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September 2006
THE LAST KISS: An Interview with Rachel Bilson

THE LAST KISS: An Interview with Rachel Bilson
By Brad Balfour


For Rachel Bilson, landing her part in director/actor Tony Goldwyn's "The Last Kiss" was a real leap forward, her chance to move into film. As Summer Roberts in Fox Television's "The OC," she joined an ensemble that surprised everybody at establishing such a huge fan base so quickly.

But the 25 year-old Bilson knew that in time she had grapple with something more. With her part as Kim in "The Last Kiss," the sexually precocious co-ed who is hot for the decade older Michael (Zach Braff) she becomes the fulcrum of the core conflict at the center of this film about 20-something men who are about to enter their 30s. That role offered Bilson the challenge of being both hot and vulnerable--and for her to do her first sex scene that included a little nudity as well. That put Bilson into another context and has given her a whole new audience to reach out to.

Were you anything like your character Kim when you were in college?

RB: No, no, no, no!  I would never be the pursuer.

Was that one of the attractions--to play the bad girl going after the bad boy?

RB: It was just fun to play a different character and to be in this movie was truly, you know... It was just amazing for me to work with these people, so it was really fun to be able to be someone else for a while.

How did you schedule this in terms of your TV show, "The OC?"

RB: Well, we have a hiatus every year. It's about two months long and I did it during the first hiatus.

So you weren't really a bad girl, but you didn't care whether he was married, in a committed relationship or not.

RB: Well, it's not that she didn't care. You know, when you talk to a guy you feel him out a little bit.  And in their first meeting, she asks him if he has a girlfriend and he says "yeah," but he's a little unsure of it and I think she picks up on that.  And she doesn't know the circumstances, or their situation so if he's giving off that signal. I would [never do what she did] in my own life; if someone has a girlfriend they have a girlfriend, but he definitely leads her to believe that maybe there's uncertainty there.

So what attracted you to this particular character?

RB: When I read the script I loved this particular character because it's so nice to have a female role, with the amount of screen time she's given, [where you are] able to see her go through such a transition, and get to play out different emotions--really show a lot of different colors--which you don't always get to do.  So that was a nice treat.

And you get to work with a director, Tony Goldwyn, who having been an actor himself, can work closely with you to bring those colors out.

RB: Well having Tony as the director, he was really amazing and helped me so much and really gave me time with the scenes. I had a hard time with the emotional scene where I go and give Michael (Zach Braff) a present, and Tony and Zach both really helped me. Without the two of them, I don't think I could have done anything close to what I did.

Of course Zach simulates this reaction when a friend we were doing these interviews she said, "Zach Braff! can I come along?"

RB: Yeah, girls like the Braff!  He's really talented… and talent is always attractive, but he's hysterical, very charming and he's a very funny guy. I think if you can make a girl laugh, that is the key to their heart…laughter.

Is he as charming as he seems or does he just pick characters that make him look charming?

RB: No, it's definitely a lot like him, I mean he plays a lot of himself in his characters.  He's very funny, on screen and off.

Your characters seem very strong. Where do you pull that from?

RB: I kind of think being a woman, you know, you have to show that especially in movies because there are so many times you see women in movies  and their so weak and you don't get to see that so I thought it was important to really be able to give her strength in certain ways and it's nice to see that for a change.

What would be your ideal character to portray?

RB: There are so many, it's hard to say, there are so many amazing roles out there and amazing genres to explore.  I love musicals, I think it would be fun to do something like that because I love to sing and dance, and it would be fun to play an old jazz singer.  I love music so much, so automatically I turn to that, but a period piece, a comedy, anything.

Have you recorded anything?

RB: No, no.  I'm too embarrassed.  I love it, and I can do it on my own, in my own room in front of the mirror, but in a movie I feel like it would a lot easier than on stage.  Not easier, I don't mean easier, but you can mess up and you can go again but when you're up there on stage you just have to go with it.  It takes a lot of guts to do that and I really admire people who get up there.

Do you have other film projects coming up?

RB: No, though I'm trying to do more. That's the goal, and I really hope I get a chance to make another movie because it was really incredible.

Is the problem in getting the parts or a matter of scheduling or you're not getting offered things you like?  Doing the teen things til you're blue in the face doesn't seem fun.

RB: There are some teen things that are great, but I don't really get that many offers.  I have people that maybe want to meet me, which is great, but it's hard you have to work at it because all the roles that I want, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, and all these amazing actresses who have worked really hard to get where they are, I'm just at the bottom trying to work my way towards anything remotely close to that in that area, so it's a lot of work and that's what I'm trying to do. That's why I waited to hopefully, you know, which I did, get to do a picture like this as opposed to jumping into a teen comedy or horror movie. It's important to me, and I take it very seriously, to prove myself as an actress and try to work my way up.

Were there any difficult parts in shooting this character?

RB: I would have to say the first sex scene would be the most difficult just because it's kind of uncomfortable and awkward. Reading it on the page, I was terrified but Zach really helped me through it, and we're friends, so that made it very comfortable. Tony made it very comfortable as well, and it was actually a really nice setting. I'm happy I did it because I can say, "Hey I did my first sex scene and I never have to do that again!"

And how did your mom feel about that on the screen?

RB: Oh my mom was very aware. My mom is very sexually spiritual, so…

Now that you've done it, you can do more…

RB: Yeah, bring it on! No… but it is the first time, it's like the first time you ride a bike.  That was a horrible analogy. But, you know, it's kind of like jumping into cold water then you get right out.

So in making the transition from TV to film, was there any kind of preparation that you went through...or did you find because it was an indie film that it was easier…

RB: Um, no I didn't really think about it too much.  It was kind of like, like I said, the sex scene, it was kind of like diving in and doing it.  The character luckily came natural to me, and Zach made it so easy play off of and play with because he's so natural and so great that I was just playing off him and trying to keep up.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

RB: I didn't actually have scenes with anyone else other than Zach, but I got to meet mostly everybody, and it was such an amazing group of people. Seeing my name on the poster with Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner [Michael's in-laws to be]…I have to pinch myself because it's very odd, in the best way, to see that.

Do you know anyone like the character?

RB: Um yeah there were always those girls.  Luckily, not good friends of mine.  But I have known them.

At one point it seems like she is actually stalking him.

RB: She is a little crazy. People were a little worried about a boiled bunny at the end.  But she's just young and it's her first experience at this level, so, you know, we act a little crazy sometimes.

And you've never acted crazy?

RB: I wouldn't go as far as stalking.  Crazy in the sense, you know, I've been jealous, that's a little crazy, but other than that I haven't done anything too extreme.

In real life, do you like going to weddings?

RB: yeah, it's fun.  I'm going to my cousin's wedding towards the end of this month, and that'll be fun.

I was expecting a fluffy, romantic comedy but it's pretty heavy.

RB: It is really heavy, and when people are like, "Oh, a romantic comedy," it's really not.  I know people use the term "dramedy"  which is more true to that. It's very realistic, and it hands you a few feelings and emotions where a romantic comedy is more like "My Best Friend's Wedding"--well, actually that's sad--but your typical one like... "How to Lose a Guy (in 10 Days)" or things like that. This is definitely more of a realistic, true, honest picture about life and relationships.

So you're not turning 30 yet, but you're 25…do you think this is a cautionary tale?

RB: It doesn't matter what age you are, you're going to run into stuff no matter how old or whatever relationship you're in, there's always going to be certain things going on in your life, and you know, it's different for everybody, so who knows when it'll come.

You have a few more decades to go.

RB: Oh, thank you. Good to know.

When your character left behind, we see what happens to the rest of them, did you ever envision her future?

RB: We shot something right after he leaves her and she goes running after him and there's an emotional scene and he drives away and she's running after the car and…pretty pathetic right…but she's just a girl who's really hurt and, you know, young, and that pain and that age. I've been there and it hurts more than anything because it's so new and you haven't experienced anything like it.  But yeah that was the last you saw of her, but you can imagine her heart got broken and she would toughen up a bit for her next relationship.

She seemed like she was already accustomed to that. She seemed like she'd been through that.

RB: Really? Interesting.  I guess so.  Whatever the audience interprets from it.

Did the script change much from when you first received it?

RB: Not too much. Zach did some dialogue tweaking. Paul Haggis adapted the screenplay, and he did a great job. It's pretty true to the original version, there are a few differences, like the ending and things like that.

What changed?

RB: In the Italian version, you see he doesn't tell her that he had the sexual relationship with Kim, and you see Michael and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) with their baby a few years later, and Jacinda's character is on a jog, and a guy looks at her and she looks back, and it leads you to think that you don't know what's going to happen. That was the Italian version.

Yeah this film is based on the Italian version, "L'ultimo bacio".

RB: The movie was by Gabriel Muccino.  I saw the Italian version, he is an amazing filmmaker.

How was the Italian sex scene different?

RB: I think there may have been nudity in that one. I saw it a long time ago I saw it, but you know it was very apparent.

Was that one of the first things you did?

RB: Yeah, even before I got the role I watched it.

Was Paul Haggis ("Crash"), who wrote the screenplay, on set at all?

RB: No. He had a lot going on.

Zach Braff developing a reputation for injecting a soundtrack.

RB: Yeah he has great taste in music. I made quite a few mixed CDs during the duration of filming, but there's a song that Josh Schwartz, who created The O.C., he showed me, it's an Imogen Heap song and Zach fell in love with it and everyone fell in love with it, so it's in the film now.  And it's one of the most beautiful songs you've ever heard so I had to share it even though it was on The O.C. But yeah, I love music so much so it was cool to be able to show Zach so many things and have him respond.

What do you think is the greatest misperception ordinary people have about people in your position?

RB: That they're like anything different than a normal person, you know.  People just treat you differently sometimes when you're a celebrity, when it's just because of the job you do you get looked at a little different, and, I don't know, I find it interesting and it
comes along with it, the whole celebrity aspect and it's like you're lucky and you're unlucky when you're in that position, but it's just the nature of the beast.

What do fans ask you when they meet you?

RB: It's usually more personal questions, I don't know. They always want to know about Adam Brody, and I always say, "Well I've met him a few times." Sometimes they want to know about you and your life because they see you in their living rooms each week and they want to know you, so it's a little odd.  I appreciate my privacy but I also appreciate my fans, so you have to find a fine line somewhere.

Do you consider yourself lucky?

RB: I'm so fortunate to, you know, I have my privacy to a certain degree, which is really nice, and I'm usually not…they don't usually say anything bad about me, which is nice.

You've done this independent film which gives you the opportunity to do roles that aren't over-romantized.

RB: Sure, well this movie isn't actually an independent film, but it feels like it. It was a lower budget film.  Yeah, I think it's more important definitely to choose a role or certain director over a big money check studio film that I didn't believe in, you know.  That's I think the difference, is I really care about building that, like I said before, try to work my way up there.

If after this movie is out and you get a lot of scripts for college or high school girls do you think you are past that.

RB: I would look at them, it's nice to have an offer for anything, it's nice to be wanted.  But I'm not opposed to playing anything if it's a really good project that I would love to work with certain people or play.

So what do you have coming up, doing The O.C. next season?

RB: Yeah, The O.C. and this, and just reading scripts, and hopefully I get to do another movie when we wrap in February.

TV is a grind…how long do you think you're going to stick with it?

RB: As long as it goes. You know, I've gotten everything because of this show and I'm so grateful for it, and I just, I'm along for the ride.

What is happening to your character in The O.C.

RB: We just started our fourth season and at the end of the third season Marissa Cooper died, Mischa's character, and so we're dealing with that sort of. My character kind of turns to Greene Peace, an eco-friendly activist, and um, that's kind of her beard so to speak for right now. But it's also great because, you know, you get to see that, and maybe it will play a nice message to the teens watching.

What was going happening for you before "The O.C."?

RB: Not a lot.  A lot of auditioning. I did quite a few commercials and then I had two very small guest spots, if you can even call them that, on a couple of TV shows, and then I got the pilot to do The O.C. and it was kind of a whirlwind, and just by chance because a lot of it has to do with luck because you never know what's going to hit.  You can have a horrible audition one day and booked something the next, so it was the luck of the draw really and I just can't believe it. It's still really surreal for me.

How did you get into acting?

RB: Well my dad's side of the family is in the business, so I grew up around it and on sets and things.  And I did plays in high school, and my dad actually said, "Do you want to do this? It seems like you really love it?" And, you know, I was a teenager, so at the time, I said, "Of course!" and it was so much fun doing plays.  So he helped me out, you know, getting started, so to speak. He kind of started it all for me, but I really love it and had so much fun with it.  I didn't get serious, though, until I was about 19, because I was still young, and you know, goofing around.

You're so old now…

RB: 25.

Did you take classes?

RB: No, actually.  I had a really amazing drama teacher in high school.

How did you get into acting?

RB: Well my dad's side of the family is in the business, so I grew up around it and on sets and things.  And I did plays in high school, and my dad actually said, "Do you want to do this? It seems like you really love it?" And, you know, I was a teenager, so at the time, I said, "Of course!" and it was so much fun doing plays.  So he helped me out, you know, getting started, so to speak. He kind of started it all for me, but I really love it and had so much fun with it.  I didn't get serious, though, until I was about 19, because I was still young, and you know, goofing around.

Are you based in LA?

RB: Yeah I'm from LA and I live in LA.

You're jump done the TV thing, now film…do you now want to move to NY and do Broadway?

RB: I would love to, yeah, my dream is to have a place in NY, a place in LA.  I would love to do theater.  If I had the guts I would do a musical because I love them so much, and I saw Christina Applegate do Sweet Chariot and oh my gosh, I get so emotional watching it because I love it so much. I know Ashlee Simpson is going to do Chicago in
London, and it's just, the things that you can, that are at your, you know, that you can get into because of your position, whatever it is, it's really cool, and I think you should take advantage of it.

Are you going to try and see some theater while you're here?

RB: I won't have time this time but I would like to.

If you did have time what would you go see?

RB: Oh gosh. I'd probably see "Hairspray," I haven't seen that.  And I know Haley Duff is in it now, it would be fun to see her up there. I hear Usher is doing "Chicago," I bet he's really cool at that. "Avenue Q" I hear is great. I don't know if it's still running but I don't know anything.

THE LAST KISS opens on September 15, 2006




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