(about.com, May, 24, 2003)
Imagine picking up the phone and hearing, “Hey, it’s Eliza.” That is the privilege of doing what I do. People like Eliza Dushku call my house to talk to me. Dushku was in New York where she’d just attended the Up Front presentation for her new show, Tru Calling, which will air on Fox in the fall.
We’ll get to that, but first she wanted to talk about Wrong Turn.
Wrong Turn tells the story of a group of kids who get lost in the backwoods of West Virginia, where they encounter some mountain men who don’t take too kindly to visitors. Deformed from in-breeding, they chase the kids around and unfortunately, some of them don’t make it to the end credits. Dushku is in action mode, running, fighting and dodging bursts of flame as seen in the previews.
It’s not totally new territory for her. As Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she kicked plenty of ass. She’s also taken on horror with Soul Survivors and of course, Buffy. So, she’s back, and talked about the new movie, the end of Buffy and the upcoming show, all while munching on carrots while her friends waited for her to get off the phone.
The previews kind of look like Jeepers Creepers and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What sets Wrong Turn apart?
I think Jeepers Creepers is more monster-y. It’s very Deliverance like the in-breeding. It’s obviously exaggerated in the film, but they’re horribly disfigured and horribly manged out. I thought that was really scary.
What were the fire stunts like?
The fire stuff was insane. I mean, I felt like Rambo jumping out of this burning building. And then we fought with weapons, used different crossbows. There was actually one awful moment in shooting the scene, the finale in the cabin, I run over and grab this burning log and come up and hit the mountain man from behind. I did what they said, they’re like, “It’s perfectly safe. The board is just going to crack him over the back.” Well, he was wearing prosthetics all over his body which are so flammable. I hit him with a burning stick and he catches on fire. So, he went from like growling screaming to all of a sudden a real man screaming who’s on fire. So, they came in and they doused him down with the fire extinguisher and he was seriously burned. I felt so bad even though I knew that I hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s pretty intense when you’re making movies and all of a sudden there’s real blood and there’s real wounds and pain.
Was he okay?
Yeah, he was okay. Probably a little pissed off.
After playing a slayer, is it hard to fight like non superhero?
No, because one of the things that I think I always did with Faith was, even though there was a lot of professional martial arts moves in there, it was more just adrenaline driven fighting and more street fighting and more the power and the psychosis that would come out of a girl if she was jacked in an alleyway and she really believed that no one could bring her down. I think that as opposed to being a superhero, I was more just about the adrenaline, the aggression and the need to win and the need to not be taken down. And I think that my character in Wrong Turn shares that same vigor and determination.
What makes you feel empowered?
My childhood, I think. I have a really empowered, strong, feisty, beautiful mother and three older brothers who really- - they kind of beat on me but it was out of love. It was more like I was one of the boys. I would wrestle around with the boys and play tag football and I was 10 years old. So, I have these three bothers who are teaching me how to stand up for myself and yet a mother who was teaching me about how important it was for a woman especially to be strong both physically and emotionally and for women to stick together and to back each other up. It’s still a pretty sexist world out there and someone’s got to stand up and say something.
What was the scariest moment on the set?
There’s a scene where we leave their house and we go running for our lives and they start to follow us in their little pickup truck. We go out and we’re hiding and we come across all these cars and all these cars, you’re assuming they’re past victims. We’re standing there freaking out and we’re all so horrified. There’s baby stuffed animals on the ground and a boot here and a sweater there and a bloody tent hanging out of this car. And we’re sitting there, absolutely cannot even believe what situation we found ourselves in. All of a sudden, the truck comes and they’re kind of hooping and hollering and giggling, these monsters, brothers are. I remember that moment and all of us on the set, when we looked at each other, I think it captured a real moment of just pure “what the hell is going on” and “this is really too crazy for comfort.” They come and they just taunt us. It’s that thing of when someone’s so afraid for their life and your perpetrator is taunting you and they’re laughing and they’re snickering, there’s something really disturbing about that.
After intense dramas like City by the Sea, is a genre film more fun or easy?
Definitely it’s a plot driven movie as opposed to a character driven movie. I don't know if it’s more fun or if it’s harder or easier, but it’s cool because it’s physical. We literally spent running through the woods in Toronto and running through the trees and getting cut and dirtied and bloody and that physical aspect of it.
There’s a point where you just can’t worry about what people are going to say ever, unless it’s people that are near and dear to you. Everyone’s going to have an opinion. Critics are always going to be critical among other things and I’m just doing what I want and what makes me feel good and what makes me feel like I take on characters that I believe in. If you’re going to say I’m being typecast as a woman who only plays strong roles, I can think of many other things it would be worse to be typecast as. I don’t have a problem with it.
Do you worry about typecasting?
Tell me about Tru Calling.
Tru Calling is about a girl who gets the chance to save people’s lives. She gets a job at the city morgue and gets the chance to go back 24 hours and keep people from dying, which is a big story line in itself. But then comes the whole idea of what if you can’t save those people and how is it affecting the other people around if she saves the person who maybe was supposed to die? It comes down to what is someone’s fate and what is someone’s destiny and is she now playing God with these people’s lives? How does she know what direction to go? That’s a really cool story. I think there’s a lot of room for different story lines and different emotions and adventures and things like that.
So it’s the day of the death and the aftermath of that?
It’s about dealing with the day and seeing if she can recreate that day and keep these people alive before they would have died. So she meets them in the morgue, the bodies come into the morgue. She gets the graveyard shift job and so it’s kind of her first night there. The pilot is set up, she hears voices and she goes down, sees this body in the morgue and then the day- - it flash cuts to her waking up in her bed going, “Oh my God, was it a nightmare? What’s happening?”
Are there some episodes where you don’t save them?
Yeah. She’s not a superhero.
What made you want to return to series TV?
I don't know. I had done a couple of films and I just think the bar between television and film has really been lifted, that one is considered A list and one is B list. Also, there is something for me about I’m 22 years old and I kind of wanted to have more routine maybe. When you travel around a lot, you don’t really get to see your friends. I kind of wanted to be somewhere doing something more consistent. So, that attracted me to it.
Will Tru be similar or different from Faith?
I guess we’re the same. I mean, Eliza, me, I’m kind of the core of the woman there, but different because they have different backgrounds. They come from different places. They have different support systems. Faith was kind of always this orphan child and my character Tru, her mother was murdered when she was 10 years old. She has her older sister who’s a coke head. Her brother is a compulsive gambler, so she’s trying to keep her family together at the same time. I think she’s a little bit more responsible in that sense and she’s not trying to be a saint, but she’s just trying to do right. She’s just trying to do good.
What are your reflections on the Buffy finale?
I thought it was fantastic. I was just really proud of everyone. I remember everyone got the script for the finale and before even diving into it, I [thought], “How is he going to do this? How is Joss going to end this whole show that’s just been so huge?” By the time I turned the last page, I knew. And I was so impressed with the whole idea of sharing the strength and making every woman a slayer and making every woman strong and fearless. Not fearless, but empowered and I thought it was really beautiful and I loved seeing the show and I thought everyone gave it their all in the finale. I watched it with a friend last night and I was just really impressed. I really think those guys are so hard working and amazing and I’m proud of everyone.
Will Faith return on Angel?
I don't know. I’m so happy for them to hear that the show is going to go on again and we’ll see. You just never know.
Would Faith be softened by relationship with Wood?
That’s for us to explore in the future. I think that it was a really substantial little peek because it was really the first time that Faith had to feel and had to realize that she wasn’t just using men to escape from her other psychological things that she was missing in her life. She kind of used men, and I think that they really had a connection. I think it was a really nice thing for her to have before the show bowed out.
What have you learned in your career?
I couldn’t even begin to start. I think whether it’s my career or whatever people are doing, you just live and learn. You’re always learning and if you let yourself and you’re open minded about what’s going to come your way and about learning things that you don’t know, I think that you’re constantly learning and you’re constantly gaining. Sometimes it feels like you’re losing, but even when you’re losing, you’re getting something.