Tara Reid, who burst onto the scene in The Big Lebowski and solidified her film presence with roles in Urban Legend, Cruel Intentions and the American Pie franchise, has found herself part of another string of hit movies, running from flying sharks in the hugely successful Sharknado franchise.
The out-of-nowhere success of the sharks-in-a-tornado series surprised seemingly everyone, each film being a hit both in the ratings and on social media, but it was hardly the first time a project’s outcome surprised Reid.
“We never thought The Big Lebowski would become what it became,” she explains. “In the same way, we thought Josie and the Pussycats was going to be huge and it wasn’t. No one knew Van Wilder would become a cult movie either. It’s awesome that it did. We never thought Sharknado would be that way either.”
Of all the surprise hits and films that gained a cult following, Reid’s favorite film experience so far may surprise you.
“Josie and the Pussycats is my favorite movie I’ve ever made. People ask which one is and I always tell them Josie, but each of the movies is special to me because I worked with great directors. When you’re working with Robert Altman or the Coen Brothers, you really learn a lot. Also, when you’re working with talented actors, you grow with them.”
After a long series of hits, her hot streak stalled, something she attributes to the short list of roles for women once they graduate from playing teenagers.
“I was in a funny age when I wasn’t old enough to play the mom characters but I was too old for the teen movies, so for a while, I wasn’t working.”
That gap in the types of roles for women has become more pronounced in recent years, something Reid said warrants attention industry-wide.
“Hollywood definitely creates more roles for men than women,” she says. “Men are allowed to play various types of roles where as women there are mostly stereotypical roles as mothers, wives and teen daughters. I would like to see more action leading roles for women like in Atomic Blonde and Tomb Raider. The only way to get this fixed is for writers and producers to come up with more unique and different roles women can play and having more female writers, directors and producers in the industry as well.”
This summer, Reid is back as the bad ass April fighting off the toothy fish out of water as the fifth Sharknado feature premieres on SyFy.
“Sharknado has been so much fun to be a part of and they’re so much fun to make,” she says. “When we’re making the movies, we have to have a huge imagination because we’re running from sharks that aren’t even there. You’re acting when you don’t really know if it’s a big shark or a small one. Those movies are about taking risks and laughing a lot. It’s absurd and has become a cult movie franchise because of that. It’s also the first time I’ve had a generation of kids who know my work. Kids recognize me from the Sharknado movies and that’s something that’s never happened.”
Being recognized is something Reid is used to having graced the covers of magazines like Rolling Stone, Seventeen and Playboy, yet it’s been the malicious way the tabloids focused on her body that ate up most of the headline space. Body-shaming her became front page news and is one of the reasons why her next movie, Worthless, has become such a passion project.
“There’s so much bullying going on on the internet,” she says. “One bully can change someone’s life forever. Also, it can start a chain. You can bully someone who could then bully someone else. It’s contagious. People are used to being mean and I’m against that. I think people should be positive and not judge others. So we made this movie about that.”
More than a byproduct of her interactions with the tabloids, Reid says her experience with bullying began much earlier than her life in the public eye.
“I’ve been bullied my whole life, even when I was a kid,” she explains. “When you grow up with that sort of thing, you get used to it. I wasn’t upset but it though. I knew myself and I knew the truth. The gossip papers don’t know me. I think it’s wrong that they’re judging someone they don’t know. People judge you for what they read in the tabloids and what’s in there isn’t true.”
So, how does someone stay body positive in the face of a tabloid culture that would rather tear you down for being too thin or too fat than build you up? Reid says the answer lies in knowing who she is.
“I know I am a healthy girl so I ignore the critics who don’t even know me or know my eating habits … so for those judging me without even having the right information – I find them completely absurd. Some advice I can give to aspiring actresses who have issues with staying body positive, I would tell them to ignore the negativity and be comfortable in the skin you’re in.”
Reid says time and experience are what ultimately helped her feel confident and empowered in the face of such harsh criticism.
“You grow up,” she says. “When you’re young and stupid, it’s one thing. But you get older, you become wise and you’ve been through experiences. The people around you need to be positive people. My friends come from people I meet at yoga or spin class. It’s a healthier life all around.”
That balance has also fueled her drive artistically and given her a deeper well from which to draw as an actress.
“Every project brings new challenges that I have to overcome,” she says. “Going through the good and bad experiences in my life fuels my drive to be a better actress. I take these experiences and use it in my work and that really helps me to make my characters better and believable. It is a like a great release for me…kinda like therapy in a way. That is what really drives me in my craft every day.”
Reid says she’s currently working more than she has in her life, shooting four movies already this year. With even more projects slated, she’s looking forward to what’s next, wiser and more self-confident than ever before.
“All of the things I’ve experienced, I know what not to do now. I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t let things affect me. I live in the present; I live in the now. I look at where I am now and what’s coming in the future. I’m in a great place.”