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Gabrielle Anwar tries to get out of her rut

She got tired of playing the same sort of role, so her character has a mysterious past in the new film ”The Grave”

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”I may as well have been a big rubber doll with a hole strategically placed,” says Gabrielle Anwar of her role as Andy Garcia’s love interest in the soon-to-video Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. And while the actress is pleased with her work as a woman with a mysterious past in The Grave, she’s unhappy about the ”princesses and ineloquent bimbettes” she’s agreed to play along the way. ”I’ve made my own bed,” she says. ”I’m only now regretting it.” Says Grave director Jonas Pate, ”She’s always cast as the beautiful woman. But she has this incredibly funny, dark sensibility.”

Anwar, 26, says she chose acting to keep from going to school. Having been kicked out of one for fistfighting, she decided at 15 that the competition at drama school was too stiff. So after landing a role in the BBC miniseries Hideaway, she just kept working. ”To this day, I think if I stop I’m going to end up in some establishment somewhere,” she says.

At 19, Anwar, daughter of a Persian film producer and an English actress, moved to Los Angeles with American actor and Grave costar Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It), whom she met while both were working in London. ”He quoted some lines from a Hardy novel I was reading,” she says. ”I was completely enchanted.”

While cleaning apartments between jobs, she got called in to audition for what would become her breakthrough role, Al Pacino’s tango partner in Scent of a Woman, or as she jokingly calls it, ”Stench of a Wench.” Her next part, as a hotelier’s mistress in the Michael J. Fox comedy For Love or Money, was, she says, ”a dreadful waste of millions. I beg forgiveness from every woman who listened to what I said.”

Anwar, who lives in L.A. with her daughter, Willow, 2 1/2, won’t discuss her relationship with Sheffer. But she is chatty about her next film, Nevada, which she describes as ”a woman’s piece.” This month she goes to Luxembourg for Subdown, a submarine adventure with Stephen Baldwin. ”I’m trying to get more of a balance and find material that has something to do with my life as a woman,” she says. ”Sometimes it’s hard, ’cause mortgage payments are high.”