Sarah Michelle Gellar: 60 Questions For Sarah
When we threw Sarah Michelle Gellar an arsenal of our toughest questions, she stepped up to the plate and let fly on everything from how she expects to survive "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and what made her want to costar with a CGI dog in Scooby-Doo to why she believes in God (but not Method acting) and how she fell hard for fiancé Freddie Prinze Jr.
Sarah Michelle Gellar isn't your typical young Hollywood actress. She's already been in the Industry for 21 years so she seems almost past that phase. She doesn't do any of the bad-girl things associated with Young Hollywood stars, like getting DUIs, shoplifting, doing drugs, serial dating hot-looking up-and-comers and hanging out with rock stars. But then again, Gellar, 25, has a lot to carry--she balances a grueling work week on the hit series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with an occasional feature film. She's already starred in the blockbusters I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2, the romantic comedy Simply Irresistible and the smart, sultry success Cruel Intentions.
Raised by a single mother in New York City, where she attended Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School and the Professional Children's School, Gellar knew at a very young age that she wanted to work in the entertainment industry. She began doing commercials at age four, and at six made her TV film debut in An Invasion of Privacy. When she won an Emmy for playing Susan Lucci's daughter on "All My Children," prime-time casting directors became interested in her, which is how she landed the lead on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The series turned into a ratings dynamo and is currently wrapping up its sixth season. This month the indie Gellar made for director James Toback, Harvard Man, is getting a limited release. And this summer she's starring in her biggest movie to date, the film version of the popular cartoon, "Scooby-Doo." She plays Daphne to fiancé Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Fred. Plenty of Hollywood insiders are betting that she'll have a long, healthy acting career because she has a reputation for being professional, which many actresses her age simply aren't, and she has shown some fierce acting chops, most notably as a ruthless, sexually charged manipulator in Cruel Intentions and as a drug-popping college student in Harvard Man.
I'm set to meet Gellar in a Culver City studio, where's she posing for this magazine's pictures. Her mom, some of her best friends and her publicist are all there. Because of her "Buffy" schedule, they rarely get to see her so they take advantage when they can. It's Super Bowl Sunday, the game between the Patriots and the Rams has just started, and Gellar, a sports fan, is missing out on the fun. Prinze, with whom she lives, is at home with their friends watching the game. Gellar takes time to check in with him and exclaims, "You were right!" when she hears the underdog Patriots are winning. She promises to bring home food and then whispers "I love you" before hanging up. She's eager to get home, but after the shoot she has to answer my questions. Her publicist tells me she's not worried that Gellar won't be able to answer them because the actress talks fast.
When our interview finally starts I greet her with a "Hello, Buff..."--then I catch myself. Damned if I can bring up her real name. I've been watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" reruns all week.
"It's Sarah," she smiles as we shake hands. She even shakes hands fast.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: You're on the cover of the Young Hollywood issue, but you seem more mature than most young actresses.
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR: Isn't that scary--all of a sudden you get to a place where you're not the youngest anymore. For so long I was the baby of everything.
Q: Do you have a fear of being stuck in Young Hollywood Hell?
A: I'm not too concerned about it. The one thing about being on a television show is it lets you age. Buffy's not still a junior in high school. Buffy's basically a mother now, she runs a household. And I've been able to be picky about my projects.
Q: Do you have a post-"Buffy" plan?
A: I need a break from television more personally than professionally. The grind of it. I need to travel, to decompress. You worry if you've done yourself a disservice. Is the work challenging enough? Are you getting lazy? That's my biggest fear. But I'd love to do a sitcom one day. I'd also love to do big feature films. I want to do period pieces, comedy, action, drama. I want to do it all. And I want to do it tomorrow!
Q: I interviewed your fiancé, Freddie Prinze Jr., a few years ago and he told me he's perfectly happy letting you do it all and he'll just be a househusband.
A: Whatever makes him happy. He is an amazing chef. I have a lot of ideas for restaurants; we'd love to open one. He also has wonderful ideas for television shows--I'd love to see him follow that. He has a lot more talent than me. I kind of do one thing, but I think I do it pretty well.
Q: If Freddie asked you to take off a year so you could just develop your relationship, would that be possible for you?
A: To take a year off? I don't know. Everything I have in my life I've worked for--my home, my car, clothing. I didn't have any of this growing up. My mom and I really scraped by. Now I'm in a great position and I'm grateful for it. I love what I do. Part of what makes me driven is that I want to accomplish so much. I can't answer where that comes from--it's something inside me.
Q: Is it possible for you to relax?
A: Yes. When I go on vacation, from the second I get off the plane I'm there. I like to go to warm places. I like to go to hotels where I don't have to leave. Just spend two weeks, walk on the beach, go to the spa, read. I'm lucky that Freddie shares that with me. We'll go on a vacation and half our suitcases are just books.
Q: Wait a minute. Freddie told me he never read books. When I went to his house, he didn't even have any books on his shelves.
A: That was before me.
Q: So what books did you get Freddie to read?
A: Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling did something only Oprah had started to do, which was to get people reading again. I'll read every book on the Oprah Book list.
Q: When did you start collecting books?
A: When I had money. I have the first editions of all four Harry Potter books. I have a complete collection of all of Arthur Rackham's first editions, including Peter Pan. My goal now is to have every first edition of Dr. Seuss.
Q: You and Freddie have something else in common: you're both starring in Scooby-Doo. Who was more excited about doing the film?
A: Both of us. Before we even read the script he'd seen every single "Scooby-Doo" episode and had them on tape. When I had to do research, I didn't have to go anywhere.
Q: What attracted you to doing a summer "event" film?
A: I love the cartoon. And I love Australia, where we shot it. I'd love to have a house there. So that was it for me: to go there and do a really big-budget feature film and to play someone as psychotic as Daphne.
Q: What's the premise?
A: Rowan Atkinson plays the villain Mondavarious. He's the owner of Spooky Island, who tries to get the gang to come together and solve the mystery on the island. Freddie and I didn't work together that much. My main storyline is with a character named Zarkos, played by Sam Grecco. That's all I can say for fear of death from Warner Bros.
Q: You received a lot of attention for kissing Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions. Has any other scene you've done won you as much attention? A:
I got a lot of attention for kissing women, not only in Cruel Intentions but also my kissing Lindsay Sloane on TV. And I kissed Velma in Scooby-Doo. I'm not sure what's going on! [Laughs]
Q: Who knew it was love first--you or Freddie?
A: You ask him, he's going to say me. It was probably me, but there's one "movie" moment that happened where we both looked at each other.
Q: Was that moment when you worked together on I Know What You Did Last Summer?
A: Oh, no. We were just friends then. We had nothing in common other than just hanging out and having fun. He was in a serious relationship then.
Q: So when did that moment occur?
A: Five years later. We lost touch when he got really busy doing She's All That and Head Over Heels. Then he broke up with his girlfriend and did that thing where you try and get back in touch with your old friends. And I called him and said I heard he was back and if he wanted to go for sushi to give me a call. I'm still learning how to talk about this because I've never had a relationship that's public before.