By Steve Newton
Just before she started getting recognized for her appearances in a string of videos for Aerosmith power-ballads, Alicia Silverstone made her feature film debut in the low-budget 1993 thriller The Crush. The film was shot in Vancouver, so naturally I did the set visit for Fangoria magazine.
I interviewed Silverstone, who had recently turned 16, on Halloween, 1992. This was nearly three whole years before Rolling Stone caught wind of her.
Suck it, Jann Wenner!
Here’s an abbreviated version of the story that appeared in Fango issue #122, dated May 1993.
It’s weird enough when your Fangoria set visit happens to fall on the scariest day of the year: Halloween. But when the journey takes you to the 13th floor of a Vancouver office building, that creepy feeling really begins to sneak into your mind. This reporter begins to feel like a character from a lost Twilight Zone episode as the unlucky numerals light up above the elevator door. Then it opens to reveal the set of The Crush, a new Morgan Creek thriller set for release this month from Warner Bros.
At this downtown location, a typical business office has been slightly altered to create the sophisticated headquarters of Pique magazine, a trendy publication at which Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes) and his girlfriend Amy (Jennifer Rubin) work as a writer and photographer respectively. Fake Pique covers adorn the walls, featuring shots of Einstein and Beethoven and supposedly clever headlines like “Happy Birthday Beethoven!” and “Does E Still = MC2?”
Rubin is the first Crush cast member to come along, and the brunette star of Bad Dreams and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors looks stunning even in a casual pantsuit. “So what are you doing for Halloween?” your reporter asks out of curiosity, though there’s a big party lined up in case she’s interested. “That’s a good question,” she replies. “I’ll probably be tired.” She then bums a cigarette and heads off to rehearse a scene with Elwes, leaving me to chat with writer-director Alan Shapiro, who describes the plot of his maiden feature endeavour.
“It’s about a writer who gets a great job and moves to a new city,” he says. “He rents a guest house in back of a big old mansion and actually meets a nice girl. But then he attracts the attention of the 14-year-old daughter of the house’s owners [played by Blue Monkey‘s Gwynyth Walsh and Kurtwood Smith, whom readers will no doubt remember as RoboCop‘s villainous Clarence [“bitches leave“] Boddicker.] She’s this particularly brilliant and winning child who can do all sorts of things–she rides horses, plays piano, and is steeped in great literature. She gets a crush on him, but he doesn’t return the favor, and she gets hurt and takes things a little too far. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Naturally, inquiring Fangorians want to know just how far she takes matters. Does the crusher make a mad dash for the sharp kitchen implements, or are her actions more in keeping with the toned-down style of the more recent suspense thrillers?
“I would say it’s more psychological,” says Shapiro, whose genre experience includes an apprenticeship under Ken Russell on Altered States. “It’s more in the mode of Fatal Attraction, in which, if you remember, no one really dies until the end. There are no murders, but there are a lot of scares. The film deals with an obsessive personality, and any character who’s very intense–be it Travis Bickle or Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction–is always interesting.
“She’s not just a one-dimensional, evil girl,” Shapiro adds. “It’s not like The Bad Seed, even though she gets very bizarre. It’s a really compelling, three-dimensional character piece.”
Casting this pivotal role, however, was not an easy task.
“That was the thing I was most nervous about, because I knew it would make or break the whole movie,” Shapiro recalls. “But a miracle happened, and we found–this sounds like happy talk, but we discovered the most amazing girl. Her name is Alicia Silverstone, and she’s going to be a sensation.”
Keeping the director’s prediction in mind, your trusty correspondent makes the 13-story trip back to ground level and–keeping an eye out for early Halloween revelers behind the wheel–jaywalks across busy Hornby Street to Silverstone’s trailer. The pretty 16-year-old welcomes Fango with a sweet smile, and is more than happy to describe the inner workings of her troubled character, Darian Forrester.
“She’s a very complex girl,” says the bubbly young actress, “but I think there’s a side of Darian in every single person. I just have to find that in myself and bring it out. I don’t believe that Darian does anything to hurt anybody intentionally; it’s just that she’s so passionate about Nick, or anything she believes in. As far as she is concerned, she’s in this huge romance with her boyfriend, and they’re gonna get married eventually, and all this, you know, nice stuff. But it gets kind of distracted. People keep getting in her way, and she has to eliminate them!”
Born and raised in San Francisco, Silverstone has appeared in the TV pilot Me and Nick and guest-starred on The Wonder Years. The Crush marks her feature-film debut, and it’s a role she had to fight for against some stiff competition. “It was crazy,” she recalls. “My problem is that they always want names–somebody who’s gonna sell the movie or whatever. And obviously nobody knows who I am, so it was hard. It’s a long process.”
Now that Silverstone has scored that elusive first starring role, she’s got some serious cinematic goals ahead of her–some of which are inspired by actresses who’ve made successful forays into the thriller genre themselves.
“I want to follow Jodie Foster, ’cause she started young, but she didn’t begin by doing some silly, small thing–she started with serious, intense movies, and just kept growing. She’s so smart, and she’s somebody I really look up to. But then, of course, I want to be respected like Meryl Streep, ’cause everybody looks at her like, ‘Wow, she’s just so great.’ Or Glenn Close–all those good actresses!”
Silverstone has seen a few of her heroes in genre action in The Silence of the Lambs and Fatal Attraction, so it’s not surprising that she’s a fan of intense films in general. She just has trouble sitting through them sometimes.
“This is the thing,” she explains. “I suppose I’m the scary character in this movie, so I was thinking, ‘Am I gonna scare myself?’ ‘Cause I freak out at these films. I saw Single White Female, and everybody had mixed opinions about how good it was, but I was so scared! And watching Cape Fear I was really frightened–I mean, I was dying! I’m really bad about those movies.”