She has slayed vampires and demolished mean cheerleaders, but Eliza Dushku‘s proudest victory happened on the set of her 2003 horror favorite, Wrong Turn. The Rob Schmidt-directed backwoods slasher movie celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, and when Yahoo Entertainment spoke with the actress earlier this year, she revealed how she ensured that her final girl, Jessie Burlingame, would get the final kill shot. “I fought for that moment,” Dushku says. “I remember calling my mom from the set saying, ‘I don’t want to be a diva, but this is really important to me: it feels in my gut like I have to be the one to drill the axe into the dude’s skull at the end of the film!'” (Watch our video interview above.)
In the movie, Jessie and her four friends (played by Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth) are on a road trip that gets derailed in the West Virginia mountains, where they and another stranded traveler, Chris (Desmond Harrington), end up on the run from a trio of hideously deformed hillbillies. One by one, each of her pals are picked off, until only Jessie and Chris remain — forcing them to go on the offensive.
According to Dushku, on the day that she and Harrington went to shoot the movie’s bloody climax, the producers decided to make Chris the one who swings an axe and saves the day. But Dushku stood up for Jessie, who she lovingly calls a “badass.” The star quite rightly pointed out to the producers that Chris had no prior connection to the mountain men’s victims, robbing his triumph of any resonance. “I was like, ‘Those weren’t even his friends! I have to have this kill shot.'”
Dushku’s impassioned argument won over the producing team, and Jessie got the moment she deserved. That decision also went over like gangbusters with scary movie fans. Dushku remembers receiving a congratulatory call from producers after a Wrong Turn test screening. “They said that moment tested the highest with the audience,” she says, pumping her arms in the air in triumph.
Working on Wrong Turn wasn’t all fun and gore, though. Dushku says that for another scene, Schmidt had the cast run back and forth through forest brush that turned out to be infested with poison ivy. “I had poison ivy all up the backs of my legs and on my tush,” she says, cringing at the memory. Dushku still had her poison ivy-induced rash during a 2002 appearance on Late Show With David Letterman. “I had to go out and say, ‘Dave, I’ve got poison ivy all over my ass.'” Forget murderous mountain men: that’s every actor’s biggest nightmare.
Wrong Turn is available for rent or purchase on Amazon, Vudu and YouTube.
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