If you make a movie about group sex, you must be prepared to own up to your point of view on the subject. But when actress Eliza Dushku, star of the indie “Sex and Breakfast,” which opens in limited release Friday, is asked whether she’s pro or con group canoodling, she giggles, before fessing up, she’s more of a monogamous kind of gal.
“It doesn’t even make sense to me,” she says on the phone from her childhood home in Watertown, Mass., where she spent the Thanksgiving holiday. That would be a pass from Dushku, 26, best known for her stint on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and as the title character on the series “Tru Calling.” That’s why they call it acting. “Let us live it up for you,” she cracks.
Sex is certainly a hot topic in Hollywood, whether it’s sexual dysfunction, unplanned sex, too much sex, too little sex. Sexual problems seem so distinctly less nihilistic -- so eminently solvable -- compared with the war in Iraq or global warming or anything else in the newspapers. The burdens of sex are driving such comedies as “Superbad,” “Knocked Up” and “Juno,” as well as the TV dramas like “Californication” and “Tell Me You Love Me.”
Now come the twentysomethings’ turn. “Sex and Breakfast” tracks two couples (“Home Alone’s” all-grown up Macauley Culkin, Kuno Becker, Alexis Dziena and Dushku) who’ve lost the passion in their relationships and consult a therapist who advocates communal sex. Still, Dushku points out, the movie is less risque than your average Paris Hilton sex tape.
“It wasn’t about the sex so much, than about the feeling, the confusion, the experimentation,” she says. “Those are really honest things that aren’t necessarily explored in the movies I’ve seen. Relationships can be so maddening and just all over the map. Of course, the sex is a major part of it, but it goes so much deeper.”
Although she doesn’t play the girl next door, Dushku, a sloe-eyed beauty with an insouciant air, steers away from her more typical screen image as “the bad, sexy girl.” She was pleased when writer-director Miles Brandman, 26, offered her the other female lead, the not-as-adventurous-as-she-thinks woman who’s “more personal and just vulnerable at times, raw.”
Dushku has been acting since she was 10, debuting opposite Juliette Lewis in “That Night.” She played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter in the James Cameron film “True Lies,” traveling for nine months to locations all over the world. “I hung off airplanes in Miami. My poor mother was standing on the rooftop. My mother is a political science professor. Never, ever in a million years would she have put me in this business, except I tripped and fell in my brother’s audition when I was 9.”
That pratfall snagged the attention of the powers that be. Coming of age in Hollywood sounds tabloid-esque. “There was a lot of craziness, immaturity. . . . These stories about kids in the industry, where adolescents are left unprotected and hung out in this town. It can be a disaster. I really truly felt what a lot of these women feel. I wish them the best.”
Dushku admits that she got “sober” a couple of years ago, and that has made a difference. “I’m clean and relatively unscathed by the whole process.”
Up next is “Dollhouse,” the TV reunion between Dushku and “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon. Part “Truman Show,” part “Alias,” the series will begin shooting after the writers strike is settled. The new show concerns people who live in a biosphere who are imprinted with personalities and sent on spy-like missions, after which their memories are wiped. Dushku, who also executive-produces the series, says, “It’s the ultimate outlet for me to direct this constant stream of crazy energy. I get to be a new personality every week.”
Where you’ve seen her
Eliza Dushku began acting when she was 10, but it was post-adolescence when she broke out in the role of Faith on Joss Whedon’s hit series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She has starred in TV’s “Tru Calling” and has appeared in some features, including “Bring It On,” “Race the Sun,” “City by the Sea” and horror films “Soul Survivors” and “Wrong Turn.”