a Screenmancer Exclusive
good Spelling: Tori talks...
(Excerpts have been published in "Neon Magazine" and "Black Book".)
Tori Spelling co-stars with Parker Posey in the dark comedy about incest -- director Mark Waters' House of Yes.
Ebner: Was this a goal for you? Making independent films? Or did you just fall off the television screen into this world?
Spelling: No, I mean, I always wanted to do just good parts, and give good performances -- and this movie, when I read the script, was just great. I love independent films. And I go to the art houses with my friends to watch films, so, uh, when I read the script I said "Oh, great, this is a little low-budget film," and the script, though, is so great. It was one of those scripts that I read once - cause I had been offered the part of Lesly - and I read it and I went through it, and I kinda got to the part where you find out about all this incest stuff, and I had to look twice and ask, "Did that really happen?" And I remember, I told my roommate, I said, "Oh my god, this script is weird. The brother and sister are having sex," and she's like, "What?" And I was like, "Wait. Lemme finish reading it." And I finished reading it, and I kinda sat there going, "Okay... Lemme read it again." And I read it again, and the second time I read it, I was just like -- hysterical. I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever read; and I just loved it, and I really believed in it, and thought it was something that could be really great.
Ebner: You played a "not so dumb" donut shop waitress against an ensemble of insanity. Was that a challenge? Was it rough for you, or did you just get into it naturally?
Spelling: When I read the part, what I really liked about it was the comedy. I always wanted to do comedy... I don't find her dumb, but I do find her kind of at first naive, kind of oblivious, and I guess she said things that were kind of dumb, and they're funny. And that's what I liked about her -- she doesn't really know she's being funny. And I liked how she got that strong edge towards the end. She's the one who took charge in that dysfunctional house. And I really didn't know how to play her when I went into it. I thought, you know, these lines right in front of me are funny, but what type of character is she really? And the first day of filming I was really nervous, you know -- especially being up in front of this cast of really great actors - and I got there and we just started reading and it was like -- these giggles just came out of me when she walks into the first scene when she comes in. And it was a natural thing, because, you know, you walk into a family for the very first time. And these little giggles started coming out, and I thought, "Here's Lesly," and all of a sudden she just started coming out, and it was really easy to slip right into her.
Ebner: How old are you now?
Ebner: With so much of your youth invested in the business, where and how do you garner your life experience?
Spelling: What do you mean?
Ebner: Okay, for instance: You're clearly not dumb, and yet you can roll with that in a part. What would you do if you had to play a prostitute?
Spelling: Do I use my experiences to put into the roles that I do?
Spelling: I don't. I don't, um, I never really play on experiences, but I know a lot of other actors do. I kind of try and stay out of my head about what I think the character should be like, and I kind of like, just go for it. It kind of just comes out, and not like -- I've never been one of those method actors that had to study. I'm kind of always goofing around on set and I like become this other character. The transition's really easy. So, I don't ever really recall anything from my life towards the character. Except for my character on my TV show. She's a lot like me.
Ebner: Where did you go to high school?
Spelling: The Westlake School For Girls.
Ebner: I'm gonna jump around here. How's your love life, Tori?
Spelling: Oh, god. You just get right to it, huh?
Spelling: It's okay -- heh-heh. It's okay, I don't really, uh...
Ebner: You got a man?
Spelling: No. I don't have a boyfriend. I, uh, you know I'm really focusing on my career right now, and I work constantly, so I really don't have time.
Ebner: To steal dialogue from the film, "What's the wildest place you've ever made love?"
Spelling: HaHaHa...Um, I'm not telling you that. It just made me laugh because I always play this game with my friends. We play this like truth game -- twenty questions, and I play with people who ask, "Where's the last place you made love..."
Ebner: Well, that's interesting. I have twenty questions here. Exactly.
Spelling: Hahaha... I stopped answering that question a long time ago, when I heard some of the responses and mine seemed lame in comparison. So, I guess I haven't had it yet.
Ebner: Another irony. House Of Yes, by nature of the title, and the director's comments, spells "The sheltered life of the privileged class." Now, in some ways, no doubt, you grew up in this. As it reads, that life. Privileged class, sheltered however you want to put it... You can disagree with me here, but --
Spelling: No. That's for sure.
Ebner: Was any of the weirdness celebrated in that film celebrated in your house?
Spelling: Um, there was no weirdness. I know people think that because I grew up in Hollywood, I was out of place growing up, but it was pretty normal. I mean, yeah, I had a bigger house than all my friends, but I think my parents did a really good job of keeping us separate from the business. We really grew up with the understanding that we could make our own decision if we wanted to be in the business.
Ebner: Who's "us?"
Spelling: My brother.
Ebner: What's his name?
Spelling: A twin brother, and we have sex -- no. House Of Yes was a play based on my life. His name's Randy.
Ebner: How old is he?
Spelling: He's 18.
Ebner: What's he do?
Spelling. He's an actor.
Ebner: What's he doing?
Spelling: He's doing a soap opera called Sunset Beach.
Ebner: Where do you live now?
Spelling: I live in LA.
Ebner: What's your address?
Ebner: Do you like your place?
Spelling: Yeah. I have an apartment, I have a roommate, I have a dog.
Ebner: What kind of dog?
Spelling: I have a mutt. A mutt that I actually found filming House Of Yes. I found her in the bushes at the mansion that we filmed at... It was this mangy like mutt that was running around all during filming, and like, hiding in the bushes... and I got her, and I had a groomer come to the set, and I shaved her, and now she's this spectacular dog. She's so great.
Ebner: Rescue dogs are the best. I rescue dogs too.
Spelling: You rescue them? They are the best. They are so intelligent and so thankful...
Ebner: And they need you too, so they're gonna be that much more devoted.
Spelling: The only thing that's bad about her is -- I've had her now since July when we finished filming the movie, and every time I leave the house - it doesn't matter if it's like eight hours, or thirty minutes -- she's like screaming at me like, "How could you leave me? I was so nervous you were abandoning me again." She's like freaking out.
Ebner: She loves you.
Spelling: Oh, yeah. Wherever she is - she doesn't have to be on me - but she's facing me, and she just stares.
Ebner: I don't blame her... What's her name?
Spelling: Gracie. For Gracie Allen.
Ebner: You have a roommate?
Ebner: Is this a longtime friend?
Spelling: Yeah. My best friend.
Ebner: What's her name?
Spelling: It's a guy.
Ebner: A guy?
Spelling: Well, it's just like -- I have three best friends -- three girls and one guy. And, my best girlfriend just moved to New York and we had moved into together and she moved to New York and I needed a roommate, so my best guy friend moved in.
Ebner: What's his gig?
Spelling: He's in dental school.
Spelling: USC. It's cool living with a guy, though. I mean, a guy that you have like no interest in. You know, he's just a nice guy. It's almost easier than living with a girl.
Ebner: Well, four best friends puts you way ahead of the game....
Spelling: Yeah, and they're ones I've had since high school. And, you know, they're not in the business. I'm glad I found really great friends, because, you never know. You meet people now, and you don't know why they're your friends.
Ebner: Does your home life now, celebrate that weirdness?
Spelling: What do you mean?
Ebner: What do you do on a day off?
Spelling: A day off? It's a rarity. Um, it's chaos. Lemme see... I had one like a week ago. I don't know -- I sleep, I play with my dog, and I watch soap operas.
Ebner: And you play that truth game.
Spelling: I don't play that game. Haha. It's always a good conversation starter with a guy. Like twenty questions. I always do that one.
Ebner: I'm looking at your bio and we have... A Friend To Die For, Deadly Pursuits, Awake To Danger, Mother May I Sleep With Danger...
Spelling: You're missing some!
Ebner: I know, but this is what's in front of me. Is there a thread there?
Spelling: Oh, god. I know -- TV movie names suck. It means I'm a woman in peril all the time.
Ebner: What's up with that?
Spelling: Uh, TV movies bore you. I dunno, they're the number getters though. Yeah, that's what gets the numbers, so I've done quite a few. The names are funny though, when you put them all together... You know, with all these movies I get all these really great action scenes.
Ebner: To kind of balance your sedentary lifestyle at 23 years old. At least you get to play it out in front of a camera.
Spelling: Oh, yeah.
Ebner: Have you reached a crossroads career-wise, just in terms of what you've accomplished here at Sundance? Is this what you want to do. Do you want to keep doing independent films?
Spelling: Yeah. I'm not the type that's gonna say I have to do features, and not the TV, but I think that there's better roles for woman in features. I mean, this role was such a great role, and I got to do comedy which is really what I wanna do, and there's not really a lot of that in TV unless you're doing a sitcom. I'm on a series, so I got to do drama at the same time. The roles in movies are so much more daring and creative, and you get to take risks -- especially independents. And I like those roles better.
Ebner: You are beautiful.
Spelling: Hahaha, thank you.
Ebner: Hearing that from some guy sitting across from you may seem weird, so I'll stay in my seat. You have a shy quality about you, but it doesn't seem like you've been shy about discussing your "cosmetic enhancements." I don't really care to discuss it, but...
Spelling: Well, there's not as much to discuss as everyone seems to think.
Ebner: Well, can you just lay it out for me? What is it?
Spelling: I told you, I had my nose done.
Ebner: And that's it?
Spelling: Yeah. I think where it comes from is The Globe -- you know these trash magazines write about me all the time. So, it's "whatever" at this point. A big, "whatever." You know, if people believe it, who cares? But, the one article that really bummed me out - and I remember sitting there crying reading it -- was where I think that all this gossip started. They wrote once, when I was like 21, that I had all this cosmetic surgery on my face: "I had my nose done, and I had cheek implants, and chin implants," and I was thinking, "God, at 21 you've had all this? How sad. Did you have a face lift too?" And they showed a picture of when I was like 14, and I'm thinking, "Okay, you know what? Any person from the time they're fourteen to twenty-one changes. Your bone structure changes, you lose the baby fat on your face. It's just different. But ever since then, people have written that "Tori Spelling is the most cosmetically enhanced woman in Hollywood."
Ebner: "She's got a boob job now."
Spelling: For the record, I don't have anything done but my nose. Hello? But, they don't believe it no matter what I say. Not that I think that I'm beautiful, but, you know, they like to think that if you're semi-attractive, you must have had something done because you can't actually look like that. And be successful. Oh, god no!
Ebner: Are you happy and comfortable in your own skin?
Spelling: Yeah. I like, I like me, cause... you know what I like about me?
Spelling: You know, there's so many beautiful actresses in Hollywood, and I don't look like them. I don't think I'm that beautiful, but I think I'm cute. And I think it's a lot harder to be cute than beautiful.
Ebner: You are singular, as well as being cute. <pause> And beautiful. <ahem>
Ebner: Do you obsess about your appearance: your weight, your hair, and all that?
Spelling: Have you been hearing other reports or something?
Ebner: I don't know. The first step in dealing with obsession is to acknowledge it. I mean, If I was reporting for Allure, I'd probably be asking you about your new red hair, or your make-up and all that...
Spelling: Um, no. I don't really obsess about my appearance.
Ebner: I didn't really intend it, but when I gave you that cookie [I brought a sugar cookie for her as a gift] -- now I think it was the acid test, you know? "Here. Have some sugar." Let's see how she reacts.
Spelling: I know. People always think that if you're skinny, you must be bulimic, or you diet all day long and you just don't eat -- and I don't do any of that.
Ebner: What's your favorite food?
Spelling: My favorite food - and I also happen to make it very well - is lasagna.
Ebner: Would that be meat, or cheese?
Spelling: I like meat. But I have friends who don't eat meat, so I can make it both ways. And I can make it with turkey. Ground turkey.
Ebner: Are you a wine connoisseur?
Spelling: Oh, no. I'm not a connoisseur of wine. I wish I was. But, I like wine and I always go out to dinner and people are like, "Oh, this year's the best," and I'm like, "Whatever." I can't taste the difference... I used to like white better, but now I'm leaning towards red with dinner.
Ebner: Do you enjoy a cocktail?
Spelling: Um, I'm not a big hard alcohol drinker, but when I do, um - rum & coke.
Ebner: Would that be with a lime?
Spelling: I don't know...
Ebner: How pathetic is this line of questioning?
Spelling: No, it's fine. I don't know. I don't drink much, and I don't really like beer, so it's mostly just wine.
Ebner: Any drugs? You smoke pot or anything like that?
Spelling: No. I attribute it to the fact that I have a heart murmur. I use it as an excuse to not try anything. So I don't have to have peer pressure, but...
Ebner: That may be a wake up call that you were blessed with.
Spelling: Maybe. But I've always had this heart murmur. You know growing up I had these friends that always smoked pot, and I was like always freaked out, and they were always like, "No, it doesn't make your heart beat fast." But, I was like, "Uh-huh." So, I could never do anything... And no, I don't smoke cigarettes either.
Ebner: The "daddy's girl" image has always followed you. Are you making a conscious effort to shed that omnipresent image?
Spelling: I'm trying to.
Ebner: Do you believe you have to?
Spelling: Yeah, I mean, you would think... I mean, when 90210 took off, it was there. It was really big in my life and career, and that's all people talked about. And then after the show started picking up, and my work got better I thought, "What have they got to talk about any more? This is good work. So what if I'm on my dad's show. Forget that. I do good stuff." And next, I started doing TV movies. You know, I've done seven now, and not one of them has had anything to do with my dad. You know, most of them were for NBC, and NBC has been really great to me, and my dad's on Fox, so, there's no connection. But people are still like, "Oh. She's in a TV movie? Oh, well I'm sure her dad must have produced it."
Ebner: There are two schools of thought, on that. One is: "Yeah, and...? And, so what if she works on her dad's shows?"
Spelling: Yeah, but you know what else goes along with that? "Oh. She must suck."
Ebner: How about, like, "Wouldn't you take the work?" I mean, opportunity is opportunity. If you just couldn't act, it would be more disgraceful. You get the double whammy because there's what the world thinks of you, and the idea that we as human beings deeply care what other people think of us. It must be hard for you, but, first of all, how much stock do you take in what other people think of you?
Spelling: Um, I mean, a lot. Those are the people that are my fans, and the people that watch me. I mean, it does matter. I mean, I got over the whole deal with 90210... and then I started doing these movies. I mean, they were TV movies, but they were good work, and I would get reviews and I would be thinking "You know what? I really did a good job on this movie, and I'm really powerful in this movie," and then the review would come out, and I'd get a bad review and they'd talk about my hair and my clothes, and that was what it was about, because that was my image to them. You know, "She's not a serious actress." And that bums me out. And you know, luckily with this movie -- I mean, hopefully with this movie -- people will be able to see me in a different light. I mean, so far up here, the response has been really acceptable. Which is really shocking to me, because I fully expected to be, like slammed, because that's all I get no matter how good I do.
Ebner: What's the demographic of your fans?
Spelling: It's really surprising, because I have fans from 5 to 80.
Ebner: Those are your fans right across the board, so I guess what I wanted to ask you is how do you sit with the idea that "what other people think about you is none of your business?" In and ideal world, wouldn't it be great if we could just not make it our business? Do you think you could do that?
Spelling: And just forget about it? Yeah, I'm trying hard to get to the point where I can let it just let it roll off my back, and say "Whatever. I do good work," but still... it's there. But you know, for the first time, I've gotten reviews on this movie - like Variety, The Reporter, and The New York Times - and across the board they've been phenomenal reviews. And on me, too. And so, um, maybe when they see you in a different form -- when it's not TV, and they associate you with TV -- it's a whole new medium -- features, maybe they treat you differently. I don't know.
Ebner: It's not like you committed a crime by having a successful TV career.
Spelling: Right. But you're penalized for that a lot, and when you wanna make the crossover it's kind of like -- it's difficult. And I think it's difficult not just for me, but for any TV actor. I mean I get that all the time. You know, I wanna do movies, and people are like, "She's so visible on TV, and now she's working for features," and you know, you already know what they look like, and you think of that TV character. And, you know, it's hard.
Ebner: Do you think that your concern about that has hurt you to the point where it's kept you down in any way?
Ebner: Do you think you're right on time?
Spelling: No. I mean, it doesn't keep me down. I keep going. I'm going in and I'm reading anyway, and in this business that's the first thing you learn: You can't let them get you down. You have to keep going, going, going. You've gotta persevere, and it's all about rejection from the beginning, so, if they reject your performance, next time you've gotta work harder.
Ebner: If you'd taken a different route in life, what would that have been?
Spelling: I don't know. When I was little, what did I want to be? A manicurist. I do pretty good nails.
Ebner: Clearly. You've got the clear stuff on...
Spelling: This is a French manicure.
Ebner: One more thing on that... There's got to be some way to be able to recognize that people are jealous of you. Or they resent you. Someone once told me that having a resentment against is like pissing down your own leg, because you're the only one who feels it. It's all about making it their problem, because you don't feel it.
Spelling: You're right. It gets better over time, but it still bothers me. Especially when you do something really great. But here, it happened. I thought I did something really great, and they like it, you know?
Ebner: This time is yours. Do you think you'll find a place to sit in it, and accept it and appreciate it, and realize it?
Spelling: I already have, I guess. I saw the movie again last night for the second time, and I like it more and more. I mean, I love the movie, and I'm not talking about myself. I'm critical watching myself. And the first time I hadn't heard the reviews yet, and I was kind of like, "Oh, god... They liked me? Was that okay? Was that bad...?" And then, you sit in the audience and you hear them laughing, and you're like "Gee, that was my line they laughed at," and, "Wow, that was great." So, when I saw it again last night I saw it with two new eyes, you know? Everyone really liked me. They liked my performance, so when we really watched it, I liked my performance.
Ebner: Do you like to read? Read any good books lately?
Spelling: I love to read, but I haven't had a lot of time to read lately.
Ebner: What's been going on?
Spelling: We've been in double-ups for my show. We do two episodes at once. Eighteen hour nightmare days. We do that like three times a year in order to get 32 episodes out a year. So, my life's been pretty crazy lately.
Ebner: Where are you at spiritually?
Spelling: Spiritually? Oh god, I don't know.
Ebner: It's not so much a religious question, as it is a faith question. When I asked you where you were at, you responded "Oh, god." Is there a god for you?
Spelling: Yeah. I believe in god... and I believe in fate, and angels.
Ebner: What about the perceived "elephant that won't go away," regarding your pop's involvement with House Of Yes? What is the Spelling Films involvement?
Spelling: I knew that question was coming. Spelling Films is a distributing company that's all over the world, that mostly deals internationally.
Ebner: It's your dad's business, right?
Spelling: Yeah. Not creatively, it's a financing concern. Where that came from -- and, yeah, people at some point are gonna wonder what the involvement is. It's not a direct involvement, but, the script was brought to me by Mark -- the director, and I read it and, the project was at CAA -- that's my agency -- but, my agency also covers Spelling Films. So, when they brought it to us, I attached myself to the script originally with Parker, and it kind of just sat there, and it couldn't get financing. Spelling Films is a big financing company, and I decided to take it there and see if they would finance it. But it had nothing to do with my dad giving me the part, because the script was already ours, and we were attached to it...
Ebner: You anticipated that question?
Spelling: Yeah, but you're the first one to ask it.
Ebner: Well, the question was raised at your screening last night. A guy asked how you were cast in the film.
Spelling: Yeah, I was going like, "Oh, god. Why are you here?"
Ebner: But, Mark really didn't answer the question... He came to you?
Spelling: Yeah. It wasn't a Spelling Film. I was attached to it, I'd worked with him once before, and obviously I made the main decision in saying "let's take it to Spelling Films and see if they want to do it." And actually, since then there was another script I was attached to -- it wasn't like my dad said, "Oh, it's my daughter, and I'm gonna do it." â€˜Cause it's a big distributing company, and they do it internationally, and they get it made. Luke Perry once had a script that he was attached to, and my father's company financed it, and nobody said anything about that. But, he didn't get the job. So, actually, there's been another script since then that we've taken to Spelling Films, and they turned it down. My dad doesn't really decide. It's other people at Spelling.
Ebner: In the spirit of independent filmmaking -- when you look at any independent film, you're gonna see a list of "special thanks." And this is what it's all about. You followed the model of asking family to help with the film, and it just so happens that your dad is rich.
Spelling: Yeah, they gave us money, you know, but we came to them. I was already attached. It was like an afterthought... At this point, seeing the response to the film, I don't think that that's going to be an issue.
Ebner: Are you going to do the Mod Squad Movie?
Ebner: You're not? Definitely not?
Ebner: You're not even thinking about doing the Peggy Lipton role?
Spelling: No, I, uh -- I don't wanna do anything with my dad. It's to visible to put me there for people to go, "Oh, look, she's doing her dad's film." And it's a horrible thing, because you know what? My dad actually -- his company has come to me with a couple of TV movies that have been great scripts and I had to turn them down because I said to my dad, "You know what? The public's not ready to accept me in another role from you." You know? And, eight years later -- after the show -- you would think that they'd finally disassociate us. My dad was the producer. Who cares, you know?
Ebner: Do you find it to be a sacrifice? I mean, it's honorable to be able to make a decision like that -- but at the same time, would you want to play that role in Mod Squad?
Spelling: No. I don't think I'm ready for it.
Ebner: Have you seen any other films since you've been here?
Spelling: Yeah. I've seen Nowhere.
Ebner: Did you like the film?
Spelling: Yeah. I'm friends with Greg Araki, and I like his filmmaking. It's different, you know? It's shocking. And his films are fun, and they're real, you know? Sometimes they go over the top, but people love to see that. Nowhere is about kids and I like that.
Ebner: What other filmmakers or films do you like?
Spelling: I don't know. I haven't seen anything else likely.
Ebner: The overall trends of the festival seem to be dysfunctional families, incest, masturbation, and even necrophilia. Have you seen Kissed?
Spelling: No. I wanted to, actually...
Ebner: What next? What do you think could happen trend-wise in filmmaking beyond necrophilia?
Spelling: They've taken it to the limit, so I don't know.
Ebner: What would you like to see happen next? What do you like?
Spelling: I like the old comedies. The Katherine Hepburn comedies... things like that. And things like what House Of Yes has. That comedic bantering that you see in old films. A lot of them play like plays, like ours does. You know, the banter goes back and forth, and I like that. And I love romantic comedies. I'm not into all the wild new things going on, but I like to see them. And I love horror films. I think they're starting to make a comeback.
Ebner: Did you see Scream?
Spelling: Yeah. I liked it... Except for the comment about me.
Ebner: What was that comment?
Spelling: Someone says, "They can make a movie out your life, with you as a young Meg Ryan." And she says, "Yeah, but with my luck, they'll cast Tori Spelling."... I actually auditioned for that movie, and when I was reading the script I went, "Oh, shit. They're not gonna cast me. Look, they don't like me obviously." But, whatever, I mean, I didn't really care. The only thing that bothered me about that was that I was friendly with Neve Campbell; and we have shows on Fox, and it kind of bummed me out that she said that in the movie. You know, she was the lead. I thought she could have done something about it. Especially, I think it might have been hurtful to the Fox relationship. You know, because we're the lead show to Party Of Five, and we're the team, and here she is bagging on someone that's on Fox. And we're friendly with each other. But, I liked the movie a lot, and I'm a big fan of Wes Craven, and I was so happy that it did well. And now I see that people are making horror films again, which is so cool because usually when they come out they go straight to video.
Ebner: And your film, no doubt, has an element of horror to it. Do you want to make films? Do you want to direct?
Spelling: No, I don't. I wanna write. I like to write. I admire directors, but I really have no desire to direct. Um, but writing. That's what I wanna do.
Ebner: You've had major problems with the tabloids. Would you like to dish anything about yourself before they get ahold of it? Is there anything that you'd like to beat them to the punch about?
Spelling: I'm carrying a space alien. No. There's nothing that's gonna come out of me. Unless they make it up, which they do all the time. No, I mean, they don't even write about me that much any more. They used to write about me when I went out to clubs and stuff. Now, I don't even go out any more.
Ebner: Is that because you feel like you can't?
Spelling: No. I just grew out of it. You know, they used to write like, "She's going out to clubs, and partying and stuff," and I was like, "Yeah? Isn't that what every nineteen year old does? Graduate from high school, and start going out with your friends? It's like, everyone does it, but because I was on TV I was singled out as being this "bad seed," you know? It's so ridiculous. I don't care anymore. I buy the tabloids, I still read them and sit there and laugh at them. I get excited now when I see something about myself. I go, "Ho! Look at this!" to my friends.
Ebner: Well, thank you, Tori.
Spelling: Thank you for being so nice.