Sexy Canadian actress Estella Warren has already been hailed as "the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. " In a town renowned for hype, it's usually easy to dismiss such claims. But not this time. As she walks into a fancy hotel suite in the exclusive Regency Hotel in New York's upper East side where she's temporarily holed up on this hot July afternoon, the sheer impact of Estella's beauty hits you like an electric force.
Dressed in a a tight black top and a dark blue skirt that show off her curves to maximum advantage, she's wearing no jewellery except for a pair of expensive-looking diamond earrings. Even the diamonds don't stand much of a chance next to the golden hair that tumbles onto her shoulders, hair that she continually runs a slender hand through as if to tame it.
The golden mane frames a face that is as smooth as porcelain, accenting her two most extraordinary features - a wide, voluptuous mouth with a plump upper lip, and two of the biggest, blue-gray, almond-shaped eyes you've ever seen. It's an amazing face, sculpted and sexy, a face that the camera loves to caress, whether its owner is playing a scantily- dressed girl on the run, as in her big new film Planet of the Apes (2001), or a spurned lover, as in the recent Sylvester Stallone racing flick Driven (2001).
The 22-year-old former model and swimmer is simply stunning, even today, when she admits that she's tired from both working on her next film, the Jerry Bruckheimer Australian adventure Down and Under (2001), and travelling to promote Planet of the Apes (2001).
Here, in an exclusive interview, she talks about making the film, working with Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg, why she won't do nudity,
A lot of women are going to be very disappointed not to see Mark in a loincloth in Planet of the Apes (2001), and he said he could understand that as what he really wanted to see was you topless in the film.
(Estella looks shocked) No!
It's true. So how was he on the set. Very flirty?
He's very fun and so fun to be with. He's very professional and what makes him so different from movie stars is that he has a complete lack of ego. He has that humility that makes him adorable and funny.
He seems very sensual in the way he talks and moves.
Yes, and that's exactly how he is in real life, very flirtatious.
So how was your skimpy little costume? Was it very uncomfortable?
Not really, but it was cold sometimes. I was actually quite happy how the costume was, and it could have gone in a different direction and it ended up being quite functional for the character of Daena. She's very aggressive. So I got to use my swimming background to portray her physicality. She's running. She's jumping. She's horseback riding. She's killing apes.
Your outfit seemed to have support.
Yeah, it was functional as I had to run and do stuff, and I'm a woman. It was beautiful but not too revealing.
What about working with the chimps?
I didn't work with the original chimps. The only time I worked with one was for the cover of 'Talk. ' And it was very interesting as you realize how intelligent they are and in a way it's somewhat scary. But that also leaves a lasting impression in the film. The definition of a great film to me is that you're taken away from your life for two hours and you're excited and surprised, you get a bunch of emotions going, and then you leave the theater and there is something left with you, and you think about it later, and I think that's what this film does.
Did it seem slightly campy as you were making it?
There were times when we had to laugh and kind of wonder. But we were in Tim's hands and they were very safe hands.
Would you rather be chimp, an orang-utang or a gorilla?
I'd rather be a chimp, because . .. .. I don't know. (laughs)
What's your favorite smell?
I love the smell of lilacs.
Did you try any of the ape makeup?
No, and I'd like to do it once.
What was the toughest part of doing 'Planet'?
If I could do it again, and it began tomorrow, I'd start all over. I think I'm signed for the sequel. I don't know.
That was somewhat exaggerated. There was some menthol involved in the scene, so I'll just leave it at that. He wasn't quite that extreme.
Making the transition from modelling to movies is notoriously difficult - look at Cindy Crawford. How hard has it been?
I've been very lucky with that. But it's also been some of the choices I've made an actress. I decided to stop modelling and focus just on acting. I don't choose roles completely based on my aesthetic. I won't choose roles just because of the way I look or I might as well stay a model. I know I got a lot of the roles because of my looks, but I'd love to be able to surprise people and actually be good at it.
Are you surprised at the way your career's taken off so quickly?
Yeah, I like that, but I think it comes down to the choices we made. There was the issue of doing Maxim magazine and things like that. And it was a direction I decided not to go in, because it pigeonholes you as a certain type of actor.
But a lot of other actresses do stuff like Maxim now, and you were named No. 1 in their 'Hot 100' list.
That's OK for them because they weren't models and they don't carry around that model stigma. For me, it's that stigma of 'Oh, she's a model who just keeps modelling so she can pretend to be an actress. '
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Peterborough, Ontario, and then I moved away from home at 12 to swim with the National Team. So I left home early.
Do you feel you missed out on a normal childhood?
You don't know the other side, so how do you say what you're missing out on?
You're gorgeous. Did you ever have an ugly phase as a kid?
I had braces, and because I was so athletic, I didn't develop until much later than all the other girls. I skipped grade eight to get into this special sports school so I could swim 6 hours a day, so I was already the youngest in the class and I was developing late, so I didn't get a lot of boy attention in high school. But look at me now! (Laughs)
So what sidetracked you from your swimming career, or is swimming even a career?
Swimming becomes a career and it's very all-encompassing. It becomes your life and a lot of people don't know how to leave that pro athlete structure. You know what you're going to do every single day, so it's safe. But then my solo and duet events were taken out of the Olympics, and I'd worked 10 years to go there, so I was rather disappointed. And then I had this great opportunity to be a model, and I found it rather lucrative for a young girl, so I did it.
You said you were 'rather disappointed' about not going to the Olympics, but it must have been devastating?
That could be said too.
So where do you go for support at times like those?
My parents. I have a fantastic family. They are really supportive, and even through all this they are there for me the whole time. There are some ups and downs you need to get through, and my mother, father and sisters are all very supportive. And we're all very close. They're all coming in for the premiere - my granma's coming, my mum and dad, my sisters and my two nieces and my two best friends.
What's the best and worst thing about this new acting career?
The best is working in front of the camera and doing different things. The worst thing is waiting on the set. It's funny, I always think you get paid to wait and travel, and you do the acting for free.
So what do you like to do while you wait?
I read and watch movies and listen to music, and I play Scrabble. I'm a very good Scrabble player.
Have you ever felt that your looks have worked against you? That you're too pretty for a role?
Um, I don't know. You're either right for a part or not. You can't control it. It would be the same if I had red hair. You can't complain that much. We're all pretty lucky. We're given a lot and I do feel lucky.
Where do you live now?
I just bought a house in LA five days ago. My first house was in Canada, then I moved to New York. So that's what I'm doing after this.
Will you even see it if you're travelling and working so much?
Yes, I'm going to sit there even with no furniture, there's a pool, so maybe I'll go for a swim.
Do you still swim a lot?
No, I don't swim a lot now. But I'm very athletic. I'm running and LA's great for that and hiking and bicycling and the Santa Monica boardwalk thing.
Do you have any pets?
No, and I'd love to, but it's not really fair to them as I'm away so much.
How do you feel about all the new scrutiny of your personal life?
It's not okay. But it happens.
Isn't it better at this stage in your career to get a lot of exposure?
No. If you want to have longevity you don't want to be overexposed. You want people to want to see you on the screen. I don't want to do a lot of magazine covers and then they say, 'Oh, it's her again' That gets boring.
What about working with Kris Kristofferson?
Amazing! He gave me this little CD which said 'to my daughter,' as I played his daughter, and he wrote me this sweet thing, and I was like, 'This is the best thing from the whole movie.' I framed it.
What kind of music do you like?
I like all music. I could go from Radiohead to John Lee Hooker to Miles Davis to Led Zeppelin to The Doors to some Gate Crasher techno to Stevie Wonder. I'm a music girl.
What other actresses do you admire? Any you'd like to fashion your career after?
Who's the coolest person you've met so far?
Are you studying acting at all?
No. I don't feel the need right now.
What's the big difference between modelling and making movies?
I didn't know you'd have to wait so long on sets. All that waiting gets to me. But as a model you can only progress monitarily or become more famous. But as an actor you can learn everyday. No one can ever be a perfect actor, and that's what's so great about it to me. You can learn and get better and better at your craft. Sorry to use that thespian word.
Tell us about your next film Down and Under (2001).
It's a comedy and I play a zoologist, so more animals (laughs) - but this time it's camels, wallabees, the whole thing. Christopher Walken is a mob guy, and Jerry O'Connell is a hairdresser, and he's a screw up. He still has to do little things for his stepfather, the mob guy. (Her cell phone goes off) Oh God! I'm sorry. Where were we? Oh yeah, so one of his tasks is to go down to Australia and give this money to some guy, and he has this sidekick played by Anthony Anderson. So he heads off into the outback and he hits a kangeroo and thinks it's dead. So they put some sunglasses on it and a jacket and they're taking photos, very American, when suddenly the kangeroo gets up and runs off. And all the money they were supposed to deliver is in the jacket. So they come to me and I try to help them find it. But it turns out that the money was really meant to pay off this contact for killing the two kids, as the mob guy hates his son. So everyone's chasing the money and getting very angry . .. Basically, doing Planet of the Apes (2001) was much easier! (laughs)