Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

The daring young nun on the flying trapeze

Amanda Detmer delves into juvenile comedy for ‘Saving Silverman’

February 15, 2001

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Twenty-nine-year-old Amanda Detmer has a long list of stage credits. She's played Desdemona in Shakespeare's "Othello" and has performed in plays as diverse as "Our Town" and "The Importance of Being Earnest."

To big screen audiences, however, she's best known for demonstrating how not to hail a bus in "Final Destination."

Amanda Detmer

Amanda Detmer

"I had little to do with that, but it came off pretty good," Detmer says of her gruesome death scene in the popular horror flick, during a phone interview from Dallas. "That scene has become famous; it's great."

Since then she's had a pair of choice roles, as Claire Forlani's neurotic roommate in "Boys and Girls" and as a character who defies easy description in the current "Saving Silverman." In the new comedy, she plays Sandy Perkus, the high school crush of the film's main character Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs, "American Pie"). After graduation, Sandy has a sad career as a trapeze artist and then decides to become a nun. Sandy's backstory sounds more than a bit outlandish, but according to Detmer, that's intentional.

"Obviously, these are extreme characters, but at least we have a story to tell which kind of grounds them all," she says. "They can't be totally unbelievable. It also gave this piece a bit of heart."

To make the trapeze story credible, Detmer did get in some practice before the cameras rolled.

"I rehearsed a little bit before I left L.A. (for Vancouver, British Columbia) with the guy who did 'Circus of the Stars,' she recalls. "I got to go on his trapeze in his back yard, which made things a little bit easier for the big day. I'm pretty athletic. I was the big sports girl in high school in basketball, field hockey. I swam. I wasn't much of a girly-girl back then."

Nonetheless, the new role was a stretch.

"I'm afraid of heights, so that was a little hard for me," she explains.

Song sung blue

Another unusual demand was the ability to croon along with Neil Diamond, who plays himself in the film. ("Neil is a great guy, and it was a blast. He's Neil Diamond; he's an American icon," she says.) Like her co-stars Steve Zahn ("Out of Sight") and Jack Black (who's half of the duo Tenacious D), Detmer had to perform all her own vocals.

"In grad school (at New York University), we had singing class, and we had to sing there," she says. "I've done enough to know how to at least carry a tune, but I wouldn't consider myself a Broadway singer. We didn't do musical theater, but it's part of the graduate program, so you study everything."

When asked if she had to do similar study to play a would-be nun, she quickly replies, "No, I didn't. I just put on the habit. I didn't have to do much."

Having performed with Jason Biggs before in "Boys and Girls," Detmer recalls that playing a longtime acquaintance was somewhat easier.

"If not for (the previous film), it would have been much harder, but we got to start one foot ahead of the game, so to speak," she says. "We already knew each other; we weren't nervous. It really did help us to get to the work. We both wanted to work with each other very much."

The familiarity shows up in one of the funnier moments in "Saving Silverman," when Detmer warmly embraces Biggs but approaches Zahn and Black as if the two haven't bathed in days. She laughs as she remembers, "I made the choice that (Sandy) was a little unsure exactly who they were and where they were coming from. She was buddies with (Darren) back in high school; it's just a choice I made."

Graduation time

Detmer's next project promises to be considerably more weighty. "The Majestic," helmed by director Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile"), will feature her alongside Jim Carrey in a story that involves the Hollywood blacklist of the early 1950s.

"I play an actress in Hollywood during 1951," she says. "I know a bit about (the blacklist), but we haven't started shooting so we haven't really gotten there yet. It's an interesting time. I'm so excited to do it."

In a couple of spots during the conversation, Detmer's voice fades out because she's in a car on her way back to the hotel after spending hours fielding questions. "It's all for the movie," she says. "If people actually want to listen to me talk, I'll talk all they want."

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