Carla Gugino is one of those actors whose fans believe she hasn't gotten the breaks she deserves.
She's given terrific performances in small film roles - but never got that big breakthrough part that made her a movie star. She was outstanding in a TV series (Karen Sisco) that never got the attention - or ratings - it deserved. And she's offered her soul up playing challenging roles on Broadway (most recently in Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms) for a combined audience that totals, perhaps, in the tens of thousands.
Her most recent film is Women In Trouble, an ensemble comedy-drama written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez that opened Nov. 13 in limited release. In the film, Gugino plays Elektra Luxx, a porn superstar who has yet to tell her rock-star boyfriend that she's pregnant - and thinking of both keeping the baby and getting out of the business. Gugino is tough, funny and vulnerable as this confident woman caught at a turning point in her life. Here's what she had to say about it in a recent telephone interview.
Q: Is it easier to do a film like this, where you're part of an ensemble, than when you're the star?
A: I like being the lead but I like being in an ensemble. There are different challenges and dilemmas with both. If you're carrying a film, there's a certain weight, but there are a lot of scenes to explore the character. When you're in an ensemble, you have to convey the entire character in a limited number of scenes. I'm such a fan of all the actresses in this film. So it was really a family affair. It was exciting to me.
Q: You play a porn star in this film. Did you do much research?
A: I didn't do a huge amount of research. I gravitated to watching documentaries and reading interviews with porn stars. For me that was important. Porn has this chic now. There's a kind of crossover in the way it's evolved. I was wondering, what is it like to be famous for that? I mean, she's selling rubber replicas of parts of her anatomy. That shows how famous she is. There's a strange dichotomy in being incredibly famous - but not for something you're incredibly proud of.
Q: Yet some of them - like Jenna Jameson - are very famous in their world.
A: The ones who become big porn stars are like movie stars. It's such an intense profession. But it's very different from being an actor. As an actor, you're naked emotionally, you're revealing yourself emotionally. Because of the tone and nature of the movie and the levity, you don't have to really go through that road.
Q: There are also stereotypes about the kind of people who go into porn.
A: That profession brings up a lot of stuff. A lot of them are pretty at peace with it but a lot have had difficult childhoods, with abuse and molestation. I think it's a complicated subject and profession to choose. It's something I see differently since playing this character. I think there was something about Elektra that attracted me, a certain kind of attention and praise she receives. But no, it's something I wouldn't be able to do. Continued...
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