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the women of cult television

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alyson hannigan signs on for comedy pilot

30 march


• third pilot on third network

Former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Alyson Hannigan has signed on for her third network comedy pilot on her third network in little over a year. The actress will take a role in the CBS ensemble How I Met Your Mother.

Set up at 20th Century Fox TV, Mother focuses on a middle-aged married man looking back at his single days and how he met his wife. It's unclear from the Hollywood Reporter what part Hannigan will play in the series, which also stars Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.) and Jason Segel (Freaks and Geeks).

Earlier this year, Hannigan was set for a supporting role in ABC's midseason comedy In the Game. She departed the pilot in January over creative differences and, soon after, the Jennifer Love Hewitt offering was scrapped entirely. Last spring, Hannigan starred in an untitled comedy pilot for NBC. She was most recently seen guest starring on UPN's Veronica Mars. back to the top

alba turns up the heat

30 march • globe and mail


• hot on the heels of this week's "sin city", the young actress is looking good for roles in two other eye-popping movies

Blond or brunette, underclad or invisible, Jessica Alba makes iconic poses look easy. They're not, the 23-year-old actress claims. But with three eye-popping movies due out this year, the young woman formerly known for TV's Dark Angel accepts that looking good is a necessary tradeoff for doing what she really wants to do.

There are worse problems to have.

"It's just a way to sell a movie," Alba says of such promotional images as herself in cowboy hat, leather bra and chaps (for Sin City, opening this week), skintight spandex action suit (Fantastic Four, this summer) and Bahama-mama bikini (Into the Blue, also summer). "It has nothing to do with when I'm on the set, doing the work that I love to do.

"It's very separate. I feel like I actually get paid to sell a movie and I don't really get paid to act. It's much harder to sit at a photo shoot in a bathing suit than it is to communicate and be honest and pure and in the moment, which is what I hope to get out of any experience."

Even out of camera range and demurely dressed in a co-ordinated, café-au-lait turtleneck and full, pleated skirt, Alba looks extraordinary. And there have been those show-biz romances. She was engaged for a time to Dark Angel co-star Michael Weatherly and is currently dating a behind-the-scener she met while making Fantastic Four.

But there is something to the serious-actress rhetoric. Alba has studied with David Mamet and William H. Macy. And although her career has been built on fan-boy fantasies, at least they're astute, challenging ones.

Dark Angel, in which she played the very combative, genetically enhanced future warrior Max Guevara, was created by no less a mogul than James Cameron.

Fantastic Four's Sue Storm the Invisible Woman was the first Marvel Comics heroine in the storied company's flagship title.

As for Sin City, well, comic-book movies just don't get any cooler. A noirish fever dream presented mostly in digitised black-and-white, the film was co-directed by the comic's creator, Frank Miller (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), and Robert Rodriguez, the rebel filmmaker whose work ranges from over-the-top shoot-'em-ups (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) to quirky family action comedies (Spy Kids and its sequels).

A compilation of stories from three of Miller's graphic novels, Sin City is packed with brutal bad guys and very dangerous dames. It says something about the tone of the picture that Alba's Nancy Callahan, who does a cowgirl routine in a seedy strip bar, is the most innocent character in the movie.

Still, Rodriguez knew what he was hiring Alba to do. And he felt a little guilty about it.

"I first met Jessica when she came and read for The Faculty," he recalls. "She was 16 or 17 and looked kinda dorky, skinny and scrawny. I was really looking at her because there were very few Latin actresses, and from then on I was watching her, really hoping that she would be around for another movie.

"It's almost like that feeling of, I remember when she was just a little girl. And now I'm filming her like this," Rodriguez says, holding an imaginary camera at arms length, with his face aimed in the opposite direction, eyes shut tight.

For research, Alba checked out strip clubs in several cities. But the real actress in her also sought less predictable inspiration.

"The dance moves, I just listened to a lot of Ry Cooder and Emmylou Harris," says the surprise country fan, whose biggest movie hit has been the hip-hop romance Honey.

"That's what I felt she was dancing to, something really sad and slow that had the emotions of these people in this bar. That's sort of where I was coming from ... sadness mixed with a disconnect.

"And too, just for rhythm," Alba adds, "because Robert needed slow- and fast-paced dances, I listened to a Kylie Minogue song that lots of strippers liked to use."

Sin City was shot almost entirely against blank screens on which sets and environments were digitally added later. In what you might expect to be the movie's key challenge, actors had to pretend they were in dungeons or snowstorms that they never saw until they watched the finished film.

But it was old hat to Alba.

"The only training I ever had was in David Mamet's Atlantic Theater Company, and all I did was go on these little stages and imagine things," she says.

"But they were in small rooms. The difference is, I think, with Robert it gets very specific and he fine-tuned your performance. So it was a marriage of film and theatre, I felt."

Fantastic Four was in some ways the opposite. The title superheroes are a quartet of scientists who, after getting zapped with cosmic rays, develop powers - specific to their personalities - that they have a tough time learning to control. Thus Alba's Sue Storm, in love with group leader Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), who doesn't really notice her, tends to physically disappear during times of stress or frustration.

"All of our abilities are grounded in our characters, and that's why I wanted to do it," Alba says.

While these pop fantasy movies aren't exactly Greek tragedy, Alba does see some classic sense in them.

"I don't know if there were so many of these roles 15 years ago, because we didn't have the technology that we have now to create these fantastical worlds," she says. "It's justa modern take on Greek mythology, something that humans have been fascinated with since the beginning of time."

Modern technology also enables comic-book purists to complain about the casting of their favourite characters on the Internet.

"Didn't they have resistance to Tobey Maguire playing Spider-Man and Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine?" Alba says. "They don't like anything until they see it."

But some complaints about the half-Hispanic actress playing white-bread Sue Storm have a different tone.

"I guess everyone believes that race is something we talk about, but it isn't," Alba says with a shrug. "I'm half Mexican-American and half Caucasian, and I have blue eyes and blond hair in the movie, wear contacts and whatever. We recreated it exactly."

An Air Force brat, Alba lived in various parts of the United States before her family settled in Southern California. She began her career at the age of 12, and although she admits that she faced her share of stereotyping, the kid actress landed a healthy variety of film, commercial and television work.

That's where she learned to scuba dive, a passion that made this year's third movie release feel like a paid water-sports vacation.

"It was fun," she says of Into the Blue, which spices up its tanned-flesh basics with some cocaine-smuggling intrigue. "I play a shark wrangler and I'm terrified of sharks, so I got to play a character against type. I've made an effort since Dark Angel to never play the same character twice. And this character Sam has moved to the Bahamas, lives a very simple life in a trailer, and just wants to study sharks and live with her boyfriend and just be at peace."

Great work if you can get it. Like making movies, regardless of all the side issues that come with the job.

"If you kind of keep yourself open to things happening, they'll happen," the busy actress says. "I've been really focused since I started acting at 12, believe it or not. I just this year sort of relaxed and began to think, okay, I think I'll get another job. So I've been really hustling and really fighting and really struggling and trying to get people not to put me in one box or another and to not say, 'Oh, she's a Latina actress," 'She's a white actress,' 'She's a this actress,' 'She's a that actress,' and just be an actress that a chameleon. Now, I feel like I done that to a degree." back to the top

jessica alba on brink of superstardom

29 march • boston herald


• "i want my boyfriend to think about me naked "

This is Jessica Alba's year.

The starlet best known for James Cameron's cult TV series Dark Angel has no fewer than three major movies opening in the next few months.

If only one of them is a box-office hit, Alba will become Hollywood's next Big Deal, the woman to follow Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.

It all starts Friday with the film noir thriller Frank Miller's Sin City. Alba plays Nancy, one of the sweetest strippers to swing a lasso the movies have ever seen.

Unfortunately for some, moviegoers will be seeing an R-rated version of Nancy.

Alba didn't find out until after she auditioned for writer/director Robert Rodriguez that in Miller's graphic novel series of the same name, Nancy performs with only a pair of chaps and a lasso.

"I saw the pictures and I then found out that she was a stripper - who was bottomless and topless," Alba said, laughing.

Nudity wasn't an option. [note: see this story where Jessica was it was.]

"Robert said that we could do it if we wanted to, and obviously it would've been more authentic, but I felt like dancing around with a lasso and chaps was sexy enough," Alba said.

"I think that being nude for me would've been distracting - and I couldn't, I really couldn't be bottomless in a film. My dad, I don't know, he would disown me or something. He would freak out."

Rodriguez agreed with the decision to keep Alba clothed.

"With the film's incessant gory, comic book-style violence, full frontal nudity wasn't about to become an issue," he said. "Also the way the Nancy character was built, not many women really look like that. If you look at the book, it was just unbelievable. So it would've been hired out as a special effect anyway because I don't know if anyone can live up to [Miller's] Nancy."

In July, Alba stars in another comic book adaptation, The Fantastic Four.

Her character, Susan Storm, is nothing like Nancy.

"That's a family movie. I play a scientist who has a problem expressing her emotions and her DNA was altered, and when she expresses her emotions, she goes invisible. So when she's screaming - she goes invisible. When she's having a meltdown - she goes invisible. She's completely frustrated. And the man that she's in love with completely ignores her - and she goes invisible. So that's very frustrating."

Also in July comes Into the Blue, a wet T-shirt, Caribbean-set thriller with Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious). As scuba divers, they discover a plane wreck that holds a stash of drugs.

"I did that because Jim Cameron had been kind of talking about maybe doing a comic book that involves scuba diving with this girl underwater. Then this movie came up, and I hadn't scuba-dived in seven months and they were going to give me a decent pay cheque to scuba dive in the Bahamas for five months. I was like, 'Cool.' Honestly, that's why I did that."

At 23, Alba has been working steadily toward this year's launch pad to major stardom. The notion that her future is in the balance doesn't faze her.

"I've been doing this for 11 years. So it's definitely not an overnight thing. If people then know about me, fine. I don't entertain and act for myself or else I would just act in front of the mirror. I actually like having an audience and people being affected by stuff that I'm in. [These films] just all happen to come out this year." back to the top

7 deadly sins

29 march • new york post


• "i want my boyfriend to think about me naked "

Jessica Alba really wanted to be in the new movie Sin City, but she hesitated when she first looked at the cult-classic Frank Miller comic books it's based on.

Her character, Nancy, is a stripper - and not just a topless one.

"She's bottomless, too," Alba tells The Post.

"I really couldn't be bottomless for my dad. He would disown me."

In the end, Alba kept on both her parts. Co-directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) let her film the strip-dance scene in a cowgirl outfit that covered the naughty bits.

But Alba still looks stunning in Sin City, and the movie doesn't skimp on beautiful women (or nudity).

Along with an all-star cast of guys, including Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro, Clive Owen and Mickey Rourke, the movie features a drool-worthy harem of some of Hollywood's most gorgeous young actresses.

That's only right for this visual feast, which uses cutting-edge special effects to create a super-stylised film-noir world that looks almost exactly like the dramatic drawings in Miller's cartoons.

Miller and Rodriguez planned each shot using panels from the books as a storyboard, and they didn't compromise on Miller's hyper-violent and sexy vision.

Their movie tells three interconnected tales about gritty characters in a dark, rainy and grim place called Basin City, where the dirtiest neighbourhood, Old Town, is run by prostitutes - the Old Town Girls - who will machine-gun any john who gets out of line.

"They're fantasies," Miller tells The Post. "Sometimes they're dark fantasies. Sometimes they're alluring fantasies. Sometimes they're both."

Real-life women may never live up to the fierce and erotic women that Miller draws in his books, but the Sin City actresses came awfully close.

"I swooned over them all," Miller recalls. "Doing this movie was like falling in love again and again."

Jessica Alba is naughty and nice as Nancy...

"I'm not someone who goes out clubbing and to raves," Jessica Alba tells The Post. "I'm not really a dancer."

But Robert Rodriguez wanted Alba to come up with her own exotic dance for Sin City, just like Salma Hayek did in his 1996 movie From Dusk Till Dawn.

"And that's the sexiest woman's dance ever put onscreen!" says Alba, 23, who plays the lovely but unattainable strip-club angel Nancy.

"Those are big shoes to fill."

So Alba plunged into research, including several nights spent watching pros perform at strip clubs in L.A. and New York.

On the Sin City set in Austin, she learned how to twirl a lasso from real-life cowboys, and there were plenty of mishaps along the way.

"I was practicing on everybody," she recalls. "Bruce Willis would walk by, and I'd say, 'Wait, Bruce, can I lasso you? Just close your eyes and put your hands over your face.'

"I hit a lot of people in the head. I felt bad about it."

In the end, Alba improvised the strip dance in front of a green screen, listening to a CD of music she had brought in, "with everything from Emmylou Harris to Kylie Minogue." (Rodriguez added different music for the final cut.)

Alba says she didn't actually learn that much from the pro strippers she watched. "All they're doing," she says, "is trying to get tips."

And she isn't in a hurry to get back to one of their clubs.

"The only person it would be appropriate to go with is my boyfriend," Alba says, referring to Cash Warren, the 25-year-old Yale grad she met las year on the set of this summer's Fantastic Four, where he was an assistant to the director and she was playing the Invisible Woman.

"But I don't want Cash looking at other people," she says.

"I want him to think about me naked - not some woman he can throw money at."

Alexis Bledel is deceptive as Becky ...

The final cut of Sin City is mostly black-and-white, with flashes of unnatural colour added by computer: a pair of candy-apple-red shoes, a splash of bright-yellow blood. But Rodriguez and Miller actually shot in colour, and they used it for a small handful of details in the final cut - most memorably, Bledel's wide blue eyes.

But while the Gilmore Girls star (who's dating her former on-screen boyfriend Milo Ventimiglia) looks innocent, her Sin City character Becky isn't what she seems. In one gnarly scene, she enrages Dawson's character so much that she seems to take a bite out of Bledel's neck and spit the flesh on the floor.

"It didn't hurt at all," says Bledel, who was wearing a prosthetic skin piece, "but it looked disgusting."

Brittany Murphy is sassy as Shelle ...

"Brittany isn't afraid to go lower class," Miller says of Murphy, who has the trailer-trash thing down, after eight years as the voice of beauty-school dropout Luanne Platter on King of the Hill and co-starring with Eminem in 8 Mile.

That made her perfect for the sassy Sin City waitress Shellie, a brash broad who Murphy calls "a throwback to the '30s or '40s."

In real life, Miller says, Murphy is a perfectionist who's sometimes too nice for her own good.

"One time on the set, she was walking with her coffee and accidentally spilled it all over these cables," Miller recalls. "She goes, 'Get me a paper towel!'

"We had her ushered out, because the last thing we needed was an important actress playing with wet electrical cables."

Rosario Dawson is rough as Gail ...

"I wanted a real New Yorker with a genuine edge," Miller says of the character Gail, the leader of the kick-ass Old Town Girl prostitutes.

He found it with Dawson, who's best known as Colin Farrell's wife in Alexander but was discovered 10 years ago sitting on her Lower East Side stoop and cast in the notorious 1995 skate-punk movie Kids.

Dawson got the Sin City idea right away.

"It's a tough town where a man punches a girl across the face, and she chops his [penis] off," says Dawson, 25, who recently snagged the role of Mim Marquez in the movie version of Rent.

"Rosario's just cool no matter what she does," Alba says.

That's lucky, because in Sin City, she had to wear a barely-there outfit that even Miller calls ridiculous and a Mohawk that Rodriguez admits is "a very weird hairstyle."

"The outfit was unbelievable," Dawson says. "The costume designer gave me a bunch of flowers when I decided I was going to actually wear it."

Jaime King is sweet as Goldie ...

"I always wanted to be in a movie with Rosario," says King, who has known Dawson for 10 years, since the days when King was a 16-year-old beauty from Omaha making big waves in the New York fashion world with modelling gigs for Vogue, Mademoiselle and Allure.

The two hung out in the same cool-teens crowd - "mostly the guys who were in Kids," King recalls - and reconnected on Sin City, in which King plays Goldie, a hooker with a heart of gold.

Devon Aoki is cutting as Miho ...

She's an heir to the Benihana steak-house fortune, so you'd think this New Yorker would know how to handle knives. But when Aoki showed up on the Sin City set last year to play Miho, a hooker who slices up men with a samurai sword, it quickly became clear that she was clueless when it came to martial arts. "I made her my special project," Miller recalls of the model, actress, Page Six fixture, and budding hip-hop star (who recently signed to record for a new company). "I got a couple of trainers to work with her and had her come in early and stay late every day." "Robert was laughing at me," Miller says. "He called me Devon's soccer dad, because I was so hard on her. But I was so proud when it worked."

Carla Gugino is no-holds-barred sexy as Lucille ...

None of the Sin City actresses is more in-your-face sexy than the 33-year-old Gugino, who plays Lucille, "a fast-talking deadpan dame," as Gugino calls it, and does her first scene clad in nothing but "a G-string and strategically placed shadows."

The nudity might come as a surprise to those who remember Gugino as the spunky mom from the Spy Kids movies.

But she doesn't mind taking her clothes off.

"I more European in that way," says Gugino, who tried the scene with a bra before the directors decided it actually looked less sleazy when she was naked. back to the top

jessica alba: "sin city" nudity an option

25 march


• "being nude would have been distracting"

Jessica Alba, who plays a stripper with a heart of gold in the upcoming Sin City, told reporters that she took the role before realising that her character appear naked in Frank Miller's graphic novels, upon which the film is based. "I wanted to do this movie because Robert Rodriguez was directing it, first and foremost," Alba said in a news conference. "I didn't really know it was a comic book when I read the [script pages]. ... And I then found out that she was a stripper and that she was bottomless and topless."

Alba plays Nancy Callahan, who performs in a seedy cowboy bar frequented by Basin City's darkest denizens. Alba said that she considered playing nude, but that she ended up dancing with a modest top and leather chaps. "Nudity was an option," she said. "We could have done it if we wanted to. ... Robert said that we could do it if we wanted to. And obviously it would have been more authentic. But I felt like dancing around with a lasso and chaps was going to be sexy enough, and I think being nude, for me, would have been distracting, and ... I really couldn't be bottomless. For my dad. He would really, I don't know, disown me or something. He would freak out."

The scariest part of the role involving dancing without the aid of a choreographer, Alba added. "I went to strip clubs to see how strippers do it," she said. "I wanted a choreographer, and Robert said no. And I was like, 'Ah, OK.' ... And he's like, 'Just feel it. We're just going to play music, and you're going to feel it.'" When it came time to shoot Alba's sexy dance routines, she said, "My heart was beating so fast, I was so nervous." Sin City, which also stars Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen, opens on 1 April. back to the top

angelina jolie world's sexiest woman

25 march


• "angelina embodies everything that our readers find incredibly sexy"

Angelina Jolie has been named the world's sexiest woman by FHM.

She topped the poll in the US editionof the magazine, beating Jennifer Garner into second place. Paris Hilton was third.

"Angelina Jolie embodies everything that our readers find incredibly sexy. Not only is she stunning, she is intelligent, outspoken and passionate in her beliefs and well-respected the world over for her tireless efforts on behalf of the world's refugee children," said Scott Gramling, FHM editor in chief.

Charlize Theron and Halle Berry rounded out the top five. back to the top

alba talks "fantastic four"

21 march


• "there's a lot of pressure that it does well"

In a news conference to promote her next film, Sin City, Jessica Alba offered details about her character, scientist Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman, in Fox's upcoming Fantastic Four movie.

"Fantastic Four is a family movie. I play a scientist who has a problem expressing her emotions, and her DNA was altered, so when she does express her emotions she goes invisible," Alba said. "So when she's screaming, she goes invisible. When she's having a meltdown, she goes invisible."

The film is based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, and Alba's character is one of four astronauts who become superheroes after their space mission encounters mysterious waves that alter their bodies. Alba said of her character, "she's completely frustrated. And the man that she's in love with ignores her, then she goes invisible. So it's very frustrating. ... [The film is] very big, and it's a huge, huge movie for Fox, and there's a lot of pressure that it does well."

In Sin City, which opens on 1 April, Alba plays an exotic dancer who finds herself targeted by a deranged criminal. back to the top

gellar, berry nix william morris

21 march


• "it was never our intention to hurt anyone"

It's official - Sarah Michelle Gellar is more than capable of holding a grudge.

The actor left the William Morris Agency in a huff last week after learning of unflattering comments that WMA President David Wirtschafter made about her in a lengthy New Yorker profile.

In the piece, titled "Secret Agent Man," in the New Yorker's "Letter from California" feature, Wirtschafter said Gellar was "nothing at all" before the success of the horror film The Grudge.

An outraged Gellar rapidly exited the agency, apparently in favour of management that can better appreciate her.

Gellar wasn't the only Tinseltown type ticked off by Wirtschafter's candor in the 12-page piece, in which he he made cutting remarks about numerous clients.

Halle Berry also bid a not so fond farewell to WMA in reponse to the article, reportedly feeling that it assaulted her privacy and rights as an agency client.

The Oscar winner was the subject of three paragraphs in the article, which quoted from a finance-related discussion Wirtschafter had with Berry's attorney about her starring in the upcoming Perfect Stranger.

"She will be treated as an investor in the film for the difference," Wirtschafter is quoted as saying, "and for every dollar she invests she would get a dollar-fifty out of the gross until she recoups a hundred and fifty per cent of her investment."

Wirtschafter also stated that the Catwoman star was willing to "give up a little money to get a good director or costar."

Apparently, Berry is not willing to have her financial matters aired in a public forum.

Perhaps concerned about losing additional clients, WMA issued an apology in an apparent effort to soothe ruffled feelings.

"As an agency, we are deeply sorry if any remarks in the New Yorker story have caused any hurt feelings or ill will," a WMA spokesperson told Variety. "It was never our intention to hurt anyone." back to the top

icy hot

17 march • msnbc


• the star of "ice princess" toe loops through questions about teeny costumes and acting her age

The road from child star to professional young-adult actor is littered with broken spirits, substance abuse and bruised egos. Not so for Michelle Trachtenberg. At just 19, Trachtenberg is probably best known as the kid sister on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she's been centre stage for more than 10 years, staring in movies like 1996's Harriet the Spy and, three years later, Inspector Gadget. Her big break as Buffy's little sister, Dawn, came in 2000. Next up: her new movie, Disney's Ice Princess, which opens March 18.

Newsweek: Did you know how to ice-skate before this movie?

Michelle Trachtenberg: No, not at all. I started from scratch. It was incredibly hard. I trained for eight months, five hours a day. I was on skates from morning till night.

Did you fall on your bottom a lot?

Oh, you always fall when you're training, that's sort of part of the process. If you're not falling, you're not training hard enough.

How good are you now? Can you do a double axel?

I do toe loops, spirals. You would have had to train since you were 5 to do a double axel.

Those outfits are pretty small.

Yeah, they are. It was very embarrassing knowing you have very little fabric covering your butt. I was very cautious bending down.

What do you think of those kids who started skating when they were kids and get up at 5 a.m. to train?

I think they absolutely really love doing it, or I hope they do. That's the only reason to get up that early.

You started acting when you were 3. Did you want to do it?

Yes, actually I did although I know it's hard for people to believe. I was a very outspoken child, and oneday I was watching a commercial and I thought I could do that. I could brush Barbie's hair. My first commercial was for Whisk. I spilled cranberry juice on my Dad. I ended up doing over 100 commercials. I was really lucky enough to not be pushed into anything. I never had a stage mother, which is probably one of the reasons why I'm still doing this.

Kim Cattrall is in the movie.

Yeah, I was a huge Sex and the City fan. She gave me a copy of her book [Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm]. I think she's all about female empowerment. I think she gave a copy to a lot of the ladies on the set.

Sarah Michelle Gellar recommended you for Buffy. You sort of owe her a kidney.

I think that story is way overexposed. I know she suggested me for the role, but I had to go in there and audition. No one handed me the role. She's my friend, but I'm not giving anyone a kidney anytime soon.

Your character on Six Feet Under freaks out when someone uses her toilet. Can you relate?

I actually don't like it when people use my bathroom. That's specifically why I have a guest bathroom. I leave my makeup all around, and I hate to clean it up and then have to take it all out the next day.

Any other diva things?

Is that a diva thing?

I have to say you don't sound like a girl your age. You sound very mature and self-possessed.

I'm not sure if that is a compliment. Sometimes people say that you should act your age more because I did grow up in the business. But I've always felt that kids are really smart. I was in a cafe the other day, and Ice Princess hasn't even come out, and this little 5-year-old came up to me and said, 'You're the ice princess.' It's amazing how perceptive kids are at a young age.

I think that's the power of advertising.

Yeah, well it's a strong market, huh? But I was always wanting to learn and be one of those actresses who can actually hold a conversation as opposed to standing there looking pretty. back to the top

star on ice

15 march


• "heh, heh, I'll stick to acting, thank you"

Michelle Trachtenberg isn't even 20, but she's been around the block a few times in Hollywood, and has long considered herself immune to celebrity worship.

She's been acting professionally since she was three years old and has always been able to maintain her emotional equilibrium - even during the days when she enjoyed a rapturous fan following because of her performance as Dawn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Then she met figure-skating legend Michelle Kwan during the filming of Ice Princess in Toronto and found herself as star-struck as any other teen.

"I was just like the biggest nerd," Trachtenberg says. She was at such a loss for words, that she could only say the obvious: "You're Michelle Kwan!" Recalling that now, Trachtenberg feels like an idiot. But she also says that Kwan - who makes a brief appearance in the new Disney release about the world of figure skating - was terrific during her visit to the set.

"She was so cool and nice," says Trachtenberg who plays a brainy high-schooler who turns into an ice swan. Kwan was there to do a cameo as a commentator for a crucial figure-skating competition, but she ended up putting on skates and joining Trachtenberg on the ice.

"To see her on the ice is as how I would imagine watching Sean Penn or Dustin Hoffman work. It was so effortless and brilliant."

Kwan really made Michelle's day when she complimented her on her figure-skating prowess.

"You're good," she told the speechless young actress. "You're a natural for what time you've had and what you've accomplished. I'm impressed."

Kwan was even more impressed when Michelle demonstrated the most striking product of her weeks of hard training - the ability to perform an "outside edge spreadeagle." And finally, Michelle became convinced that she was right in accepting such a demanding role.

"I trained extremely hard for this movie. When we weren't shooting, I was still working, training five hours a day, five days a week ... constantly on ice. Then when we were shooting, I was working seven days a week - five days of shooting and then learning all the choreography on weekends. I was working 20- to 22-hour days."

She suffered injuries - a couple of torn ligaments and some knee damage. "It sounds really bad, but these are things that happen to all athletes."

She studied ballet as a child and this helped her prepare for her role in Ice Princess, which opens March 18. She had also taken one lesson in figure skating when she was eight, and was not enthusiastic.

"It was like - heh, heh, I'll stick to acting, thank you."

Then all these years later, she discovered she was a natural. Her coach approached her after Trachtenberg had executed a perfect spiral and told her young pupil: "If you had started this when you were five years old, you would be able to do everything."

These days, Michelle can talk like a life-long authority on the technique of waltz jumps and toe landings and crossovers. By the time shooting started, she was confident enough to undertake a lot of the skating sequences herself, although she had one stunt double to do "all the falls, and one who would do the double, triple whatevers."

But "the big thing which none of my doubles could do" was that outside edge spreadeagle - a feat that had everybody in this Toronto rink cheering when she pulled it off. Michelle describes it this way: "It's basically your feet in one line and you're leaning back on the outside edge and going around on a curve - and not even a lot of skaters who are Olympic level can do that."

The film offers the classic uglyh duckling theme - focusing on a kid named Casey who's a loner, but who dreams of becoming a championship figure skater. Joan Cusack is the mother who has a different dream for her daughter - acceptance at Harvard University. Kim Cattrall is the hard-nosed ex-champ who agrees to take her on. back to the top

trachtenberg ready to leave kids project behind

15 march


• "i don't know that i'd like to do another teenage film"

Former Buffy star Michelle Trachtenberg says that her upcoming Disney film Ice Princess is likely to be her last kids movie.

The 19-year-old feels she is ready to move on to more grown-up material.

She says, "I don't know that I'd like to do another teenage film. I want to do more character-oriented, probably independent movies."

In her next movie, Mysterious Kin, Trachtenberg will play the best friend of a child molestation victim. back to the top

production begins on "marie antoinette"

10 march


• kirsten dunst plays title role

Production begins this week on Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, about France's iconic eighteenth century Queen.

Kirsten Dunst, who previously appeared in Coppola's drama The Virgin Suicides, portrays the young Austrian princess, who, as a teenager, becomes Queen of France. Jason Schwartzman portrays her indifferent husband Louis XVI.

Other members of the ensemble, portraying various members of the elitist court of Versailles include Rip Torn (in the role of King Louis XV), Judy Davis (as the Comtesse de Noailles), Steve Coogan (Mercy), Asia Argento (Comtesse du Barry), Marianne Faithful (Maria-Teresa), Aurore Clement (Duchesse de Chartres), Molly Shannon (Aunt Victoire) and Shirley Henderson (Aunt Sophie).

Marie Antoinette will be shot entirely in France, with much of the 11-week production schedule centred at the Palace at Versailles, which has granted the production unprecedented access. back to the top

keira on comic relief

10 march


• "i was on the edge of tears all the way through the first day"

Keira Knightley co-hosts Comic Relief's round-up of the 20 funniest sketches from the UK and US as part of tomorrow night's Comic Relief telethon.

The actress also joined her Love Actually director Richard Curtis on a five-day visit to Ethiopia and was so appalled by the conditions she witnessed that she frequently felt like bursting into tears.

She says, "Confronting conditions in Africa was the most shocking experience of my life. The scenes on the street really shook me.

"I'd seen so many documentaries about Ethiopia that I thought I wouldn't find it all massively shocking. I was very wrong. I was on the edge of tears all the way through the first day.

"Realising that some people in Africa had nothing without searching through a bin or a pile of sewage was horrendous."

When Johnny Met Keira can be seen on BBC1 at 1.30am on Friday night/Saturday morning. back to the top

jessica alba inspired to embrace stripper role

2 march


• "my butt cheeks were hanging out!"

Jessica Alba credits Beyonce Knowles for helping her feel comfortable with playing a stripper in her upcoming movie Sin City.

The 23-year-old Latina flashes her curves in the film adaptation of the cult comic, and admits she found the prospect all too daunting - until she looked at Knowles.

She says, "I get self-conscious, but you have to just embrace it and go with it."

"I was so nervous during Sin City because I play a stripper. I wore chaps and little underwear. My butt cheeks were hanging out! It was so embarrassing."

"I remember being in my underwear in my hotel room, trying to get comfortable (with my Sin City role). Beyone's Baby Boy video kept coming on MTV, and all she had on was a short little thing, and she's grooving around and she has this gorgeous womanly body.

"I was like, 'All right, if she can do it, I can do it.' I'm by no means a Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston - I'm not one of those women with a really thin body. I have body fat.

"I am (practically) naked in every movie I do. It's horrible. But I always get inspired by other actresses who embrace their curves." back to the top