Sarah Michelle Gellar is an American actress who portrayed Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel television series. Appearing in all 144 episodes of Buffy and five of Angel as the title character, she portrayed as well Faith Lehane, Buffybot, the First Evil, James Stanley and Buffy Summers (Wishverse).
After being found by an agent in a local restaurant in New York City, she had a role in the made-for-TV movie An Invasion of Privacy (1983) and went on to appear in shows like Spenser: For Hire. She originated the role of Kendall Hart on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children, winning the 1995 Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series".
Gellar came into prominence in the late 1990s when she landed significant parts in the successful horror films I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2 and played Buffy Summers on the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which she won six Teen Choice Awards and the "Saturn Award for Best Genre TV Actress" and received a Golden Globe Award nomination. She found film critics praise for her performance in the teen drama Cruel Intentions (1999) and she subsequently appeared in the box office hits Scooby-Doo (2002), Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), and the American remake of Japanese horror film The Grudge (2004). Since then she has starred in limited released and straight-to-video films such as 2006's Southland Tales, 2007's Suburban Girl and 2008's The Air I Breathe. She headlined the television series Ringer (2011–2012) and The Crazy Ones (2013–2014).
Gellar was born in New York City. She is the only child of Rosellen (née Greenfield), a nursery school teacher, and Arthur Gellar, a garment worker. Both of her parents were Jewish, though Gellar's family had a Christmas tree during her childhood holidays.
In 1984, when she was seven years old, her parents divorced and she was raised solely by her mother on the city's Upper East Side. She graduated from Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in 1995. Gellar was estranged from her father until his death from liver cancer on October 9, 2001. Talking about not having a father figure in her early life, she remarks: "I might have been an immaculate conception. You never know. My father, you can just say, is not in the picture. I'm not being deliberately evasive about him, it's just that there's so little to say. He is not a person who exists in my life. Just because you donate sperm does not make you a father. I don't have a father. I would never give him the credit to acknowledge him as my father".
Gellar's first major break came in 1992, when she starred in the serial Swans Crossing and was subsequently cast in the soap opera All My Children, playing Kendall Hart, the long-lost daughter of character Erica Kane (Susan Lucci). In 1995, at the age of eighteen, she won a Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series" for the role.
Gellar left All My Children in 1995. Gellar stated that she was screen tested eleven times (originally auditioning for the role of Cordelia Chase), before she landed the lead in the 1997 TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Throughout its seven seasons and a total of 144 episodes, Buffy, and by extension Gellar, became cult icons in the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Australia. Gellar sang several of the songs during the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling", which spawned an original cast album.
Gellar has also hosted Saturday Night Live a total of three times (1998, 1999, and 2002), appearing in a number of comedy sketches. In 2000, Gellar guest appeared as Debbie in the HBO series Sex and the City episode "Escape from New York". Gellar has lent her voice to animated TV series The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and several episodes of Robot Chicken. She guest starred in two episodes of the Angel series, with uncredited participation through archive footage in other three.
Gellar built on her television fame with a motion picture career, and had intermittent commercial success. She first had her major film role in the popular slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer, cast as the aspiring beauty actress Helen Shiver. The film was successful at the box office, grossing $125,586,134 worldwide and earned Gellar a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for "Favorite Supporting Actress – Horror" and a MTV Movie Award nomination for "Best Breakthrough Performance". As a result, the film has been parodied and referenced in popular culture.
Gellar got a role in the teen horror Scream 2, in which she portrayed Cici Cooper, a Sorority sister and film fan. She signed on to Scream 2 without having read the script, on the basis of the success of the first film. The film gained acclaim and earned an impressive $172,363,301. With her recent work at the time, she cemented her It girl status with her first appearance on the "Most Beautiful" list by People magazine.
After making a cameo appearance in the romantic comedy She's All That, Gellar had the starring role in Simply Irresistible, film that premiered in early 1999. The film opened to negative reviews and did not do well at the box office. She admitted in an interview having regrets for her choice to work in the film: "Simply Irresistible was just a bad choice — and for that, it was a great learning experience. I wasn't ready to make that movie. I was too young. The script was not ready. I knew in my heart before I left to make it that I should back out."
Cruel Intentions (1999), a modern-day retelling of Les Liaisons dangereuses featured a kiss between Gellar and co-star Selma Blair that won the two the "Best Kiss" award at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards. This film was a modest hit at the box office, grossing over $38 million in the United States and over $75 million worldwide, and earned several awards and nominations. Critic Roger Ebert stated that Gellar and co-star Ryan Phillippe "develop a convincing emotional charge" and that Gellar is "effective as a bright girl who knows exactly how to use her act as a tramp". Gellar's role showed her versatility as an actress, and many were surprised to see her playing a brunette cocaine addict with an appetite for manipulating and using people. Her performance was praised by a number of critics, including Rob Blackwelder for SPLICEDwire, who wrote about the "dazzling performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar who plunges headlong into the lascivious malevolence that makes Kathryn so delightfully wicked. (Plus she looks great in a corset.)".
Gellar next played a lead role in James Toback's independent Harvard Man (2001), where she played the daughter of a mobster. The movie gained mixed reviews after its premiere. Filmcitic.com found Gellar's performance "memorable" along with cast's. The movie included two sex scenes with Gellar, helping her shed her good girl image even more after 1999's Cruel Intentions.
During her growing film career, Gellar continued work on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer; however, she decided to leave the show after the seventh season. When asked why, she explained, "This isn't about leaving for a career in movies, or in theater — it's more of a personal decision. I need a rest." Shortly after the show's end, Gellar stated that she had no interest in appearing in a Buffy feature film, but that she would consider it if the script is good enough. She did not appear in the final season of Angel, causing the intended episode ("You're Welcome") to be rewritten for the character of Cordelia Chase. Gellar has said that she was willing to appear in the episode, but scheduling conflicts and family problems prevented it. Another actress, Giselle Loren, voiced Buffy for the unaired Buffy the Animated Series pilot and the various Buffy video games.
In her feature in Esquire magazine, Gellar expressed her pride for her work on Buffy, "I truly believe that it is one of the greatest shows of all time and it will go down in history as that. And I don't feel that that is a cocky statement. We changed the way that people looked at television." Gellar's likeness is used in the comic continuation of the series as well as the revamp comic series.
Post Buffy and hiatus
After the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gellar's next film was the 2004 horror film The Grudge, which was a success at the box office, grossing $187,281,115 worldwide. David Wirtschafter, the president of the William Morris Agency (which represented Gellar), subsequently told The New Yorker that the success of The Grudge "takes our client Sarah Michelle Gellar, who now is nothing at all, and… makes her a star, potentially. Suddenly, the Sarah Michelle Gellar space is meaningful." The remark led Gellar to terminate her association with the agency; Gellar is now represented by the Creative Artists Agency.
Gellar appeared in the sequel The Grudge 2 (2006), in which she has a minor role reprising her character from the first film. Gellar next appeared in the thriller The Return, which was released the following month and in which she played a businesswoman haunted by memories of her childhood and the mysterious death of a young woman. The movie was marketed as a horror movie and many including critics were surprised to find The Return was, as Rafe Telsch said, "just a murder mystery with a few supernatural elements". The movie pulled in a disappointing $4,800,000 weekend gross with little promotion.
Gellar then lent her voice to two animated films: the animated fairy tale Happily N'Ever After, and TMNT, in which she played April O'Neil. She followed those with a string of films including Southland Tales, The Air I Breathe, Suburban Girl, and Possession (a supernatural thriller based on the South Korean film Jungdok known to English language audiences as Addicted). Southland Tales opened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2006 and was released in the U.S. in November 2007.
Suburban Girl and The Air I Breathe were screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Suburban Girl did not receive a theatrical release and was released on DVD in early 2008. It was described as "a blend of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada" and a "pseudo-sophisticated romantic comedy" according to Variety.com. Her on screen chemistry with Alec Baldwin was either criticized or praised, with Eye For Film commenting, "The film works best when Baldwin and Gellar are together — aside from the fact that Gellar seriously needs to eat a bun or two". Film website moviepictirefilm.com stated "Gellar and Baldwin both give wonderful performances and make their chemistry incredibly real and ultimately, quite heartbreaking. Containing a ton of laughs and killer fashion that could give The Devil Wears Prada a run for its money, this movie has something uncommon in most romantic comedies, tons of style and a huge heart."
The Air I Breathe was released theatrically the same month to generally poor reviews. The New York Times called it a "gangster movie with delusions of grandeur." However, Gellar's performance was praised by a number of critics, DVD Talk Review noted that "her character here has the deepest emotional arc, and she hits all the right notes.
On June 25, 2008, it was announced she was no longer attached to the film version of the video game American McGee's Alice.
It was reported on September 25, 2008 that Gellar would return to television in the HBO series The Wonderful Maladys. The show is about three dysfunctional adult siblings living in New York and struggling to deal with the loss of their parents years ago. Creator Charles Randolph told Variety that he wrote the part with Gellar in mind, and described Gellar's character as having "a kind of zealous immaturity — like a drug addict with a to-do list." Gellar and Randolph would serve as executive producers. HBO shot the pilot in May 2009. According to an interview with Adam Scott, the show was not picked up.
The film Possession, starring Gellar, has had a range of release dates — starting with February 2008. The film was finally set to be released in theatres in January 2009, but due to financial problems at YARI Film Group, the release was yet again pushed forward. In March 2009 it was announced that the film would skip theatrical release altogether, and go straight to DVD/Blu-ray. It was set to be released on May 12, 2009. However, the movie was not released on DVD/Blu-ray as scheduled. Possession was released straight to DVD in March 2010.
Gellar also stars in Veronika Decides to Die (2009). Based on Paulo Coelho's novel of same name, the film tells the story of a young woman suffering from severe depression who rediscovers the joy in life when she finds out that she only has days to live following a suicide attempt. Filming of the movie began on May 12, 2008, in New York City and finished in late June. It was reported that Kate Bosworth was previously attached to the project. The film was released in Brazil on August 21, 2009. After her work in 2009, her daughter Charlotte Grace Prinze was born and Gellar decided to take a break from work to spend time with her.
TV comeback and beyond (2011–present)
In 2011, Gellar signed on to star and work as executive producer for a new drama titled Ringer, in which she plays a woman on the run who manages to hide by living the life of her wealthy twin sister. The show was originally made for CBS but was picked up by its sister channel The CW in May 2011. On May 11, 2012, The CW announced the cancellation of Ringer. Gellar has stated that part of her decision to return to a television series was because it allows her to both work and raise her daughter. The series premiered with high rating for the network (the first episode brought 2.84 million viewers) and mixed-positive reviews. E! Online wrote that Gellar was "awesome" and "fantastic", TV Line remarked she "does a fine job" as both characters and USA Today found her performance "well-defined". Ringer went on to have a large fan base, but it was canceled after the first season. For her portrayal, she received several award nominations, including one for the Teen Choice Award for Choice Television Actress – Drama.
On August 4, 2011, Gellar confirmed she would be returning as a guest star on the ABC soap opera All My Children before the show's ending in September, but not as Kendall Hart. Her airdate was September 21, 2011. She portrayed a patient at Pine Valley Hospital. She tells Maria Santos that Pine Valley is familiar to her, and, that she is "Erica Kane's daughter". She also states that she saw vampires before they became trendy — a reference to her role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She voiced a character in the American Dad! episode "Virtual In-Stanity" in 2011, and again in 2012 for the episode "Adventures in Hayleysitting". On September 30, 2012, she reprised her role of Gina Vendetti in the premiere episode of The Simpsons season 24.
Gellar is featured as a playable character in the new Call of Duty: Black Ops map pack Escalation (2011), and also the second female playable character in the whole Call of Duty series, in which she appears as herself shooting a movie for George Romero, fighting off a horde of zombies.
A fan of Robin Williams for years, once Gellar learned that he was making the single-camera television series The Crazy Ones (2013–2014), she contacted her friend Sarah de Sa Rego, the wife of Williams' best friend, Bobcat Goldthwait, in order to lobby for a co-starring role. She obtained the part of an advertising director who runs an agency with her father. Digital Spy felt that Williams "shares a warm, genuine chemistry with his on-screen offspring Gellar," as part of a mixed critical response. The series was canceled after one season, but earned Gellar the People's Choice Award for "Favorite Actress in a New Television Series".
In March 2015, Gellar guest-starred as Cinderella in Whitney Avalon's official YouTube channel video short Princess Rap Battle, and joined the cast of Star Wars Rebels for season two, playing a recurring character known as the Seventh Sister. In early 2016, Gellar filmed for NBC a pilot presentation for a potential television series based on the cult-classic film Cruel Intentions, reprising her role of Kathryn Merteuil. The pilot was ultimately not picked up to series.
In October 2015, Gellar, along with entrepreneurs Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, co-founded Foodstirs, a startup food crafting brand selling via e-commerce and retail easy to make organic baking mixes and kits for families. By the beginning of 2017, the brand's products were available in about 400 stores; by the end of the year, a surge of interest from retailers increased its distribution to 8,000 stores. In 2018, Foodstirs entered into a deal with Starbucks to carry its mug cake mixes across 8,000 of its stores. Gellar released a cook book titled Stirring up Fun with Food on April 18, 2017. The book was co-authored by Gia Russo, and features numerous food crafting ideas.
On May 16, 2019, Gellar appeared in the series finale of The Big Bang Theory.
Awards and media
For her role as Buffy, Gellar was nominated for the Golden Globe Awards as "Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama" in 2001, the Golden Satellite Awards for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Series, Drama" in 2003, and the Saturn Awards as "Best Actress in a TV Series" all years from 1998 to 2004. She won the Saturn Awards as "Best Actress in a TV Series" in 1999.
Gellar has appeared on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Glamour, FHM, Rolling Stone, and other magazines. She was featured in the annual Maxim's "Hot 100" list in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008 and in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women" of 2005. She was voted number 1 in the magazine's 1999 edition. In 1998, she was named one of People's "50 Most Beautiful People (in the World)". Gellar has appeared in "Got Milk?" ads as well as in the Stone Temple Pilots music video "Sour Girl", and Marcy Playground music video for Cruel Intentions's soundtrack "Comin' Up From Behind". In 2007, she was ranked No.54 on FHM "Hot 100 List" and was a celebrity spokesperson for Maybelline. She was on the cover of the December 2007 issue of Maxim magazine and was named the magazine's 2008 "Woman of the Year". In 2008, she ranked in the top 5 of the Maxim's "Hot 100" list.
She was also featured in Google's "Top 10 Women Searches" of 2002 and 2003, coming in at #8, and featured in UK Channel 4's "100 Greatest Sex Symbols" in 2007, ranked at #16. Gellar featured in FHM's German, Dutch, South African, Danish and Romanian editions "100 Sexiest Women" lists every year from 1998 onwards. Topsocialite.com listed her as the 8th "Sexiest woman of the 90s". Other appearances and listings include: Entertainment Weekly's "Top 100 TV Icons" in 2007, Entertainment Weekly's "Top 12 Entertainers of the Year" in 1998 (ranked #3), and Glamour's "50 Best Dressed Women in the World" 2004 and 2005 (ranked at #17 and #24). BuddyTV ranked her #27 on its "TV's 100 Sexiest Women of 2011" list.
In 2007, Gellar was featured in Vaseline's "Skin Is Amazing" campaign, with other actors such as Hilary Duff, Amanda Bynes, and John Leguizamo. Gellar graced the cover of Gotham and featured as their main story in the March 2008 issue, in which she spoke about how passing 30 has evolved her style.
In 2011 Gellar joined "The Nestlé Share the Joy of Reading Program" which aims to promote the importance of reading to the development of young children and to encourage them to continue reading over the summer break.
Gellar met her future husband Freddie Prinze, Jr., during filming of the 1997 teen horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer, but the two did not begin dating until 2000. They were engaged in April 2001 and married in Mexico on September 1, 2002 in a ceremony officiated by Adam Shankman, a film director and choreographer with whom Gellar had worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gellar's bridesmaid was her closest friend of many years, Lindsay Sloane. The two also played each other's respective love interests as Fred and Daphne in the 2002 film Scooby-Doo and its sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. In 2007, Gellar legally changed her name to Sarah Michelle Prinze in honor of the couple's fifth year of marriage. In 2004, while filming The Grudge in Japan, Gellar visited the famous Japanese swordsmith Shoji Yoshihara (Kuniie III) and bought a katana from him as a birthday present for her husband. Gellar learned that she needed clearance from the Japanese government to remove the sword from the country and, after eventually succeeding, stated that it was "incredibly difficult" to do.
Gellar gave birth to their first child, Charlotte Grace Prinze, on September 19, 2009. In September, 2012 she gave birth to their son Rocky James Prinze.
Gellar is an active advocate for various charities, including breast cancer research, Project Angel Food, Habitat for Humanity and CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, all of which she says you get to "physically do something". She says, "I started because my mother taught me a long time ago that even when you have nothing, there's ways to give back. And what you get in return for that is tenfold. But it was always hard because I couldn't do a lot. I couldn't do much more than just donate money when I was on the show because there wasn't time. And now that I have the time, it's amazing."
Gellar appeared in all 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which makes her and Alyson Hannigan (Willow) the only two actors to appear in every episode. She acted as well in the unaired Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot and two original Buffy ad campaigns: Let 'Em Eat Stake (1997) and A Buffy Christmas (1998).
In addition to her title role as Buffy Summers, Gellar portrayed:
- James Stanley in "I Only Have Eyes for You";
- Buffy Summers (Wishverse) in "The Wish" and the archive footage in "Doppelgängland";
- Faith Lehane in "This Year's Girl" and "Who Are You?";
- the Buffybot in "Intervention", "The Gift", "Bargaining, Part One", and "Bargaining, Part Two";
- and the First Evil in "Lessons", "Selfless", "Sleeper", "Never Leave Me", "Showtime", "Dirty Girls", "Empty Places", "Touched", "End of Days", and "Chosen".
In the spin-off series Angel, Gellar guest starred in two episodes, with additional three uncredited appearances:
- "City Of" (Only in archive footage)
- "The Bachelor Party" (Only in archive footage)
- "I Will Remember You"
- "Soul Purpose" (Only in archive footage)
- Sarah Michelle Gellar on Wikipedia