Elektra Luxx follows its title character, first introduced by writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez in 2009’s Women in Trouble, who is now a retired porn superstar, trying to cope with impending motherhood while coming to terms with the death of the baby’s father and her split from the porn world. Even though Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) is trying to live a quieter life, reinventing herself as a sex education instructor at her local community center, she quickly ends up entangled with a flight attendant (Marley Shelton) looking to have her fiancé seduced, an attractive private detective (Timothy Olyphant) who proves to be quite appealing, an over-eager sex blogger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who’s obsessed with her, a best-selling author (Kathleen Quinlan) looking to turn her life into a novel, and even the Virgin Mary (Julianne Moore) herself.
During the film’s press day, actress Carla Gugino did this exclusive interview with Collider and talked about the appeal of this rather unusual character, how much she enjoyed getting to revisit Elektra Luxx, and the challenge of shooting a film in 15 days. She also talked about how getting to see the final visuals of Sucker Punch (in theaters on March 25th) was like seeing the story brought to life for the first time, being part of the ensemble of the Garry Marshall film New Year’s Eve, and playing really strong women on both Entourage and Californication. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
CARLA GUGINO: Basically, Sebastian Gutierrez, who wrote it and directed it, had this idea. He had a scene from a movie that hadn’t gotten made and he thought, “Maybe I could make a short film of this.” And then, he thought, “Or, I could string 10 of these together and make a full-length feature, but do it in 10 days.” So, he gave me the script and said, “I wrote this character with you in mind. She’s a porn star. But, she’s a porn star who finds out she’s pregnant and, ultimately, is deciding whether to have the baby or not.” He went on with this whole thing and I was like, “She sounds like the best character, ever!”
And then, we started compiling a cast of amazing actors, most of whom one or both of us knew, and just did this experiment. While we were probably half-way through the shoot, which was obviously very short, we thought, “Oh, there is so much more to do with these characters.” Sebastian said, “Yeah, I’m feeling like we should do a trilogy. Only huge movies usually do trilogies, so why don’t we do a trilogy of this great little character piece.” That’s how it all came about.
How were you able to find this character, when you initially started developing her?
GUGINO: The porn star aspect of it was almost less important. I thought that the character was interesting, as a woman who hasn’t really examined a huge amount in her life, up until this point. She made a career choice that she feels pretty good about and that she’s very successful at. She knows she has to deal with people having judgements about it. But, what I found to be interesting, and a key into her character, is this idea that she’s very, very, very famous, but what she’s famous for is not necessarily what she’s proud of. That’s a strange feeling, and that gives you, as a person, a lack of confidence in yourself, in the big picture. So, when she finds out she’s pregnant, she’s really torn about what she needs to do to be a mother that is good for her child. I also find that, though it’s more of a chic thing now, there are still very few professions that have that level of projection on them. It really has such a stigma to it. That’s a lot to live with.
GUGINO: Yeah. When I read the second draft, it was tonally more of a screwball comedy than the first one was. It was like a good ‘40’s screwball comedy, but with these modern-day characters. So, after I realized that, I thought, “Would she really go to seduce the guy? Would she actually take her up on it?” And then, I thought, “Yeah, she probably would. This woman has actually given her this huge gift and, if it means that much to her, she can just think of it like a job and do it.” Of course, everything starts to unravel from there. What I wanted to be clear about and what I really thought was important is the notion that, even though she probably had a very difficult childhood, she was a porn star and the father of her unexpected child is now dead, she has this beautiful childlike hope and this sense of faith in something. She’s got everything falling apart, and yet there’s really such an innocent spirit about her, and I loved them. I really loved that dichotomy between her profession being so not innocent and so revealing, on so many levels, and yet her spirit is still that of a child, in a way, becoming a woman.
How challenging is it to shoot these films so quickly, or do you find it to be more freeing, creatively?
GUGINO: It’s kind of both. Now we’ve done a couple of these, and we also just shot a movie called Girl Walks Into a Bar, that Emmanuelle [Chriqui] is also in, that’s going to premiere on YouTube on March 11th as well, which is so crazy. They were all done in a very short period of time and with that kind of structure, and we have a crew that has gotten really good at it. Now, it’s a great little treat to have this 15 days that we get to create this thing in, and it doesn’t take you away from anything else, and you just get to focus on that. That being said, there is no doubt that a great energy comes from that kind of be here, now. You’re going to get three takes, and they better be great.
It’s also wonderful, when you have the luxury of time and money, to be able to take time to shoot something and prep for it, and to do all of those things. For me, since I’m always just wanting to get better and better at what I love to do so much, which is act, it’s one of the reasons I like to really mix it up. I feel like I hone different skills with different things. I do a lot of theater as well. Doing a play on Broadway in front of 1,000 people is a whole different set of things to deal with. And then, I do a movie really quick like this, but that’s very dialogue intensive. And then, I might go do a movie for four months where I have 15 lines of dialogue and I’m running around with a gun in my hand.
With all of these things, each one informs the other. Certainly, when I’ve done a really big movie, I tend to be like, “Oh, I want to go do an interesting little movie.” And then, I’ll do something like this and be like, “Well, I do have a life to support, so let’s see what I can do next.” I appreciate it all.
You also have Sucker Punch coming out on March 25th. Have you gotten to see the final film yet?
GUGINO: I have seen the movie.
GUGINO: It really is so hard to explain. For me, I almost felt like I was seeing the movie for the first time because there are these impeccably beautiful, visceral action sequences that my character is not in. So, though I saw some footage of them, I hadn’t ever seen them all cut together. I obviously read them in the script, so to be there, seeing them on screen, I was exhilarated. And then, the stuff that I did, I think feels very much like we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. I play a Polish psychiatrist in one world, and a dominatrix/choreographer/madame in the brothel of the alternate world. It was just a very different character than I’ve ever gotten to play, and I just love working with Zack Snyder and Debbie Snyder, who’s his producer and his wife. They’re just great partners. Again, that’s a movie filled with wonderful women. It just makes me so happy that there are these movies where it’s not just the token one or two women. The women are driving the pieces.
What did you do in New Year’s Eve and what was that experience like?
GUGINO: It was really fun. Unfortunately, I’ve literally signed a confidentiality agreement, but I had a really fun time. Garry Marshall and I had worked together on Race to Witch Mountain. He played a scientist in it. He’s directing New Year’s Eve, and I had such a good time on it. Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel and I are in the same section, and we had a really good time.
GUGINO: Absolutely! It’s so funny because I don’t really feel like I am like that in life, so it’s interesting that these roles have come to me where that’s a large aspect of it. I really have had so much fun with both of those characters. I love it. And, it’s not that I think, “I want to play a strong woman that puts the men in their place,” as much as I love that they can go toe-to-toe, and they’re on equal footings, and they’re as strong and as smart, and maybe even a little more than the men. In the case of Californication, I love David Duchovny and Tom Kapinos, who created the show. They’re just fantastic, really smart people. And then, with Entourage, I’ve been on and off for the last number of years, and Doug Ellin and those guys are a really good group. I was really welcomed into both of those shows.
When you’re looking for projects now, since you’ve done such diverse work, is it the script and the character that appeals to you, or is it about the director and the actors?
GUGINO: It’s interesting. I do feel like I’m in a place where I’m deciding what to do next and all those questions are coming up. For me, it’s always the part and the director and the people who I’m working with. I always feel like I want to work with people who raise my game, and I can do the same for them, and we can jump off the cliff together. Right now, I’m just looking for something. I ran around a lot last year, doing a bunch of different projects, and I’m looking to focus on a smaller amount of them and not be spread quite so thin.