...spoilers (and tangents) ahead...
MD = Michael Dequina; Q = Other press; SE = Shannon Elizabeth
MD: Belated congrats on the ShoWest award [for Female Star of Tomorrow].
SE: Thank you.
MD: I was there at the awards ceremony--didn't it last forever, though?
SE: It did. It did. But I kept wanting to stay to see other people that had to come out. It was taking a long time.
MD: Thank God for Chris Rock and his speech at the end; that was great.
SE: He was funny; he was very funny.
Q: Did Kevin Smith like to refer to you by your previous movies?
SE: What do you mean?
Q: He calls Jason Lee "Chasing Amy's Jason Lee" and Ben Affleck "Phantoms' Ben Affleck. He didn't do that to you?
SE: No. I've never even heard him do that with anyone.
Q: So when you first got the script, how did you feel about being Jason Mewes' muse, his romantic lead?
SE: I didn't really think much about it because I didn't know Jason. I hadn't really met him yet, so it didn't mean anything yet.
MD: But you were familiar with the previous films, though?
MD: No? Really?
SE: No, I hadn't seen them. Still haven't seen them. [laughs]
Q: They're all pretty much like this. [laughs]
SE: Don't need to see them.
Q: Do you not want to?
SE: I just haven't. I just don't have time. I don't have time to watch movies at all; I haven't watched films in a really long time.
Q: So what do you think of this movie?
SE: I thought it was funny. I thought it was really cute. There were parts of it I liked, parts of it I'm not sure about, but I thought it was cute. That's more than I say about a lot of my movies; I'm usually like, "I don't know; we'll see how it does..." But it made me laugh.
Q: If you hadn't seen the other movies, obviously there are a lot of in-jokes, references, and all that. Plus there's something about it that's obviously much more personal than a lot of these in-your-face teen comedies that come out.
SE: What do you mean, "personal"?
Q: It's obviously coming from Kevin Smith's real point-of-view and his own artistic obsessions and things like that, which to a lot of film critics might put it on a higher level. Do you feel anything about that? You've been in a bunch of others.
SE: [Laughs] The only thing I can tell you is that Kevin gave me a lot of freedom to create a character, to make her look different, and to become something that wasn't necessarily on the page. Ali [Larter] did it too; Ali changed her character a lot. Who she played was not what was on the page--it wasn't like this tomboy, kind of rugged image like she portrayed that girl to be. Physically, I did my hair blonde, and I cut bangs, and we talked about the glasses. Everything was just right, and everything had a reason. He and I for couple of weeks before we started filming talked about who the character was, what she was gonna do, and how she got from A to B, and created it together.
Q: And this doesn't happen that much in, like, Scary Movie or American Pie?
SE: Well, with Scary Movie [director] Keenen [Ivory Wayans] did rehearsals with everybody, and he gave us certain homework to do. But everybody works very differently. Keenen had his ideas for each character specifically. He was spoofing somebody, so he wanted the look to be a certain way. Kevin--if we brought an idea to him, and he's like, "I don't know, but if you really like it, we'll work around it." And I've never had a director say that, and that's pretty amazing, you know? So in the end he was cool with any choice we wanted to make even if he wasn't cool with it because he'd find a way to make it work, which was pretty liberal and amazing.
Q: That's unusual because his style is normally very staunch. He's got a reputation as being very text-oriented; he really focuses on the words.
SE: You gotta remember too a lot of times he's not working with actors; he's working with friends. I think the more films he does the more he's working with actors. So I think you deal with that two different ways because friends--or someone like Jason Mewes, who doesn't have acting history and lessons and all--you can't say, "OK, where's your inspiration coming from for this character?" You say, "Say it like this, and you copy me." So you deal with it differently than with someone who's an actor or an actress. I know that he's been working on learning how to talk to actors differently and work with them in a different way because it is different than working with someone that's never acted before.
Q: What sort of homework did Keenen give you?
SE: He gave us homework like make a list of everything that would be in our purse, in our room, in our pockets--things like that to just kind of help figure out who the character is, and what they're into, and what they like. So there were little things like that we had to do. We had to watch all the movies--at least as much as we could. So we rented everything and got together and watched all the movies. There were a lot of little things like that.
Q: Do you remember what was on your list?
SE: Like a curling iron, a mirror, a hair brush. My character was very superficial, so I tried to find very superficial things. Lots of makeup--she was very into her looks, so everything that was in her purse and room and stuff had to do with that; that's what helped round her out. It actually kind of helped me in one of the scenes. There was a scene where we were sitting by the fountain, and we were just kind of--it was twice, actually. Two different scenes, we're sitting by the fountain, and my character really didn't have much to say. And instead of just sitting there listening to everyone else, one of the times I asked for a curling iron, and I just curled my hair through the whole scene. And the other time I asked for a protein bar, and I tried to open the protein bar the whole scene, and I couldn't open it. It gave me stuff to do the whole scene because it gave her something--she was very into herself, and she was very into what she was doing, and really not giving too much of a shit about what else was going on, and they're all scared about this thing. That way I'm not so passive just like listening to him going, "Uh-huh. Yeah. Sure." [laughs]
Q: What was the chemistry like between you and Eliza [Dushku] and Jennifer [Schwalbach-Smith] and Ali?
SE: It was good. We were all friends. We all hung out a little bit. But I let them hang out more by themselves, with each other. It's funny because even in real life I wasn't into the kind of things they were into. At the time they all smoked; they all liked to go out. I think they all liked to drink--or at least some of them did; I think maybe all of them. But they were all into having fun, basically. And I don't drink, and I don't smoke, and I think I was studying for American Pie 2 at the time. So a lot of times I would just purposely stay separate and do my own thing. I didn't want to become too good a friend on that level because in the movie we're not, so I purposely made that connection. And it's the same reason Kevin purposely had me come in to do rehearsals with him and Jay ahead of time. Jason and I were the ones that needed to have chemistry eventually and get along and find what it is we liked about each other. So he felt that was really important.
Q: Is it different at all or more difficult at all working with essentially a non-actor like Jason, at least compared to most actors?
SE: [After a pause] Yeah, it's different. [laughs] It's different. A lot of times if I wanted something to be a certain way or wanted to try something, I'd have to talk to him or Kevin about it because it's not something that he would find. [It's] not like he's trying new things each time. He does what Kevin tells him to do, and that's it. Some of the times I would even talk to Kevin, and Kevin would tell him to do something, and he wouldn't even do it that way. But you just don't expect that he's gonna be switching stuff around and coming up with ideas and stuff because that's not how he thinks.
Q: I presume he's kind of playing himself in these movies.
SE: He's very much playing himself. The character was very much written for him. But he's just like in the movie--he's a very sweet guy with a good heart, and that's what my character sees in him; he has a good heart underneath all of the things that he says. When he does get a little gruesome, it comes from a good place. It's not like he's coming from a place of trying to be harmful or evil. He's just like that. He's kind of shy and quiet, and he's really sweet. He just is, you know? There's a reason that Kevin's kind of taken him under his wing and they've become good friends because he's just sweet, you know?
Q: You mentioned that you were preparing for multiple projects at one time. How do you deal with that kind of stress level? How do you manage that work load?
SE: Well, American Pie --I started shooting that a week after I finished this. They were gonna overlap, and then they worked it out so I'd have a week in between 'cause my hair color was different, and all these things were different. A lot of times [during the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back shoot] I was working on the [American Pie 2 character of Nadia's] accent. I worked with my dialect coach, and I had a tape, so I would listen to the tape over and over, and I'd work on the dialogue. And the more I worked on the accent, the more I just learned the lines. And I would break things down and figure out... Part of what people liked about [Nadia] before was not only her sexuality, but I think she worked because there was an innocence about her in the sense she wasn't manipulative, and she wasn't playing games. I really wanted to keep that about her in the second one. So I'd really have to consciously remember that during shooting because there were so many times there'd be something happening, and I'd want to be like, [bitterly] "I can't believe you're responding to her," rather than just be a little sad that he's responding to her or whatever it might be. Instead of being bitter or angry, that's not her. Even though that might be what I would do if I was playing a different character, that wasn't who she was. So I would work on that. And then sometimes you have a couple of hours between shooting a scene and setting up the next scene [for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back], so I'd work on that for a while. Then maybe 30 minutes before I'd have to go back out again to shoot my next scene, I'd refresh my mind about what I'm doing for that next scene, get back into that character [Jay and Silent Bob's Justice], put my glasses back on, and become her again. Sometimes I would even change clothes between--I don't want to get them wrinkled; I want to relax. You have quite a bit of time sometimes between set-ups, so that gives you enough time to do a few different things, so I try to do as much as I can.
Q: How's your 13 Ghosts experience?
SE: I had a lot of fun doing 13 Ghosts, and I can't wait to see it. It's the first time that I did something that was completely not comedy, with such veteran actors, and with so many special effects. I know that it's something that the final product's really gonna be made or broken on the effects. We all did everything we could do, and now it's up to editing and effects because it's a huge part of the movie.
Q: Is it different to do a straight horror than a horror parody?
SE: Well, of course. [laughs] They're completely different films. The other one, the goal's to be funny. This one's not.
Q: I just mean that some comedians say that you actually do comedy more seriously.
SE: I don't really consider myself a comedian, but in 13 Ghosts I played it very straight. I play a college girl; Tony Shalhoub's my dad. There's stuff going on, and I played it very real and true to what's happening. It had nothing to do with comedy.
Q: Are you surprised that so much of your career up until now has been in comedies?
SE: It's not something I could've predicted when I was little. Surprised from when?
Q: From what I understand, you began as a model, correct, or no?
SE: I used to model. I don't know if that's "began"...
Q: I mean, have you been pursuing acting your whole life?
SE: I liked acting when I was little, yeah. I fell into the modeling, and I never wanted to model. So that was never like a goal or a dream. I used it kind of as something that would bring me to the acting.
Q: It's just that someone who does look like a model, let's say, doesn't necessarily start their main acting career in a whole series of comedies.
SE: Well, I think that's because you don't think pretty girls can be funny, and I think a lot of people that you feel might be very into their looks can't make fun of themselves because they are into their looks. I've never been into my looks, and that's not who I am. But because I played a pretty girl in a movie--that's the character. I'm very much not that character. But people don't really know that until they know either more about me from what they read, or seeing me just out or something. But I'm not someone who wears makeup and fixes my hair. I wear baseball caps and T-shirts. It's just that since those are the characters I've played in some films that it's hard to show people that that's just a character.
Q: Would you like to start doing different characters to change the perception?
SE: I think every character that I do is a different character, and it's gonna continue to be [that way].
Q: But most of them have this sort of artificial--
SE: You think Nadia [from American Pie] is artificial? Didn't I just say that her whole thing was she wasn't artificial? The only artificial character I've really played was my character in Scary Movie. I don't think this character's artificial, and I don't think the character I played in Tomcats was artificial. I've only played one character that's artificial.
Q: That element of self-parody is very present in Kevin Smith's work. Is that something you have an appreciation for?
SE: Well, I think you have to be able to laugh at yourself or make fun of yourself to be funny, whether in a film or in real life. Obviously even Miramax recognizes that because they were cool with making fun of themself. [laughs] I think it's really important, and I think, why not be able to laugh at yourself? Even in my real life I'd rather be with a guy who doesn't care about looking cool all the time, and he wants to be goofy and funny and can make fun of himself. It's just easier; it's more fun.
Q: Life's too short, you know?
SE: Life's too short, exactly! [laughs]
Q: I think the question now is how important is it to you to establish yourself as a dramatic actress.
SE: I think it's important, [but] more than that for me to just keep picking different roles in different genres and doing different characters--which is what I've been doing. Even when this came along, I had told [Dimension Films head] Bob Weinstein a year ago that I didn't want to do another comedy. He said, "But I want you to meet Kevin," and I'm like, "I don't want to do another comedy." And then I met Kevin, and I read the script, and I'm like, "Fine, I'll do another comedy. [laughs] I like Kevin; I like the script." But that's why it was great that he did let me take it somewhere I'd never been, look different, play this character as different, and have the nerdy glasses. The more that I'm allowed to do that now, the further I'll be allowed to go in the future and to do more character roles, so that people can read something and be like, "Yeah, I think she could pull this off." Maybe it's not what they saw in American Pie, but it's more like what they saw in this, and they know that I can just keep taking it further. So the goal is just to keep finding very different characters.
Q: Would you be interested in participating on the DVD commentary track for this?
PUBLICIST: That's such a random question!
SE: I have no idea because I don't know what that would entail because I haven't seen the other DVDs, so I don't know what that really means.
Q: Have you ever done a DVD commentary?
SE: No. Not really. Not that I know of. [laughs]
Q: The question is just, do you want to?
PUBLICIST: Not many of her films have come out on DVD yet, so she probably hasn't had many opportunities to do it.
SE: I just don't know what the difference would be, like what that means besides doing more voiceover.
PUBLICIST: I'll explain it to you what they do.
SE: Would I do voiceover? Yeah.
Q: Sometimes they talk along with the movie.
SE: I don't see why not [to do the commentary]. I love Kevin, and I'd pretty much do anything he'd want. He's an awesome guy, and there's a reason I think people keep coming back to work with him again. To a point. [laughs]
Q: What was your first impression when you first met him? Did you guys do a sit-down?
SE: Yeah, I just came in and sat down in his office. He sat behind his desk, lit up a cigarette, and started talking to me. At first I was I think a little nervous because I didn't really know much about him or his films, and I knew that was gonna be a question. "Have you seen my films?" And I'd be like, [sheepishly] "No." [laughs] But he's really sweet and cool, and when I said that, he's like, "That's cool." He's so laid-back, so I got comfortable with him really fast. He made it clear that he wanted feedback on everything, and he wanted my opinions. He's like, "Well, what do you think she would do in this situation?" and "What do you think of a girl like this?" We ended up having two- or three-hour-long conversations about religion and politics and all this stuff. So I think we just hit it off from the beginning.
Q: Does he do an intense rehearsal process beforehand or is it pretty much off and shoot?
SE: He said that he normally likes to rehearse for a month ahead of time, and we didn't have that kind of time. I think when I met him having something like two weeks, two to three weeks [before the shooting start]. So we only had a week of rehearsals, and that really just consisted of me and Jason coming in his office and reading through our lines continuously. If we had the wrong underlying tones for something or sub-script, then he would talk to us about that or change it or say, "No, I think she'd might react to it more like this," and we would change it. That way, once we got onto the set, we already know where we're going, where we're coming from, and everything. That's all it really consisted of for us for this rehearsal process, but I know he said he likes a lot more than he got for it.
Q: You've had great success, and, you know, if I was your father, I'd be very proud of you. But most of the times, if I was your father, and I saw some these movies, I'd go, "What is my little girl doing in these things?!" How do the folks respond?
SE: My parents are the most supportive parents they could ever be, I think. They went to the American Pie premiere with me, and I was the only one that had my parents there. [Everyone laughs] I remember there was an agent or somebody sitting behind my parents, and they got really embarrassed when my scenes came on because they knew it was me and my parents sitting in front of them. My parents were totally cool and very proud, and they're very supportive of everything I do. I'm an only child. I don't think they would ever go against anything. They give me their opinions and advice, but they've gotten to the point that they always trust my opinion, and I've never let them down, and they love me.
Q: If you don't mind my asking, I know your parents or family comes from the Middle East?
SE: My dad's Syrian-Lebanese, but he was born in Texas.
Q: So, I don't know, is there a Muslim background?
SE: No. I was raised Episcopal, actually.
Q: So that explains the understanding quality.
SE: Yeah. [laughs]
Q: What's coming up next?
SE: Well, right now we're all on hold because of this potential strike. So I've been meeting with a lot of people about a lot of projects, but we gotta wait and see what happens before anything can go forward; everybody's kind of in a holding pattern. I have stacks of scripts that I'm reading. I just got back from vacation, and I'm actually going out of town mid-July for a while. I know even if the strike ends like that, it's still gonna take a while for everyone to get into gear, so we're kind of just hanging out waiting right now.
Q: Are you at all surprised that you hooked into these two amazingly popular franchises?
SE: Yeah. I think everything's a little luck, a little coincidence, a little of you doing what you can to control what you can. Anytime you do anything, it's a risk, and you pray it goes well and that you do a good job. For me, it's more [that] I want to do a good job so I can get another role, so I have more choices, so I can get more work. It's the work that I care about. It's not really the press, and it's not really the fame, and it's not really how much money the movie makes. All of that comes into play only for the fact that it could help dictate what my next film is or what other choices I get. But in the end that's really all that matters to me--that I get to keep working, playing all these different, great characters, and being creative and learning. Every film, I learned something: I learn a skill; I learn an accent or how to use a gun or a martial art. And all of that's fun for me because being a tomboy, I was always very active and very sporty and athletic. That's what's fun for me; I get bored really fast, so the more things I get to do, and the more work I get, just the happier I am. That's all I care about.
Q: Did you learn any particular fighting techniques for this?
SE: Yeah, [Eliza and I] worked with some stunt coordinators and worked on different fighting techniques as well as stances; I had to learn the spin kick. They took what we could do and tried to enhance that and change things. It was a pretty big fight scene, and it just keeps coming back to it, so you only get to see clips and pieces of it. But it was really fun. We had some rehearsal says for that, and I would just sit there and keep spinning and kicking when we were off-camera waiting. And then one time I actually kicked her hand, and I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to really kick you!" [laughs] But I really wanted it to look real. I hate when you see a girl fighting and she's like, "Eih!" [punches weakly] You know? That's not real. Come on, hit! [laughs]
Q: Can we talk any more about 13 Ghosts?
SE: 13 Ghosts is about a family: my dad, my little brother, his nanny, and I. We've lost our mother recently, and I was in college, and I've come home to kind of take care of my family. They think I'm just home for the summer, but I really want to stay home, take some time off, and help get them back on their feet. Our nanny's not really doing much, so I feel like I need to be there to cook for my dad and my brother, and clean the house and keep it together. I feel like I've taken on the motherly figure now that she's gone. In the midst of this, we keep saying that if we had more money, things wouldn't be this way, and we wouldn't be stepping all over each other, and we'd get along better. We end up finding out that an uncle of ours has died and left us this house--it's an all-glass house. The kids get all excited, and Dad's like, "I don't know; calm down; I barely knew this guy." But we convince him for us to go out and see the house; just go for the night, and we'll go see it, and we'll come back in an hour. So we go out to see it, and what happens once we're in the house is there's mechanical walls and doors. It's kind of like a trap that we've walked into, and we get trapped in the house. Our uncle was a ghost chaser, and he's captured a bunch of spirits in this house. So a lot of horrific things start happening to us, and we could see each other, but we can't get to each other sometimes because it's glass. It's three or four levels, and you could see up and down, but you get confused and turned around. It was pretty--
Q: That sounds amazing.
SE: It was an amazing set. And everything in there was some beautiful antique. I was constantly saying, "Can I buy this from you guys? I love this!" [laughs] But it was pretty amazing, and there's a good moral at the end of it all. It was great to be able to work with some good veteran actors. F. Murray Abraham plays our uncle, and Embeth Davidtz is in it, and Tony Shalhoub was awesome.
Q: Did you do a lot of reacting to blue screens and "X" marks?
SE: I did a lot of reacting to things that I wasn't supposed to see. There were certain times we could see the ghosts and certain times we couldn't. So sometimes I would have to react like something was attacking me, maybe, but nobody was actually there in front of me, and sometimes there was actually something there in front of me, but I had to act like I couldn't see it. If that makes sense. It was kind of strange.
MD: Had you seen the original film?
SE: No, I kept asking for the tape because it was floating around the set, and nobody got it to me. But people kept saying that--
Q: It scared the hell out of me when I was 7.
SE: Well, in the original they had these ghost-viewer glasses, and that's the only thing, I'm told, that really was brought over into this one. That's why sometimes we could see the ghosts, sometimes we couldn't, because you had to have these glasses to see them.
Q: On the screen, the thing would come up, "Put on your glasses if you want to see the ghosts, but don't if you don't!"
SE: Right, yeah, it's not quite like that--it was us who was putting on the glasses or not.
Next Roundtable: Kevin Smith
ORIGINAL SCORE CD!
The Complete Junket Roundtable Transcripts
The World Premiere
The World Premiere Invitation
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: Shannon Elizabeth/© Michael Dequina