"The Lady is
by Craig Mathieson
As Melanie Griffith
so memorably put it in Working Girl, "I have a mind for business and a
bod for sin." So it is with 26-year-old American actress Rebecca Gayheart.
One minute the coalminer's daughter from Kentucky is giving a ccosts versus
profit analysis of her new film Urban Legend - "we bought it in for $13
million and our domestic box-office is already at $32 million," she explains
- the next she's announcing that, "I like sex a lot."
A former teenage model from a small town who still craves KFC, Gayheart plays a sexy college student in Urban Legend, a bloody new entry in the fast-growing underdressed-teens-being-butchered genre. She also stars in The Hangman's Daughter, the prequel to From Dusk Till Dawn. When not putting the bite on her co-stars she's working on the state in Los Angeles, where she now lives.
I hear you're in a play now. What kind of play is it?
It's a comedy and a drama, which I suppose, is a dramedy.
Or a coma. Is this your first time on the stage?
It is. It scares me a lot, but anything that scares me is good. I've always dreamed of doing this. But it's the hardest work I've ever done for the least money ever.
Urban Leged has an Australian director, doesn't it?
Yes, and you sound just like Jamie Blanks.
We all sound the same.
He was wonderful. I love him. He knows everything about horron movies, it's so exciting. Apparently this was the first film set he had ever set foot on and his enthusiasm was contagious.
What did you teach him?
It was a learning experience for all of us. Technically Jamie knows exactly what he wants, but he wasn't used to dealing with the actors. So in the beginning there was a little bit of a gray area with the cast, so we had to teach him to talk to us. But he caught on very quickly; by the end of the movie he would take me aside and give me a little piece of direction that would totally change my performance. Basically, we were all rooting for each other.
He must have been a nice change from directors who are getting close to retirement age.
It was. He just knew what was cool, a lot of old directors are always trying to figure that out. He knows what will and won't work in a young movie.
What do you now know about Australian men, having worked with one?
They're very professional. They work hard and they play hard.
Did he make everyone drink Australian beer at the end of the day?
I drank some Australian beer with Jamie. I don't know what it was. I don't drink beer usually, I couldn't even tell you the brands of American beer.
So what do you favour then?
Red wine is my favourite, with the odd shot of tequila.
So, do you have a cellar full of red wine?
No, I do not have a cellar.
What was the most fun you had making Urban Leged?
I really enjoyed this scene in an auditorium where I had to get up in front of the entire class and eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke, because there's this urban leged that if you mix the two you explode. That was kinda fun, but after 12 hours I had this incredible sugar buzz. I was bouncing off the walls.
Did you grow up on horror films?
I wasn't a buff or anything, but I watched them. The scariest one for me was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, plus Halloween and Friday the 13th. I remember we snuck out and rented that at a slumber party one night and none of us could sleep afterwards.
Did you enjoy being scared?
I would try to act like I wasn't scared, but I was. So after a while I would be covering my eyes. That probably made it worse for me, but after making Urban Legend I can watch anything now.
You're immune now?
It's like, "Hey, I know that's chocolate syrup instead of blood on that corpse."
Do they use chocolate syrup?
Oh yeah, it tastes really good.
So you experienced cannibalism after each scene?
It was like, "So who tastes best?"
I suppose watching horror films as a kid is good practice for moving to New York at age 15?
I guess so. It was scary. I can see now how scary it really was, but when I was 15 I was totally fearless. Back then I was happy.
So you went from Pine Top, population 10,000, to New York, population 10,000,000.
It was a slight change, but I still go back to Pine Top to visit my parents. I was there six weeks ago, actually.
Are you the reigning celebrity head of Pine Top?
I guess so, but you know what? They're all kind of over it. When I go home, my mum is like, "Go clean
your room!" And everyone in town will be like, "Oh, you cut your hair."
Do they understand what you really do?
I don't think they quite understand the process. Sometimes someone will say, "You should have been in the movie, you're much better than Winona Ryder." I'm like, "Thank you, but that's not how it works. I would have loved that role, but they didn't want me."
Everything will be fine as long as they don't start calling Winona Ryder to tell her this.
Basically they just want anyone from Pine Top to do it.
How long did it take you to figure out the movie business?
I don't think I have it figured out yet. I was very, very lucky in a way. I started of modelling, then I met people and said I wanted to act, so I went ot the Stasberg Acting School. Then my teacher there introduced me to an agent and I started to get little bits of work. I have friends who still can't get an agent.
What was your lowest point before you started getting cast?
Well, when I first went to New York I had $300, and that lasted me all of two days. I was taking cabs everywhere because I hadn't figured out the subway system. My whole first three years were pretty rough - I was trying to model, I was going to high school, I was waitressing in a restaurant.
Where were you living?
I was sharing an apartment with six other models. I remember one month this girl and I paid our rend and we had just $40 left for the month, because we'd both ben fired as waitresses. We were so worried about what to do with the money that eventually we decided to spend it all on a good meal. So we got all dressed up and walked 50 blocks to this restaurant and ordered dessert and cappuccino, which cost almost $40. We blew it all and then walked 50 blocks home trying to figure out what we should spend our last $3 on.
So what did you do?
We spent it on candy and then went to our friend's houses to eat for the next weeks. Of course, because I had no money I'd have to jump the subway turnstiles to get a free ride.
Being a good Southern girl, how did you learn about the facts of life?
No one really talked to me about it, so when I went to New York I was still pretty naive, even as I was walking past all these sex clubs and porn shops. Then I met my boyfriends and he taught me what I needed to know.
How many guys tried to date you because you were a teenage model?
Luckily my first boyfriend is still my boyfriends. It's been 10 years now.
It is, isn't it. His name is Brett Rattner and he just directed the new Jackie Chan film, Rush hour, which has already made $100 million here in the States. I met him when I was 15 and he was 17. We were like, "I'm going to be an actress." "Well I'm going to be a director."
And now you wake up each morning and go, "I am an actress. You are a director."
Will you ever work together?
I don't think so just yet. Maybe in 10 years time.
What are Brett's tricks for keeping you happy?
He doesn't have any tricks. He just really knows me, he has a great enthusiasm and he makes me laugh. After 10 years we know what's going on, we can finish each other's sentences.
What are you like when you're angry?
Well at first I'll always try to be really calm and just talk about things, but then I'll just start screaming and throwing things.
You like to throw things?
Oh yeah. He's learnt how to duck real well.
How should me keep a relationship they value going for 10 years?
You have to appreciate the woman for what she is. Normally at the start of a realtionship the little things that you love about her will gradually start to bug you, but you have to learn to accept that. We all have our flaws.
I've always imagined that if I went out with an actress that on special occasions she'd dress up and seduce me as famous charactrers from history: Barbarella one month, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde the next... Is that how it is for you?
No, but I don't want you to give up your dream.
Who would you dress up as?
Sophia Loren is a good choice.
You're in the prequel to From Dusk Till Dawn, will you be as sexy in that as Salma Hayek was in the original?
Well, I have a big transformation in the film. I start off as a virginal missionary trying to spread the word of God in Mexico. But after I get bitten I become this very sexy vampire.
Do you get to dance with a snake, as Salma did?
No, I don't like snakes. But I have a really great pair of fangs.