one of the few actresses who can change her acting filed :p

So true, that's why it's so interesting to follow Carla's career, you never know what comes next. But no matter what kind of role it is, you don't see the actress, but the character she plays. There are not much actors out there who are able to play everything from comedies to action- and horror movies, thriller etc. and than perform live on stage in a drama - with the greatest of ease.
mrmidwestmrmidwest on March 20th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Is Carla's character supposed to have a good voice or will it be the Hillary Duff/Britney Spears kind of singing where it sounds like her voice has been run through a computer?
Lemon: Elektra Luxxlemon_tree_x on March 21st, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Good question, but I've never heard her singing, so I've no idea. She has a very pleasant, rather deep voice, so I assume she could have a good vocal range too. But it's just a suggestion, we have to wait until we see the movie.