Thursday, July 31, 2003

No longer a bridesmaid

Once the nerd-girl, 'Buffy' and 'American Wedding' actress glams up and gets a bit naughty

By Anthony Breznican
The Associated Press

[IMAGE] Alyson Hannigan is looking forward to roles with the best clothes as well as the best laughs.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
While talking two summers ago about American Pie 2, Alyson Hannigan dismissed being thought of as a sex symbol.

"Luckily, my career is not based on my body. I play the quirky sidekicks, the offbeat characters. I'm not the boobs in a movie," she said.

But Hannigan is a wallflower no more.

The scarlet-haired actress, who played the good witch Willow on television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a flute-tootling band-camper in the American Pie movies, lately has embraced her naughty side.

Latent sexiness

Hannigan shed her American Pie character's googly-eyed plain-Jane dopiness in favor of girl-next-door seductive chic in the new sequel American Wedding.

"Yeah, I didn't have to geek out as much!" the 29-year-old says now.

"I've become a woman," she purrs, laughing. "I'm all growed-up now."

Consider the recent FHM magazine cover photo of her making smoky eyes at the camera while arching her back in skimpy lingerie.

"Whoo hoo hoo!" Hannigan coos playfully about the magazine shot. "Hey, baby, that's always fun to do. It's always fun to glam up and show a different side of myself."

Although she doesn't flash a lot of skin or have any hot love scenes in American Wedding, she does get to say some eyebrow-raising dirty talk to co-star Eugene Levy.

Her bottom-lip nibbling character of Michelle Flaherty always had a buried sexual aggression that used her innocent appearance as part of the joke.

In the first American Pie movie, Jim (Jason Biggs) settles on her because he struck out with his dream girl. After listening to Michelle's insufferable sing-songy "This one time ... at band camp ..." stories all night, she stuns him by describing an erotic use for her flute - then smacks him around during rough sex as she eradicates his virginity.

"All of her lines had a question mark at the end of them. I sort of just fooled around with it for a few minutes, and just immediately heard her voice," Hannigan says. "And of course now it will never leave my head.

"I definitely try to avoid any similarities in our speaking," she adds. "I can never start a story with 'This one time ...' Those words have sort of been nixed from my vocabulary."

Even Willow, who started out on Buffy as the jumper-wearing shy schoolgirl, eventually absorbed Hannigan's subversive sensuality, says series creator Joss Whedon, who describes the actress as "one of my favorite people in the universe."

"As characters evolve, they become more like the actor playing them," he says. "Alyson is too cool and sexy to remain nerd-girl for too long."

Her work on American Wedding came as she was planning her real-life wedding to Alexis Denisof, who plays the awkward demon-hunter Wesley Wyndam-Pryce on the WB's Buffy spinoff Angel. The nuptials will be at the end of this year.

Her real wedding won't be anything like the showy, traditional ceremony in American Wedding.

"Ours won't be black-tie, and it's going to be smaller. It's going to be really, really fun and just sort of express who we are in our relationship," says Hannigan. "I find myself explaining to my family what's happening. I'm like: 'I know you hear 'wedding' and have all these sorts of ideas, but you can just scratch that.' "

Goofy is good

Now that she has reached leading-lady status, Hannigan says she hopes the goofy comedy parts don't go away.

"If a great part comes along and it's not the glamour-puss, then it's not like I'm not going to do it just because I don't get to wear the best clothes and stuff," she says. "I'd much rather be funny than sexy.

"I mean ...," she hesitates, "it's great if I can do both."

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