HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here with the Horror Icon for March.  With the ability to be anything from a dumb blonde to an ass-kicking heroine, there was no way I was passing this woman up.  Her unique style and flare that she brings to each character can not be mimicked.  She is The Slayer…

She is the ideal Scream Queen. Her ability to be tough, yet vulnerable is alluring and her witty charisma makes her funny. Plus it doesn’t hurt that she is physically stunning. Her name is known world wide, and her role as a famous Vampire Slayer will continue to provide her with new fans. She is Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Sarah Michelle Gellar was born on April 14, 1977 in New York City. She is an only child. Her mother and father were both Jewish, though throughout Gellar’s upbringing the family displayed the Christmas tree tradition during the holidays.

When Sarah was just seven years old, her parents divorced and she was raised by her mother, Rosellen, on the city’s Upper East Side. (Sad Fact: Sarah was estranged from her father until his death from liver cancer on October 9, 2001) She attended Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York for only a year, but went on to graduate with honours from Manhattan’s The Professional Childrens School in 1994. Sarah graduated a year early after skipping her junior year of high school because of her straight A average.

Her acting career began in 1981 when Sarah was just four years old. She was discovered in a restaurant in Uptown Manhattan. Two weeks after being spotted by an agent, Sarah auditioned for a part in An Invasion Of Privacy which was a television movie starring Valerie Harper and Jeff Daniels. Sarah impressed the directors at the audition by not only just reading her lines, but the lines that were for Harper as well.

Because of her role in An Invasion Of Privacy, Sarah went on to star in a rather controversial commercial for Burger King, in which her character criticised McDonald’s and claimed to only eat at Burger King. This lead to McDonald’s filing a lawsuit and Sarah briefly being banned from their restaurants.

From that break out role in An Invasion Of Privacy, Sarah began heating up the small screen with small parts on television series like Crossbow and Spenser: For Hire. Sarah even landed the role of young Jacqueline Bouvier in the TV movie A Woman Named Jackie. But it wasn’t until 1992 When she finally landed something larger than a one part deal. Sarah landed the role of Sydney Orion Rutledge on the TV series Swans Crossing.

Swans Crossing was a short-lived half-hour serial following the lives, loves, and intrigues of twelve wealthy teenagers who stir up scandal and excitement in their small town. Sarah’s character was the scheming daughter of the mayor, and what a nasty piece of work she was at times. Don’t believe me. Then have a read of Sydney’s answering machine message “This is Sydney Rutledge. Obviously, I’m not answering. So, leave me and message so I’ll know whether I want to call you back or not.”

Swans Crossing was just one of those shows that struck well with audiences. A quaint Victorian-like setting, a group of bored, wealthy kids….does this sound a lot like Pretty Little Liars to anyone else? In any event, it worked. Because of her role in Swans Crossing, Sarah landed the role of Kendall Hart, the long lost daughter of Erica Kane, played by Susan Lucci, in the soap opera All My Children. In 1995, at the age of eighteen, Sarah won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series for her continued work on All My Children. (Fun Fact: After winning the Emmy, Sarah left All My Children in 1995)

In 1996 Hollywood was a buzz with word of a new TV series about demons and vampires and one girl in all the world to stop them. Sarah auditioned originally for the role of Cordelia and screen tested a staggering eleven times before she finally landed the title role of Buffy Summers in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you would have heard of Buffy. If not, here’s a brief run down. Buffy Summers is a teenage girl burdened with the responsibility of fighting a number of mythical and mystical foes, namely vampires hence the title of the show. (Fun Fact: Sarah actually has a fear of cemeteries)

Fans and critics loved the show and it became an instant success that spawned a spin-off series (Angel – which Sarah made a couple of appearances) with people the world over wanting to be a part of the Buffy phenomenon.

As the show grew in popularity, Sarah found herself becoming a cult icon not just in the United States, but also in Canada, the UK and Australia. In fact, the Buffy phenomenon is still strong Down Under despite the show ending in 2003. I admit I have the entire Buffy collection and it was because of the show and its strong female lead that I became a martial artist.

In 1997, while filming season two of Buffy, Sarah found herself going a round against a pissed off Fisherman with a hook for a hand in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sarah originally auditioned for the role of Julie while co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt auditioned for the role of Helen. Eventually, directors cast Sarah as Helen, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Julie, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Ray and Ryan Phillippe as Barry. (Fun Fact: Sarah would later co-star again with Ryan in Cruel Intentions which saw two other links to I Know What You Did Last Summer: A magazine cover with Jennifer Love Hewitt on it and Ryan’s character getting hit with a car)

The role of Helen was much different to the role of Buffy. While Helen had the trademark charismatic wit, she was far from a fighter, losing her life in a darkened alley way to the sadistic killer. Her death is questionable. Helen was running towards a parade. She stops near the entrance to the alley way and turns to look behind her. In true slasher fashion, the Fisherman (the man responsible for my nightmares, Muse Watson) is now standing behind her, so when she turns back around, he attacks, killing her behind what appears to be a stack of old tires. The question that a lot of people ask is why did she stop? There was no noise to signal that he was there but still she stopped cold rather than running full pelt towards the parade. My answer is, unless you’re in that situation yourself, you’d have no idea how you would react. Maybe she did hear something, or had the hair on the back of her neck stand up on end, making her think he was right behind her. In any case, she stopped and she died.

In the same year, Sarah signed on for Scream 2. She did this without reading the script or seeing a treatment of any kind. It was the first and last time that she ever did that. Playing Casey ‘Cici’ Cooper, Gellar made her mark in a film class discussing sequels. It is because of her disagreement with the killer that she dies. She is thrown from her sorority house (Omega Beta Zeta) after being stabbed in the back.

The role of Cici was different yet again. As Helen, Sarah didn’t put up much of a fight, but as Cici, while still playing the victim, she used her brain and threw things at the killer, like a potted plant and a bicycle. (OK, so the bike was just to block his path from coming up to the attic where she was eventually attacked and killed) Still, it was a far cry from her role as a vampire slayer who had brute strength at her disposal. (Fun Fact: Sarah had told Wes Craven that she did her own stunts on Buffy, but she was too afraid to be thrown from the rooftop, allowing a stunt double to take the fall – no pun intended)

In 1998 Sarah loaned her voice to two animated series; King Of The Hill and Hercules as well as voicing the character of Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Other notable stars from Small Solders include the late, great Phil Hartman, Kirsten Dunst, Denis Leary and Jay Mohr.

In 1999 Sarah took on the role as a cook in dire need of a secret ingredient in the widely panned Simply Irresistible. Now, I enjoyed this movie. It was sweet, romantic, fun and Sarah did a great job as the tempting chef with a magical touch. While I enjoyed the film as nice escape from reality for a couple of hours, Sarah doesn’t feel the same way, often stating that Simply Irresistible was one of her least favourite films that she’s ever been in.

Never fear because in that same year, Sarah shed her good girl image for good as she starred in Cruel Intentions, a modern day take on Dangerous Liaisons. Starring as Kathryn Merteuil, Sarah was vindictive, sly, uncaring, unforgiving and dangerous. But each of those traits was somewhat shadowed by her powerful allure and raw sexuality. Cruel Intentions is about Kathryn makes a bet that her step-brother, Sebastian (Phillippe), won’t be able to bed Annette, who happens to be a virgin, who wants to wait until marriage, before the start of the school year. If he loses, Kathryn gets his Roadster, but if he wins, he gets Kathryn.

Cruel Intentions saw Sarah taunting all the other characters, especially Ryan’s character of Sebastian. The sexual chemistry between Phillippe and Sarah is electrifying. They smoked up the big screen with passion and intensity that was reminiscent of the original film.

Sarah’s role showed her versatility as an actress, and many were surprised to see her playing a brunette cocaine addict with an appetite for manipulating and using people. Her performance was praised by a number of critics, including Rob Blackwelder for SPLICEDwire, who wrote about the “dazzling performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar who plunges headlong into the lascivious malevolence that makes Kathryn so delightfully wicked.

But what had tongues wagging was the kissing scene between Sarah and Selma Blair who played Cecile Caldwell. The kiss won “Best Kiss” at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, which Selma and Sarah happily re-enacted.

If Cruel Intentions didn’t shed her good girl image, then Sarah’s appearance in Harvard Man sure did. Her two sex scenes in the widely criticised independent movie gave audiences something to look at, however the lacklustre storyline and the film quality cancelled out her performance.

Then it was back to Sunnydale, where Sarah continued to fight the forces of darkness, tackling monsters that lurk in the depths of the nightmare realm.

In 2002, Sarah arrived on Australian shores with Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard and Rowan Atkinson in toe as they bought to life one of the most entertaining cartoons of all time: Scooby Doo. Scooby Doo is a guilty pleasure of mine and only a selected few know why. I’m a fan of the cartoons so it was going to be no surprise that I would be a fan of the movie as well.

The storyline for Scooby Doo is pretty simple: The Mystery Inc. gang have gone their separate ways and have been apart for a couple of years, until they each receive an invitation to Spooky Island. Not knowing that the others have also been invited, they show up and discover an amusement park that affects young visitors who are excited to arrive, but return home as well behaved college kids. They soon realise that they can’t solve the mystery without each other and team up again to solve the issues plaguing Spooky Island. (Fun Fact: The Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster which was created at Warner Bros Movie World after the films success is still one of the most popular and loved attractions at the park)

Scooby Doo was a commercial success and immediately afterwards, talks of a sequel were in the works with Sarah and the gang reprising their roles.  And in 2004 they returned in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, which surprisingly did very well for a sequel.  The best part is, with Mystery Inc. together again, there is always room for the movie cast to return for one more round against the monsters of Coolsville.

On September 1, 2002, Sarah Michelle Gellar married her Scooby Doo co-star, Freddie Prinze Jr. They had met on the set of I Know What You Did Last Summer back in ’97 but didn’t begin dating until the year 2000. Freddie proposed sometime at the beginning of April in ’01 as on her birthday that year, she made the public announcement that they were to be married.

In 2003, much to the disappointment of fans, Sarah said goodbye to Sunnydale in an explosive finale that saw the town turn to ruins as Buffy, Faith, Spike, Willow, Xander, Principal Woods, Giles, Dawn and the potentials destroyed The First. To quote Sarah, “I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don’t feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television.” Her likeness has been used for the comic and animation feature of Buffy, proving that it’ll take more than The First Evil to destroy The Slayer.

In 2004, Sarah returned to horror starring in The Grudge. The Grudge is about an American nurse living and working in Tokyo who is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim. Sarah plays Karen, the leading lady is desperately trying to break the curse. Good news for SMG fans, she lives and goes on to the sequel which came out in 2006. Even better news, The Grudge is the highest grossing movie that Sarah has been a part of.

Unlike most Scream Queens, Sarah doesn’t shy away from watching horror movies, which adds to her appeal as a leading actor in horror related material. To quote Sarah on horror movies, “Horror films are where women can shine and have a chance to lead. They always save the day in these films.”

Also in 2006, Sarah found herself not only facing off in a sequel to The Grudge, but in another horror/thriller styled movie entitled The Return. Joanna Mills (Gellar), a traveling business woman, begins having nightmares of a murder that occurred 15 years ago. Soon she is drawn to an old farmhouse, where the murder took place.

The Return was one of those films that divided my friends. Some loved it, others loathed it but for me, it was Sarah Michelle Gellar at her best. The film itself was an intelligent, intense and dark spiritual movie which I certainly enjoyed. Some say thriller, I say adult drama, but never the less, it’s a gripping tale that is highly recommended.

Like every girl at some stage, Sarah even managed to play a bit of a princess in Happily N’Ever After. Loaning her voice to play Ella (Cinderella) Sarah gave in to fairytales and happy endings. Ella is in love with the prince, but the handsome dishwasher, Rick (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has eyes only for Ella. When Ella discovers her own stepmother is the one behind the alliance of evil fairytale doers, she teams up with Rick and becomes the leader of the resistance force.

Happily N’Ever After is entertaining and fun. Ideal for kids and Ella is a strong character, much like all of Sarah’s characters. It’s not a serious movie, but it will do to kill a couple of hours one lazy Sunday afternoon.

In 2007, Sarah took on a star studded cast which included Kevin Bacon, Andy Garcia, Clark Gregg and Forest Whitaker in the movie The Air I Breathe. Sarah played a title role of Sorrow. The film is a drama based on an ancient Chinese proverb that breaks life down into four emotional cornerstones: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love. A businessman bets his life on a horse race; a gangster sees the future; a pop star falls prey to a crime boss; a doctor must save the love of his life. Sarah’s performance is nothing short of entertaining.

While The Air I Breathe was released in theatres, it was panned by many movie goers, yet critics loved it and they praised Sarah’s performance. For me, this film is a must see. It’s stunning in so many ways. It demands attention, concentration and is rather thought-provoking. Visually, it’s breathtaking, with sweeping images interspersed with gritty close ups of tragedy. You’d never guess that this was a low budget movie. And for some of the chilling parts, to create tension, a hand-held camera was used. Very chilling and intense.

Also in ’07, Sarah loaned her voice to the character of April in the animated movie adaptation of TNMT (That’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for those out of the loop). Being a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, I was grossly disappointed with the whole film, walking out of it half way. The animation in parts was dodgy, the storyline was lacklustre and the whole movie, despite the budget, felt cheap.

That same year, Sarah teamed up with 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin in a direct to DVD movie called Suburban Girl. The story is about a young Manhattan book editor finds her take on the game of romance changed after she lures the attention of an influential older man. Alec and Sarah’s chemistry was strong and the story, though weak at times, was still fun. Don’t assume this is a romantic comedy though, romance, yes. Comedy, not so much. Watching Sarah’s character struggle with Alec’s past (ex-wives, children, ex-girlfriend scrapbook) is as real as anything ever seen before.

In 2009 Sarah returned to the horror/thrill genre with Possession. Playing a woman whose life is thrown into chaos after a freak car accident sends her husband and brother-in-law into comas. Thrills arrive after the brother-in-law wakes up, thinking he’s his brother. A supernatural styled tale that has audiences gripping their loved ones as they try to figure out what has possessed Roman to believe his Ryan. Is it the spirit of Ryan? Or is it something much more sinister? It is a twisted love story and at times is predicable, but overall it isn’t a bad film. But it’s probably only worth watching just once.

Also that year, Sarah gave birth on September 19 to her first child, a daughter named Charlotte Grace Prinze. (Fun Fact: Upon celebrating their five year wedding anniversary, Sarah legally changed her surname from Gellar to Prinze)

In 2011 Sarah returned to the small screen, making a guest appearance on All My Children seeing as the show was coming to an end. She also signed on to produce and star in a new drama entitled Ringer, in which she plays a woman on the run who manages to hide by living the life of her wealthy twin sister. Sarah had stated that her return to a television series was because it allowed her to both work and raise her daughter.

Sarah Michelle Gellar seems an unusual choice for a horror icon, however with seven seasons in a horror/sci-fi series that saw her tackling, slaying and killing demons from our nightmares plus a hit movie in The Grudge and her appearances in Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, Sarah has cemented herself among the horror elite. The fact that she doesn’t shy away from horror and is such a strong actress with the ability to play both strong-willed and minded characters as well as vulnerable, weak girly-girls gives her an edge. Also taking into consideration that she has gone on the record to say she loves horror doesn’t hurt her case either.

Sarah Michelle Gellar. Whatever way you look at it, there’s no denying her place among the horror icons, and considering how young she still is, there’s no doubt she’ll be screaming and fighting for us for many more years to come.

 

Ahlephia’s Top 5 Sarah Michelle Gellar Movies

1) Cruel Intentions (1999) – A vastly different side to Sarah’s previous characters, Kathryn was a bitch with a capital ‘B’

2) Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1996-2003) – While not an actual movie (There was a Buffy movie, but Sarah wasn’t The Slayer in it), it’s hard to pass up her mindblowing break-out role that made her a household name, icon and role-model world wide.

3) The Grudge (2004) – The highest grossing horror movie that she’s been involved in, and one of the best remakes, it’s hard to pass up this film.

4) Scooby Doo (2002) – Sentimental soft spot for this film, and Sarah nailed the role of Daphne to a tee.

5) The Air I Breathe (2007) – A must see film with plenty of intrigue to stimulate your mind.

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