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FILM INTERVIEW: PORN CRACKER; HOLLYWOOD STARLET ELISHA CUTHBERT ON HER STEAMY NEW ROLE.

Byline: JAN JANSSEN

It is a role that is something of a departure for Elisha Cuthbert. The stunning 21-year-old is best known as 24's Kimberly Bauer, forever getting into scrapes and mishaps. But in her new film The Girl Next Door, she plays a former porn star who becomes involved with an innocent schoolboy after she moves in as his naughty neighbour.

"My manager warned me about the project even before I'd read the screenplay," laughs the beautiful blonde Canadian. "He told me it was a great script but there was this porn angle to it. However, when I read the script I realised it was this sweet love story. Even though my character has to get naked and do all this moaning and fake orgasm stuff, the story itself is quite funny and touching. It's really about a girl who's trying to straighten out her life and become the girl next door."

How did you approach the role of Danielle, the ex-porn star in The Girl Next Door? Well, she moves to a small town to get away from that life and then she falls for a straight-A student. It's a coming of age film - a lot like Tom Cruise's Risky Business - and what I loved about Danielle is that I get to show a lot of different layers to her character. It reveals how conflicted she is about her life and how she's evolving and adapting to being a more normal kind of girl.

What did your family back in Montreal think when you told them that you were going to be playing a porn star? I called and said, "Mom I got my first lead in an American movie". And she said, "What's it about?" And I said, "I'm playing a porn star". Her reaction was, "Get back to Canada right now you crazy girl!"

How did you research your role? I actually did a lot, but not watching porn films. It's amazing, these girls are so strong. I know I could never do what they do. But at the same time they have such a happy front to a lot of pain that I'm sure is inside. They never let it out and they're as tough as nails. That was one particular quality that I wanted to bring to the movie.

Did you try to contact any porn actresses? I spoke to a few girls but I didn't hang out with any of them. I was looking for how they did their hair and the kind of clothing they tended towards. I also went through a lot of Playboy and Hustler magazines to see, before the clothes come off, what type of things they would typically wear.

What do your friends think about you playing a porn star? I've gotten some mixed reactions, but men love it. I was on a late-night talk show recently and when I announced I was playing a porn star the whole audience, basically a bunch of UCLA college guys, started standing and cheering. They went nuts. There's a huge fantasy factor to the idea of the girl next door/porn star. These guys were obviously thinking, "This is going to be one hot movie". So I hope we don't let them down.

Will your parents have to avert their eyes when they go to see the film? There's one scene where I'm getting undressed and the neighbour is watching me secretly. There's no frontal nudity, but I'm definitely naked and it's pretty clear I'm no longer the little girl whose diapers they used to change. But most of the sex is pretty tame.

There are some scenes where I'm supposed to be faking having sex and orgasms while filmed from the male point of view. So, for filming, I was actually lying on my back with a cushion on top of me, pretending to have sex while it's just me and cushion getting it on.

You've capitalised on your sultry 24 image by posing for a lot of lads' mags. Did that help you land the role in the film? Absolutely. If it wasn't for those magazines, I don't think Luke Greenfield, the director, would have been as convinced that I could play a girl with a naughty side. It helped make my case without my having to parade around in a bikini when I was auditioning.

What did your parents at first think of your sexy photo shoots? My mom thought the photos were beautiful, but my dad took a glimpse at them and said, "OK, this is enough. I don't want to see these anymore". Then he said, "I hope those are the last ones you're doing".

What about scandals involving you? That's another source of publicity. So far I've been lucky that I haven't done anything to get me in the gossip columns (laughs). They just try to dig up dirt on my 24 co-star Kiefer Sutherland, and I'm not looking forward to getting involved with that kind of stuff. Although, if you're going to be successful, there's no way of avoiding gossip. I'm not planning on dating any obnoxious rock stars or dancing topless at any bars!

Have you noticed a change in the way men behave towards you? Well, sometimes I see guys smiling at me in different ways than they did before. I guess that's OK. Doing magazine shoots is better than having paparazzi photos taken of you lying naked on a beach somewhere.

l The Girl Next Door is out today.

CAPTION(S):

COMEDY: College days remembered in last year's Old School; STUNNING: As American beauty Carol-Anne in Love Actually; THRILLER: Elisha plays Kim Bauer in the TV drama sensation 24; SUAVE: On the arm of Emile Hirsch in The Girl Next Door
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 16, 2004
Words:960
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