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In "The New Guy," Eliza Dushku stars as Danielle, the beautiful head cheerleader and love interest of DJ Qualls' character, Diz. Before leaving on a cross-country tour to promote "The New Guy," Eliza sat down with the media in Los Angeles to discuss her career, her role in this romantic comedy, and the hardships of life in high school.
Was "Can't Buy Me Love" a big influence on the people making this movie?
I would imagine so but I don't know in particular. I mean, it seems to me that it's very 'on the same page.' Especially when he disses his friends. That's like the moment when everyone is like, "Dude, you did it. You crossed the line." You just feel for him, even though he is such a shit. My heart breaks. I remember throwing a Popsicle stick in my now-best friend's hair because all the cool girls in school were like, "Throw this Popsicle stick in her hair." I was like, "I can't, she was my friend." I just didn't know what to do. All the cool girls were like, "Do it, do it, do it." I did it and to this day it makes me want to cry. To this day I'm like, "Allison, I'm so, so sorry I did that to you in the lunchroom in 7th grade." But it was like the moment where I was just…It's high school, man. They compare it to prison in the movie.
That's one of the reasons why I really did like the movie and respond to the script. I thought it would be interesting to be on the other side because I definitely know the world, to be playing that character.
What makes you so tough in the roles you play?
It's interesting because I was thinking about this recently. When I was back in school and I was being made fun of so much - in middle school I was terrified when people would make fun of me and I would cry. My mom said my knuckles would turn white. Every single comment dug straight in and I was so vulnerable because of it. So then, I went away to private school for a year and I wanted to go back to high school. I started thinking like, "I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't." I kind of like built up this really tough girl front basically and it got me through high school. I did this whole 'hard as nails,' big talker thing, and then I actually tried out for "Buffy" just after I graduated high school and that really kind of was where I was in my life at that point. I was living it, you know? I started using it in my entire life. Now, I'm 21 years old and I've kind of grown into myself and I feel like I've become even a little bit softer because I don't have to have that defense mechanism anymore. It's nice. It's like "You're the bad girl," but I mean, that's not so much where I am now. Do you know what I'm saying? So it's like they say, art imitates life and I really feel like that's one of the things - like having your life documented on film - a lot of the characters that I played were really realistic for the times that I was in. I don't know what I'm going to play next but everyone is like, "It's such a stretch for you, playing the nice girl." I'm like, "Not real. I'm actually a lot nicer."
Did your three brothers make you tough?
Yeah, they toughened me up but at the same time, my parents were divorced when I was a baby so my brothers were very loving and fatherly to me. I used to say my brothers beat me up but when I think about it, they were like my fathers growing up. They really treated me like a princess in so many ways, to compensate for my father or whatever. When you were tortured that much - like I was ostracized in middle school - you remember it. It was so bad and it made me so insecure and so messed up.
Is that why you did this picture?
Part of the reason, for sure. You see this movie, it's almost like every body has gone through it, I don't care who you are. Even if you were in the popular cliché, everyone has had rejection in high school that makes you feel like you want to die, and feel like you want to be somebody else, feel like just 'be cool or die.' And what is cool? It's also that everyone ends up learning the lesson, because we all go through it, which is like you have to just be yourself and be authentic, treat other people how you want to be treated.
You had to do a bathing suit modeling scene in this film. Did that embarrass you?
Oh yeah, totally, especially when I'm half-naked. It was a lot of fun and it was really relaxed and comfortable. Ed's (director Ed Decter) great. Everyone in the cast and crew was great. I know that people say that, but we really did have a good time on the movie. It was a really smooth, fun atmosphere.
There's a lot of pressure in this town to have a tiny body. Have you ever had to worry about keeping in shape?
I've always just been really little. My three brothers, they've always hated it because they're guys and they've always wanted to be real beefy and butch, but we're all just very skinny. I think it's my dad, he's just very little. We eat, like all of our friends think we are nuts. The Dushkus eat like it's going out of style. We chow; we'll eat a lot. People ask where it's going. I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks everyday, all day.
You've never had an issue with your body image?
No. Going running makes me feel emotionally better and emotionally healthy. It's so important to me, and just doing yoga.
Does it feel empowering?
Yes, it does. Yeah, absolutely. I do it for the emotional and psychological benefits of it. I'll get depressed if I don't go to the gym for a week, or if I don't do something. You just get slumpy and headaches and tired. That just started happening in the past couple of years. I'm only 21 so when I was young it wasn't a problem, but now, I definitely have to like keep active.
You have "City by the Sea" next?
Right, it comes out in September.
Are you playing James Franco's girlfriend?
Yeah, and we're kind of recovering. I think he's using drugs. We have a baby together in the movie. We shot that at the same time I was shooting this movie so I would go away for a week and go to New York. I'm going from playing the bubbly cheerleader girl to being a junkie living in Jersey with a kid, working at a Burger King drive-thru window. The director, I'd show up and have like a manicure and everything, and he's like, "Would you get some dirt under your nails and grow a zit? We're trying to make a movie here." I'm like, "Sorry, I'm sorry!" In my brain it was always bizarre going back and forth. I had to prepare for the role on the airplane. That's what makes this job so exciting, I guess.
You did a screen-test for "Spider-Man." What did you have to do?
It was Tobey's screen-test actually. I worked with Tobey on "This Boy's Life" and he called me up and was like, "I'm doing this screen-test. I really, really want this role and I need somebody to read with me." He's like, "Will you come in? It'll be fun. It's supposed to be the biggest screentest of all time. There's going to be some stunt stuff. Would you be down to come in and do that?" I was like, "Absolutely." So I went in. It wasn't really about me so I never really...We just went in and we did a couple of scenes and they had him hanging from a rope and doing all this stuff. That was pretty much it.
Is that done often where you help with a screen-test for something that you're not going out for?
If it's for a friend, yeah, totally, definitely.