Erika Christensen, co-star of the "The Upside Of Anger" Movie!
The multi-talented star is a prospect in entertainment, as she has already earned credits in early projects such as Michael Jackson's "Childhood" video, as well as singing on Neil Diamond's The Christmas Album II, Christensen's demanding turn as the drug-addicted daughter of the drug czar in Steven Soderbergh's critically acclaimed Traffic has recently focused much attention on the young actress. Born on August 19, 1982, in Seattle, Washington, Erica began training as an actress since childhood and performed in theaters. With early television credits including Frasier and Third Rock From the Sun to her name, Christensen made her film debut in 1997's Leave It to Beaver as Wally Cleaver's girlfriend Karen. Christensen's early roles were of mostly light comedic substance, a trend she has recently countered by gravitating toward more dramatic roles in both television and film. Nominated for the 1998 Young Star Award for her performance in the television series Nothing Sacred, Christensen continued her dramatic turn in such television series as The Practice and Touched by an Angel. In addition to her television roles, Christensen's film credits have also progressed into the more dramatic. Following Leave It to Beaver with the Disney film Can of Worms, Christensen's next role would face her with the formidable challenge of sympathetically portraying a broken, drug-addicted teen in Traffic. The following years found Christensen's lean towards more dramatic roles working to her advantage in terms of developing as a serious-minded young actress, and despite roles in such popcorn-munchers as Swimfan (2002), the actress continued to challenge herself with roles in such films as that same year's Home Room. An unflinching journey into the dark hart of post-Columbine high school America, Christensen's role as a once popular student thrust into despair after being wounded in a high school shooting proved she had not lost her dramatic edge. On the lighter side, Christensen would next turn up alongside actresses Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon in /comedy drama The Banger Sisters before conspiring to get the ace her SAT in a less-than-legal fashion in The Perfect Score (2003).
Aside from the distinction of playing alongside Hollywood's elite, Erika earned critical acclaim for the realism of the role, and received multiple awards including Female Breakthrough Performance at the MTV Movie Awards, Female Standout Performance at the Young Hollywood Awards, and Outstanding Performance by a Cast Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
She named one of People Magazine's 'Breakthrough Stars of 2001'. She is a talented singer too.
Erica has younger twin brothers called Dane and Brando.
Her personal quotes:
"I'm more proud of my upper body. Let's just say I'm a typical female in that way."
Erika Christensen and Evan Rachel Wood: Girl Talk
17-year-old Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) and Erika Christensen, 22 (Traffic and Swimfan) are two young actresses who have both been described as possessing “talent and poise” beyond their years. We found that to be true of course but we also got a good sense of laid-back fun from these two young women when we had an exclusive chat with them recently about playing sisters in the comedic drama The Upside of Anger in which they co-star with Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt.
Evan, in t-shirt with “Bowie” on it, jeans and belt with red plastic bracelet/watch, looked every inch the relaxed teen. Her well-applied make-up accented a beautiful porcelain complexion. The usually blonde Erika, was stylish as a hot brunette, in big hoop earrings and a beaded V neck beige top with pink flowers. She complained to us that the beads were falling off.
In a suite at Beverly Hills’ 4 Seasons’ hotel, the girls got comfy all curled up on a couch to dish with us about playing sisters. We learned that the two met in acting school and have known each other for years. They actually seem like sisters. Evan even gets to kiss Erika’s little brother Dane in this film. Join our girlchat about guys, movies and extreme sports!
TeenHollywood: Did you give Evan any advice on working with your brother?
Evan: She was there cheering us on.
Erika: I was like ‘yes’ when I came to the set on their kissing scene day. I was watching the monitor going ‘wooo hooo’. I was so happy.
TeenHollywood: You narrate the film, Evan. Did you ad lib any of that?
Evan: I did the first time I did it then I had to do it twenty more times. I just had to go with it. We could never get the sound right. I did it (recorded it) in closets and over the phone and on other movie sets.
Erika, your character Andy in “Upside” is dating a much older guy and Evan, yours can’t even get the guy she likes to kiss her. Do you think, as sisters, you would have talked about that together?
Evan: I think they’d just leave that alone.
Erika: Yeah. I think I probably, in my case, everybody (in the family) knew better than to say anything to me. It’s like ‘you shut your mouth. This is my life’. I think probably Andy would be gung ho about you guys (Evan and her movie boyfriend). Go for it!
Evan: Go! Tell him you’re from a broken home.
Erika: He’s cute. Go talk to him!
TeenHollywood: What makes you guys angry and have you ever found out you were totally wrong to be so angry?
I think I’ve been extremely right every time I’ve been angry (we all laugh). No, but I don’t get angry very often. What pisses me off are viewpoints that aren’t gung ho.
Evan: Yeah. I don’t like people who are just phony and like your best friend and then you turn your back and they stab you. That makes me angry.
Erika: That’s actually at the very top of the list because they do exist and we all know it. There are those people who come on like your best friend and they are knifing you in the back. The trick is figuring out who they are and getting away. Or get pissed off and see what happens.
TeenHollywood: There is so much competition in Hollywood among young actresses. Has another actress ever done anything evil to you?
Evan: I actually had a part and somebody stuck their nose it in and took it!
Erika: That’s happened to me. The most evil things that have happened to me is people trying to make you feel less than you are or wear down your confidence. That’s really wrong. And those are the same people who will….
Evan: … Be your best friend.
Erika: Right. Fortunately, it’s not everyone.
Evan: I’ve had pretty good luck with other girls. It’s kind of surprising but some have been supportive.
Erika: We’re both like guys’ girls. So being in an environment where there is mainly women is very interesting.
Evan: And scary.
TeenHollywood: So was it weird to be sisters in this film then? You both grew up with brothers.
Evan: I never did that cooking in the kitchen stuff.
Erika: My mom doesn’t even cook. She can but my dad cooks and my mom and I are not girly and (to Evan) neither is your mom at all.
TeenHollywood: Evan, your boyfriend in the film bungee-jumps. Have you ever done that?
Evan: I’ve kind of bungee-jumped. I wasn’t attached by the ankles. I was in a harness. You don’t just jump. They pull you back (and launch you). It was seventeen stories and then you pull a cord and you drop.
Erika: I did that parachute thing. You can do it with a bunch of people. One person, when you are up there has to pull the string to release you and we didn’t do it together but Evan and I were both the braves ones pulling the strings. Also, I went zip-lining between mountains. It was so fun. I think I’d rather go sky-diving than bungee jumping though.
TeenHollywood: Evan, you didn’t do this right after Thirteen but after that intense film did you think ‘I want to lighten up now’?
Evan: I don’t want to just be known as the extreme, dark girl. Obviously I’m not going to jump in right away and do another promiscuous drug addict character. But, no, I was just looking for something good. It just worked out that I happened to balance everything out.
TeenHollywood: If either one of you were going to go out with a guy, what qualities do they need to have for you to like them?
Evan: Talk nerdy to me. Brainy.
Erika: Film buff.
Evan: I didn’t even realize I had a type until like two weeks ago. I guess I like shaggy hair. I don’t like guys who use hair spray. Just get out of the shower and shake it a little. Just funny guys and they have to like cartoons and Winnie the Pooh.
Erika: I want a genius myself. I want a creative genius. I realized that. I’m really attracted to it. And somebody with soul and integrity.
TeenHollywood: Ideal date activities for you? Erika, we know you are into Karaoke.
Erika: That’s a good one, actually. I definitely think just the standard dinner is nice so you can talk. Anywhere you can talk. Movies are great but you at least have to do dinner and a movie… or the other way around, movie and then dinner so you have something to talk about.
Evan: Or watch a movie at somebody’s house. I think theme parks are really fun. I always wait and see if the guy will take me to the Santa Monica pier. I know it’s really corny but, to me, when I think of a date, I think of walking along the pier, sunset, Ferris Wheel sort of thing.
TeenHollywood: What music do you use to escape or get away in your head?
Evan: Radiohead takes me on a trip. That can take me to a whole other level.
Erika: I listen to so many different kinds of music. And they all take me to different places. I love Billie Holiday and older music. It’s really pretty and it makes your whole life feel like a movie; everything just feels nice.
TeenHollywood: Speaking of nice, we hear that Joan Allen, who plays your mom in the film is really a great person.
Evan: She is so great.
Erika: She’s a wonderful person.
Evan: She’s completely opposite of her character. Completely understanding and loving. She hung out with us.
Erika: She wasn’t going out to her trailer.
Evan: I don’t know how she turns it on and off. She’d be like (angry) waaaa and then, la, la, la.
TeenHollywood: You guys grew up with brothers and certainly don’t have alcoholic moms. What can you relate to in this film?
Evan: Everybody goes through that chaotic family stuff. It’s gonna happen.
Erika: Your secrets sneak up on you and rip at you. I think it’s obvious that these characters desperately need each other and there’s this understanding among them that they love each other no matter what. When you have that freedom, when you know you’re not going to lose each other, you’ll always love each other, you can say horrible things.
TeenHollywood: What actors are you dying to work with? They can be great AND cute.
Evan: Besides Johnny Depp?
Erika: Gael Garcia Bernal. He’s cute and he’s brilliant. I want to work with someone Evan worked with, Edward Norton.
Evan: He’s so, so talented. He’s brilliant in Down in the Valley. I think people are going to freak out. I think it’s the best thing he’s ever done.
Erika: I want to work with Clive Owen. (We all agree that Clive is hot)
TeenHollywood: Any message for people watching your careers?
Erika: I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am and thank you for watching the movies. We’re making them for you.
Evan: Yeah. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is a decent movie. Thank you so much.
Erica Christensen speaks about 'The Upside of Anger'
One night while filming "The Upside of Anger" in London, director Mike Binder made a confession as he walked Keri Russell home after a late dinner.
"He said, 'I gotta be totally honest with you, I've never seen 'Felicity' before,' " Russell recalled recently. "And he swears that I said really instantly back, 'Well, I never saw your show either.' I did not do that! Although, [it's true that] I never saw it."
Binder's show was the short-lived HBO sitcom "The Mind of the Married Man," and perhaps it's best Russell never caught the racy portrayal of infidelity. Russell's co-stars did, and well ...
"I didn't tell him this, but I was a little scared of him," Erika Christensen said. "He's got a twisted sense of humor."
"I saw 'The Mind of the Married Man,' and this is definitely his best work," added Evan Rachel Wood.
So if they weren't fans before, how did Binder lure four of Hollywood's hottest young actresses ("Vanilla Sky" 's Alicia Witt being the fourth) to his low-budget drama?
"Joan Allen," Binder answered. "Every girl in town came to my office and said, 'Is Joan Allen really in this?' A lot of them hadn't even read the script."
"Joan Allen is so stunning," Russell confirmed of the veteran actress, whose recent credits include "The Bourne Supremacy," "The Notebook" and "Pleasantville." "And she's so warm and kind to everyone, and she's that talented it's just so fun watching her. ... It's a really different character for her. She's plays this kind of f---ed up alcoholic mom, and she's really rough and inappropriate. And it was cool to see her do that."
"The Upside of Anger" is an ensemble drama, but Allen is clearly the centerpiece as a bitter mother trapped in a midlife crisis who unexpectedly falls for her stoner ex-baseball-star neighbor, played by Kevin Costner (yes, his third time as a baseball player).
"Joan plays this mother who — her husband apparently leaves her, and then it's basically the next four years of their life — her and her four daughters, who are very close in age," Russell explained. "And I play one of the daughters, who's very mouthy with her. It's just about their upper-middle-class life in Michigan and how they're all dealing with this loss."
Interestingly enough, Allen not only attracted her co-stars to "The Upside of Anger," she inspired Binder to write it.
"I played Joan's chief of staff in 'The Contender,' and we got along great," Binder explained. "She saw a comedy I did called 'The Sex Monster' on HBO one night and said, 'Why don't you write something for me?' I said, 'Be careful what you ask for.' "
The idea for the story came out of Binder's desire to expand his résumé, which also includes the upcoming "Man About Town" with Ben Affleck and 1993's "Indian Summer."
"I had written a lot of stuff about sex and lust [and] marriage, and I wanted to do something different, but also something that was real to me," he said. "I thought, 'What else is real to me? Anger.' So then it was, 'What's an interesting take?' Well, what's interesting about anger is that a lot of the stuff we're angry about, we never know the whole story. We never know if it was worthy of all that anger."
Allen signed on after reading the script, which brought on the rest of the ladies, but Binder was still without a male star and, more importantly, financing. "I gave the script to Kevin, and he said, 'I'll read it, but it doesn't have funding and it's kinda independent, so I probably won't do it,' " Binder said. "But he read it and said, 'This thing speaks to me.' He knew we'd have to get financing on his name and he agreed to that. He's the hero of this movie, as far as the making of it."
In the movie, Costner's character provides the voice of reason, if not a father figure.
"We're this group of really volatile, kinda angry women, and he comes in and he's kind of the Saint Bernard of the story," Russell explained. "And the great thing about his character is it happened in real life, too. He's just so sweet."
Over the three months of shooting, the cast became close friends, especially the ladies.
"Three of us, Alicia Witt, Joan Allen and myself, all had birthdays three days in a row, so we celebrated and were complete girls," Christensen said. "We had all the girls together and had cake and wore tiaras, and we were like, 'We are the princesses!' "
"It was a lot of women all the time, which is interesting, but I have to say, for a group of girls, it was really easy," Russell added.
"No cat-fighting, no nothing," Wood said. "Everybody was so humble and so cool. They have no idea how brilliant they are."
And in the end, the ladies even changed their minds about Binder, who plays a slimeball that courts Christensen's much younger character in the movie.
"He's got so much heart," Christensen said. "I adore that man. He's so passionate about his work."
"He's so funny," Russell added. "Just smart and wicked funny."
Erica Christensen speaks about her roles, films, co-stars
Actress Erika Christensen won great acclaim for her portrayal of the druggie daughter of Michael Douglas in Traffic. She recently played the daughter of a rock groupie in The Banger Sisters with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn. In the thriller Swimfan, Erika gets to stand alone as a hot but warped siren who just won't take no for an answer when a guy pushes her away. We chatted with the actress seaside in Marina del Rey, California. Dressed casually in tan top, hoop earrings and jeans, the porcelain-skinned beauty was candid about her role, her cute co-star Jesse Bradford and her favorite films.
Erika admits that the last few years have been the most exciting of her life. She wasn't prepared for the notoriety that her role in Traffic would bring her. "I was in the Caribbean and I met this guy on a little island off somewhere. This guy was like 'Were you in Traffic?' I was like 'you speak English? You've seen Traffic'? Yeah. He had a satellite or something". She looked plain and wasted in that film. "They made me down, you know. So it doesn't matter what I do, I'm still recognized. I can't just roll out of bed because then I'm more recognizable".
After Traffic, the actress was offered roles as a stripper. "I guess people thought oh, she'll go there. She'll do all that kind of stuff. Now, fortunately, I'm balancing things out. For the first four or five years of my career, I was really getting the nice girl next door so Traffic was almost a rebellion. It was perfect. It was exactly what I wanted. It was my dream. And now, especially after Swimfan, I'm looking to play some nicer people".
We wondered why she chose the saucy seductress role in Swimfan. "Playing somebody that's that far off into the extreme is on an actor's wish list. You want to explore that and it's a lot of fun. We're discouraging teenage boys from cheating on their girlfriends". Many are calling the film a teen Fatal Attraction. "The connection in undeniable. The thing I really, really admired about Glenn Close's performance in Fatal Attraction was the vulnerability that she portrayed. You think that she's so strong but she's really not. She's so vulnerable. I wanted to emulate a vulnerability in this character".
To nail her role, Erika researched stalkers. "Interestingly enough, I think of it as kind of being comparable to addiction which is basically what this girl has, an addiction for this guy. She's very needy and she'll go to any length to get what she wants. It's in that way, very comparable to a drug addiction".
Erika and co-star Jesse Bradford got along…swimmingly. Her ad-libbed actions were okay with him. "That scene in the diner, I was playing footsie with him under the table and some people [actors] are thrown off by that kind of thing and some people just roll with it. He rolled with it. He was like whoa, okay cool, this is good. It just makes you pay attention". The actress is impressed by guys who are straight with her. "I find the ability to really look me in the eye attractive. That's necessary for an actor and it's necessary for a boyfriend too. Jesse can definitely do that. He's really intense. You can see in those scenes. He's looking right at me, telling me 'Leave me alone'".
Happiness, to Erika, is being comfortable in her own skin. "I just feel like there are things about me that I'd like to change. Whatever I can't change, I'll be happy with. I sometimes procrastinate and that's not something that I'm proud of. I'm really dedicated and focused and I have a lot of self-discipline but then there are those times where I really just side-step things and I don't think that's how to deal with things".
After filming in the New York area, the Swimfan cast would sometimes hit the club scene. Erika loves to dance for a natural high. "Dancing out with a gang definitely [gives me a high]. People probably look at me and think I'm drunk because you get me on the dance floor and I kind of go crazy. I have taken a lot of classes. And singing too. I really love it. We would go out in New York when we were going out during the movie and karaoke. It's a blast".
Erika swears that partying for her doesn't include wild drugging and drinking. She saves that for the movies. "I'd like to be known for who I am but I really do enjoy playing those characters that have lives that are so different from my own because then it really requires acting and that's what I love to do. It's a game. There are barriers to overcome and goals to achieve and every step of the way is fun".
The actress could easily have gone the Jennifer Love Hewitt route with roles in a string of teen films. "It seems like it was a mutual thing. They didn't take to me and I have been more drawn to different things. As an audience member, I loved them. I am a teen so I have great fun going to the movies and seeing those kids of movies but I also really like a movie to have something to say. I don't want to say 'socially relevant' because that's a tall order but just something that I can put myself behind".
As movie faves, the actress lists films like…Life is Beautiful because it's such an inspiration. Since film is such a powerful medium, I think you should take that opportunity and use it and that movie is a great inspiration. Also movies like The Shawshank Redemption, I like seeing the happy ending. It opens up the discussion for philosophical, 'how do you live' conversations".
We asked Erika to give us a sound bite for Swimfan. "I think Swimfan is just good, scary fun. You know, it's a summer date movie so bring somebody you want to grab on to when it gets scary".
New Stills of Erika Christensen in 'The Upside of Anger'
Kevin Costner, Joan Allen, Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt headline a stellar ensemble cast in the comedic drama "The Upside of Anger."
Allen stars as the sharp-witted Terry Wolfmeyer, a suburban wife and mother who is left to raise her four headstrong daughters when her husband unexpectedly disappears. Things get even more hectic when Terry falls for her neighbor Denny (Costner), a once-great baseball star turned radio DJ, and her daughters( Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell) are forced to juggle their mom’s romantic dilemmas as well as their own.
The Perfect Score: An Interview with Erika Christensen
The Perfect Score might be The Breakfast Club for its generation. The film is good, but it probably will be remembered more for its cast. Erika Christensen is one of the most promising actresses in the new cadre of Hollywoodís young stars. Her performance in Traffic and subsequent movie roles has proven her dramatic range. She does good work in The Perfect Score, playing a new character for her, a normal high school girl. Erika was very engaging during the interview with blackfilm.com. She has a lot of personality and seems very professional. She talks about The Perfect Score, stardom, and her future slate of films, including the Kevin Costner-Joan Allen vehicle The Upside of Anger.
How did you do on your SAT's?
EC: How did I do? (Laughs) I didn't take it. I was working through that period in my life. Although now I'm very curious, I've been asked many times. I'm thinking about taking it just to find out.
So you never needed that score or had any pressure to get into college?
EC: No, I didn't plan on going to college, at least not a full-time schedule. I still have that plan. I may take some individual classes at some point, as an indulgence. I was working and the kind of stresses I had was important auditions and talking to people I really respected.
Chris Evans (Kyle) said the audition process was much more stressful than the SAT could ever be. Do you agree with that?
EC: Yes, I think it's all self imposed, self-inflicted, whatever you want to say. It depends, but it can be really stressful. Those auditions, you sit down, and literally the whole time you're there they scrutinize you, and you know that. But you can't take it personally. I just have to prepare. If I'm prepared to do what I thing I'm wanted to do then I do that. Try to get a good night's rest, I always think better well rested.
How easy or hard was it to get into your character?
EC: I think it was easy because everyone can relate to the stress. She's one of those people who doesn't know what she wants. Asking yourself that question is huge to anybody. I think it's pretty easily relatable, the struggles that she has.
What about her as the brainy daughter, where you more of a rebel?
EC: I'm a good girl. I can definitely find that similarity between us. I'm more focused. I gather momentum whichever direction I'm moving. If I put my attention on work then I do really well.
Did your parents try and steer you?
EC: Fortunately not, when I was younger, like five, they put me in acting. I didn't know if I wanted to do it. They became paranoid they were being "those pushy parents". So they stopped and when I was twelve, I realized I did want to do it. They gave me a little trial period and I did really well, started making money, and they were like this is a good deal. Let's do it.
When you were twelve you were in the Childhood music video with Michael Jackson. Tell us about that?
EC: Wow, is that in my biography? (Laughs) I wish I could have met him, I didn't. We were green screened together. In the video he's sitting in a forest and all the kids are in boats above him. He sent me an autographed photo and that was nice.
Did all the kids ask you what Michael was like?
EC: Yes, and I had to disappoint them and say I didn't get to meet him.
What appealed to you about the script?
EC: A lot of reasons, When I read the script I thought it was going to be fun. Its Breakfast Club meets Ocean's Eleven meets The Italian Job, something really fun. I liked my character. I liked that she was a nice person, because I haven't always played nice people. I haven't always played someone who appears to have an ordinary sort of life. I liked her struggle. I think it's important to really ask yourself what do you want, if you're going to be happy. The cast was good, it was well cast, a lot of reasons.
What do you do when you're not acting?
EC: I spend time with my family. I watch movies. I don't get to do that as much as I want to, but when I'm flying around like this I get see them. I do go dancing. I love to dance and sing. I love to travel, although a lot of that comes with this territory as well. I study my religion, visit my family in Seattle, go to the gym, all that good stuff.
Is there a dream role you would like to play?
EC: I have a lot of dream roles. Yes (starts to clap) singing and dancing, musicals are back! I want to be in one or two or however many. I'd love to. I want to be in an action movie, a real action movie. I just got a little taste in The Perfect Score. I want to do an action movie where they say go the gym and get ripped like Linda Hamilton. I want to do a sweeping romance. I just did Wuthering Heights, a modern adaptation that had musical elements, and that was fun. It's a tragic story; I wanted a better one.
You seem very together, do you have moments when you lose it?
EC: Meeting other actors, sometimes they're not really outgoing and I mellow out, get a little tongue-tied. But I've met a lot of people that are really genuine and talkative.
Will you be watching the new mini-series of Traffic?
EC: Yes, I do want to see it. I think it's such a feat for the writers, to take a mini-series into a film, and back to TV. I'm very curious to see how it goes.
Not having a typical childhood was there something about these characters that remind you of something you may have missed?
EC: I think, in my own way, I've experienced some the same things. Making a movie, on location, is like going to camp. You see the same people everyday. It's a microcosm of like, where if you say something wrong, you'll see that person the next day. There's no escaping it, rumors fly. No it was great. I did in my high school years, even though I didn't go to a regular high school, was able to go to prom with friends. For me my life has worked out perfectly. I don't have any regrets.
What can you tell us about Riding the Bullet and The Upside of Anger?
EC: I'm really looking forward to these movies. Riding the Bullet is based on a Stephen King short story, adapted and directed by Mick Garris, who has experience with Stephen's work. It's, if you ask me, is about opening up and being able to appreciate life and love. It takes place in 69 or 68; my character sort of epitomizes the time. She's carefree and loving, open to life, Jonathan Jackson, who the movie is centered around, is very closed and very dark. It's his journey of opening up with the help of Stephen King's creativity. And David Arquette. The Upside of Anger is going to be great; I'm so excited about it!
That's Kevin Costner right?
EC: Kevin Costner and Joan Allen, who does not love Joan Allen? She's fantastic, so cool as a person. She's our mother, it's about a family, there are four daughters, Alicia Witt, Kerri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood, and myself. It's a great cast and it's written and directed by Mike Binder. He stars in it too. It's a bunch of us over a period of three years. It's very dramatic and funny. It's really character driven. I'm looking forward to see it so much.
Is Mike Binder the same Mike Binder from The Mind of the Married Man?
EC: That's right, The Mind of the Married Man, is Mike Binder the married man? (Laughs)
Well how many Mike Binder's are there?
EC: (Laughs) He's the single one, no, that's THE Mike Binder.
Erika Christensen Talks About "Swimfan"
In "Swimfan," Erika Christensen stars as Madison, the new girl in town who makes quite an impression on local swimming star, Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford). Ben's supposedly involved in a healthy relationship with Amy (Shiri Appleby) but when the sexy Madison starts making her moves, the impressionable Ben acts impulsively, setting into place a dangerous and deadly love triangle.
Erika Christensen initially auditioned for the role of Amy, Ben's girlfriend. But once the filmmakers saw her work as Michael Douglas' troubled daughter in "Traffic," they knew they'd found their Madison. Director John Polson explains, "Erika brought subtle dimension and vulnerability to her role in 'Traffic,' which is exactly what we wanted for Madison."
ERIKA CHRISTENSEN (Madison)
With all the roles you could have done after "Traffic," what attracted you to "Swimfan?"
First of all playing somebody that's that far off into the extreme is on an actor's wish list just because you want to explore that, and it's a lot of fun. Jesse was saying earlier [that] there's sex and violence and it's a beautifully shot movie so, hopefully, we can kind of justify all of that by saying we're discouraging teenage boys from cheating on their girlfriends.
There's a lot of the Glenn Close and Sharon Stone vibe in your performance. Did you watch those performances?
You know the "Fatal Attraction" connection is undeniable. So yes, the thing I really, really admired about her [Close's) performance in "Fatal Attraction" was the vulnerability that she portrayed. You think that she's so strong but she's really not. She's so vulnerable. I wanted to emulate vulnerability in this character.
Your character plays the cello. Do you play?
I took lessons and I really took to it. I liked it a lot. I come from a musical family and now, today, I may be able to play that song, probably pretty off key. But no, I can't play the cello for real.
Can you swim?
I can, yes.
So was it hard pretending to drown?
It was difficult because, oh God, you have to let yourself sink.
Was it you or did they use a body double?
I'd actually have to watch it again to differentiate but it was mostly me, I think. If it's not me, it's a great double. I just had to drown and drown and drown and they'd just roll and every once in a while I'd stop drowning and tread water and say, "Okay, let me catch my breath," and then I'd go, "Okay, I'm drowning again."
You play a strong seduction scene with Jesse Bradford in the coffee shop. Did you rehearse or talk about it?
We kept it on set but actually, that scene in the diner before we go to the pool - I don't remember whose idea this is so I'm going to take credit for it - I was playing footsie with him under the table. Some people are thrown off by that kind of thing and some people just roll with it. He rolled with it. He was like, "Whoa, okay cool, this is good." It just makes you pay attention.
Did you research stalkers for "Swimfan?"
I did research stalkers; there were some websites. Interestingly enough, I think of it as kind of being comparable to addiction, which is basically what this girl has is an addiction for this guy. She's very needy and she'll go to any length to get what she wants. It's in that way very comparable to a drug addiction.
What do you personally find attractive in a male co-star?
I certainly find the same thing attractive in a person, which is the ability to really look me in the eye. That's necessary for an actor and it's necessary for a boyfriend, too. Jesse can definitely do that. He's really intense. You can see in those scenes. He's looking right at me.
Did you consciously avoid the teen film star “I Know What You Did Last Summer” route?
It seems like it was a mutual thing. They didn't take to me and I have been more drawn to different things. As an audience member, I loved them. I am a teen so I have great fun going to the movies and seeing those kinds of movies, but I also really like a movie to have something to say. I don't want to say 'socially relevant' because that's a tall order, but just something that I can put myself behind.
Is it a coincidence that you also have a swimming pool scene in "The Banger Sisters?"
Yes, it is a coincidence.
Can you tell us about that movie?
It's a comedy which makes it different from "Swimfan" and "Traffic." I can tell you that Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon - it was just wonderful for me to be able to watch them work and to discover their senses of humor because they both have great senses of humor. They're such pros. They really know when to stay focused and when to have fun.
What sort of roles were you getting offered after "Traffic?"
I don't know. I guess people thought, "Oh, she'll go there. She'll do all that kind of stuff." I don't know, now, fortunately, I'm balancing things out. For a long time, four or five years of my career, I was really getting the nice girl next door [roles] so "Traffic" was almost a rebellion. It was perfect. It was exactly what I wanted. I couldn't have asked for better. It was my dream. And now, especially with "Swimfan," I'm looking to play some nicer people.
Why should people go see "Swimfan?"
I think "Swimfan" is just good, scary fun. You know, it's a summer date movie so bring somebody you want to grab on to when it gets scary.
Swimfan started. It involves some jock kid, Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford). He's up for a swim team scholarship, he's got a long term girlfriend, he's got a job handing out meds to charming old guys at the hospital, and he looks like the bass player in one of those Hollywood emo bands. In other words, he's a complete drip. So's his girlfriend, Amy (Shiri Appleby), who already looks like a bitter 35 year old ad exec, at the tender age of 18. These two are so personality-deficient that I probably wouldn't even notice them if they were bleeding from the neck right in front of me. I think that's the way most mainstream teenagers are these days, though, so it's probably a pretty accurate portrayal. These two go about their boring Stepford lives, until corkscrew haired Southern Belle Madison (Christensen) shows up. She just showed up in town, living with her creepy cousin for a few months, looking to make some new friends. You saw the ads on TV, right? She gloms onto Ben for some strange reason, seduces him the pool, and when he tries to rebuff her, she goes nuts. She pulls various dirty tricks to fuck up his life completely, and then he kills her. Because, as you know, "good" always conquers "evil", especially in suburban American high schools.
Swimfan's got a few problems. This Madison chick would have to be CIA trained to pull off her sinister moves - how could she have possibly screwed up the kid's piss sample, so that he gets tossed off the swim team for steroid use? In one scene, she shows up at the hospital and rearranges all the little cups full of pills for Ben's rounds, so that he nearly kills his favorite sick old man when he gives him the wrong meds. Is a white coat and a clipboard really enough to get access to patient's medications? And when the tables are turned at film's end, Ben's plan for revenge seems lifted straight from a Scooby Doo script. And I'm still not sure why Ben is the film's hero and Madison the villain - I mean, he cheated on his girl, and then tried to pretend it never happened. They still call cats like that 'scumbags' on my side of the street. They also never even explain why such a smart, sexy chick fixated on this lame duck in the first place. Now I remember why we never go to the movies- it's because Hollywood sucks. Did I mention, though, that the chick in the movie is really, really hot?
The Perfect Score
The S.A.T. is hard to take, it's even harder to steal.
High school senior Kyle (Chris Evans) gets a major shock when he discovers his SAT score (college qualifying marks) isn't good enough to get him into college as an architecture major. A perfectionist, Kyle's resilient nature is sparked when he embroils his best friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg) in a madcap scheme to steal the SATs. The boys soon realize the enormity of the task ahead of them, and recruit an eclectic bunch of willing accomplices to help. Among their group are Francesca (Scarlett Johansson), an anti-authoritarian hipster whose father happens to work in the building where the elusive test scores are kept; Anna (Erica Christensen), an overachiever who flunked the test due to nerves; Desmond (Darius Miles), the school's star basketball player who wants to get into a good college; and Ray (Leonardo Nam), a hapless stoner who is only included in the group after overhearing Kyle and Matty planning the robbery in the school bathroom. Determined not to fail, the students overcome their different backgrounds and manage to work together by planning an SAT heist in meticulous detail. As the harebrained scheme becomes a reality, moments of bonding, hilarity, and a few lessons in life ensue, as well as a sly critique of the tests along race and gender lines.
Erika Christensen plays in ''Traffic'
Traffic is director Steven Soderbergh's gritty expose on the futility of America's 'War on drugs'. Inspired by the 1989 British television mini-series,
Traffik, it shows this so-called war from many viewpoints. There are five loosely connected plotlines that follow the drug war, from those who are in its grimy trenches to those in its seemingly shielded seats of government. We see how law enforcement officers on both sides of the border attempt to deal with the drug trafficking problem, how the American government perceives the threat, and how lives are changed through association with the drug trade.
For the first two hours, this movie had me completely within its grip. The directing style that Soderbergh's work has become known for is present, as he utilizes hand-held cameras whenever possible, giving scenes a documentary-like feel. This feeling is further enhanced by his use of grainy, high-contrast visuals for key scenes.
Another technique Soderbergh uses is that each plotline and locale has a different visual tone. The scenes in Mexico are tinted a glaring yellow, the scenes in the Eastern U.S. are tinted a cool blue, and the scenes in California are a soft, more realistic sepia-tone. This stylistic approach serves more than one purpose in Traffic. It is used to let the audience know when there is a change in plotline or location, and it is used as a tool in foreshadowing events to come. The scenes involving characters who have not yet been 'tainted' by a personal experience with the drug trade are filmed using more natural lighting. Once a character has been affected by this drug world, or has become central to one of the tinted plotlines, his or her scenes take on the appropriate color. This is a very clever visual device, and is not as distracting to watch as it may seem to be.
So, for the first two hours, I thought this was a great film. I liked its style and its message. There are some fine performances by Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, and Don Cheadle, and the script was pretty good, even though it screeched to a halt every half-hour or so for exposition concerning the dry facts of America's losing battle with Mexican drug cartels.
Then, in the final twenty minutes, at what should have been its shining moment, Traffic completely self-destructs under the weight of poorly written preachiness and unrealistic plot resolutions. As the dramatic integrity of each character went up in flames, so did my opinion of this film as a whole. I would like to cite the specific scenes, but to do so would spoil the end of the movie.
Traffic could have been an important, courageous indictment of American and Mexican drug enforcement policies, but, sadly, it lacks the spirit and ambition necessary to be any more effective than the 'War' it seeks to depict.