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“Love’s Labour’s Lost”: Alicia Silverstone Interview

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 22, 2000 — While her peers are filming the umpteenth horror-film sequel or high school prom movie, Alicia Silverstone is doing Shakespeare, dancing in fishnet stockings and singing to Irving Berlin.

Well, almost.

“I didn’t really learn the dance very well,” she admits now. “And so it was so embarrassing because I had no tricep muscles, cause I don’t work out or anything … and I couldn’t lift myself from the chair and I’m like, ‘How come the other girls can?’ And they were like, ‘We practiced!'”

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But the 23-year-old actress finished the scene, even though her arms “were gonna fall off.” And the finished product, she says, is something she’s extremely proud of.

And with good reason. “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” adapted from a lesser-known Shakespeare comedy, required its cast to not only learn the Bard, but also sing showtunes and dance a la Fred Astaire.

A lavish production directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the text was transplanted to the glamorous 1930s Hollywood, and actors interspersed Cole Porter and George Gershwin tunes in between soliloquies.

The story revolves around a young king (Alessandro Nivola) who, with his three best friends (Branagh, Matthew Lillard and Adrian Lester), makes a vow to swear off women for three years while studying philosophy. But when the Princess of France (Silverstone) and her three attendants (Natascha McElhone, Emily Mortimer and Carmen Ejogo) arrive on business, the youths find they can’t escape love no matter how hard they try.

Besides wrapping one’s head around all that Shakespeare, the actors were subjected to “Fame”-type classes of singing and dancing lessons. Silverstone says all the elements together make for an entertaining romp that shies away from the frumpier men-in-tights Shakespeare films of yore.

“I think what [Branagh] has done here makes it completely understandable,” Silverstone says. “I don’t think anybody will even notice they’re watching Shakespeare. I think they just know ‘Oh, I’m watching this fun story, and I’m laughing so much and my heart is so full.’

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“That’s how well he pulled this off. Each person believes what they’re saying so much that you believe what they’re saying. You understand it perfectly,” she continues. “I think it’s extremely accessible. I think this film is so absolutely contemporary; it’s four boys and four girls completely going mental over each other cause they like each other so much, and then dealing with that insane craziness, that excited energy that you can’t breathe because you like that person so much. And we all deal with that.”

Silverstone is making a career out of doing films she believes this strongly in. Once touted as the It girl after her breakthrough in the 1995 teen hit “Clueless,” Silverstone has been noticeably absent from the films her peers are making.

“What I do think is different is I’m really not focused on being in the biggest film or the one that’s gonna pay me the most,” Silverstone says. “Because sure I could’ve made decisions that would’ve paid me more, maybe made me more visible, like I’d be in a lot more films. But I really want to do things that make me feel good and motivate me and inspire me. And those don’t come around a lot so when they do, like this film came along and it was like, ah, I’ve got to do this. This is incredible. That probably happens only once a year that I feel that way about something. And that’s when I want to do it. I wouldn’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it.”

She has no gameplan for her career, but she wouldn’t mind having one similar to Meryl Streep, whom she admires.

“She’s a really incredible actress, and she’s done so many interesting roles that are so … where she completely becomes these amazing characters,” Silverstone says. “So if I could be someone like her that would be incredible. And she’s not in every film; she just works when she wants to work. But I don’t have a plan. … I just want to do roles that inspire me, as I think of them or as they come around. Like this one; I just loved this girl. I just thought she was so cool.”

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” opens June 9.

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