Sarah Michelle Gellar

The Grudge

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

“Horror is one of those genres where women really get great roles, so part of my attraction to it in particular is that women do get to drive the story ”

After seven successful seasons she is Buffy no more, but Sarah Michelle Gellar returns in hit horror remake The Grudge. Closely associated with the TV role of ass-kicking vampire nemesis Buffy Summers, the 27-year-old has been acting since childhood. Starting in commercials and daytime soaps, she later moved into films, her best known being I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, Cruel Intentions and the two Scooby-Doo movies.

Was there a whole Lost In Translation feeling to making The Grudge in Japan?

What I learned from that is that certain things transcend languages. We used a translator in the beginning but by the end she joked that she was afraid she was going to be fired because we just learned to look into people's eyes and listen to lilts in their voices to understand what they wanted.

The film is a remake of a Japanese horror hit. Were there temptations to overly Americanise it?

No, the reason I made this film was because it was Japanese. This is the first time that a Japanese film has ever been remade for an English-speaking audience with the original Japanese director. I loved that about it. One of the reasons why this genre works so well in Japan is because it comes from such an emotional place. It comes from these very serious beliefs that they have on existentialism and life, and it was really important to us that we didn't Americanise it. We only did it when it was absolutely necessary for the purpose of understanding the film.

What differences did you notice working with director Takashi Shimizu, and the whole experience of Japanese filmmaking?

The amazing thing about him is that he's a man who speaks no English, but is able to create this mood and this feeling on-set. American films are so used to CGI, but when you see that hand on my head in the shower I guess you assume it's CGI. But everything they do is real. There was another woman playing Kayako, who was in the shower sticking her hand in my head. Or that scene where she comes down, that wasn't CGI, that was a rig, and she bent down and got right in my face.

There are certain cultural traditions you had to observe, weren't there?

I made a few faux pas, I'm not going to lie. It was learn-as-you-go really, but I had so much respect for the culture and for their traditions that it made it easier. And they were pretty tolerant, because any mistakes I made were as a result of misunderstanding, not disrespect for their culture.

You've done a lot of work in horror and supernatural stories, yet it seems like it's tough to get respect in those genres.

You know, this is a genre where women really do get to be at the forefront. You look at our last couple of Oscar winners: Halle Berry's next movie was Gothika. Charlize Theron took Aeon Flux. And Julianne Moore's biggest solo hit has been The Forgotten. There's Naomi Watts in The Ring, or Nicole Kidman in The Others. It's one of those genres where women really get great roles, so part of my attraction to it in particular is that women do get to drive the story.

What was the first film you saw that really terrified you?

The Exorcist. Just the music did it for me, and it still does. You hear it and it's creepy.

Is making scary movies a way for you to work through your personal demons in any sense?

All actors are working through their personal demons.