Article After The Jump...
Back in October 2000, The New York Times reported on the winner of a beauty pageant in California. “Classmates jokingly call 18-year-old Sophia Bush the ‘drama queen’ because she loves the stage so much,” said the paper.
Today, the “drama queen” and former Pasadena Rose Queen is well on her way to becoming a household name. Having made her mark as the cunning, manipulative Brooke on the television soap One Tree Hill, Bush has her sights set on Hollywood glory. Last year she took her first, tentative steps in the teen comedy John Tucker Must Die and horror flick Stay Alive. But her latest role, opposite British tough-guy actor Sean Bean in The Hitcher, looks set to establish her as a serious player.
Along the way, she married One Tree Hill co-star Chad Michael Murray, but they divorced a year and a half later amid rumors that her new husband had been unfaithful with a young extra on the show’s set in Wilmington, North Carolina—though some reports fingered Paris Hilton as “the other woman,” saying they got involved while filming House of Wax.
Whatever the truth, Bush has put the matter behind her to focus firmly on her career, which is progressing by leaps and bounds. Indeed, right now she seems unstoppable. Still on a high from filming The Hitcher, she spoke to Ocean Drive about work, family, Gandhi and being thrown around “like a rag doll.”
OCEAN DRIVE: When did you start acting, and why?
SOPHIA BUSH: I always had these visions of being a pediatric heart surgeon; that was my ambition as a kid. But my high school had an arts requirement, where you had to appear in a play. So I got thrown into this world I’d never thought about and found that I loved it. And I kept doing theater right through high school. Eventually I discovered it was what I really wanted to do. So I found my passion by accident.
Can you recall your first role?
No, but I remember that for a while I tried various other theatrical jobs besides acting. I’m an obsessively organized person, and one time I decided I’d try to work on a school play as the props manager. It was a wonderful experience, but really overwhelming. But it gave me such respect for people who do it as a living. That’s why I’m so good with my props now. I always put them back; it’s just habit. I learned that in high school, looking after props and wardrobe.
How did your parents feel when you told them you wanted to be an actress?
You know, my parents have always been incredibly supportive. I’m an only child, so we’re very close. There’s just the three of us. They’re exceptional parents but also great friends. My father [Charles William Bush] was able to take his hobby, photography, and turn it into a beautiful career. So when they saw how much I loved acting, they were 100 percent behind me.
It sounds like you had an idyllic home life, growing up in Pasadena, California?
Yeah, I did. I was lucky. My family is wonderful. And it’s funny, because most of my best friends come from very large families. So it always felt as if I had lots of siblings, though in the end I had to leave them and go home. I kind of got the best of both worlds as a kid.
What did you study at college?
I went to USC to study in their acting program. But by focusing all my studies on theater I found I was missing a lot of reading and writing and general education. So I switched out of the theater department and transferred into the journalism program, with an emphasis in public relations. It was great. I spent all my time in the world of news media and history and literature. And a couple of classes gave me great insight into the PR and advertising world. Marketing is everything in the entertainment business. So when I sit down with my publicist and discuss what magazines we’re going to do, and she gives me the demographics of all these different publications, I know what she means.
You’re coughing loudly. Do you have a heavy cold at the moment?
Well, I’m getting over pneumonia, actually.
Well, the weather changed here [in North Carolina], and got colder very suddenly. And I already had a bit of bronchitis, and that went from bad to really awful in about a week. And then I found out it had become pneumonia. Actually, I did the shoot for the Ocean Drive cover with pneumonia.
That must be a first: Our cover star has pneumonia. I hope they didn’t try to shoot you on the beach.
No, it was all done in the studio, but I could hear everyone whispering, ‘Why is she being so quiet? Is she upset about something?’ They didn’t realize I was sick and just doing my best to stay awake. Anyway, I did a big course of antibiotics and all kinds of pills for my breathing and stuff. But it’s funny, a lot of people think the entertainment industry is a very glamorous, leisurely business. People don’t realize that we can’t take sick days. Unless you have to go to the hospital, you gotta turn up. If I were not to show up at work, I’m costing 200 people their paycheck and screwing up a fortune in locations and crew. It’s a big, intricate machine, and if one cog is out of place the whole thing falls apart. So you gotta turn up and do the work, even if you have pneumonia! It’s interesting for me to watch people in my age range, who work in similar fields, and seeing all the news coverage of these actors and performers who don’t turn up for work, or turn up late. It astounds me, because a major sense of ego is involved if someone can do something like that. Like, if I turn up two hours late for work, it means every man or woman on my crew with children is going to miss having dinner with their kids that night. And that’s just wrong, and I wish people thought more about it.
That’s quite a responsible attitude for someone so young. I wonder where you learned it.
It came from my parents, who have an incredible work ethic. Of course, everybody makes mistakes, and we’ve all been young and stupid. But people need to have a sense of respect, particularly in this business, because hundreds of people are ready to take your place at any time. Maybe some people should think about that. Me, I’d prefer to have a good reputation rather than getting press for being scandalous, getting drunk in public, staying out late and so on.
You came to public attention playing Brooke in One Tree Hill. The show is in its fourth season. What have you learned as an actor from that experience, and what did you bring to that role?
Well, it’s very different from playing a film role. Having played that role for four seasons now, I’ve had so many episodes and weeks to develop the character. It’s not like playing a movie role, where you have a few weeks in character, then it’s over. With TV you get a chance to build up the part, to learn about the character, to think more deeply about the role. Of course, Brooke does a lot of things that I would never do. And the way she lives, I could never live like that. But after getting to know me, the writers gave her a really fierce sense of loyalty. And that’s the key for me, that’s where I relate to Brooke. I’m a fiercely loyal person. I would do anything for my close friends and family. My closest girlfriends are basically the sisters that I never had.
Stanislavski said that every character has a secret that nobody knows except them. Does that idea resonate with you?
Of course. Everyone has their secret, or a fear—not just fictional characters but in real life, too. And that’s one of the things that I try to use as a foundation when I’m working on a character. Because those things are the very root of their motivation.
Do you have a particular technique for creating a character?
Not really. It’s hard to explain. It’s a very private thing. I try to come up with a new way of creating a character whenever I play a new role. Of course, I always discuss it in detail with the director. Maybe the most important thing is that even once I start, I’m always trying to improve. I go to sleep thinking, What could I have done better? How can I improve it? What’s not working and how can I fix it? To the point where, earlier this year, I had a producer come up to me on location and say, ‘Look, it’s done, we don’t need another take.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘Do you mean it’s good enough, or do you mean it’s perfect?’ And he just started laughing and said, ‘Oh, God, you’re a perfectionist.’ And it’s true, I am. The minute you’re satisfied is the minute you start to deteriorate.
Let’s talk about your new movie, The Hitcher. It’s a remake of a 1980s thriller, so what’s different?
Well, it’s not so much a remake as a movie that uses the original as a starting point. The relationship between my character, Grace, and my co-star Zachary Knighton, who plays my boyfriend, is much more developed in this movie. And the events that lead to the involvement of John Ryder, the Sean Bean character, are much more credible than they were in the original, in my opinion. And that was really important to me, because I hate watching suspense movies where I’m shouting, ‘Why did they do that? They would never do that!’ So we changed a lot of things, the characters, their relationships, the action, the way things happen. Of course, it’s still an homage to the original, so fans of the 1986 movie won’t feel cheated. All in all, we struck the right balance.
How was working with Sean Bean? Did he teach you any Sheffield slang?
I love Sean Bean. I just love him. We kept our distance at the beginning, because I was supposed to be afraid of him, so I didn’t want to become too close too fast. So instead of doing the typical thing, where the actors all go to dinner to get to know each other, we just let the relationship develop very slowly, almost at a distance. But I was immediately impressed because he’s so well-mannered and intelligent. And he’s very thoughtful—I mean, everything he says is cultured and meaningful. So the first time I heard him say, ‘****,’ I laughed so much I thought I’d die from lack of oxygen.
And what about having him beat you up and intimidate you sexually? On-screen, that is.
He’s fantastic to work with. We had some very, very physical scenes and we discussed them beforehand. I said, ‘You know, just go for it. If you’re really hurting me I’ll say something. But I want it to look good, and I have some pain tolerance, so we’re gonna be okay.’ And so the first really violent scene in the car, he’s grabbing me by the scalp, shoving a knife in my eye, wrestling with me, while the car veers all over the road. And I made this whimpering sound, and this man, who’s the father of three daughters—in the midst of this scene, where he has a death grip on my skull and a blade in my face—he loosens everything without moving and says, ‘You okay?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I’m okay.’ And he yanks me right back into it! I mean, he takes a moment to check on me, then goes right back into it, 100 percent. I was like, ‘You’re my hero, man.’ It’s funny because, like I say, he’s so sweet and intelligent and cultured. But the moment they call action, he’s terrifying. I mean demonic. The force, it’s just terrifying. Some days he just threw me around like a rag doll. He’s so focused, so icy, but with an odd charm. It’s an eery combination.
Will you do another season of One Tree Hill?
Who knows? It’s not my decision to make at this point. But I’m always trying to expand and grow, which is why I’m looking for new roles that will stretch me.
Do you ever visit Miami?
Yes, very often. I was there just after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. I jumped on a plane and spent a weekend down there with one of my best friends. I love that city, it’s so alive. I love the whole Latin, subtropical vibe. It’s a very sexy energy, very invigorating, a wonderful place to vacation.
Oh, you should try living down here!
Mmmm. I’m not sure I could handle it.
Well, if you don’t handle it, it gets out of hand. A lot of people turn up and party for a couple of years, then end up on the corner with a paper cup.
Well, I’m not the world’s biggest party animal.
You’d be okay, then. Finally, a couple of character questions: First, which quality do you value most in other people?
Loyalty and honesty mean the most to me. When that’s a priority for you, the things that come out of your mouth are genuine and meaningful, and the way you treat people and think about them is genuine. I’m not a calculating person and I’m not really used to being around those kinds of people, and I’ve been bitten because of it. So I really enjoy being around honest, loyal people.
Which quality do you deplore most about yourself?
I’m a bit of a worrier, to an extreme. I’ll crack a joke, then worry if I’ve offended someone—even when they’re laughing. I have a guilt complex, always worrying.
Which historical figure do you most strongly identify with?
Wow, that’s difficult. I can’t say that I identify with him, but I have a wonderful photo of Gandhi and his family, by Margaret Bourke-White, which I keep close everywhere I go. I look at it every day and remind myself to be inspired by the things he achieved and the way he did them. Everything he did was rooted in goodness and honesty, in the beautiful side of humanity. I really appreciate that. It was echoed in the speeches of Bobby Kennedy in the ’60s, and it seems to me people are starting to look at that again now. They’re realizing the world has become such a selfish place, and it’s time we started thinking about other people again. We have to start thinking on the level of global consciousness, ’cause it’s the only way we’re gonna make it.