Rachel Bilson: She's the one

Rachel Bilson is from an old Hollywood family and stars in 'The OC' - so why has it taken her so long to get into movies? Lesley O'Toole finds out

Television stars tied into multi-year contracts are not generally afforded much flexibility to make films outside their scheduled breaks. Unless, it seems, they are Rachel Bilson. The 25-year-old actress is shooting the female lead in Doug Liman's sci-fi adventure Jumper in Toronto, while filming the fourth series of The OC in Los Angeles. Her publicist is probably not being facetious when he tells me she won't have another day off this year.

That two productions are willing to bend over backwards for Bilson speaks volumes. Bilson is locked into The OC on a seven-year contract, the norm for most American TV shows. And young actresses were presumably clamouring to work with Liman, known for making Vince Vaughn famous (Swingers), Matt Damon much more famous (The Bourne Identity) and not least for the conception of Brangelina when he cast Angelina Jolie opposite Brad Pitt in Mr and Mrs Smith. Liman is an old friend of Bilson's, having directed The OC's pilot episode back in 2003, but it is unlikely that her turn as spoilt, cocky Summer was her ticket to the role. More likely, it was her assured performance as a student besotted with a guy she can't have (Zach Braff) in the new "dramedy" The Last Kiss. Television stars often rush to cash in their new-found fame by taking roles during filming breaks, however,The Last Kiss is Bilson's first film. "I was definitely patient," she says. "It's so important to do the right kind of movie for your first one, especially coming from a teen drama. I felt that was really important in order to be taken seriously and maybe respected a little more in the film community."

Bilson exudes an uncommon gratitude for the station in life she has been afforded thanks to that teen drama. Ask her how she feels about being tied to The OC and there is not one iota of resentment. "Everything I have is because of this show and I'm so grateful for that. I'm just along for the ride."

Bilson had almost worked with Scrubs star Braff once before when he asked her to star in a music video he was directing. It didn't pan out, but once she heard he was to star in The Last Kiss, a remake of the 2001 Italian film L'Ultimo Bacio, she determined this "great project with great people" was the film she'd been waiting for. Like many actors in her age group, Bilson is completely enamoured of Braff's 2004 film Garden State, though he was not the only draw.

"I still can't believe it when I see my name on the poster next to people like Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson. I have to pinch myself because it's so odd, in the best way. I loved that there are different ages and different relationships in the film. And that it speaks to a wide variety of people because of that. My character Kim seemed such a natural, a girl you would know or could really relate to. She's a college student who's a little naive and carefree and is infatuated right off the bat with Michael." She grimaces slightly before adding, "I used to be a little like her."

Kim pursues Michael with a single-minded determination that borders on stalking. "Yes, people were a little worried there might be a boiled bunny at the end. She's a little crazy but she's young and it's her first experience at this level and, you know, we act a little crazy at times."

Director Tony Goldwyn explains Bilson's casting: "She seems innocent but she really knows how to use her sexuality." She blushes when I recount this. "Oh, I wasn't aware of that. It just came naturally. Well, some of it. Seducing is always a little awkward but I think it kind of worked out." As part of that seduction, Bilson got to play her first sex scene. "It's such a weird concept, doing that with a guy in front of a bunch of other guys. And it was worse that Zach was a friend."

The new series of The OC will see Summer attending the Ivy League college Brown and re- fashioning herself as an environmental activist. "Summer has evolved so much. If she evolves any more she's going to burst but she's grown up a lot with having to deal with her best friend's death [played by Mischa Barton]." Bilson herself spent a year at college in San Diego but dropped out once she decided to pursue acting seriously. She has Hollywood in the blood: her great-grandfather worked at RKO Pictures, her great-grandmother was a screenwriter, her grandfather is a film director and her father a writer-producer.

"I grew up around sets and I did lots of plays like The Crucible in high school. I was having so much fun that my dad actually said to me one day, 'Do you want to do this? It seems like you really love it.' And I said, 'Of course.' I didn't really get serious about it, though, until I was 19."

She filmed a few commercials and won a couple of guest roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter. When she won the role of Summer, she was told it was for a couple of episodes. As series creator Josh Schwartz recalls, "She came in and was not what you expected in that part. She was adorable, funny and smart, and the more we gave her to do, the more she kept nailing. We watched a scene between her and Seth [Adam Brody] and knew: this girl is amazing. Let's make her a series regular."

Brody evidently approved, too - the pair started dating, and have been together for three years. They are a low-key couple who live separately in the Hollywood Hills, and are more often spotted out with their dogs than famous friends. "It's hard for anyone not to be noticed if you date another actor who's known. It just makes it two people instead of one." They steer clear of places where they know the paparazzi will be lurking and would never be seen dead with an entourage.

"I think when you exploit yourself in that way, you're not being yourself as an actor, you're representing this whole other entity, a product almost. But I feel like I don't have it that bad in terms of being recognised. I do have people come up to me but it's really nice to know you have fans because it means you're succeeding at your job."

Her Hollywood blood makes her fallback career choice somewhat unlikely. "If I wasn't acting, I'd be a teacher. I love kids. I always wanted my own classroom." For the time being, she has other goals: "I want the roles that Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson are offered."

Is she really far off that? She blushes again: "Of course. I'm just at the bottom. Trying to work my way towards anything."

'The Last Kiss' is on general release

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones