Eliza Dushku, best known for her stint as Faith, the evil slayer on "Buffy the Vampire 5layer" and "Angel," made her film debut opposite Juliette Lewis back in 1992's That Night and hasn't played a good girl since. "There's a lot of actresses out there who are the girl next door," muses the 19-year-old Bostonian. "I relate more to characters who have an edge." Dushku's danger-girl vibe gets a workout in two upcoming features--the cheerleading comedy Bring It On and the thriller Soul Survivors.
DENNIS HENSLEY: Were you ever a cheerleader in school?
ELIZA DUSHKU: No. I was kind of on the sidelines, smoking cigarettes. [Laughs] We had four weeks of cheerleading boot camp before we started shooting and it gave me a new respect for cheerleading.
Q: Did you have to do a cheer at the audition?
A: No. They were like, "Can you do gymnastics?" I said, "I do yoga." [Laughs] Then they said, "Well, can you do a split?" And I said, "Why don't we see?" and performed one on the spot.
Q: What's Soul Survivors like?
A: Wes Bentley, Melissa Sagemiller, Casey Affleck and I get in this nasty car crash, and from that point on you don't know who's alive, who's dead, what's real and what isn't. It's I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Blair Witch Project meets The Sixth Sense.
Q: Does Wes videotape you naked like he did Thora Birch in American Beauty?
A: No. [Laughs] None of us knew Wes when we started and one day he said, "Hey guys, I'm in this movie called American Beauty and we're having a screening if you want to come." We went and by the end we were all like, "Oh my God, dude! You didn't even warn us. That was amazing!"
Q: You played Robert De Niro's daughter in This Boy's Life. What do you remember about him?
A: He was always pinching my cheeks and calling me some version of my name that wasn't it. And he'd invite us into his trailer to watch "Cheers."
Q: Did you have a crush on your other costar, Leonardo DiCaprio?
A: No. I was in my boys-are-yucky stage. But I was having a terrible time in school getting teased and Leo gave me a pep talk and told me a couple things to say to the losers who teased me. I started using his one-liners, and it turned my public school history around.
Q: Then you played Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter in True Lies. Got a favorite memory of him?
A: I introduced my best friend, Alison, to Arnold and he said, "Why don't we all go to Planet Hollywood?" He had two hours where they didn't need him on set, so he was in costume--ripped shirt and all bloody-- and we hopped in his Hummer and took off to Planet Hollywood. He pulled up onto the curb and everyone was like, "It's Arnold!" He grabbed each of us under his arms, and we went in and got this great table, he bought us this great meal, and at the end, he was like, "So Alison, how do you like Washington, D.C.?" and he grabbed this piece of German chocolate cake and stuffed it in her face. Then we got into this big food fight. It was the coolest thing in the world.
Q: "Buffy" fans are pretty devoted. Did any of them resent your coming on and raising hell?
A: Some have come up to me and said, "Who do you think you are, having sex with Buffy's boyfriend? Do you think you're tough?" And I'm like, "Dude, chill out. It's a fantasy show."