Role-ing with it

Jean Luo

The film’s title may describe a creepy and undesirable situation, but “Alone in the Dark” was a pleasant experience for actress Tara Reid. Alongside Christian Slater and Stephen Dorff, Reid tackles psychological horrors and menacing demons in a film adaptation of the popular video game. In theaters tomorrow, the thriller provides a welcome opportunity for the 29-year-old actress, who is trying to graduate from her college-girl roles and party-girl image.

“Alone in the Dark” tells the story of Edward Carnby (Slater), a detective of the supernatural and paranormal, who discovers evil spirits that plan to conquer the world. With the help of genius anthropologist and ex-girlfriend, Aline Cedrac (Reid), Edward seeks to save the world, but first must overcome the abundance of both physical and psychological demons.

While the subject of “Alone in the Dark” is ominous, Reid sees the film as a positive experience — a chance to expand her acting horizons.

“I liked the script, and I loved the fact that it was an action, sci-fi, horror film,” she says. “They’re really fun to make, all the action and suspense and shooting at night.”

An obsession for frat boys across the nation, Reid jumped at the chance to play a different role than the usual teenage or 20-something piece of eye candy.

“I’ve never gotten a chance to play an anthropologist before,” she says. “When I was younger, I could only play high school- or college-type roles. As I get older, I’m getting a wider selection, different opportunities to play a mother or doctor.”

Since the majority of her work has been in comedy, Reid welcomes the occasional vacation. Ironically she finds “Alone as the Dark” a more relaxing experience than films such as “Van Wilder.”

“Comedies are actually a lot harder to shoot than horror or drama,” she says. “It’s harder to tell a joke and be funny. Acting-wise, this movie is easier and a lot more fun. A lot of the film is shot in front of a green screen, so I really got to use my imagination.”

Reid, who starred in Crayola and McDonald’s commercials as a child, has been acting since 1992. Though she made her feature film debut in the horror flick “A Return of Salem’s Lot,” she concedes earlier work — notably as Sandy on “Saved By the Bell: The New Class” — is more frightening.

Since her memorable, albeit short, appearance in “The Big Lebowski,” Reid has steadily acquired roles and worked with such actors as NU alumnus Zach Braff. Though more often linked to, say, Lindsay Lohan or a Hilton sister, Reid has built lasting relationships on film sets.

“I loved working with Rosario Dawson and all the kids from ‘American Pie,'” she says. “There’s this special person in every movie that you just bond with and you learn from and it’s pretty cool.”

Reid also lists “Alone in the Dark” co-star Christian Slater as one of her favorite actors to work with.

“He’s so giving in our scenes and really smart technically,” she says. “I learned from him. He’s such a professional, and I admire that.”

Reid aims to work with the likes of Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone (“I haven’t touched on that level yet, but hopefully one day I will”), thus she finds frustration in the media’s propagation of her party-girl image.

“It’s definitely taken way out of control,” she says. “Yeah, I’ve gone out and had a good time, but I also work hard too. I think sometimes it takes away from me getting those really good roles, so I wish people would just step back.”

Reid especially bemoans the coverage of her infamous wardrobe malfunction at P. Diddy’s November birthday party.

“You saw it,” she says. “It was a mistake. Accidents happen.”

Given her history of media exposure, Reid now plans to fight back. She is currently developing a semi-autobiographical television series with Fox, in which she plays a good-hearted actress who is also a magnet for tabloid attention.

“It’s kind of like me getting the last laugh,” she says. “(The show) will take what’s happening to me and spin it. By putting the news from Page Six on the shelf, maybe people will think a little bit more before they write something.”

Despite her touchy relationship with the tabloid media, Reid appreciates the fresh approach of college publications.

“A lot of journalists go on the bandwagon — I call them sheep — and getting a real good journalist is like breaking away from the herd, taking the story in another direction,” she says. “This is the power kids have in college journalism, and I think it’s a great tool.”

Given the popularity of her image in DVD collections, dorm rooms and issues of Maxim, Reid finds a loyal ally in college students.

“I relate to college kids,” she says. “It’s more my generation.” 4

Medill junior Jean Luo is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected].