Actress Elisha Cuthbert got her big break as Kiefer Sutherland’s daughter in the Fox espionage thriller 24 in 2001 and went on to appear in a slew of movies throughout the aughts, including The Girl Next Door, slasher film House of Wax, and the 2007 torture porn flick Captivity.
However, the celebrity objectification culture of the era was not easy on young actresses. As such, Cuthbert quickly became seen as a sex symbol — appearing in the glossy pages of magazines such as FHM and Maxim, which were popular at the time. Now 39, Cuthbert has gone on to star in the beloved ABC comedy Happy Endings and currently plays the lead in the Irish supernatural horror film The Cellar, about a family whose daughter disappears in the cellar of a large estate they move into.
So it should come as no small surprise that Cuthbert doesn’t exactly look back fondly at some of the trappings of fame she dealt with earlier in her career.
“I definitely was around for that time period. It’s kind of a bummer that I was,” Cuthbert told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. She recalled that the magazine culture was so invasive that even Halle Berry, after winning an Oscar, wasn’t exempt from being objectified.
“I remember feeling like I didn’t have much of a choice, because millions of people were buying these magazines and it was a huge way to publicize whatever you were doing,” she explained. “And these magazines seemed to do voting systems on their own, so it was out of my control.”
Cuthbert continued, recalling how the studios actually put pressure on her to appear in the sexy photoshoots to promote the films that she had worked on.
Yeah. I remember when we were doing The Girl Next Door, especially because of the content of the film where I was playing a porn star, those magazines felt even more relevant to be associated with to advertise this film. Yeah, it was definitely a push from the studios saying, “These are great covers to get. They have millions of subscribers and a wide reach. Go do them.” Luckily, actresses now don’t really have to deal with that anymore. A lot of the Maxims and FHMs are now done, so thankfully that’s over with.
At the time, Cuthbert says she had mixed feelings about the attention. But ultimately, she realized that the public image she and other actresses were being pushed into was reductive and not representative of who she actually was as a person or actress.
A part of it felt liberating and I certainly thought, at the time we were doing them, that we were doing some pretty cool photoshoots. Looking back on them, I didn’t love doing them—especially when they started to become repetitive, and the dialogue became about “Who’s the sexiest?” and “Who’s the prettiest?” in a competitive way, and feeling objectified and putting out this persona of, “This is what I represent.” Because that really wasn’t the case. It wasn’t a true representation of me as an artist, that’s for sure. It was one facet. And unfortunately, a lot of people just went, “Oh, she’s the sexy girl.” We were all a lot more than that.
As she mentioned earlier, thankfully those magazines are no longer a part of celebrity culture. Not to mention, now that we live in the era of social media, artists are able to put out more of a curated image of themselves instead of just being forced into whatever mold studios want.