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Exclusive: Kristanna Loken Talks The Legend of Awesomest Maximus

Owing equally to a skin-tight body suit and unnerving thousand-yard stare, Kristanna Loken made quite an impression in 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” While she didn’t quite skyrocket up the ranks of Hollywood demand from there, she’s nevertheless worked steadily — including in a fair amount of genre material, as with Uwe Boll’s “BloodRayne” and “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.” Her latest movie is “The Legend of Awesomest Maximus,” a decidedly bawdy, National Lampoon’s-minted spoof of “300,” “Gladiator” and other mythology-laden, sword-and-sandal action epics. Loken co-stars opposite Will Sasso and Sophie Monk, playing the former’s gold-digging, politically-minded wife Hotessa, who, while trying to goad her oafish husband into action, may also be carrying on an affair behind his back. ShockYa had a chance recently to talk one-on-one to Loken about “Awesomest Maximus” location filming in conservative Utah, sex scene spoofs, and her efforts to expand upon and control her own career, via the formation of her own production company. The conversation is excerpted below:

ShockYa: Obviously there’s some green-screening in the film, but there’s also a fair amount of actual location stuff, so where did you guys shoot?

Kristanna Loken: We shot the film, with all irony, given its subject matter, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

ShockYa: Nice! It’s a spoof, obviously, but also a randy film in many ways. Were the good folks in Salt Lake City hip to the goings-on and particulars of your production, given the area’s conservative leanings?

KL: I don’t know, that’s a really good question. There’s a huge Mormon film community out there, a lot of films that are made by the Mormon community, thus I think we had some of the same crews. But I think if people didn’t agree or had a problem with what we were doing, they might have chosen not to work with us. So I think they were pretty upfront with the title (and content) of the movie.

ShockYa: When you’re doing a film like this, which is a broad comedy but also very specifically spoofs these epic-scale movies that have been told in grand, sweeping, dramatic fashion, is there a crash course in watching or re-watching those films before you head into production?

KL: I think the main one for us was the love scene in “300” that Will and I spoof. I mean, obviously we’re not going to replicate it exactly, but we wanted to get the right feeling. So Will, myself and Jeff Kanew, the director, we all did go watch it just to brush up. But when I first met with Jeff, he gave me a book called “Lady MacBeth,” and said that not only was it a good read, but that even though we were doing this broad spoof he thought there were correlations between Hotessa and Lady MacBeth, using their feminine wiles to achieve what they want, if you will. So I did read that book.

ShockYa: What were your impressions of Will Sasso?

KL: I’d never met Will. I was somewhat familiar with his work, but had heard nothing but good things about him, and he definitely lived up to what I’d heard. He’s really sweet, awesome to work with, and quick like a good comic is, obviously. I never knew exactly how he was going to say [his lines], which was great because it kept things really fresh and fun. So I really enjoyed collaborating with him.

ShockYa: He obviously is a master of so many impressions. But interviewing Robin Williams one time it occured to me that it must be crippling to be a member of his family because he has this instinct to always be “on.” Is Will like that at all, always bouncing off the walls? Or is he more chill?

KL: That’s a good question. I think he falls along the line more of just a regular funny guy. If you’re in that work mode and on set and your mind’s tuned into that it’s part of the job, absolutely, but I’ve been to a couple parties at Will’s house and he’s just a nice, cordial host.

ShockYa: You might have other comedy experience, forgive me, but this is the first credit of this sort I can really recall. How much of a challenge or priority was it to maybe stretch a bit, and get people to see you in a new light?

KL: I’ve done some comedies more in my earlier days in TV, when I was quite young. And since then I’ve done a vast amount of drama and action, and of course sci-fi and fantasy. I think it’s really important for an artist to stretch themselves and do a little bit of everything. It keeps things fresh for fans. For me, it was a really nice change. And because I enjoyed it so much I’ve done some more of it. I’ve done some ACME Comedy Theater here in Los Angeles, and I also recently did a show on Adult Swim called “The Eric Andre Show.” So there will be more of a place in comedy for me in the future, too, hopefully.

ShockYa: I chatted with you last I believe for “Terminator 3,” and at that time you seemed a bit beleagured. The film did well enough, but maybe there was the expectation of continuing that storyline, or more concrete opportunities that it would spawn. Looking back, with the benefit of distance, was that a good experience?

KL: Oh, it was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible opportunity professionally. Even though I’d been acting professionally since I was 13 years old, we started shooting “T3” when I was 23, (so) it was really the first time that I was announced to the world on such a grand platform as that. And it really was an incredible door-opener for me, and a learning curve. Yeah, there was a lot of pressure, but I like pressure, I do well under pressure. So it was also a huge time for growth. I wouldn’t change that opportunity for anything.

ShockYa: Genre fans are among the most loyal and dedicated, but do some of the projects with which you’re most associated [mirror your] own tastes in movies?

KL: Not generally. Those wouldn’t be the movies that I would necessarily go see — which isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy or appreciate them. I mean, Robert Patrick [made] one of the most lasting impacts in cinema history (in “Terminator 2”), and was such a big inspiration for me in my role because I remembered his performance. And those fans are diehard, as you said — they’ll pretty much be your fans from there on out. But I’m more a fan of dramas… and I like war movies as well. I love great documentaries, too, which leads me into the film that I’m making right now. I started a production company called Loken Mann, and our first film is called “Love Orchard,” which is inspired by true events [and focuses on] immigration crisis in the world. Bruce Dern plays my dad. We really wanted the thrust of our company to be something that educated as well as entertained, and those are the types of films that I like to watch. So we’re very excited about that film. So we’re going to get our submission into the Cannes Film Festival and have our first real screening next week.

ShockYa: Finally, in your life, you’ve dated both men and women. Hotessa, meanwhile, is both married to Awesomest but, it’s hinted, also in a relationship with Ellen (Sophie Monk). So is she a closeted lesbian, just a creature of sexual instinct and impulse, or…?

KL: (laughs) Sophie Monk is hot, I think that’s the thought behind it. I think that was a bit of an after-thought, really, that the writers were like, “Hey, maybe we can add this really hot kiss at the end, between Kristanna and Sophie!” I don’t know why, but I think it was just a fun little twist in the end, a wink at having a modern-day (open) marriage, and saying let’s see what we can do with it. It was just for the viewers’ visual pleasure.

Written by: Brent Simon

Kristanna Loken

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A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International and Magill's Cinema Annual, and film editor of H Magazine. He cannot abide a world without U2 and pizza.

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