SARAH MICHELLE GELLAII
Famous for staking vampires in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR turns heartbreaker in teen sex flick Cruel Intentions.
Words: Peter Ross
A SUNNY DAY IN CENTRAL PARK AND Sarah Michelle Gellar, better known as TV’s Buffv The Vampire Slayer, is kissing a girl. Looking every inch the rising starlet in dark clothes and Jackie O shades, Gellar leans in towards Selma Blair and meets her lips. It’s not a sisterly smooch or the affectionate peck of a friend; it’s a sensual, passionate, lingering kiss full of the heat and mug and languor of a New York summer. Tongues are involved.
This isn’t a lesbian love romp or some other tabloid headline in waiting, but a scene from Cruel Intentions, the movie Gellar is in the middle of shooting. Still. the paparazzi hanging round the set don’t care to make the distinction, and the following day fuzzy close- ups of the actress’s sapphic moment make the front pages of the National Enquirer and other scandal rags.
‘I was automatically uncomfortable doing the scene, let alone having the fear that some
on the WB Network since 1996, where it sits comfortably alongside similarly smart teen dramas like Kevin Williamson’s Dawson ’s Creek. Bujfv has been on BBC2 since the start of the year. where it grabs over three million viewers per episode
But despite attracting a significant adult audience with zappy dialogue and gripping storylines about relationships, shows like Buffy and Dawson 's Creek still have to tone down the language and sexual content for their well-before-the-watershed slot. This is not the case with Cruel Intentions, director and writer Roger Kumble‘s 90s update on Pierre Laclos’s I782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (most famously filmed as Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close and John Malkovich), which combines one of the all-time great plots with the teen movie staples of sex, drugs and a kicking soundtrack.
Gellar plays Kathryn Merteuil, a teenager
‘porny’ at a press conference. prompting tears from Gellar who was also attending. What’s more, an early cut of the ﬁlm was given an NC- l7 rating. heavier than an 18 certificate here.
‘Why is a beautiful. natural thing like sexuality so taboo‘?’ wonders Gellar. incredulously. ‘You watch the news and see horrible blood and guts and freeway shootings, then you see some horrible Jean Claude Van Damme movie. Why does a breast here or a butt shot there garner a heavier rating than unnecessary violence?’
If Gellar seems protective of Cruel Intentions then that’s because the film was a labour of love for her. As a scholarship kid at a privileged Manhattan junior high school. her own educational experience was far from pleasant. ‘It’s unfortunate what a lot of wealth and freedom at an early age can bring,’ she says. ‘It breeds terror. because you never understand the value of anything.’
'Kids these days are having sex younger and younger and younger. A lot of the time in high school, sex is a game.’ Sarah Michelle Gellar
magazine was going to print it and say “Sarah Michelle Gellar Caught In Central Park With Lesbian Lover”. There’s a lot of dialogue in that scene, but the photographer was fumbling to change his lens so he could get a shot of the kiss. At least in California they have the decency to use long angle lenses and surprise you,’ scowls Gellar from the depths of the London hotel couch where she has chosen to rest her jet-lagged bones for the duration of this interview. She’s looking tired in a glam movie star kind of way, and the roots of her dyed-blonde hair are showing.
Misinterpreted or not, the kiss represents quite a jump in public image for Sarah Michelle Gellar. The 22-year-old has been a working actress since she was four and, in recent years, has landed meaty supporting parts in I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2. But it is her role as Buffy Summers in the undead, dead good Buffy The Vampire Slayer which has made her one of America’s biggest television stars. The show — in which Gellar plays a high school kid who has to contend with date troubles, homework deadlines and the bloodsucking antics of meddlesome Dracula-types — has been airing
among Manhattan’s social elite. Publicly perceived as an shining example of young virtue, Kathryn is actually a coke-snorting, vodka- guzzling, heartbreaking libertine with the sexual appetite of a rabbit freebasing Viagra. She enters a wager with her stepbrother Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillipe) — if he manages to seduce the new headmaster’s daughter (Reese Witherspoon), then Kathryn will sleep with him. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Buffy say ‘I’ll fuck your brains out’ then go see this movie.
‘Cruel Intentions was a chance for me to do something very different from what people normally know me as,’ she says. ‘IfI didn’t do anything to separate myself from Buffy, then, when the show was over, I would be Buffy for the rest of my life. It’s important that I remind people that I’m an actor and that I can stretch. That was part of the reason that I changed my hair colour for Cruel — so that when you looked at the screen you didn’t go “Oh, there’s Buffy!” It takes a second for recognition.’
In reality. Gellar may have travelled a little farther from her innocent roots than she expected. Certainly, she has been shocked by the reaction to Cruel Intentions. Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, denounced the film as a
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Gellar also feels that setting sexual power games within a high school context is unfortunately timely.
‘Oh, look at our teen pregnancy rate,’ she says. ‘Kids these days are having sex younger and younger and younger and. a lot of the time in high school, sex is a game. In LA we have these things called Spur Gangs. It’s these gangs of guys that are all about how many people they can sleep with. They basically rape girls in schools so they can hit this number and be in the gang.’
Next on Gellar’s priority list is some much needed time off, then she’s going to juggle her television commitments with film work she believes in. Having acted the bitch in Cruel Intentions, she’s keen to play white trash (‘like a Jerry Springer guest’) and a nerd. There are also vague plans to collaborate with Roger Kumble on another script. Whatever happens, you can be sure she‘ll be putting clear blue holy water between her future work and her Buffy image. In fact, you can stake your life on it.
Cruel Intentions is on general release from Fri 18 Jun. Buffy The Vampire Slayer returns to BBC2 in the autumn.