Natasha Henstridge: The Henstridge Maneuver

Natasha Henstridge developed a phenomenal cult following with her very first film when she played the half-human/half-alien killer babe in Species. But inexperience and folly caught up with her. Now she's not much older, but considerably wiser.

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There's always been more said about Natasha Henstridge's body parts than her acting ability. First it was her deadly tongue in 1995's Species; then her breasts in 1995's Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, then her legs in 1996's Jean-Claude Van Damme kick-boxing/kung-fu caper Maximum Risk, and then her breasts again in 1998's Species II. It's an age-old dilemma for beautiful young actresses, particularly those who come to Hollywood not quite fully prepared.

Henstridge was 14 when she left the trailer park in the small oil town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, where she'd been raised by her biker/contractor father and her housewife mother, and moved to Paris. After starting a modeling career there, she went to New York and landed TV commercials for Old Spice, Oil Of Olay and Lady Stetson. Then, at age 20, she won the part of the knockout with nasty alien DNA in Species, and overnight she became the goddess of a massive male following. She quickly made two more films, Maximum Risk and Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, both of which tanked, and those disappointments were compounded by the failure of her brief, impetuous marriage to actor Damian Chapa. Then the sequel to Species, the film that made her, bombed. Now on the other side of a hard spate of self-doubt, she's testing her range by starring in the independent comedy Dog Park with Luke Wilson, as well as the upcoming comedy The Whole Nine Yards with Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry and Rosanna Arquette. Henstridge is also moving on with her personal life--she's engaged to actor Liam Waite, with whom she now has a baby son.

DENNIS HENSLEY: What are you doing in a movie about dogs?

A: NATASHA HENSTRIDGE: Dog Park is not about dogs--it's about people who own dogs. They meet in a dog park and you get to see what kinds of ties they have to each other. I play a woman scorned who decides she's not going for it anymore and--of course, she meets somebody.

Q: What kind of dog do you own in the movie?

A: A miniature Newfoundland, which, to tell you the truth, I fought not to have.

Q: I knew I could get you to diss your costars.

A: Man, that friggin' dog was just the wrong dog for me. It was so homely and sad, and it must have been 180 years old. I went to the director and said, "Please, can I have another dog? Dogs are supposed to take after their owners and I'm not this lonely and depressed." He wouldn't have any of it.

Q: Who plays your love interest?

A: Luke Wilson, who's very cool.

Q: What's the big love scene like?

A: We have a scene where I drink way too much and we make out. When we were shooting it, the director came up to us and said, "About 80 percent more humidity, if you know what I mean." It can be a little odd making out with somebody you don't know.

Q: Maybe guys are freaked out to kiss you because during a scene in Species your tongue turns into a drill and puts a hole right through your date's head.

A: I think you might be right. I mean, since that film I haven't had as many people running up to me on the streets trying to kiss me. [Laughs]

Q: Species was your first acting gig. Who broke the news to you that you'd gotten it?

A: I was in my apartment in New York and my agent at the time came with a bottle of champagne and told me the news. I was ecstatic because it was my first role and I thought if I never did anything else in my life, I was at least making a movie. It's kind of like I'm immortalized now.

Q: After Species hit, did you feel pressure to capitalize on your good fortune?

A: Oh my God, everybody was just waiting to see the next thing. I felt like I was a fish in a fishbowl. As a result I went on a downward spiral. I felt it was such a fluke I should take the money and run, because it wasn't going to go on much longer. I was afraid of being famous, and I fought my agents on every decision they tried to make that was good for my career. I was so insecure I thought, "I've got to be in shitty movies because I'm not good enough to be with these other people."

Q: So you felt like a phony?

A: I didn't think I was a phony, I just thought, "I don't belong, I'm not worthy." I know now that working with better actors makes the movie better and makes you look better.

Q: Did you feel any guilt?

A: Oh yeah, especially when I'd hear about people who'd gone to school to study acting, who'd starved themselves for it and who'd auditioned for years without getting anything. I definitely had some issues with that. But we're all on a different path and my path is this, so I gotta go with it.

Q: Did you turn down good projects?

A: There were good opportunities, things that were so close, things that I could have had if I'd wanted them.

Q: When did your attitude change?

A: I'm still struggling with it, but I'm finally starting to feel a little more confident. Now I think, "If I work hard and I try to do the best I can, then maybe I'm worth it." It's going to take years of therapy to get over this self-worth issue. It goes deeper than acting, you know.

Q: Are you in therapy?

A: No. I'm going to, though. I think it would be helpful.

Q: Right after Species you made Maximum Risk with Jean-Claude Van Damme. What was it like working with the Muscles from Brussels?

A: I got along with him very well. He showed up late a few times, but other than that I really didn't see all the weird stuff that I kept hearing about.

Q: After Maximum Risk you made Species II, which I didn't see.

A: Nobody saw Species II. I was really hoping that it would be more subtle. It's like they took something that made money the first time around and they said, "Let's go a little further with the sex, the prostitutes, the violence, the blood," and they just went too far.

Q: Didn't you recognize that when you read the script?

A: Honestly, I'm not the best person when it comes to reading a script and knowing how it's going to turn out.

Q: Did it bother you that Species II wasn't a hit?

A: It didn't affect me at all.

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