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Faith No More
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Will Buffy’s sultry nemesis, Eliza Dushku, continue to slay the big screen? Oh, yeah—come see for yourself.

Maxim, May 2001
By By Paul Young

We’ve only been talking to Eliza Dushku for a few minutes, and already she has her hand down the front of her blouse. Unfortunately, it’s just because she spent the day shooting a lingerie scene for Kevin Smith’s slacker opus Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the body makeup left her with a bit of an itch. “I hope I don’t scare you,” she laughs, stripping down to a baby tee for easier scratching.

After watching her breathe fire into Faith, the superpowered, streetwise sociopath on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we knew Eliza had an edge like a Ginsu. In person her green-brown eyes and devil-may-care attitude could hypnotize a grizzly, or at least the crowd at a seedy airport bar where she spent the previous night singing karaoke. Now Eliza is quickly sinking her stake into the big screen: Riding high on the success of the cheerleader romp Bring It On (surprise, she played the rebellious one), she has four movies in the pipeline, including the upcoming Robert De Niro crime saga City by the Sea, and as a hot babe with a heart in the upcoming high school comedy The New Guy. Not bad for a nice Mormon girl from Massachusetts.

What would you do if you had Faith’s strength and bad attitude for real?
I’d have to be locked up. I’m very moody, and if I had her powers, God, watch out, because I’m sort of prone to doing and saying exactly what I feel.

Doing the role on Buffy, did you find that Faith came out in you at times you didn’t expect?
Yeah, I definitely started thinking I was a little tougher than I am. I’d try to get in people’s faces, and then my brothers would have to mop me up.

What was it like growing up in Boston with three older brothers?
For the longest time, I thought I was a boy. I really did. I wore boys’ clothes, played tag football, and even peed like a boy. [laughs] I swear to God. We’d go on road trips with my mom, and when we’d make the inevitable pit stops on the side of the highway, I’d jump out and line up next to my brothers.

Do you still possess that talent?
No. I think I lost it around age 10 when I sort of had to be a little more girly.

How do people react when you tell them you were raised Mormon?
Well, usually they see me drinking coffee and smoking and realize that I’m not a practicing Mormon. My parents divorced when I was born, and my mother is a political science professor, like a feminist Mormon, which is sort of an oxymoron. I didn’t believe that if I swore or kissed a boy before I was married, I was doing something mean to God. But I do believe that whatever you tell a kid not to do makes them want to try it that much more.

Give us an example.
Girls weren’t allowed to wear midriff tops in my high school because there was this teacher—the midriff Nazi—who would send you home. One day he sees me wearing a midriff, and he’s, like, “You’re going home and changing, young lady!” I launched into this whole big story: “You know what? I have a bacterial infection in my bellybutton! This is a medical problem, and I have to keep it aired out! Do you have a problem with that?” I wore one almost every day through the rest of high school.

You’re a natural-born liar—ah, actor. How did you get your first gig?
I literally fell into it. When I was around 10, my mom had to drive my brother to an audition—because he was the actor in the family—and walking up the stairs I tripped and broke my nose. Blood was everywhere, and I started screaming, and my mom was trying to calm me down. The casting agents were, like, “Who’s that kid?” Next thing I know, they hired me for a commercial.

What’s the weirdest scene you’ve ever had to do since then?
In my first movie, That Night, with Juliette Lewis and C. Thomas Howell, I had a scene with two other girls where we applied a cream to our chests to make our breasts grow. I was 10 at the time and pretty flat chested—people used to make fun of me for being flat as a board. Anyway, I remember thinking, I bet this stuff really works. So I rubbed it all over, and sure enough—look! [arches her back] It worked!

God, we love modern medicine. What’s the creepiest fan letter you’ve received?
The letters from jail are always disconcerting. Like getting a letter from some guy on death row saying, “It would be nice if you could send me a color picture of yourself posing without any clothes on, and maybe you could have your hand sort of strategically placed between your legs?” Luckily, my brother goes through all my mail now and keeps that stuff away from me.

What was it like playing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kid in True Lies?
One of my best friends from Boston flew down to that set in Washington, D.C., to visit me. One afternoon Arnold goes, “Hey, you guys want to go to Planet Hollywood?” So we hopped in his Hummer, and he starts blasting tunes and driving down sidewalks. Totally fun. We get there, and he orders everything on the menu. Meanwhile, my friend hasn’t said a word because she’s totally in awe. Anyway, there’s this huge dessert tray, and Arnold grabs a piece of chocolate cake and starts asking Allison all these questions. But she’s still tongue-tied. So he smears the cake all over her face. I grabbed some cake and threw it back at him, and pretty soon we were in this huge food fight.

How did you get the role of a cheerleader in Bring It On?
That was kinda funny. There were girls at the audition doing back handsprings in the waiting room. I went in, and the casting people asked, “Well, can you cheer?” And I said, “Well, let’s find out,” and did the splits right there. I was almost as shocked as they were.

Did you ever wear your cheerleader outfit off the set—just for fun?
Yeah, I’ve got one that I put on sometimes and dance in front of the mirror doing a striptease. [cracks up] I’m totally joking. But while I was shooting Soul Survivors, I got a call saying that my manager just had her baby. So I rushed over to the hospital, forgetting that I was still in costume with these huge, bloody gashes on my forehead! I’m running through the hospital, and all these doctors are, like, “God, are you all right?”

Do people think you are a bad girl because of these edgier roles?
People sort of assume that because of Buffy. But, no, I’m not bad. I mean, it’s easy to play a bad girl: You just do everything you’ve been told not to do, and you don’t have to deal with the consequences, because it’s only acting. But I think there’s a lot more to the “bad girl” than just evil. I try to bring a little understanding to the part, a beginning, middle, and end. People always throw rocks at things they don’t understand.

Do you understand what our attraction to bad girls is?
Because there’s something naughty about it. I mean, there is definitely something sexy about a girl with an attitude and a pair of leather pants.

Which of your roles do you most identify with?
Probably my character in The New Guy. She’s in this hard-ass school, but is the one person who senses that something isn’t right. Other kids are nasty and pathetic, but she remains optimistic.

When do you feel sexiest?
In the morning. That’s when it feels really pure. I just hooked myself up with a bed that’s so over-the-top—it has a cashmere mattress. And I have a lot of windows, so when I wake up it’s pretty nice. I’m starting to have fun with being a girly girl now. Of course, I still sleep in a wife-beater T-shirt and men’s boxers.

Have you ever had a hickey?
I don’t let guys do hickeys. That’s like a dog marking his territory or something.

When was the last time someone stole your man?
Never. I’ve never been dumped, either, and I have no idea what I’ll do when that happens. I’m not trying to sound cocky, but I fall in and out of love pretty easily. And I think that’s because I’m really emotional and passionate—like, if I feel something, that’s all there is for me at that time. But I also have a raging case of attention deficit disorder.

Well, do you have a boyfriend now? I can’t remember.

Vital stats: Born December 30, 1980, of Danish and Albanian heritage. The Albanian part gets the blame for her oft-mispronounced last name (rhymes with push-koo). “Sounds like a breakfast food, doesn’t it?” asks Eliza. “Did you have your Dushku this morning?”
Freaky traveler: Her mother felt rather, um, strongly that Eliza should see the world. “When I was 14 and my brother was 18, she gave us $1,000 apiece and two plane tickets to Beijing and told us not to come back until we’d seen eight cities.”
Most reluctant fan: Her grandmother, who, upon seeing her simulated sex scene on Buffy, called superagent Michael Ovitz to complain. “She tells me to put more clothes on,” says Eliza. “But she did give me an oven mitt with a picture of a girl with big boobs on it. She thought it looked like me.”
Original lust object: Mel Gibson. “I remember seeing Bird on a Wire and thinking, Oh-h-h, what is this feeling?
How to be her new lust object: “I love a guy who can make me laugh, and I definitely dig intelligence. I get turned on by book smarts.”
Occupational hazard: Cigarettes. “I had to smoke for a role when I was 15, and it kind of stuck. I made all these plans to quit this year, but then I got a role in a De Niro movie, and I smoke in that…so I don’t know.”
Motivational motto: “Go big or go home. Because it’s true. What do you have to lose?”

THAT NIGHT (1992) Juliette Lewis gives young Eliza a lesson in how to put on lipstick—if you work in a funeral parlor.

THIS BOY’S LIFE (1993) Eliza almost didn’t take the role with De Niro and DiCaprio, considering the high cootie factor.

TRUE LIES (1994) “When Arnold left me here, he said he’d be back. He wouldn’t say that to just anybody, would he?”

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1998–2000) As slayer-gone-psycho Faith, Eliza is the kind of girl who loves a nice, thick stake.

BRING IT ON (2000) Eliza and Kirsten Dunst alert males to the fact that, yowza, girls with short skirts and pompoms are hot!

SOUL SURVIVORS (2001) The world of the living and the world of the dead collide for college kids. Yep—spring break.

THE NEW GUY (2001) Eliza does her damnedest to make an outcast student feel right at home. Sure beats a pop quiz.

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