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Melissa George Actress

Melissa George, co-star of the "The Amityville Horror" Movie!

Australian actress Melissa George was born in Perth on August 6, 1976, the second of four children. As a child, she developed an interest in dancing and began studying jazz, tap, ballet, and modern dance at the age of seven. George's enthusiasm for dance eventually evolved into a passion for roller skating, and, after skating competitively in Australia, she represented her nation in several international events. At 16, George left skating behind when she quit school and began exploring the world of modeling; she was soon named Western Australia's Teenage Model of the Year. As a result of this honor, she auditioned for a role in the popular Australian soap opera Home and Away, and, in 1993, was cast as Angel Brooks. George's performance won her a sizable following in both Australia and Great Britain, but, after three years with the series, she left to pursue other projects. After appearing in several made-for-TV movies (and posing in the Aussie edition of Playboy), the actress landed a small role in the sci-fi thriller Dark City, and was cast as the female lead in an offbeat television pilot, Hollyweird, which, unfortunately, failed to sell. After a brief appearance in Steven Soderbergh's The Limey (as Terence Stamp's ill-fated daughter), George landed her first significant American role in the teen comedy Sugar & Spice, in which she played Cleo, a cheerleader-turned-criminal who has an unquenchable enthusiasm for Conan O'Brien; she also played a small but important role as mob-connected ingénue Camilla Rhodes in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, and appeared in the pilot of HBO's short-lived series adaptation of L.A. Confidential. In 2001, George was cast opposite John Stamos in the leading roles of the television series Thieves; despite positive reviews, however, the series lasted only three months. She got another chance to prove her mettle on American television in 2003, when she was cast in an American version of the popular British sitcom Coupling. Unfortunately, she only got to act in an unaired version of the pilot episode before her part was recast. The show failed anyway and George rebounded quickly, landing a prominent role in the 2003-2004 season of the popular spy series Alias as Lauren Reed, the new wife of Agent Vaughn (Michael Vartan) and romantic rival of Sydney Bristow (series star Jennifer Garner).

Amityville Spooked Melissa George

Melissa George, who stars in the upcoming remake The Amityville Horror, told SCI FI Wire that she didn't have much trouble getting into character when the story called for her to be scared. "I've been creeped out a lot," George said in an interview on the set. "It was just great to use it in the character. ... And just the thought of her husband literally going crazy at this point and what is going on, I really kind of get into that role to the point where I get quite freaked out. And by the time they call out, "Action," I'm ready to deliver."

The Australian actress is best known in the U.S. for her role as Lauren Reed, the duplicitous wife of CIA agent Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), on the spy drama Alias. In the film, George plays Kathy Lutz, a recently remarried mother of three who moves into a haunted house with her family and begins noticing disturbing changes in her husband, played by Ryan Reynolds.

George admitted she has always been easily scared by horror films, but starring in one is helping her to get over her fears. "They really get me," she said. "Now I'm realizing the whole technique of a horror film. Like, sound is really important and the quiet before the scare is really important. So now I'm getting used to it."

Still, George said she intends to screen the finished film on her own ahead of time, to make sure she isn't too jumpy when she sees it with an audience. "I said to the producers, 'You'd better show me this film before the premiere, because I can't be in the audience of my own film shedding my skin,'" George said. "That's kind of wrong. So I said, 'You'd better prepare me for that.'" The Amityville Horror opens in theaters April 15, 2005.


Melissa's Dream Comes True

Following the success of Alias, Aussie star Melissa George has her eye on two new projects - her own TV show and motherhood. She tells us about her climb to the top in Tinseltown, and shares her health and fitness tips.

She's blonde, beautiful, brimming with talent and one of the most feted new stars in Hollywood. But for Australia's Melissa George, her biggest role is yet to come.....motherhood.

Talking exclusively to Woman's Day from the stunning tropical surrounds of Jamaica, the 27-year-old Alias star reveals that while she enjoys the celebrity hyperbole, she longs to start a family with her husband of almost four years, Claudio Dabed. She says he's given her stability in a notoriously fickle world, and she's come to love his eight-year-old daughter Martina as if she were her own, prompting her to want to try for a baby. For many, the prospect of becoming a mum when their career is on the cusp of stellar stardom might seem ill-times. But Melissa isn't your average ambitious blonde. She's first to admit that since she left our shores in 1996, it was sheer grit and determination that elevated her from Hollywood wannabe to bona-fide TV star - it wasn't just a case of being in the right place at the right time. "This business is tough," she says, "but if you've been at it a long time and you've got the talent, you do get there." And now, after years on the Tinseltown treadmill, she's in the auspicious position of being one of the hottest properties in American TV. As the season finale of Alias prepares to air in the US, and diehard fans ponder what will become of the Sydney/Michael/Lauren triangle, Woman's Day gets the lowdown on her future with the hit series and gets some fitness tips from the lithes 173cm star.

Woman's Day: What brings you and Claudio to Jamaica?
Melissa: We're here for a charity called Sehorn's Corner[for single-parent families]. Jason Sehorn runs it - he was brought up by a single mum and knows what it's like for them. For Mother's Day, we invited 14 families who didn't have the funds to go on holiday. They were all big Alias fans and couldn't believe they were holidaying with Lauren Reed! At first they were all scared of me, but after awhile they were like, "wow, you're so different in real life!" When you see their faces and they just love the show, and the character makes them cry and laugh, you know you're doing some good.

WD: You're up for some new roles? Are they a big departure from Lauren?
MEL: I can't really talk about it, but some of the roles are. Alias has opened a lot of doors for me.

WD: You recently received a kick in the face while filming. How are you recovering?
MEL: I'm OK. My teeth are a little sore because they got hit so hard. My legs are worse from the last week of shooting. They're so beaten up - Jennifer Garner and I both have wounds from our job... it's physical. My thumbs have been numb for two weeks.

WD: There's been an ongoing campaign to have your character written out. Is this backlash hurtful?
MEL: No, I didn't spend a second worrying about it because I knew once people realised Lauren was turning bad, the audience was going to be so happy. I was just waiting for the storyline to develop to let people know she's not there to just break up people - she's actually pure evil.

WD: Is it hard being in an industry that places so much emphasis upon looks?
Mel: Yes, but I just had bagels and coffee for breakfast so I don't really have a problem. I think happiness makes you look good anyway.

WD: Will you be returning to Alias next season?
Mel: I'm happy to do something else at this point, but they want me back. If I come back for the fourth season, I want it to be as strong as the third - if it's not, I probably won't do it. But the finale is out of this world! Lauren holds a secret that Sydney's never known... it's a huge, huge ending.

WD: Are you close to your co-stars Jennifer and Michael?
Mel: We're so, so close - it's fantastic! We laugh a lot. They call me the little roo from Down Under - Jennifer's always pulling things out of her pouch. I think it came from a scene where we had to hop and apparently I looked like a kangaroo.

WD; All of a sudden you became this global pin-up after your lesbian kiss in Friends...
Mel: That was weird, [but] I didn't even think about the fact it was a woman. Then there was Mulholland Drive. I get typecast against my type, which is a good thing because I don't typically look like I'd be that sort of girl. My parents are like[sigh], "When's the Cinderella one coming?"

WD: How useful have the members of the Friends cast been?
MEL: They've helped big-time. I was talking to Matt LeBlanc at a party and he asked, "Hey, what happened to the lesbian nanny?" We were talking about his new sitcom, so I said, "Well, count me in!" We'll see.

WD: You were on Alias when Jennifer Garner went through her much-publicised marriage breakdown with Scott Foley, and romance with co-star Michael Vartan. Was it a reminder of the spotlight on Shane and Angel/Home and Away period of your life?
MEL: It's hard, really hard, because we're humans and we all have feelings. You just want to get through it privately. But one thing we've learnt is that if you want to be in this business, you've got to accept that you're public [property]. The whole Shane and Angel thing... well, I was thrown into it and I was only 16, so I wasn't quite aware of it all, but it prepared me for LA.

WD: You've kept your husband and your stepdaughter Martina out of the spotlight. Is this a conscioius decision?
MEL: You know what? I'd actually like to have them in every photo with me because they're so special. But I don't want to expose Martina's face too much because there are some strange people out there.

WD: Any plans to have a child of your own anytime soom?
MEL: Yeah, for sure. If it happens soon, fantastic. We've been married for a long time, so any day would be great, no problems. Or as they say in Jamaica, "No worries, man!" If I could have help in the house to cook and clean, I'd have several kids. Claudio often jokes and tells me I have to wait and see after the first one and if I like it, then, of course, we'll have more.

WD: Jennifer's talked about the dedication required to stay in peak physical condition for Alias. Does she inspire you to stay fit as well?
MEL: On the third series, we were both doing martial arts. On set, our arms are actually so built, it's scary. We did this thing the other day and people looked at our biceps and went, "Oh my God!" And my six-pack inspires her to get a six-pack, too. We don't get too big. We like to keep some slenderness, but we have to be muscular to hold that sniper rifle for three hours!

WD: Tell us a bit about your fitness regimin?
MEL: I so a lot of stick fighting and a lot of kick and punching practice. I do low-impact stuff, otherwise I bulk up. Just going for a 40-minute walk gives my legs tone and shape. I was a champion [roller]skater, so my body was very built as a young child. I can't stress enough how parents should get their kids into sport. You have to start young - if you can get fit during those years, you'll be fit for life.

WD: How much time do you spend exercising?
MEL: One or two hours a day. Then at work, one scene with a fight sequencew could take five hours, so if Jennifer throws a chair at my back during a scene, I just fall to the ground because I'm so tired. It's heavy, really heavy.

WD: Do you have any nutrition secrets to share?
MEL: Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. It makes you feel good. When you eat a hamburger, and hour or two later you feel kind of depressed, so stop eating that sort of food. Learn to eat fish and vegetables and a piece of bread - bread's God's food, let's not cut it out! In a couple of hours, you'll feel really good. And don't forget to drink a lot of water.

WD: So you don't follow any of the celebrity-endorsed diets, such as the Atkins, Malibu or Zone?
MEL: No way! For me, it's all about being in love, eating right and trying to be happy - that's the best recipe. I don't go, "I want that plastic Zone bar!" I eat a lot of nuts, green vegetables, chicken and fish, and anything that's really rich in antioxidants. And it's important to sit down and relax when you eat.

WD: Do you manage to get back to Australia often?
MEL: I'm really missing it. I want to go home - my sister just had a baby. I get back once a year, on average. I'm dying to go home to work. There have been a lot of good [acting jobs] but none quite right for me.

WD: Where do you see your future - TV or films.
MEL: Films, for sure, but also TV if it's the right thing. I'm pitching a show in a few weeks' time - my husband wrote it. It's like Alias but with more comedy. The spy genre for a woman is so much fun to be a part of.

WD: That's a huge step. Is creating your own TV show something you've always wanted to do?
MEL: Yes! I've always believed you should leave the party when it's hot. That's what I did with Home and Away. And [Alias] may only have another year to go, so I want to be sure that I leave at a really good time... and it could be now.

WD: What advice would you give fellow Australians heading off to Hollywood in search of stardom?
MEL: It's tough, but really hold on and keep going until you make it. I believe there's a queue. If you drop out of the queue, someone else is going to take your place, so you need to stay in the line. And enjoy yourself, because in this business, you certainly don't get a diploma at the end of it.


Amityville Set Visit: In the House

But before I get any further into the Amityville set experience, here’s a brief synopsis of what’s going down with the story:

“On November 14, 1974, police received a frantic phone call that led them to a nightmarish crime scene at the Defeo residence in Amityville, Long Island - an entire family had been slaughtered in their beds. In the days that followed, Ronald Defeo confessed to methodically shooting his parents and four siblings while they slept, claiming "voices" in the house drove him to commit the grisly murders. One year later, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the house thinking it would be their dream home. But shortly after settling in, bizarre and unexplainable events began to occur to the family as George was plagued by nightmarish visions and haunting voices from the evil presence still lurking within the residence. 28 days after moving in, the Lutzes abandoned the home - lucky to escape with their lives.”

Ryan Reynolds (VAN WILDER, BLADE III) plays George Lutz, husband to Kathy Lutz and step-father to her three children. George with every passing day, becomes increasingly transfixed on the basement of the house, and possessed with demonic forces that plague the family’s new home.

Melissa George (ALIAS, MULHOLLAND DRIVE) plays George’s wife, Kathy Lutz, and discovers their dream house’s terrifying history is responsible for the unexplainable phenomenon the family is experiencing.

Good ol’ Philip Baker Hall (MAGNOLIA, MIDNIGHT RUN) plays Father Callaway, a priest at the local church who Kathy has out to the house to cleanse its’ demonic energy.

This is director Andrew Douglas’ first feature film, having directed tons of high profile commercials for Nike, Microsoft, Verizon and Volvo.

With two-thirds of filming done in Wisconsin (principle photography should wrap this week), interiors were shot in a warehouse in a suburb of Chicago (tentative release date: April 15, 2005). Aside from warehouses generally being dark and creepy, especially when they’re full of men, the actual set of what was being filmed was the basement of the Lutz’s house. Stone walls with cobwebs dressing every corner, wooden stairs that occasionally creak when being stepped on and boxes and newspaper littered the stone floor if this dark and dingy basement.

Think the basement in STIR OF ECHOES.

Think “Russell’s old room” in the basement of PULP FICTION.


Before filming took place, the unit publicist John Pisani (who looks remarkably like Mark Ruffalo in ETERNAL SUNSHINE) showed a select group of miscreants (read: us web-heads) a boat house constructed for a big scene in the third act of the movie. Just down the road, a crew of ten or so was building the top half of the Amityville house (the one most of you hate) for a scene in which one of the children is being chased on the roof. Apparently you can’t chase a kid on an actual roof of an actual house. Insurance, man.

Back in the warehouse, the first scene being shot was the Lutz’s first tour of the home, of the basement. After some small talk between George and Kathy Lutz, Kathy heads upstairs to the real estate agent, while George becomes momentarily curious about an old radio he knocked over in the process of following his wife.

Nothing too exciting, but the three scenes filmed that day all had to do with George Lutz’s growing fixation on the house. After a couple of takes on the first scene, it became clear that director Andrew Douglas wasn’t completely satisfied with the blocking of the shot. “It’s got to have a personality,” he told his director of photography, which later in an interview he would elaborate on, that the personality of the house was in fact a presence, that the house was discreetly watching these new occupants of the house. I have that same feeling when I’m home but I suspect it has to do with my creepy uncle.

The second basement scene involved George filling the basement fireplace with wood, becoming distracted by something he hears, (or thinks he hears) while the third scene shows a more dejected and visually disturbed George sitting alone in the basement and snapping at his wife about her son not chaining the dog up like he’s suppose to.

Watching the first two scenes, it’s somewhat difficult to gauge the actor’s performances, as the mood and temperament of the scenes was somewhat low key and introductory, but if Ryan Reynolds’ delivery when he snaps at his wife in the third scene is any kind of precursor to his later scenes when his mind goes completely ape shit, then plenty of people are going to be surprised at his performance.

At the far corner of the warehouse, separate from the basement set, our man John Pisani took us to what looked like a mini house and what was actually Chelsea Lutz’s bedroom. The interior of it was decorated with seventies style colors and relics, dolls and toys, your typical seven to ten year old little girl bedroom, and as we made our way outside, someone says “Look at that,” and right there on the white wall of the stairs, written in red (presumably blood) and chicken scratch handwriting, it says in big, bold letters:


And thus, the conclusion of my visit to the set of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.

Melissa George Interview

Melissa George is, for lack of a better term, one foxy chick. Actually, there isn’t a much better term for her. She’s won the hearts of many, and spoiled the hearts of many, playing opposite Jennifer Garner in ALIAS. She’s worked with director’s David Lynch and Steven Soderbergh, played opposite Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) in the short lived TV show THIEVES, and plays opposite Ryan Reynolds in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. Melissa took a break from filming to sit down for a chat and nibble on some grapes. Actors and their diets, man.

Do you think The Amityville Horror is ripe for a remake?

No, it really doesn’t hold up to time. But the idea of The Amityville Horror does. A lot of people are fans of the story, the idea, but maybe not the movie. It needs a makeover. (laughs)

What’s it like going from TV to film?

Hmm, ALIAS is shot like a film, it’s very cinematic. The great thing about film is you start and finish. It’s a journey that lasts so long, TV lasts a long time. You have to pretty much be ready on day one of filming. All the research for the character. With ALIAS, the hours are long, same hours as this, it’s no different. The fact that your face is going to be blown up huge instead of small, you have to kind of change your technique.

How do you feel about watching yourself that huge on screen?

Yeah, it’s good, I don’t mind. I don’t have any issues yet. (laughs) I think that’ll maybe come after twenty years of making films. You start to like, “Can you come back just a little bit?” But no, I’m fine with it.

Have you gone back to the original film to temper your performance?

Nothing in the original film. Not even one thing made it work for me. What made it work for me was a scene in LOVE ACTUALLY with Emma Thompson where she was trying to keep herself in control for her kids and her husband, just that scene where she runs to the bedroom and cries and came out like nothing happened. I think that’s what really made it work for me for Kathy Lutz, she’s a woman that’s just trying not to believe that something’s wrong with her husband, trying to put on a brave face in front of the children; just that perfect mother and wife, everything’s golden. And the seventies was kind of the end of that, so that’s what made it work for me, nothing from the original film.

How do you feel about Andrew Douglas as a director?

Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. He’s got a gypsy spirit. He’s very sensitive to a lot of things in life. He brings a lot of that imagery, he’ll explain to you that what you’re doing is an image of like, Mary and Jesus or something like that, where he’s in the bathroom and she’s holding him. So he gives you these beautiful visual inspirations which are wonderful.

I asked him whether they [the studio] control what he does, his vision. No, when you’re at the top of your field, you bring your vision to the project and I think with his commercials, it was his work, not that somebody told him to do that shot like that, it was completely him. And he didn’t know whether he could work with actors and let’s face it, actors, we all have our technique. But he’s wonderful, I mean just to get here in the morning and have him talk to you for ten minutes about the scene and he makes it sound like the most beautiful poetry you’ve ever read, so he’s wonderful.

Is he open for a lot of suggestions?

Yeah, he is. I think he has to be because you really know your character a lot and that’s why they hire a certain person for certain roles because you have what it takes to make the role work, so when you come up with an option-you have to have a really good reason why you want to change what he says. Often it’s just a simple thing like, “I feel more comfortable standing like this.” We did a scene with Philip Baker Hall [Father Calloway] and it felt really wrong with the way I had to walk and do the reaction facing out at the end of the scene. And Philip Baker Hall said, “Let’s just try it and if it works-- let’s just give him one and then we’ll try it a different way after.” We didn’t end up doing it our way but when I watched it back it looked amazing because Andrew’s vision was so right, with the light and the tree behind it, and he’s right all the time actually.

So you have a relationship with the priest then?

Oh no, this is a stranger. She just moved to this small town, she doesn’t know anybody. Father Calloway has knowledge about demonology and stuff like that. She doesn’t know it’s a demon, she just knows that there’s something not right in her house. She just turns to some other priest and says, “Father Calloway?” and he says, “No, he’s that way.” So she has no idea who this man is. Like she says in the script, “I just needed to talk to somebody because I’m going out of my mind.” So she’s just met this man, not because he’s a family friend or anything. It wouldn’t make sense because she doesn’t know this town.

In the original they say that the priest knows the family.

Right, but also that was Rod Steiger and maybe he wanted a role really big (laughs), like a lot of contractual things going on, “My character has to be…” Realistically, this is perfect, he’s just a man there to help, he says, “You know what, I can come by and help you out.”

Do you believe the story?

Yeah, I believe that something went on to these people because anyone who has a house like that and doesn’t come back for one thing, that they’ve accomplished their entire life, something must have happened. Something must have been so bad that you leave your favorite pictures or whatever in the house. I’m sorry, if something happened to me in my house I’d go back and get my stuff, you know what I mean? It can’t be that bad so it must have been really bad. I don’t believe in things like that because I haven’t seen it, but I believe there’s something out there. I don’t know what it is.

And it’s not like it's bad plumbing or anything like that.

That could be it too, you know, your mind plays games, it plays tricks on you. But in this case, they didn’t go back for anything…

So how long did you struggle before you got anything going? Or did you?

I’ve been lucky. I came to L.A. with a job. You have to really prove yourself before you start getting a lot of work. I started to work with Steven Soderbergh [in THE LIMEY] my first month of being there and David Lynch [in MULHOLLAND DRIVE], so I was working with really great directors just auditioning, getting lucky. And then you get to the point where you get the breakout role and then you start to turn down a few things and making good decisions and then ALIAS led to this, which leads to something else. I’ve been really lucky.

Is there anyone you want to work with?

Directors, Almodovar, but I’d have to perfect my Spanish before that’s happened. Would love to work with him. A full length feature with David Lynch would be great. I was meant to be in the series MULHOLLAND DRIVE, had a really great role in that, but of course it was made into a film and it was actually better for everyone anyway. So, I’d love to do a full length feature with him. Actresses, probably Jessica Lange. And Meryl Streep of course.

You know, Philip Baker Hall, I admire his work a lot. When the first time you meet someone like that, work with someone like that, it’s intimidating.

Melissa George: The Amityville Horror

These days, when you hear the word remake in Hollywood, it's hard not to cringe. That's usually because many of the remakes are of classic and highly regarded films that aren't exactly screaming for a remake. It's always seemed to me that remakes could be a lot more effective if Hollywood chose projects that were less effective or have become dated over time; projects that featured good ideas that could benefit from a new take. This is the idea behind producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form and their Platinum Dune production company. Along with Michael Bay, the group produced last year's surprise hit remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When news first struck of a remake of Chainsaw, many thought it was a joke. How could anyone remake the gritty horror classic? The producing trio surprised everyone with a new, fast-paced, action-based take on the backwoods horror tale, silencing naysayers and critics alike.

For their follow-up, the group has again chosen to remake a horror film from the '70s, one that probably makes even more sense for a remake. The film is The Amityville Horror. While the 1979 version was a hit upon its release, it was never a highly regarded film, and the 25 years since have not aged the film well. Based on the real events depicted in the book by Jay Anson, Amityville is the story of a young family, The Lutzes, who move into a large house in upstate New York for a fantastic price. The catch is that a horrible set of murders happened in that very house years ago. On November 13, 1974, Ronald Dafeo shot and killed his parents and four siblings in a gruesome crime scene that brought the imposing house in Amityville national notoriety. While the Lutzes were perfectly happy upon their arrival, the house quickly took control of their lives. Within a month, the Lutzes left the house, not even taking the time to bring their possessions with them. This new version is said to be more faithful to Anson's book, opening with the Defeo murders.

Directing this second attempt at the Amityville story is first-time feature and acclaimed commercial director Andrew Douglas. For the two lead roles, producers went with lesser known actors on the rise Melissa George (Alias), as Kathy Lutz, and Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity), as George Lutz. Rounding out the cast is veteran actor Philip Baker Hall and younger actors Rachel Nichols, Chloe Moretz, Jesse James and Jimmy Bennett.

IGNFF recently toured the Amityville house in Wisconsin and spent some time on the Amityville sets about 40 miles south in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. We got to look in on a few scenes and chat with stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. The house is probably the best place to start since this is, after all, a haunted house movie. In The Amityville Horror story, the casting of the house is likely to wind up just as important a choice as that of the lead actors.

As we pull up and glimpse the first sight of the house, it's clear that this is no average house. First off, it is just massive, standing ominously in the center of a relatively normal suburban neighborhood in Wisconsin. We park by the side of the house, which is creepy looking enough, but the front view is definitely a sight to behold. The top of the house looks almost like a set of eyes looking down on you, daring you to enter. What's amazing is, this is an actual house, not a set piece. The filmmakers added a front section with a porch to make it more clearly resemble the real house, but otherwise, what you see is really a working house. The other addition is a stairway around the side which leads down to the boathouse. If you know the story, you already know that this boathouse serves as the setting for a crucial scene later in the film. The porch addition and the stairway and boathouse fit with the house perfectly. They have been aged to match the house. At closer inspection, it's impossible to tell where the old house ends and the fake aged parts begin.

Now inside the house, things don't get much more comforting. Filled with huge ceilings, huge rooms and huge staircases, this is a house one could easily get lost in. It's also beautiful in a gothic, creepy way. With the right decorator, this house could be made to look a little less scary, but for now it serves the purposes of the Amityville production quite well.

Back at the set in Buffalo Grove, the scene being shot is one of the quieter moments from the film. Six days into living in the new house, George and Kathy are already starting to feel the changes in their marriage. In an attempt to rectify the situation, the young couple have hired a babysitter and gone for a romantic dinner at a local Italian restaurant. In the scene, George tells Kathy that he is feeling better and that he loves her. They lean across the table over their pasta dinners and kiss. Between takes, Ryan Reynolds has a constant side dialogue with Melissa George, which is cracking her up.

"You actually caught us on the cheeriest day in the entire movie," Reynolds says. "[The beard's] trimmed, everybody looks good… This is about scene 106, day six. So, yeah, George, at this point, he's just been ill. What I loved also is that the character becomes physically ill in the house as we progress… This is a moment where he gets out of the house... This scene he feels so cheery. It's like he's back, the old George is back. It's a really difficult role too, because you don't want the audience to absolutely want George dead. That was the weird thing about the first one, right? Brolin, that character lived and I'm sort of going, 'Why didn't they kill him, I mean or stop him?' We didn't get any sort of closure on it. I think the thing I'm trying to top in this one is I want you to see her bring George back and I'm hoping that happens. That's why these scenes are very important, when we're out of the house, you see why she fell in love with this person…"

"He's playing a serious role and he's doing it great," George says of her co-star. "For him to be doing a role like this, he's pulled it off I think, he really has, in a big way. And it's great because he has the improv and comedy before the take to make me laugh and keep the set happy. But when it comes to 'action,' he's very serious."

Reynolds appears to be having a pretty good time on the set, even though the scenes we are watching require him to downplay his noted smartass antics. He sports a thick, '70s style beard, a pretty different look than we are used to. "Actually, this is the Brolin 2000," Reynolds jokes, stroking the beard. "We had to do some pick-up shots for Blade, so it sucked. I had to go live in a gym again and grow a beard, all this stuff for basically for one shot. It was basically the worst hell you can imagine. So, when we started this, it was the '70s, so if you could grow it, you grew it. You're like, 'What the hell, I'll just let it bush out.'"

The original Amityville Horror film is serving only as one of the reference points for this version of the story, along with Anson's book and what is known of the actual occurrences. Unlike many remakes, the original film is not being treated as any sort of holy ground. "It's really in need of a makeover, that's what I think," George says of the Amityville story. "[In the original Amityville movie] they don't really show too much of what you really wanted to hear about the Amityville story. I think it just touched on things. There was nothing really much going on. I'm hoping that we've added a bit more. We've really gone into what the book was about. A lot of the original footage we're going to include in it. We have [a lot] available to us, like recordings, stuff like that, that'll be great… I think we just take it a step further, but not to the point where it's not real, we're sticking to what we think [happened]."

George says that, although she did some research on the real Kathy Lutz, she felt it was also important to have her own take on the character. "I read so much about her life and documentaries and, 'Where Are They Now,' that it kinda didn't really help me, to be honest… I watched the original just because my mother wanted to. I didn't really pick anything off that at all. I just wanted to make her really sweet and strong, and then the whole horror element too... You have to make the scares really real. I mean, there's a technique to making a horror film."

Reynolds has a similar perspective on the original film: "What I love about this movie is that we're remaking a film that deserves to be remade. The original, in my opinion, was not a timeless classic. I feel like, you know, I've done one remake before, The In-Laws, that's tenuous ground to get on. That's, like, in the AFI top five. It does not need to be remade. So Amityville, while it was financially successful when it came out, I don't think it was a great, super-inventive, new groundbreaking movie. So yeah, I thought it was a great idea to remake this… We're a little bit more faithful to Jay Anson's book… The book really sort of traces the psychology behind it, these people that walked into the house as this unit and, sixteen days later, were all on the furthest corners of the house from each other. [They were] as far away from each other as possible, emotionally and physically. A lot of the events that happened there, that was the thing that really interested me, was seeing George Lutz go in so in love and so connected and so one with this woman and, 28 days later, which is the duration of the entire stay, be just so far apart in so many ways."

George admits that she is a pretty easy scare. "Yes, I mean I just went to the trailer and the wardrobe girl was hanging up my dress. And I went, [makes a loud exhalation] 'God!'" Amityville's many intense scenes have been quite chilling for George, even behind the scenes. "We filmed in Wisconsin at the house for five weeks, and that was a lot, the rain stuff at the end, like when he had to strangle me. There's a lot of violent stuff. It kinda got into me a little bit. I have to admit [I was] little disturbed and shaken up for a couple of days. You just wanted to get really into the role and make it look believable. I had to be wet the entire week and the water from the lake, it was cold. The blood and mud. It's a heavy film. They say you only do one horror film in your career, and this is it."

"It's just sort of finding it in the moment and letting go," Reynolds says of his character's violent moments. "We all have a little kernel of rage in there and if it's just sort of stoked in the right way, it becomes a whole field. Those scenes are really hard. I almost stopped a couple of times in the middle, because one scene she just started crying right in the middle of it… You start to get into it so much. [Melissa] said something to me that was interesting as well, that, 'Your body remembers it, your body doesn't know the difference. Your body, when it's being strangled, when your body's being aggressive, it doesn't know the difference, so you react the same. You may cry.' So she started bawling in one of those scenes when I was choking her and it was just really hard to do… She looked truly terrified. And it left these huge marks on her. When you're doing it, you sort of have to do it, to a certain degree…

"I'm dealing with these kids and yelling at them. I'm even physical with Jesse, the oldest kid, I mean I slap him in the face in one scene and I make him hold a log while I chop it. I make him put his hands up there and he won't put his hands up there, so I grab his whole face and I pull him into mine and I smack him in the face and I tell him to, 'Put your hands on the log right now!'"

A lot has already been made of Reynolds' recent transition to serious actor, even though the first role to showcase this new side of him, Blade: Trinity, hasn't yet been released. "What drew me to it [is that] this whole year's been about, I think, just about taking on challenges that I previously thought impossible. This whole year's been really sort of a milestone for me. It started with Blade. So yeah, so I fought for it. I read the script and I said, 'I think I can do this.' I didn't know with any certainty until I actually got into it and started really working with it and started working with Andrew Douglas, our brilliant and wonderful director. And once we started working, I thought, 'Wow, I can actually do this.' It's a little different. God man, whoever said, Shakespeare is the one that said, 'Comedy's hard and dying's easy.' He can go hop-f**k himself sterile. That's a lie! It's hard, man. It's hard to do this kind of, just accessing this kind of rage. This character, George Lutz, to me, he's a very rageful person. He's a guy who's holding it back the whole time and, whether you want to call it a supernatural phenomenon or an actual psychological phenomenon, which is what I'm basing the character on, because I have to have something grounded. You can't just tell me, 'Demons are doing it.'

"I like classy, elegant scary films. I don't like screamy kind of films… Anything Hitchcock has ever done, for example. If I'm going to be in a horror film, it has to be something where, as an actor, where there's a psychological element to the film too… I want there to be a reason for what's going on. And the fact that [Amityville] is based on a true story is even better. You're actually performing something that went on… Something must have happened for them to leave and not come back… 28 days they lasted, they stayed in that house. And it was only because Kathy had such a religious belief in family and that demons don't exist… I mean, it's not like a slasher film, but I hope that every shot, just the fact that the house looks like it's living and breathing, makes it looks scary. Just the thought of these poor people. They're so happy to buy this huge house and you go, 'Oh my God, they have no idea.'"

"I love horror movies," says Reynolds. "I like more still horror movies. Andrew Douglas has created a very nice stillness to this movie and I'm very grateful for that. The Others had that… They allowed the audience to derive the story for themselves as opposed to having people just run around a house being chased with an axe or whatever… It's just allowing the story to unfold in a little bit more of an intellectual way than your horror lightning and thunder and crazy shots with backlighting."

So, being a horror fan, what does it take to scare Reynolds? "Shady editing scares me more than anything," he says with a laugh.

The Amityville Horror is currently slated for release on April 15, 2005.

Alias's Lauren Not Dead Yet?

Alias's devious Lauren, Melissa George, tells IGNFF about her hopes of character resurrection.

Melissa George's character on Alias last season, Lauren Reed, took the show by storm and quickly found a place in fans' hearts. That sexy black widow we all loved to hate. IGNFF spoke with George from the set of her latest film, a remake of The Amityville Horror from the producers of last year's highly successful Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.

George says that she loved working on Alias and that the show even has some pretty famous fans. "Tom Cruise said, 'I looked at episode 13 of the third season. Man, you're character is...' And I'm like, 'You watch Alias? You don't have anything better to do, like M:I-4 or M:I-3? I was talking to Tom for a while and he loves Alias. It gave me confidence."

So, before Lauren's bullet-riddled body had a chance to cool in last year's finale, fans had already started speculating on her potential resurrection. "You want to hear my theory, like what should happen? She gets shot a lot in the season finale. She wasn't shot in the heart [or the head]... We were filming, and Jennifer Garner and I were doing the fight at seven in the morning and the guys are putting squibs in my coat and I'm like, 'Where are you putting that? Which area of the body are you putting that?' I kept making sure..."

They brought back [Sydney's roommate], so anything is fair game, right? "But I don't want to come back like that. If I'm coming back, I'm coming back or not at all. All the way! What I think is, in the CIA, they wear vests and they put blood on them, so when an opponent hits them, blood comes out and makes the person think that they just killed them. Because if you get a bullet through a vest, and no blood comes out, and the person might go and shoot you somewhere else. I'm like, 'You know what? She had a vest on.'"

Alias creator J.J. Abrams better act quick if he wants to bring her back. George says her plate is already starting to fill up. "Now I got this film and I just got Derailed, the Miramax film, which I'm so excited about. Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston and myself. I had a good week in Hollywood, as they say. Next week might be different... I'm playing Clive's wife. It's a very complicated story. All these characters are doing something that they shouldn't be doing. It's just like a story about this daughter that's got this kidney problem and, I can't tell any more. It's a thriller..."

Still, George says that she certainly wouldn't hesitate to return to the Alias role. "Lauren Reed is the rockingest, coolest assassin around. I love when she just shoots and she doesn't blink. She's really lazy with it and then she just, not even rushing, just really slowly, like puts it into the case. Like, there's no hurry."

At first, George was brought onto the show in a much smaller capacity. Abrams has said that they only made the decision to turn her into a villain later on. "We had a fair idea. It was really amazing, because I was only supposed to be there for a few episodes, and it ended up being a whole season and the cover of the DVD and things like that. Jennifer Garner, to work with her, she's so inspiring. Jus the way she handled such work and the way she's just lovely with everybody, from the lowest person to the highest person. She's just wonderful. And smacking each other out in the last scene. We had stunt doubles and we were like, 'No, no, no. We're doing it ourselves.' I've got, like, dents in my shins and she threw a chair into my back so hard. I'm like, 'What?' So I just threw her into a table, [and] it fell into a million pieces. She's so good at it."

Alias picks back up in January. In the meantime, check back with IGN next week for the full interview with George and the story of our Amityville Horror set visit.

'Alias' co-star Melissa George honored at Stamford MS benefit

Irate fans of the ABC spy drama "Alias" have reportedly booed actress Melissa George because her character, Lauren Reed, keeps the show's two star-crossed lovers, Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn, apart. But the actress herself says that she, her co-star, Jennifer Garner (Sydney), and series creator J.J. Abrams., played up the rivalry for publicity "and then it got out of hand."

On the hit show, George's character is a scheming double agent, willing to do anything -- including participate in the murder of her own father -- to save her hide. But yesterday, George, 27, played a more positive -- and true-to-life -- role as a guest and donor at an annual benefit for multiple sclerosis at the Stamford Marriott.

George, whose mother, Pam, was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, donated $5,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and presented the Georgina B. Davids Award, an honor given to an individual with MS or someone who has improved the lives of those with MS. She said that the diagnosis brought her family, including her mother, father and three siblings, closer together.

"We all began to love each other more, care for each other more and say 'I love you' more," George, who hails from Perth, Australia, told the 140 people at the luncheon, called "March into Spring."

Her mother is doing well, but suffers from numbness in her left side, a common symptom of MS. The event's honoree, Michelle Wykoff, 38, is a Greenwich native who did not let the diagnosis stop her from competing in grueling triathlons and half-ironman competitions.

"Don't give up your dreams and your goals," she said. Wykoff, who now lives in Santa Fe, N.M., says she is not as fast as she used to be and has to train early in the morning because overheating exacerbates her symptoms. But the disease has not prevented her from winning two time-trial bicycle championships. The event is usually held in March, but organizers said circumstances forced them to move it to this month. Tickets were $100 per person.

George hinted that in the season finale of "Alias," scheduled to air tomorrow, "Lauren reveals a secret to Sydney that is pretty extraordinary. It's going to floor Sydney." Of course, the character is so twisted that the secret could be anything. "She's a double agent," George joked. "She's kind of not right in the head."

America falls for a gutsy girl, by George

A move to Los Angeles has helped another soapie favourite make it into the TV big league.

She used to be Angel on Home and Away. Now Melissa George is kicking some serious Hollywood butt. She even put Daredevil action girl Jennifer Garner through a wall during a fight scene on spy drama Alias.

"Oh my God, my first fight scene was with Jennifer," the former Perth teen model says from her home in Los Angeles. "She was on a harness and my character was in a nightmare sequence, it wasn't like real life. Basically I'm this white sort of ghost whatever thing. I grab her by the neck and lift her up the wall. It was really an office wall ... and she's basically through the wall. I said to the director `Did you get that on film?'. Jennifer was laughing. Between her muscles and my muscles we broke the office wall. It was hysterical."

Brawling femme fatales is nothing new to George. She played a professional, high-kicking crim on the John Stamos drama Thieves, had leather-clad warriorette roles on TV shows Roar and Charmed and likes to dabble in martial arts. Now in her biggest get to date, George is about to join television's illustrious list of luscious super spies.

On Tuesday, she makes her Alias debut as Lauren Reed, agent and wife of Sydney's (Garner) former love Vaughn (Michael Vartan). Sydney's been in a mysterious slumber for the past two years and can't account for all the missing time. Returning to headquarters, she discovered Vaughn got married in her absence and she's been caught on film killing an old man. Naturally there's bound to be a bit of friction between TV's two tough girls.

"I'm the wife but I'm also at the CIA investigating a murder that she (Garner) has a lot to do with," George says. "I'm literally her worst nightmare but she's my worst nightmare as well. My husband was with her before she passed away (presumed dead), now she's all of a sudden reappeared. It's like an unfortunate love triangle but we're all trying to figure out how to get by the day. He loves me but now she's back he's confused. I really like her because I respect her as an agent. She respects me because I'm a great agent as well."

Off-screen, George and Garner get on "perfect"

"We do all the shoots together. We laughed so much. We imitate Martha Stewart, we just have a lot of fun on set."

It's a far cry from George's 1993 to 1996 role as tearaway mum Angel Brooks on Home and Away (she left school at 16 for the part), working with wooden scripts and local actors such as Dieter Brummer, Kate Ritchie and Ray Meagher.

Nowadays George is rubbing shoulders with Quentin Tarantino, Peter Fonda, Alyssa Milano and the Friends six-pack. She got her US break in 1997 guest-starring in Roar, an American medieval-themed series filmed in Australia (which also gave Heath Ledger his break). George, 27, moved to Los Angeles in 1998 when Roar creator, '70s pop idol Shaun Cassidy, asked her to audition for his new series, Hollyweird. George beat Portia de Rossi to the part and filmed the pilot but the show never went to air. She then filmed 22 episodes of the TV series of the Russell Crowe-Guy Pearce movie LA Confidential with Kiefer Sutherland for cable network HBO. That too never went to air.

"`Sorry, they want the budget for The Sopranos,'," George recalls of the bad news phone call.

In 2001, she and John Stamos starred as professional crooks in the TV series Thieves, which was axed despite good reviews. Her film credits include Dark City with Kiefer Sutherland, Disney flick New Port South, The Limey, Sugar & Spice (opposite Mena Suvari) and the romantic box-office comedy Down with Love (with Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger). She has had guest roles in Charmed (as a tribal leader of female warriors) and Monk, but arguably her biggest break was a two-episode gig last year as a same-sex pashing lesbian nanny in TV sitcom Friends.
She also played a lesbian in David Lynch's movie Mullholland Drive.

After Friends, George's brother called her and said: "`No more lesbians (roles). This is ridiculous'. I'm like `what can you do, the world likes to see it'," George laughs to herself. "I definitely get cast as a lesbian a lot, it's quite funny. I think it's because they like the fact I don't look like a lesbian, that they find it quite interesting. You never know, Sydney and Lauren could become an item."

Married for almost four years to Chilean furniture importer Claudio Dabed, George (who has a young stepdaughter, Martina) admits to "literally kicking myself, I can't quite believe it," when looking back over her career. "It's hard for Australians to believe but I'm a bit of a household name here in the States, so getting the role in Alias, they called for me and asked me to come and read and I did and got it. They saw me on Thieves."

She's also hopeful of scoring some major film parts now "because Alias is such a well watched show". "Spielberg was on set the other day, he loves the show. Quentin Tarantino's playing my boss on the show, Peter Fonda's playing my father."

According to showbiz reports printed after this interview Fonda had pulled out of the show. Tarantino will appear later in the series, while Isabella Rossellini and Ricky Gervais, the bumbling boss in Brit hit The Office, will also guest star.

"I'm definitely looking at people that love Alias to try and get into movies on my three months off," George says. "But I'm sort of not in a hurry either. I just love working on this show," she says. `I want everyone to enjoy the journey and I want everyone to love her (Lauren Reed) and hate her and try to work out who she is. I won't give too much away."

Melissa George: From Bay to Big Time

FOR a long time, Melissa George was just another former soapie star chasing her big break in La La Land. She worked steadily: a string of pilots, a short-lived series, a couple of small movies. Then suddenly, everything fell into place. Her dream run began last year with a high-profile stint on Friends and ended with a lead role in Alias. The 27-year-old puts it down to talent, luck and perseverance.

George won her first role at 15, playing a reformed Summer Bay wild child on Home and Away. It's taken more than a decade of false starts, dead ends and dashed dreams to get this far.

"You get in a room with people like David Lynch and Steven Soderbergh, and they won't cast you if you're not talented," she says. "It can also be as easy as being in the right place at the right time – you've got to be right for the role. If they are looking for a 5' 4" (163cm) African American you're not going to get it, no matter how talented you are or how hard you try. But I think of it as a long queue to the best restaurant in town: You'll get there one day if you're patient. If you get out of line, someone is going to take your place."

George says she never considered running back home, even when the going got tough.

"Moving over here was a chance to reinvent myself," she says. "I did Home and Away when I was 15 – and who cares what you did when you were that age – but to everyone in Australia I was always going to be Angel. It's funny, everyone here in the States is like, 'What's up with Home and Away?' A lot of Aussie actors got their first start on that show: Simon Denny, Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce. I think people in the US think it's some kind of finishing school for Australian actors."

After 12 years of hard graft she has few illusions about the TV industry.

"You don't have job security in this line of work – it's not nine-to-five – and with acting, it's your face out there, so you can't just accept the first job that comes your way. But I feel I've paid my dues. Thank God it's not another pilot."

Far from it: Alias is one of the top-rating shows in the US, and has attracted a loyal following in Australia during its run on Seven. In last season's cliffhanger finale, Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) awoke in Hong Kong with no memory of the past two years. Cut to this season's opener and things have moved on dramatically: it turns out everyone thought Sydney was dead, her father has been sent to the slammer and her lover Vaughn got hitched. Enter George as Vaughn's wife, Lauren Reed.

"You guys are only just getting the third season, so I don't want to give too much away," she says. "It's basically an amazing love triangle. Sydney still loves Vaughn (Michael Vartan), Vaughn loves me and the audience is a bit confused about just who Lauren is. People over here are saying this is literally the best season of Alias."

Apparently not everyone agreed, with diehard fans of the show frustrated that fate had (once again) conspired to keep Sydney and Vaughn apart. At a network fan event last year George was booed by rabid Alias fans, the Net is littered with sites calling for Lauren's demise, one magazine labelled Lauren "the most hated woman in America". If George was thrown by the chilly reception, she's not sharing.

"I didn't mind. This is TV and you want people to invest something in these characters," George says. "The writers were literally rubbing their hands. They thought it was fantastic. I guess you don't want the fans to get complacent."

And as Dolly Parton once said, if you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain – and this was one of the most coveted roles in the industry.

"The notice went out to all of the agencies, and I think every actress in town tried to get an audition," she says. "I like to audition just for practice, so I took a shot. It was very special. I had instant chemistry with Michael. I was the first one called back for a reading, and Michael told me later I had the part as soon as I walked out the door."

The part was originally conceived as a recurring guest role, but Alias creator J.J. Abrams was so impressed with George he offered her a full-time gig.

"I was filming a guest spot on Charmed when he called. I was in this leather get-up playing the Queen of Valkryies, trying to take it all in," she recalls. My insides were churning, but I was on set at the time and I didn't want to make a big fuss, so I was like, 'OK, uh-huh.' I must have been playing it cool, because J.J. actually got concerned, and he was like, 'Is this something you really want to do?' I had to convince him that I wanted the part."

She has been shooting since August, and says Alias is a "dream job". But that's not to say it's been an easy ride. Not only is she under intense scrutiny from the show's fans and the American press, she is pulling 12-hour days on a fast-paced, action-packed show. Jennifer Garner is probably one of the buffest actors in Hollywood, and has often spoken about the tough training regimen she maintains while shooting Alias. But George is an old pro thanks to her last role.

"I did a show called Thieves where I played a high-class catburglar, so I had to master martial arts, scale buildings, shoot guns," she says. "I think they hired me because I looked right and had the emotional ability to pull it off, but they also knew I could handle all of the physical stuff needed for this role. But you really have to be in shape. Yesterday we were filming a scene where we had to run up five flights of stairs, two at a time, and we did 10 takes."

And with two arse-kicking super agents on set, things can sometimes get a little bit out of control. On her first day on set, George threw Garner clean through a sheet of glass – apparently all part of a typical day on set.

"I was only supposed to give her a push," she says with a laugh. "Fortunately, she was OK."

And while life on set can be demanding and occasionally dangerous, George is enjoying working with a top-notch team.

"We have great writers, directors and amazing people on set every week. Quentin Tarantino plays my boss, Peter Fonda is playing my dad. We had Isabella Rossellini on the other week. When she came by to say hello I could feel the blood rushing to my head."

And while she is still in awe of her castmates, George is set to become a star in her own right. It looks like the kid from Summer Bay finally got her break

Melissa George: Home in a new Alias

WATCH an American drama these days and it's obvious the genre is going through a renaissance. Many of them are edgy and bold with slick visuals and intelligent writing.

And watch them for any length of time and you're bound to spot an all too familiar face with a strangely unfamiliar accent, as many sport an Australian somewhere in the cast.

Coincidence? Maybe, but these actors must be doing something right.

Simon Baker, star of The Guardian, and Alan Dale, who has appeared in everything from The West Wing, ER and 24, made their names as soap stars before heading to the US West Coast.

On the other hand, Anthony LaPaglia star of Without a Trace – a show that has managed to outrate ER in the US – and Sarah Wynter – from the second season of 24 – were unknown here before they cracked it in the US.

Melissa George joined those ranks when she became a regular in the cult series Alias. "I don't know, we tried to work it out the other day, why Australians are so popular," she says.

George fits squarely into the category of soapie star who decided to try her luck overseas after a three-year run on Home and Away, as Angel. The decision to head to Los Angeles was an easy one, because she had a role waiting for her when she got there. "I was really lucky, I flew from Sydney to the US to do a test at Fox Studios and got the role," she says.

Not that luck has always been on her side. For the most part, many of her TV roles were for shows that didn't get past the pilot stage, but this, she says, was something of a blessing because it saved her from becoming overexposed in the eyes of casters.

In 2001 she finally landed a role in a show that made it past the pilot stage, if only just. In Thieves, she and John Stamos played professional thieves who agreed to work for the FBI in order to stay out of prison. "It started the same year (as Alias) and was actually rating higher," she says.

Unfortunately, the show only lasted the one season, and the final two episodes failed to air in the US. George says that the show had been renewed for a second season when the word came down. "It's frustrating the way the politics work. Two days before we started shooting the decision was made so we were on set when they announced they were cancelling the show," she says.

After a run of bad luck with new shows, George is relieved to join one that is a little more established. "I'm happy to be on a show that's a big hit – that's what I wanted," she says, adding that she was such a fan of the series that when she heard that one of the characters would be married in series three, her first thought was who would get the role.

But her role as Vaughn's wife means encountering the wrath of fans who want Syd (Jennifer Garner) and Vaughn to get together. George says that for the most part the fans have been positive towards her, but she takes issue with those in the media who mistake dislike for the character for dislike for the actor.

" 'The most hated woman on American TV'? Whoever wrote that can get stuffed," she says.

And on the plus side, working on the show has thrown her in the path of some Hollywood greats and her personal heroes, who have made guest appear ances on the show, including Quentin Tarantino and Isabella Rossellini.

"I unleash my inner fan all the time," she says. "(Meeting Rossellini) was one of my dreams come true and I've got Peter Fonda playing my father."-Kerrie Murphy

Sitting Pretty

Melissa George is over the moon about her role in Alias, reports Michael Idato. In the final episode of Alias last year, CIA double agent Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) discovered she had lost two years of her life and that her lover, Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), had since married.

LA-based Perth-born actor Melissa George, herself a fan of the series, was at her home in Malibu watching the episode as it went to air. "I saw the cliffhanger and I saw the wedding ring and I thought, I wonder who that's going to be," she recalls.

Four months later she had her answer: Alias executive producer JJ Abrams asked her to join the cast as Vaughn's mysterious new wife, National Security Council (NSC) liaison Lauren Reed.

The role is certain to propel her permanently into the A-tier of America's television industry, and ends a curiously bumpy ride to the top for the former Home and Away postergirl.

After a small role in Alex Proyas's 1998 film Dark City, which was filmed in Sydney, George was cast by writer/producer (and former Hardy Boy) Shaun Cassidy in a TV pilot titled Hollyweird.

"I auditioned in Sydney, was put on a plane to LA and had signed to do that pilot within two hours of landing," George recalled when The Guide caught up with her on the LA set of Alias. "And now I realise that was a huge thing, but it was so good that I didn't know what I was doing at the time because, if I had, the stress of it would have taken over."

Hollyweird stalled just before production began, as did an HBO-produced TV version of LA Confidential, in which George was paired with 24 star Kiefer Sutherland. In both cases George's contract was paid out.

"There was a rumour going round town that I was the highest paid actor who had never actually worked," she laughs.

After roles in Steven Soderbergh's The Limey (1999) and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001), George returned to television with a guest appearance in the top-rating Friends, which led to another short-lived series, Thieves.

But the bumpy ride, she muses, has matured her. "It's made me stronger, definitely," she says.

"It's made me a great auditioner. I have an attitude now that if they don't want me for the role, then what can I do? All I can do is go in and do the best I can."

She was approached last year by producer Abrams, who conceived the character of Lauren Reed as a short-term addition to the Alias cast.

"It was one of those roles that you feel if you don't get it you'll quit your job," she says. "When I left the room everyone was quiet and I left thinking I had blown it, but two days later he called me and said, 'I don't want you as a guest role; I want you to join the cast permanently.' "

Precisely who Lauren Reed is, and what her motives are, will be played out in the next dozen episodes of the third series, with twists that will undoubtedly send Alias fans reeling.

"I'm the NSC liaison and I come to the CIA to investigate a murder [that of Russian diplomat Andrian Lazarey]. That's all I can say," she says.

When news broke that Alias had signed George, her official website (melissageorge.co.uk) attracted 15,000 hits, many of them undoubtedly from Americans curious about this ethereal Australian beauty.

"It's amazing, and it alters the way you interact with your fans," George says of the site. "George Clooney has live chat pages where he says, 'I have to go out for five minutes,' and it's really him.

"I just did a long online chat where people sent in questions, and some of them said horrible things because they want Sydney and Vaughn back together, but it is awesome."

George flits about the set, tucked in the outer suburbs of LA's San Fernando Valley, with the delight of a child in Disneyland, giggling between takes with co-star Jennifer Garner. She has been based permanently in the US since 1988 [sic]("It feels like home," she says), but spends several months a year in Bali, where she and her husband, Claudio Dabed, have a house.

Melissa George appears in Alias for the first time on Tuesday on Seven at 9.30pm.

By George, she's done it!

It's tough being an undercover agent. There are assassins, double agents, all sorts of terrorists and fanatics to survive ... then again, as Melissa George is quick to point out, it's almost as tough just trying to play an agent on television.

Even the hottest role in the hottest show might not be enough to survive the ultimate battleground - the American TV ratings wars.

George, a former Home And Away star who moved to America to try her luck in big-league TV shows, is riding high as the latest addition to the spy show Alias.

As agent Lauren Reed, she's Jennifer Garner's new friend, married to Michael Vartan and winning fans around the world.

She's also quietly relieved that, this time, Australian audiences will get to see her work. In four consecutive series, she fell victim to decisions from network executives to axe programs she had been signed to.

In Hollyweird, Thieves, Coupling and a proposed series based on the film LA Confidential, George was set to make her mark on the American TV world, then had the rug pulled from under her.

With Thieves, network executives actually walked on to the set while filming was under way to tell everyone to pack up and go home.

"I was getting sick of landing the lead in a pilot and then have it cancelled before you even get to start," George said, "This is the best way to do it I think [and] it's part of why I'm loving Alias so much.

"Not only am I on a show that's established, I have a character that's working well."

From next week, Australian audiences will see what Americans have embraced: George as the new spy on the block.

It's something for which she has been waiting a long time.

"I'm so happy Australians can see me finally on a show and see me doing my work," she said. "That's why I really want to do well here, because it can be quite hard, even once you're accepted, to be seen."

It's a feeling echoed by another Australian survivor of the American TV front line, Anthony LaPaglia.

Recently he won a Golden Globe award for best actor in his role as Without A Trace's FBI agent Jack Malone, but for a while he thought the only notoriety the drama might gain was that it disappeared eponymously.

When the series premiered in America, it was in the same timeslot as the long-running ER. If it failed to get an audience, the chances of it being dumped were very high.

"It was very daunting and, to be honest, when we got that timeslot I thought, 'Well, we'll be on for about four shows'," LaPaglia said.

"If you don't perform on the first and second evening you go to air, you're on the fast track to being taken off. That's how brutal it is.

"Remember Boomtown? I loved it. It was a well-written and acted show, but it was on a Sunday night and it didn't rate and so it was cancelled."

Without A Trace fared better, winning enough of the audience to continue and the result is one of the better police shows of recent years and one LaPaglia said he had no doubt would do well if given a chance.

"It's well written and very realistic and I think that was a major reason for its success. I didn't want to have a show that had a happy ending every week because these situations don't always end happily and I wanted it to be realistic.

"We have a guy, who ran the FBI in Los Angeles for 20 years, as a consultant on the show and anything that seems dubious or not correct we run by him. Occasionally we take dramatic licence, but we try to remain as true as possible to real life."

Having held its own against ER, Without A Trace has been re-signed for at least another season and, more importantly, has been brought into syndication.

"That is a very good sign," LaPaglia said. "Nothing is 100 per cent in this world, but I would say that we would probably do at least five years - and that's great news for me because I love doing it.

"I knew when I read it that if we could survive the initial onslaught of the ratings wars - which are political and have nothing to do with the shows - then we could have a show which could run for years."







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