How Sarah Michelle Gellar can become a Hollywood star
Last week, Entertainment Weekly reported the news that ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans knew was coming but hoped would never actually arrive: Sarah Michelle Gellar will leave the series at the end of the season, and the show will cease production. (A moment of silence, please.)
After seven years of the TV work-week grind, the actress says she yearns for the more luxurious pace of moviemaking. But as every Claire Danes and Jennifer Love Hewitt can tell you, converting TV superstardom into movie superstardom — or just plain stardom — is easier said than done. Fortunately, Gellar has a know-it-all like me to turn to for advice. So here you go, Sarah: Your five-step plan for conquering Hollywood.
1. SHOW US YOUR RANGE! Sarah, you?ve chosen for your first two post-”Buffy” gigs a sequel to ”Scooby Doo” and a quirky romantic comedy called? ”Romantic Comedy.” The first is practically a pre-certified blockbuster; the second, directed by Joel Gallen (”Not Another Teen Movie”), sounds interesting enough to be promising. But neither project sounds like it offers a role as rich and complex as Buffy Summers, with whom you proved to be one of the more versatile actresses of your generation. My fear is that superficial, single-note characters will squander your potential. Instead, seek out great parts. Be patient; take the risk of dropping out of the public eye for a time to find them. (You can always do Broadway. They love Hollywood exiles these days.) Learn a lesson from Jennifer Aniston: skip ”Picture Perfect” — go straight to ”The Good Girl.”
2. DON?T BE AFRAID TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY We?ll be honest: For a while, your “Maybe it?s Maybelline” cover girl image had us wondering whether you were more interested in being a celebrity than being a serious actress. But you earned major points for begging wild man director James Toback for a part in his little seen 2001 film ”Harvard Man.” More of that, please. Do indies. Become a Sundance staple. A shade of Parker Posey would look terrific on you. Look at what it did for Hilary Swank.
3. BECOME A DIRECTOR’S DARLING In the past, you?ve spoken to us of your admiration for Nicole Kidman. But have you noticed how she got to the top of the Hollywood heap? I mean, besides being beautiful, talented, and married to Tom Cruise? She did it by turning herself into a muse for leading auteurs like Jane Campion, Stanley Kubrick, Baz Luhrmann, and Lars Von Trier. Get to know those folks. Work with them at all costs, even if it means working for peanuts — or in your case, chocolate-coated raisins. In the end, your chances of great parts in classic movies rests with them.
4. SHOW SOME SUPPORT Who says you have to be a leading lady right away? Your agent? Your ego? Ignore those voices. Say Yes to supporting bigger stars with colorful character roles in films large or small. Look how Lisa Kudrow has positioned herself for the long run by taking not-on-the-movie-poster parts in the likes of ”The Opposite of Sex” and ”Analyze This.” Or how Marisa Tomei is crawling her way back up the ladder with the likes of ”Slums of Beverly Hills” and ”In the Bedroom.” Winona Ryder was never better than in ”Age of Innocence” and ”Little Women” — and she got Oscar nods for both. Remember: size doesn?t matter. At least, not in this context.
5. DON?T BE AFRAID OF BUFFY You became a household name by starring in a geeky cult franchise. You may be tempted to see some liability in that, thinking that the genre and the fans don?t flatter your image. Poppycock. It?s understandable that you would want to distinguish yourself from the part that made you famous in your first few post-”Buffy” projects. But never forget where you came from. Never forget that ”Buffy”’s hardcore fans are the same folks who drive most of the world?s box office. So go to a Buffy convention once every couple years. Do the DVD commentaries. Think of it as grass-roots fan development. And if Fox ever decides to make a big budget ”Buffy” movie — do it! She?s your Lara Croft. She?s your Ripley. Own her for life. She?ll only be bad for you if you make her bad for you.