Carla Gugino, Woman in Trouble (Or Is She?)



As a porn star with a heart of gold and a bun in the oven, Carla Gugino is both sweet and saucy in the title role of Elektra Luxx. Featuring a mostly female cast, Elektra Luxx is the second in the trilogy writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez kicked off with his cult hit Women in Trouble. As in the previous film, Elektra Luxx features multiple stories, but it’s Gugino’s wily but vulnerable Luxx that is the core. We caught up with Gugino to talk about how to pick an actress to play the Virgin Mary.

GILLIAN MOHNEY: I remember last year, this film was at SXSW and something happened with the screening—

CARLA GUGINO: I know. It was a crazy night, and the projector broke. It was insanity.

MOHNEY: It ended up being a fun fiasco.

GUGINO: People were really into the screening, so that aspect was great. But then it broke and [the director] Sebastian got up there and did this crazy tap dance à la Martin Scorsese. We thought [the projector] was going to come back up, and it didn’t, and I think it was one of those situations where everyone realized that it was a kind of once-in-a-lifetime thing. “This is really weird—but we’re all in this together.”

MOHNEY: That was a year ago, and it’s only just coming out now—is it frustrating, or are you happy it’s coming out at all?

GUGINO: It is interesting, because it is both of these things. It is crazy to me that it has taken this long for it to come out, and I’m so excited it’s coming out. As an actor, you have no control over that aspect of things, so you’re just used to going, “Oh I don’t know when it’s coming out, but when it is it’ll be the right time!”

MOHNEY: Sebastian actually wrote Elektra Luxx for you—can you talk about how that came about?

GUGINO: [Sebastian] had this script that hadn’t gotten produced and he was looking it over again and found this one scene with these characters and thought, “Wow, this could be a great little short film.” He also had the Elektra Luxx character from another thing, and he thought, “Oh, I can string these together [for Women in Trouble]. We can shoot 10 pages a day and shoot in 10 days.”

MOHNEY: That’s incredible.

GUGINO: It’s really do-able for very little money. A bunch of friends get together and no one works for more than seven days. Because Sebastian wrote such great characters, all these actresses we both know and love wanted to do it. When we were shooting it, we had such a great time that while we were making that movie we were thinking—there’s so much more to explore with this character. Sebastian was like, “Well why don’t we make a trilogy?”… People hear “low-budget movie,” and they think it was off-the-cuff or improvised. But there was a really strong and clear structure that made it work in that period of time and that made it really fun too.

MOHNEY: I was struck while watching this by how rare it felt to have an ensemble of women in a film.

GUGINO: It is odd there are many movies with many men. But generally movies have one woman, or maybe the older woman and the younger girl. It was so great to have all of these fantastic female characters. Also this was a group of women who really and truly supports each other and champions each other. Whether he knows the connection or not, Sebastian was raised by all women—I think he’s very comfortable being surrounded by women. It definitely established an energy on set—every woman is so unique and so specific. I think that goes back to how he wrote the characters. None of them sound like they have same voice.

MOHNEY: The film is difficult to describe in that it’s a comedy—but not a farce—about the porn industry—how would you describe it?

GUGINO: [It’s a] coming of age [story] in that it’s a young woman becoming a mother and that affects [everything] in her life. What I love is that Sebastian has [created] these very heightened characters, like a porn star and high-class prostitute and sex blogger and a detective and a flight attendant and Virgin Mary. But you realize that these are very real people who are dealing with the same things. I think it is a movie that has this sweetness at heart that you don’t expect when you think it’s a raucous, raunchy comedy. You see that there is a beautiful sweet heart to this film that doesn’t hit you over the head with sentimentality. I find that a really unusual tone.

MOHNEY: There’s an amazing cameo with Julianne Moore playing Virgin Mary, how did that happen?

GUGINO: It was interesting because we knew that it had to be someone really, really Midwest. It had to be someone with enough resonance that Elektra would really listen to her. She couldn’t be too young and she also had to have this purity. The great thing about Julianne is that she has a great sense of comedy as well. She’s this wonderful straightforward support of Elektra and she also has these moments where you can tell the Virgin Mary has her own set of issues. Where people are asking for things all the time. And Julianne was so pitch-perfect and basically she was our dream person for the role.

MOHNEY: What are you hoping for in the sequel?

GUGINO: We have not shot it. It’s called Women in Ecstasy. Celia, which is Elektra’s twin-sister character, will be in it. But that will be fun because I love playing her. Hopefully it will be a fulfilling end to the trilogy.