Spotlight: Ali Larter

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“You know, I don’t know if at the beginning of your career, you ever plan or know which way you’re going to go. In the beginning, when you start working, you audition and you get the movies that you get, and that kind of path is out of your hands, in a way.” ~ Ali Larter

Ali Larter, one of Hollywood’s upcoming actresses and TVdom’s hero has come to Bollywood. Marigold, her crossover film into Bollywood (or perhaps it is Salman Khan’s crossover film in to Hollywood!) opens Friday, so we thought we would turn the spotlight on this versatile actress.

Alison (“Ali”) Elizabeth Larter was in front of the camera at a young age, but as a model not an actress. At the age of 13 she was discovered and signed by the Ford Modeling Agency. Larter appeared on the cover of ,Seventeen magazine among others and her assignments took her all over the world. Throughout the next several years she continued modeling, but after moving to LA she started to take acting classes and caught the acting bug.

Her break into the acting profession was unusual. In 1996, Larter was hired as the model for a spoof story that appeared in Esquire called, ‘Allegra Coleman, Hollywood’s Newest Dream Girl’. The story was a hoax meant to shine a light on how some magazines go over the top praising and exaggerating the hype around their favorite stars. Coincidentally, the hype surrounding the story opened many doors for Larter, who said in an interview in the Daily Mail, “It kind of made the industry laugh at itself. And when that door opened and people wanted to know who I was, you bet I dived in.” She landed an agent and her first professional acting job on the TV series, Chicago Sons. After that the offers continued to come in and she appeared on Suddenly Susan, Chicago Hope, and Just Shoot Me. Probably her highest profile job on a TV series was her stint as Kristy Livingstone, Pacey’s love interest on the hit teen drama Dawson’s Creek.

Then Hollywood movies came calling. Her first big break was in the film Varsity Blues as James Van Der Beek’s girlfriend, in which she had a memorable scene trying to seduce Van Der Beek’s character wearing only a bikini made of whip cream. To this day she is referred to as the whipped-cream-bikini girl.

In another teen film, Drive Me Crazy, she shared the screen with Melissa Joan Heart and Adrian Grenier. Her acting ability stood out in her role as the politically active Dulcie, and she was very natural on screen. In one scene I will always remember she conveyed understanding, sadness and regret with one look, no lines needed.

That year she also had a role in the film House on Haunted Hill as Sara Wolfe, co-starring Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen.

However, the film that raised Ali Larter to the next level was Final Destination. Her role as Clear Rivers won critical praise and audience appreciation. Many people say that that film made them an Ali Larter fan. For her performance she won a nomination for Favorite Actress-Horror at the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards and she won the award for Young Hollywood Award for Breakthrough Performance – Female at the Young Hollywood Awards.

Larter then had another outstanding breakout performance in the comedy Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon.

She then went east to New York and took to the boards in an off-Broadway production of Vagina Monologues. While there, she also played a role in the Kevin Smith’s film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Her performances in both were very well received. Upon returning to the West Coast, she starred in the western American Outlaws with Colin Farrell and Scott Caan.

But it was time to take a break, as Larter says, “I was too young and impressionable to handle the pressures of L.A. I needed to sit on park benches and figure out what kind of person I wanted to be.” So she moved to New York and took some time off. In an interview given this year, she commented, “In Los Angeles, people always so [sic] ‘You can’t do it.’ The rejection is astonishing. You really have to dig deeper and believe in yourself.”

However, studios kept knocking and though she was not working as much, she did reprise her role in Final Destination 2 in 2003 and appeared in a supporting role in A Lot Like Love in 2005.

After some rest and rejuvenation, Larter decided to come back to LA and the role that has made her a household name was waiting for her to fill. That role was Nikki/Jessica in the phenomenally successful television series Heroes. Tim Kring, creator of Heroes, said, “It had been a tough part to cast. We saw everybody for this role. Then Ali read for the part and just owned it from the second she walked in. It was a very impressive audition. She’s a very thoughtful actress and she really works hard at it.”

The dual role is on of the most complex characters seen on the series and on television today, and Larter plays it brilliantly. In interview with TV Guide, “Ali’s willingness to be so raw and emotionally naked on camera blows me away,” said Kring. Costar Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder) added, “She lets herself be vulnerable in a way most beautiful women on TV won’t. She doesn’t want to be the glamour-puss.” Larter will continue playing her role in the next season of Heroes. It will be interesting to see where this character goes and what great scenes Larter will get to portray.

She also completed filming Resident Evil: Extinction which is set to release later this year.

Now for Larter’s foray into Bollywood: Marigold is a Hollywood production with Bollywood stars, music and spirit. According to the official site, “Marigold is a musical romantic comedy about a young American woman who travels to India and finds that her life is transformed in the most unexpected ways by her experiences and adventures here. American actress Marigold Lexton (Ali Larter) arrives in India with no luggage and a bad attitude. Stranded in Goa when financing for her low-budget Hollywood movie falls apart, Marigold finds herself cast in a small role in a Bollywood musical. Eager to prove herself, she enlists the aid of Prem (Salman Khan), the film’s choreographer. After several false starts – Marigold is most definitely not a natural dancer – she experiences renewed confidence and a growing love for Prem.”

The synopsis continues but I don’t want to give the rest of the film away!

Marigold is directed by Willard Carroll and he said, “I first met Ali Larter when she was in a film that I produced shortly after writing the first draft of Marigold. I immediately saw in her – the person and the actress – the realization of the character I’d written. And she was fearless in confronting the challenges of singing and dancing on screen for the first time, and working on a location a long way from her home.”

When approached for the role, Larter said, “I didn’t know very much about either Salman or Bollywood movies. So Willard gave me a crash course. I think the film was called – um – ‘Humay Humay Chooke Chooke’ or something!” she said, laughingly in interview. She was referring to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, one of Salman Khan’s biggest hits.

She loved filming Marigold and though their relationship started off a bit rocky, she and Salman are fast friends now. Of her experiences in shooting in India, Larter said, “I had heard that India is really exotic, but I’ve realized that it’s just one of the dimensions. The real beauty lies in the people. Everyone is so warm and friendly.”

It seems as if this actress is fearless in her roles whether it be drama, strong evil-fighting characters, comedy, a hero, or in a completely new genre like Bollywood. As she says, “When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, I need more out of my life and I need to push myself harder. And if at the end of the day I don’t have it, then I don’t have it, but at least I’m going to put myself out there. If I fail, I’m going to fail terrifically.”

Ali Larter’s career is on a high and we can only hope to see the wonderful actress for many more years to come. And perhaps in a Bollywood film!

Fun Facts:
Larter said growing up you would never expect her to be a model or star. “I had a bowl haircut. My face was always flushed, and I had one big tooth. I was the sweaty, dirty girl, and I’d come home with one sock up, one sock down.”

She grew up wanting to be a news broadcaster.

Ranked #40 in Stuff magazine’s “102 Sexiest Women in the World” in 2002.

Was considered for the role Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four.

For the scene in Varsity Blues (1999) where her character Darcy sports her whipped-cream-bikini, shaving cream was used because the whipped cream wouldn’t stick right.

Ranked #6 on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 of 2007 list.

She sings ‘Listen to the Music’ in the movie Marigold.

About acting opposite many a handsome co-star: “I fall in love with all my leading men. I have a hard time separating fantasy from reality. When I’m shooting a movie and looking into a man’s eyes while he’s telling me all these things, I believe him.”

Ali Larter also has a generous heart and has worked for several charities including the NBC Red Cross Hurricane Phone Drive 2005, which was held to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

She also supports the Step Up Women’s Network which according to their website, “Step Up Women’s Network is a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls. Through teen empowerment programs for underserved girls, women’s health education and advocacy, professional mentorship and social networking opportunities, we educate and activate our members to ensure that women and girls have the tools they need to create a better future.”

She and her Heroes cast mates drew illustrations of their characters and they were auctioned off in order to support the Greg Grunberg’s Pediatric Epilepsy Project. When asked what inspired her drawing, she said, “Aren’t there two sides of you, too?” The Pediatric Epilepsy Project was formed with a single, all-important mission: to raise funds, provide financial support, and increase community awareness to help sustain the Division of Pediatric Neurology at UCLA.

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