Friday, November 2, 2012

Sarah Michelle gellar

As Buffy The Vampire Slayer, high-kicking, demon-walloping Sarah Michelle Gellar was world-famed as the Teen Queen of Scream. A fantasy for boys and a role model for girls, she was one of the Internet's main attractions. Yet, unlike most of her peers, she's not simply a product of the late Nineties' tide of programmes and movies aimed at kids (though she did surf that wave with great aplomb). She was an Emmy-winning actress way before Buffy and, a full decade before that, she was the single most controversial 4-year-old in America. These would be helpful qualifications in her search for post-Buffy film stardom.

Sarah Michelle Gellar was born in New York on the 14th of April, 1977, to father Arthur and mother Rosellen, a nursery school teacher. Her parents were not well off. No matter, because Sarah was soon supporting herself. At age 4, she was spotted by an agent while in an Uptown Manhattan restaurant with her mother, watching other kids in a talent contest. Within two weeks, she was auditioning for a part in An Invasion Of Privacy, a TV movie dealing with rape, starring Valerie "Rhoda" Harper and featuring Carol Kane and Jeff Daniels. At the audition, she was supposed to read with Harper but she'd already left for the day, so the precocious Sarah read her own lines and, putting on Harper's voice, hers too. The role, unsurprisingly, went her way.

Before the movie was aired, Sarah would already be notorious. The star of hundreds of adverts over the years, one of her first was for Burger King. This was no ordinary advert. Indeed, it was the first advert where a company claimed to out-do its rivals and named names. Thus tiny Sarah criticised McDonalds for the paltriness of their burgers and claimed to only ever eat in BK. McDonalds, naturally, were profoundly unhappy with this, and sued BK, ad agency J. Walter Thompson AND Sarah. The case would be settled out of court but, before agreement was reached, 4-year-old Sarah appeared in court as a witness for the defence. Later, invited to a friend's party at McDonalds and thinking she was bound by the "truth in advertising" act, she wore a big hat and dark glasses. These days there's no such problem - McDonalds being keen sponsors of Buffy.

Sarah's next role was as Burt Young's daughter in Over The Brooklyn Bridge, a comedy where young Jewish fellow Elliott Gould has to dump Catholic girlfriend Margaux Hemingway in order to get a loan from his uncle. Carol Kane would again feature. But Sarah's main income now was from ads, and it wasn't shabby. It would help surmount her oncoming problems.

The problems were to do with her parents. They'd split when Sarah was 8, Rosellen taking Sarah to live in an apartment on the Upper East Side.
After the age of 13, Sarah would not speak to her father again, and was loath to even mention him in interviews, concentrating instead on her mother's selfless support. "Just because you donate sperm," she once said "does not make you a father. I would never give him the credit or acknowledge him as my father". Arthur's story was different. He claimed that, while he was struggling to meet the mortgage, Rosellen refused to get a job and help with the payments, instead devoting all her time to taking young Sarah to auditions. He got depressed, he said, and it was Rosellen who filed for divorce. He was adamant that he did not walk out on his family. But there will be no reconciliation now. Poor Arthur was found dead in a Manhattan apartment in October, 2001.

. Many Americans work to put themselves through college. Sarah worked to put herself through primary school. She attended New York's exclusive Columbia and Preparatory School, but hated it. Her work made the other kids jealous and Sarah was over a barrel. If she talked about what she did, she was a snob. If she didn't, she was a snob. She claims to have been regularly bashed about. It can't have got any better when, in 1986, she appeared in The Widow Claire at The Circle On The Square. Her first co-star was Matthew Broderick, who suddenly shot to prominence as Ferris Bueller, being replaced by Eric Stoltz, himself about to explode with Some Kind Of Wonderful. Stoltz, Sarah has said, was her first crush.

Sarah's next appearances would be onscreen. There were a few small TV parts, then a bigger one in Crossbow, a series about William Tell that saw her filming in Europe. Coming so soon after Robin Of Sherwood, it wasn't a hit. Next came a brief part in Chevy Chase's deeply unfunny Funny Farm then, in High Stakes, she played the daughter of Sally Kirkland, herself playing a prostitute who's involved with the Mob while falling for a police officer. In between came Girl Talk, a shortlived TV show where Sarah was one of three young hostesses chatting about boys, products and, er, boys. One co-hostess was Soleil Moon Frye, better known as Punky Brewster.

Thankfully, Sarah's school-life was not entirely hellish. Switching to the Professional Children's School, she found herself with other gifted and ambitious kids. Among them were Tara Reid, who'd later star in Urban Legend and American Pie, and appear alongside Sarah in Cruel Intentions: there was Macauley Culkin, and Rebecca Gayheart, Sarah's co-star in Scream 2: and there was Jerry O'Connell, seen in Stand By Me and Jerry Maguire, and also Scream 2. For a while, in 1998, O'Connell and Sarah would date.

Here, Sarah did exceptionally well. Despite her extra-curricular activities, she maintained a Straight-A average, and became a competitive figure skater. She kept up a social life too, there being no lack of interest from the boys. "There was a playground right near my house", she once recalled "and the swings saw a lot of action from me".
Come the Nineties, there were yet more ads, most notably for Avon. And, on TV, she gradually moved towards her first breakthrough. After playing the young Jacqueline Bouvier in A Woman Named Jackie, she nabbed top slot in a new series, Swans Crossing. This was a kind of prototype teen show, involving the lives, loves and machinations of 12 rich kids in a small town. Sarah played Sydney Rutledge, the mayor's daughter and the Queen Bitch of the local high school (way down the bill was Mira Sorvino). The show lasted only one series, but Sarah's amazing maturity, and her ability to be both coquettish and thoroughly spiteful had been noted. She was approached to join the cast of All My Children.

Immediately before this, though, came a rare failure. Back onstage, Sarah had spent part of 1992 touring in Neil Simon's Jake's Women, playing the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego alongside Stockard Channing, who'd become her idol. It was hoped that the play would provide Sarah's big Broadway debut, but - incredibly, given Simon's success rate - it closed before ever reaching New York.

Such is life. All My Children came soon enough. This was one of America's longest-running and most popular daytime soap operas, involving the - yes, that's right - lives, loves and machinations of the folk of Pine Valley. Starring as Erica Kane was Susan Lucci, a super-soap-star who'd been nominated for a Daytime Emmy 17 times without success.

This is where Sarah's maturity came in. Though only 16, she was chosen to play Erica's 23-year-old illegitimate daughter, Kendall Hart, a girl who returns to Pine Valley seeking her mother's love and acceptance. Unfortunately, Erica can't give them to her, so she tries to seduce Erica's hubbie, Count Dimitri. Failing in her efforts, she sleeps with a stable lad and tells her mother that Dimitri has raped her. Mum goes mental and stabs Dimitri with a letter opener, then Kendall 'fesses up and goes to jail. And all this in one week. And let's not forget Kendall's affair with Anton (played by Rudolf Martin, later Dracula to Sarah's Buffy) - he's Dimitri's son, but Kendall doesn't know it.

It was a fabulous part. She had love scenes with a man old enough to be her father, she fought with everyone, got married twice - and in real life she was still in High School! And now the industry took note. 1994 saw her nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Yet, after two years, having graduated early from high school with a near 97% grade point average (she actually attended the Emmies rather than her Prom), she decided to move on. This was partly because of an ongoing feud with Lucci, but mostly because Sarah felt ready for bigger things. Even so, it must have given her great satisfaction when, having announced her departure, she actually won the Emmy that Lucci had long craved at only the second time of asking.
Sarah Michelle Gellar - Biography
Sarah had already had offers from Hollywood. Indeed, she'd turned down the Claire Danes part, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, in Romeo And Juliet, due to her All My Children commitments. So, filled with confidence, she gave herself one year to make it, otherwise she enrol at college. Taking off for LA, she gave it a go.

It really wasn't as easy as she'd hoped. Though an Emmy-winner, casting directors thought she was just "too soap". All that came her way was a part as Dyan Cannon's daughter in adventure tale The Beverly Hills Family Robinson, a fairly unnecessary update of The Swiss Family Robinson.

And then, as that fateful year came to a close, up popped Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This had begun life as a movie, with Kirsty Swanson in the title role, back in 1992. Now writer Josh Whedon had been approached to turn his idea into a TV series. Sarah went along to audition for the lead role, but was told they wanted her to test for the part of Cordelia Chase. Sarah refused, on the grounds that she'd been playing scheming meanies for four years. However, with that year nearly up, she changed her mind, tested and was taken on as Cordelia.

After a couple of weeks, though, Buffy had still not been found. Sarah decided to risk confusing the casters and auditioned for Buffy anyway, other contenders being Selma Blair and Katie Holmes. The tests went on and on until, when they told they needed her to read just one more time, she burst into tears and blubbed "You guys are wrecking me!" And they laughed and told her "Congratulations, you got the part". Sarah was too busy snivelling to smile. She'd celebrate her 19th birthday while shooting the pilot. The part of Cordelia would go to Charisma Carpenter, who'd also tested for the part of Buffy.

The series took a while to build. To begin with, Buffy and her mother, following the troubles in Los Angeles related in the movie, relocate to Sunnydale. Here, meeting strange librarian Anthony Stewart Head, Buffy is told that she is indeed The Chosen One, and must spend her youth saving everyone from demons emerging from a very inconveniently placed Mouth of Hell. Cue much mayhem. The storylines were reasonable but not startling. Thankfully, Whedon was given a second series and began to fill out the characters, involving Buffy in a doomed romance with reluctant vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) and drawing around her a close-knit circle of well-conceived friends. Messing with TV conventions, they played all manner of tricks, including one episode performed in total silence. Buffy was forever working through the problems of being a child with adult responsibilities (much as Sarah had had since the age of 4), and there were constant parallels with a real life in high school.

As Buffy grew into a monster hit, Sarah found herself in two big screen successes, too. In Kevin Williamson's I Know What You Did Last Summer, she was Helen Shivers, one of four teens who run over a stranger and throw him into the sea to get rid of the evidence.
Some time later, they receive a letter saying, well, I know what you did last summer. Then the running and the screaming starts, with Sarah being most heinously butchered. Co-starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr, it was a stonking hit, as was Sarah's next feature, Wes Craven's Scream 2. Here, as CiCi Cooper, sorority buddy of heroine Neve Campbell, she was horribly slaughtered again, this time repeatedly stabbed and thrown off a balcony.

. With Buffy now in full flow, 1998 brought only a couple of voice-parts, as Gwendy Doll in the smash Small Soldiers, then as Andromeda in the TV series Hercules. Then 1999 brought two very different roles. In Simply Irresistible, she played a bad chef in New York's SoHo, who's transformed into a mistress of haute cuisine when presented with a magic crab. Yes, a magic crab. Then she meets Sean Patrick Flanery, manager of a gourmet restaurant and many shenanigans follow, including her chasing the crab up his trouser-leg. It was an old-fashioned and fluffy rom-com, but charming nonetheless.

Then came Cruel Intentions, an update of Les Liaisons Dangereuses where Sarah played Kathryn Merteuil, a rich horror at an affluent New York prep school, who bets her equally unpleasant step-brother Sebastian (Phillippe again) that he can't seduce the newly arrived head's virginal daughter (Reese Witherspoon, Phillippe's real-life wife). If he loses, she gets his natty motor. If he wins, he gets Kathryn, the one girl he ordinarily can't have. Bored and decadent, Kathryn and Sebastian will do anything for thrills. Sarah, with an award-winning lesbian kiss, even indulged in hanky-panky with Selma Blair.

1999 was a big year for Sarah. She dated tennis pro Jan-Michael Gambill, and spent the summer in the Dominican Republic, building houses for Habitat For Humanity. 2000 would be even better, for that was when she began to date former I Know%u2026 co-star Freddie Prinze Jr (she'd also had a tiny role in his hit She's All That). 2001 would see them engaged, the year after would see them in one of the biggest movies of the year.

But before that came Harvard Man, directed by James Toback. Here Sarah played Cindy Bandolini, a cheerleader and daughter of a Mob boss, who persuades her basketball star boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) to get involved in match-fixing. It was an ambitious film, involving love, sex, sport and crime, and dealing also in philosophy and the search for self. Plus it featured Sarah's early crush Eric Stoltz as an FBI agent investigating the dodginess.

And then came 2002 and Scooby-Doo, a partial animation where the Mystery Inc gang, at the request of Rowan Atkinson's Mondavarius, reform after a 2-year split to check out an amusement park that's freaking kids out on Spooky Island. Director Raja Gosnell was looking for a real-life couple to play Fred and Daphne, the good-looking half of the gang, and who better than Fred and Sarah? So, off they went to Queensland and another hit was born.
Scooby-Doo, costing $52 million to make, earned $54 million in its opening weekend, passing the $100 million barrier in a week. Their futures now seemingly secured, Gellar and Prinze would now marry in Jalisco, Mexico, and proceed to star together in a Scooby-Doo follow-up, Monsters Unleashed - profitable, but not as successful as the first. 2002 would also see Sarah appearing in two short spoofs with Jack Black at the MTV Movie Awards, and play host of Saturday Night Live, where she proved more than game, at one point appearing in a foulmouthed skit on Christina Aguilera's Dirrty video.

. Though Buffy had been killed, she was resurrected for one more series, before Gellar left the show in 2003. Now she could devote herself to marriage and the building of a real film career. The latter she began with both caution and tremendous results. After Scooby-Doo 2, she returned to horror with The Grudge, a remake of the Japanese hit Ju-On. Here she played a US student working in Tokyo in healthcare, looking after bedridden and terrified Grace Zabriskie in a house cursed by the violent last moments of a former inhabitant. Through Gellar's investigations we learn the whole horrid story. It was extremely creepy and a serious step forward from the teen-scream efforts of her past. But not TOO serious - Gellar would mature slowly, alongside her audience. A '100 million take on a $10 million budget would justify her decision immediately.

After an appearance in The Simpsons where she'd voice a bad girl breaking out of a juvenile detention centre while handcuffed to Bart, she'd continue the voice-work with a few episodes of Seth Green's animated series Robot Chicken, a spoof of Transformers - Green having played Oz in Buffy and appeared in Scooby-Doo 2. Her next Silver Screen showing would come in 2006 in a follow-up to The Grudge, Gellar setting things in motion in a cameo much like Drew Barrymore's in Scream as the movie opens with her in hospital, thinking she's ended the nightmare of the original then driven to another horrible death. Keeping to a similar look and style would be The Return where she'd play a travelling sales rep driven by a financial imperative to return to her long-avoided home state of Texas. Now she must face the horrors of her past and deal with dreams of a woman's murder, gradually finding herself in a situation terrifyingly similar to that of the victim.

2007 would bring the long-delayed Happily N'Ever After, where she'd provide the voice of Cinderella in an animation where baddies led by Sigourney Weaver (Cinders' evil step-mum) would twist all the stories in Fairy Tale Land to their own advantage. Again Freddie Prinze Jr would turn up, this time as the palace dishwasher who, unknown to Cinders, is her one true love.
Following this she'd join Kevin Bacon, Forest Whitaker and Brendan Fraser in the bleak but fascinating The Air I Breathe, inspired by a Chinese proverb that claims happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love to be the pillars of life. These pillars would be examined in four intertwining stories, with Gellar playing a pop singer trying to escape the contractual clutches of gangster Andy Garcia and maintain a relationship with Fraser, a man who can see the future but cannot change it.

. Moving on, there'd be yet more animation with the all-CG TMNT, a merchandise-conscious continuation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saga where Gellar would play April O'Neil, formerly the TV reporter who linked the Turtles to the outside world, now an archaeology field worker who must draw the reptilian unit back together to fight 13 new (and highly collectable) monsters. She'd end the year with Suburban Girl, an adaptation of Melissa Bank's bestselling The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing. Much like Sex And The City and adorned with explicatory chapter headings, this would see Gellar as a young book editor falling for her much older mentor Alec Baldwin, seeking a father figure but finding herself. The age gap between Baldwin and Gellar, some 19 years, would cause something of a furore.

The same year would see the release of the long-awaited Southland Tales, Richard Kelly's follow-up to Donnie Darko. Shot in 2005, it had debuted at Cannes the next year and had to severely re-edited due to general audience confusion. Featuring such varied talents as Miranda Richardson, Jon Lovitz and The Rock, the film would be set in Los Angeles in the near future, just after a nuclear attack, with The Rock as a former action hero and Gellar as an ex-porn star. There'd be animated sequences, bizarre musical numbers, strange cameos, all manner of oddity that guaranteed cult status. And Gellar would win brownie points for stepping so far out of character - though the long delay took away from the shock of clean-cut Buffy playing a sex queen.

Having enjoyed hits with the Grudge movies and performed well in the Japanese-style The Return, it was no surprise to see Gellar continue in the same vein in 2008 with Possession. Loosely based on the 2002 Korean hit Jungdok, this would see her husband and brother-in-law involved in a freak accident, both descending into comas. The thrills would begin some time later when the brother-in-law awakens and believes himself to be the husband...

Sarah Michelle Gellar goes from strength to strength. As Buffy, Daphne and the face of Maybelline, she has become one of the most recognisable stars on the planet, and easily rich enough to indulge her love of collecting diamond and platinum jewellery and rare copies of children's literature. Whereto next? Talk shows reveal her sharp intelligence and lack of BS, her movies are usually money-spinners - the girl seems unstoppable.

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